Kuraki Mai – ONE LIFE [7th Studio Album]

January 27, 2008 at 4:12 am (Kuraki Mai) (, )

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Kuraki Mai’s 7th studio album, entitled ONE LIFE, was released on 01.01.08. The album features two great songs: One Life and Born To Be Free as well as some songs to enjoy such as BE WITH U and Silent Love ~open my heart.~ However the simplicity in arrangement does deter from the potential that some of the songs have. The singles to accompany this album are 白い雪, Season of Love, Silent Love ~open my heart~ / BE WITH U

The album’s opening track is the upbeat title track, One Life. The opening line of the song sets the atmosphere of the song perfectly: pop and sweet with an underlying playful sexuality. The hook serves as a bridge between the mellow verses and the infectious uptempo chorus. Mai’s vocals match the instrumentation well and the pop flavor of the song makes it not only my favorite song on the album but my personal favorite song by Kuraki Mai. The ending of the song is amazing as she quietly sings “everybody needs love, everyday in one life, baby let’s keep going…” The English lyrics definitely add to the song’s charm and create a spirit. The song was a perfect decision for the album opening track.

The second track on the album is entitled I Like It Like That. The song has a very American feel and unfortunately the song lacks a strong energy. The verses have a slower sound to them and blends well with the primary instrument of the song, the guitar. With the hook the instrumental gets a little more complex and the vocals get a little stronger, making it memorable. Throughout the chorus, the line “I like it” is repeated and while it adds a nice flavor, it doesn’t take the song to a new level like I hoped it would. When Mai says “break it down” and goes into pure instrumental mode, the playful sexiness element is brought in again as you can hear her breath repeated. Finally the song gets some energy near the end during the chorus when the instrumentation changes and this version of the instrumental should have been used throughout the rest of the song. Overall, it was a “nice” song but it wasn’t amazing and it’s a shame since it definitely had the potential to be.

The third track on the album is entitled one for me. It’s a midtempo song that has a small cheesiness element to it but it’s still an enjoyable listen. While the arrangement is very basic on the track, it somehow works to the song’s advantage. There is no deflection form the cute and “free” sound of one for me. Mai’s vocals maintain the same relative level of power throughout the song so there is no amazing stand out section of the song. In fact, the song sounds like it’s one continuous song recorded in one take. While this keeps the flow, it doesn’t jump out at you as a stellar track. The song ends beautifully with a soft piano exit. It’s a nice song but doesn’t show Mai’s true power as an artist.

The album’s fourth track, entitled Born To Be Free, is a hot track that has an somewhat exotic element to it. The song opens strangely with a gospel chorus singing the song and this takes away from the song’s charm. The verses are more relaxed than the rest of the song but it doesn’t detract from the overall flow of the song. There’s almost an other-worldly element to them. The strongest points of the song are the hook and the chorus since they maintain that infectious element that keeps the song interesting and enjoyable. The English lines spread throughout the song give it a cuteness that goes surprisingly well with the exotic beat.

The fifth track on the album, 白い雪, has a memorable chorus that gives the song a special touch. This song is my third favorite song on the album and with a midtempo/uptempo mix, it stands apart from the other midtempo songs on the album.

The sixth song on the album, entitled Silent Love ~open my heart,~ is a touching ballad. With a winter theme to it, the ballad uses a simple arrangement to draw attention to Mai’s vocals. Truly Mai shows great vocal power that blends perfectly with the instrumentation. While the verses are relatively mellow before a musical flush into the chorus, there is no break in rhythm. The pure instrumental section really shows the beauty of the song. Overall, this song was very enjoyable and delivered an energy that some of the midtempo tracks were unable to.

The album’s seventh song, entitled everything, is a midtempo number that has a different appeal than the other songs. The traditional pattern of a song on the album is for “slow” verses and a stronger chorus but in this case, both the verses and the chorus shine equally. There is a foreign element in the chorus thought that gives it some life. I feel that after various listens, the song could grow a little tiresome since the arrangement is relatively simple. However it’s definitely enjoyable for a listen every now and then.

Season of Love, the eighth song, is my least favorite song on the album. The song opens with a man and it does not set up a good first impression of the song. While this song sounds like various other songs on the album, it just lacks the “wow factor” present in at least one section of those songs. It maintains the same midtempo approach but the chorus is not separated in a way that gives the song some flavor.

The album’s ninth track, entitled Secret Roses, is a midtempo song with a very “cool” sound. It sounds like there is a haunting yet melodic voice singing alongside Mai. The song’s weakest point is the over simplicity. That haunting voice does take too much time on the song and the instrumental sounds the same throughout the whole song. The highlight of the song comes during an English section of the song when the instrumentation changes a little bit and Mai speaks in English. The same sexiness element comes to mind as in many of the songs on the album. My verdict on the song is that it’s a “nice listen” but could have been a lot stronger. Also the song, which is less than 4 minutes, sounds like it drags on and that really isn’t a good thing.

The tenth song on the album, entitled Wonderland, is a mellow and relaxing song for the beaches. When the song opened, the image of sunshine was the first thing to come to me. The chorus is definitely the most memorable part of the song when the vocals use a bit more power and the instrumentation is brought harder. I think that if the rest of the song was built around the same melody as the chorus, the song would have been more enjoyable as a whole. It’s a nice and relaxing song that kind of gives me a lullaby feel but I wish there was a little more complexity in the instrumental and a little more vocal strength during the verses.

BE WITH U, the eleventh song on the album, is an uptempo track primarily accompanied by a guitar. It’s a good way to take away from all the midtempo songs on the album. The song does have an “anime” feel with lyrics such as “to be together” and “I just wanna be with you” and what sounds like gospel accompinent. The chorus stands out from the rest of the song as usual. After the second set of verse, hook and chorus, an instrumental section comes in and changes the style of the song a bit. The summer element adds a nice flavor to the song, making it a good listen and one of the standout songs of the album.

The final track on the album is the bonus track, a cover of Over The Rainbow. It’s sung entirely in English and overall it’s a good listen. Mai’s English is amazing so there’s no communication problem and her vocals are spot on with the song. The instrumentation is very nice as well and the horns add a certain flare to the song. Because it’s not an original song, there isn’t much to say but she did a great job of covering this classic.

As my first album by Kuraki Mai, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The first two songs I heard from the album were One Life and Born To Be Free and those set me up to await an amazing album since those two songs are the strongest on the album. Other songs such as BE WITH U, Silent Love ~open my heart,~ and 白い雪 each have their own flavor to them that sets them apart from the rest of the album. However I feel that many of the song sound very similar because of the similar arrangement used on various songs. So roughly half the album has a similar vibe to it while the other half is comprised of great songs and good songs. I admit it was slightly disappointing that the album ended this way but some memorable songs emerged and it was a “nice” introduction to Mai.

Album Ranking: B

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Hamasaki Ayumi – GUILTY [9th Studio Album]

January 14, 2008 at 6:08 am (Hamasaki Ayumi) (, )

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Hamasaki Ayumi’s 9th studio album, entitled GUITLY, was released on 01.01.08. A strong point of the album is that all of the emotions of the different songs are clearly displayed and Ayumi went through a lot recording this album. She separated from her boyfriend of 7 years; a very close friend of hers passed away; and she even announced that she had lost hearing in her left ear but will continue making music until it takes away her right ear. Three singles were released before the album. The physical singles: glitter / fated as well as talkin’ 2 myself and digital single: Together When… The album features four interludes so that only leaves 10 full songs and 5 new songs but the album offers a lot emotionally and personally and Ayumi has clearly put her all into this album. The most distinctive sound on the album is its rock flavor.

The album opens up with the introductory track entitled Mirror. The interesting thing about the song is that it’s as if different styles were put together and arranged so that there would be a smooth flow between them. The song begins with a soft pop beat and holds an imagery that runs throughout the album, the image of dolls. There is an image of toy soldiers that comes to mind when listening to the beginning.  Mirror then dives into an edgier upbeat pop sound with rock tints in the beat. After this sound, the song finishes in a slower tempo that could belong to a midtempo / ballad. Overall Mirror is enjoyable and the arrangement of the different sounds prevents the song from sounding choppy.

(don’t) Leave me alone is the second song on the album and definitely a memorable one. It is my both my favorite rock song and my one of my three favorite album songs. The song opens up similar to 1 LOVE (from her 8th studio album, Secret) with pure rock instrumentation and dives into the hot song. The most addictive part of the song is when only the instrumentation is heard since the guitar playing is very well done and sets the perfect atmosphere. It also serves a bridge between the verses and from the chorus. The song ends in an interesting way as she sings “leave me alone now…but don’t leave me alone.” Her vocals are soft and the music stops for a moment to bring the focus on her words. After, the same guitar line repeats and brings the song to a strong close.

The third track, talkin’ 2 myself, is a powerful rock anthem centering on the notion of “creation after destruction.” Ayu uses a lower vocal register than usual in order to fit with the darker instrumentation. I love the pure instrumental section as it reaches a climax effect, melting into the powerful final chorus. This is a very memorable song and the lyrics match the instrumentation perfectly. After reviewing the song on the talkin’ 2 myself single, I think it sounds even stronger in the album, especially coming right after (don’t) Leave me alone.

decision is the fourth track on the album and fits perfectly after talkin’ 2 myself. Using the theme of self-acceptance in this rock ballad, Ayumi creates a powerful and unforgettable song. The verses take more of a ballad approach and the booming rock sound comes in during the hook and jumps to the forefront during the chorus. Ayu’s vocals are particularly strong during the chorus while being hushed during the verses as to draw attention to the words that she sings. After reviewing the song on the talkin’ 2 myself single, I can say it sounds even stronger in the context of the album.

The album’s title track, GUILTY, is the 5th track on the album and unfortunately, it isn’t as memorable as hoped. In my opinion, Ayumi’s title tracks from her previous two albums [(miss)understood and Secret] were both very strong songs but my problem with GUILTY is that it’s a nice song but doesn’t have any part that jumps out. It has a nice instrumentation with bells playing a small role and even an eerie voice in the background saying “guilty or not guilty.” The opening of the song holds the imagery of a desolate industrial wasteland so the opening really sets the track up for a great continuing. The verses and nice and soft and even the hook and chorus have a nice dark feel to them. So the song maintains a very similar sound without vocals being strengthened in order to put emphasis on certain points. It’s a nice listen but I think the arrangement of the song was too simplistic.

fated is the 6th track on the album and although the song is an emotional rock ballad, the song doesn’t me as well with the other rock songs on the album. fated is the personal story of love, drawing on the obvious theme of fate / destiny. The lyrics really are powerful and tell a story so while the emotion is clearly there, the instrumentation is very basic and doesn’t really jump out while listening to it. It’s a nice song but perhaps it should have been shorter as it’s the longest song on the album. I’ve had my ups and downs with this song and although it sounded okay on the glitter / fated single, it sounds a bit more awkward in the contet of the album. However it is a nice transition from rock to ballads.

Together When… is a beautiful heart-touching ballad and the 7th track on the album. Ayumi emotionally sings about wanting to say “thank you” and “I love you” but being unable to so in the future, when she is “reborn,” she will go on a journey to find that person. The instrumental to the song combined with Ayumi’s emotional vocals create the perfect atmosphere fitting with the lyrics. The chorus and the following lines are the most unforgettable parts of the song while the verses serve as bridges between the emotional choruses. The emotion on this song jumps right at you at first listen and is definitely one of Ayumi’s most beautiful and tearful ballads.

Marionette – prelude – is the 8th track on my album and an interlude into the next track, Marionette. This prelude is very pretty and has the imagery of dolls wrapped inside the instrumentation. To me, the element of loneliness is present and it’s as if a doll was wandering in a dark mansion and the sound of clocks only adds to the eeriness. It’s a wonderful interlude that ends perfectly and blends right into the next track.

Marionette is the 9th track and is another one of my three favorite album tracks. The opening to the track bares a similarity to the theme song of Sailor Moon. The striking thing about the song is that the verses belong to a beautiful ballad but the chorus really stands out with slight rock influences. Her vocals during the verses are soft, providing to a sorrowful atmosphere keeping in connection to the theme of being controlled like a puppet (a marionette) and when the chorus strikes, it’s almost as if that control is broken and Ayumi is free. I personally love the instrumentation section as it gives the song a climax effect because right after, both the vocals and instrumentation are soft. Following, is the striking chorus, drawing attention to the words. Due to the song’s rock influences, the ballad is enhanced, creating a memorable song.

The Judgement Day is the 10th track and the third interlude on the album. Ayumi only sings “la la la la” throughout the song, which sets the tone for the song. The interlude begins slower and softer with the organ sounding loud and proud, creating an eerie feeling with the slight hint of the element of loneliness.  However it then crosses over into a more uptempo version with more of a dance feel to it. The interlude ends in a similar way to the beginning with the organ taking more of a dominant role in expressing emotion even without words.

glitter is the 11th track on the album and is an upbeat pop song about the love and happiness. For me, this is Ayumi’s best summer song and still sounds great in the context of the album. The song uses cute English phrases such “yes believe in love” to add to the summer breeziness of the song. I love the pure instrumental section of the song as it also creates a climax effect alongside Ayu’s slightly distorted vocals. After reviewing the song on the glitter / fated single, I can say it hasn’t lost any of its summer flavor.

MY ALL is the 12th track on the album and is another one of my three favorite album tracks. It bears a similarity to Replace from her 6th studio, MY STORY. An upbeat pop song, MY ALL is one of the two happy songs on the album (alongside glitter). The lyrics to the song speak on the joy of love and come from Ayumi’s heart, as expressed through the atmosphere of the song. The verses are quite relaxed in comparison to the rest of the song and the instrumental begins elevating in volume during the hook, serving as a bridge into the catchier and even happier chorus. The guitar used in the instrumental has a sparkling effect which is used especially during the chorus, creating a fun and breezy atmosphere for the song. With the rest of the album speaking of other themes that don’t center on happiness, MY ALL provides a nice change of pace and is an amazing song to complement the album.

reBiRTH is the 13th track and the final interlude on the album. When the track begins, there is an other-worldly element to this interlude that evokes feelings of loneliness and mystery. Then the interlude changes directions slightly and melts into a soft-sounding song with a winter element in it. This section of the song is very reminiscent of LABYRINTH from her 8th studio album, Secret. The interlude ends somewhat similar to how it began with that same other-worldly feeling. It’s very interesting how Ayumi’s interludes are able to effortlessly change direction and bring out different emotions while still maintaining a cohesiveness that connects those feelings.

untitled ~for her~ is the final track on the album and was written for a close friend of Ayu’s who recently passed away. With all of the emotions that Ayu encountered while writing this song, the display of all of them certainly came out on the song. Through the instrumentation, there is an element of hope present. Ayu’s vocals are softer and at some points, it feels as if the instrumental is a bit too loud for her vocals during the verses but during the chorus, her vocals are strengthened and show so much emotion, that there is a definite reliability to the song. This song bears a slight resemblance of criminal [from her 6th studio album, MY STORY]. This was an emotional and personal song to end the album on, really signifying the trying process for Ayumi to create this album.

In order to promote the album, two more PVs were made and they were made to promote two of the best songs on the album, in my opinion. One of the PVs was made for Marionette and the imagery in the PV really connects with the lyrics of the song. It features Ayu and her male dancers as marionettes on a music box. There is an eerie element to the PV, which is especially seen in the eyes of all of them. The darkness of the PV really brings home the message of the song. The other PV was made for (don’t) Leave me alone and this one is more simplistic and involves many colors. Ayumi walks through the hallways of what appears to be a crystal palace, running into various female dancers. Each time Ayu passes a dancer, her tie changes color to match the color of the outfit of the dancer. There is some choreography in the video which is a nice revisit from the talkin’ 2 myself PV.  Although it was simple, I really enjoyed the PV and believe the tie that changes color represents changing one’s self for someone. However in the end, the tie returns to its original color and Ayu is herself again. Both PVs were very well done and did a good job of representing their respective songs.

GUILTY is Ayumi’s 9th album and uses different themes and sounds in order to create a very personal album. Using three primary genres / song approaches, the album maintains a good flow between tracks. The beginning of the album or the “rock section” consists of mostly single tracks. Talkin’ 2 myself and decision were great releases and sound even better in the context of the album. fated sounds nice but doesn’t sound as great as I hoped it would in the context of the album, surrounded by other rock tracks. The two new rock songs were on opposite ends of the spectrum for me. While GUILTY was a bit disappointing (especially for the title track), (don’t) Leave me alone was incredible and one of the best (if not the best) album track and song on the album. The album also offers two pop songs, which are placed together as tracks 11 and 12. glitter still sounds like a great summer song with a great instrumental and MY ALL is an amazing pop song that caught my ears at first listen and remains one of the best songs on the album. The ballads on the album really provide a personal look into Ayumi’s mind. Together When… is a beautiful ballad with touching lyrics and fits perfectly in the context of this album. Marionette emerged as one of my favorite songs on the album and with the theme of control, the lyrics are amazing. untitled ~for her~ definitely is a beautiful song that has a beautiful story to go along with it. The lyrics are personal and the instrumentation suggests a feeling of hope. There are four interludes on the album, which takes away from the number of full songs on the album but luckily they are all well done. Marionette – prelude – is a wonderful introduction to Marionette; The Judgement Day plays with an organ based instrumentation and sounds great; reBiRTH has an out-of-this-world charm that enhances the interlude and the opening track, Mirror, could have stood alone as a full song. Overall, the album has its high points and low points (GUILTY and fated; 4 interludes – number not quality) but because the high points heavily outweigh the low, the album emerges as a cohesive and strong assembly of tracks from the heart.

Album Ranking: A

 

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Hamasaki Ayumi – talkin’ 2 myself [42nd Single]

January 6, 2008 at 9:11 am (Hamasaki Ayumi)

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Hamasaki Ayumi’s 42nd single, entitled talkin’ 2 myself, was released on 09.19.07. Both the title track and the B-side for the single received tie-ins. talkin’ 2 myself was used as the Panasonic’s Lumix FX33 CM song while the B-side, decision, was used as the music.jp TV CM song.

The single opens up with talkin’ 2 myself, an explosive rock track with powerful lyrics. The theme of the song is “creation following destruction” and the lyrics speak to it perfectly. The arrangment of the song is simple using the small hooks to create a bridge between the more “bubbling” verses and the “explosive” choruses. The vocals also support this arrangment as Ayumi uses a lower tone during the verses and brings out more power during the choruses. This style gives the chorus a spotlight, where it belongs. I personally enjoy the instrumental section very much and the beautiful flow right into the chorus, with more hushed vocals. Following the “hushed chorus” is the regular chorus, creating a climax effect and more spotlight to the powerful chorus. This song is definitely one of Ayumi’s best rock efforts and deserves to be rewarded.

The B-side, entitled decision, is definitely A-side material. This song is a powerful rock ballad centering around the notion of self-acceptance. The song opens up with pure instrumentation; the opening sounds are that of a ballad and then they blare into a powerful rock song. There is a smooth transition between the two different sounds, establishing the tone of the song very well. Then the song returns closer to the opening sounds as the first verse opens. Ayumi’s vocals are quite crisp on this one, blending with the beat. The same transition is brought in as it melts into the hook. The chorus of the song is strong with the final line of each chorus holding some lingering feeling of strength. Ayu’s vocals during the third verse also show power, adding to the powerful rock atmosphere. The song ends a bit strangely as Ayumi ad-libs. While her vocals are nice, the ending wasn’t what I thought it would be. However the song is great overall and shows Ayu’s still got it.

The third track on the single is entitled fated [Orchestra Version]. It took me a while to grow into the original version of the song but one thing I did like from the start in the original was that the music really supported the atmosphere created by the lyrics. In this new version, I find that the orchestrated instrumental takes away from the emotion of the song. However the instrumental alone is pretty, but that doesn’t do much for the song here. It was a nice return back to the orchestrated experimentation expressed in MY STORY CLASSICAL but this version doesn’t capture the emotion of the original version and the emotion is the song’s strongest point.

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Although this is a traditional single (with A-Side and B-Side), both songs received PVs. The PV for talkin’ 2 myself is very powerful and does an amazing job of keeping with the lyrics. Centering around the theme of “creation after destruction,” the PV captures the true intensity of the lyrical atmosphere. The children in the PV suggest a loss of innocence and it was a nice touch using the rain as a point of climax in the song. I personally liked the little choreographed scene with her dancers during the sole instrumental section and it was a great way to introduce the rain into the video. This PV sported Ayu’s new haircut and that added to the atmosphere of the PV. The PV for decision fell a little flat of my expectations since it’s of Ayu and her crew just rocking out and singing the song. The lighting of the PV is a nice touch but other than that, there really isn’t much to say except that it could have been stronger.

Single Ranking: A +

Both talkin’ 2 myself and decision are powerful rock songs, each with different musical approaches and lyrical approaches. While talkin’ 2 myself uses the theme of “creation after destruction” alongside a “hook-bridge” to draw attention to the chorus, decision uses a smooth mix of strong rock and ballad with the theme of “self-acceptance.” The PV for talkin’ 2 myself was great although the PV for decision was a little lacking but both songs display different rock styles that Ayumi uses to her advantage.

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Hamasaki Ayumi – glitter / fated [41st Single]

January 6, 2008 at 9:11 am (Hamasaki Ayumi)

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Hamasaki Ayumi’s 41st single, entitled glitter / fated, was released on 07.18.08. Both songs of this double A-side received tie-ins. While glitter was used as the Zespri Gold Kiwi CM song, fated was used as the theme song to the movie Kaidan.

glitter is Ayumi’s traditional summer release: an uptempo pop number with the sounds of summer bubbling inside. In my opinion, this is Ayu’s best summer song for its amazing catchiness and awesome instrumental. The lyrics use cute English phrases such as “Yes, still believe in love!” creating a very breezy atmosphere perfect for summer. The lyrical approach to the song uses the element of hope present in love, which matches perfectly with the beat of the song. My favorite part is the pure instrumental section that creates a summer dance vibe.

The other A-side is the emotional ballad entitled fated. The song’s strongest point is the great emotional presence that is displayed both by the instrumental and Ayumi’s vocals. The obvious theme of “fate” is used to create absolutely beautiful lyrics that are written from her heart. The instrumentation uses a “bridge-arrangement” in which the volume of both the beat and Ayu’s vocals are softer during the verses and then comes stronger in the hook before creating a small climax, introducing the chorus. Ayumi’s vocals show emotion in them, prompting the listener to really feel as if a story is being told in conjunction with the lyrics and sound of the song. Her vocals display this quality particularly during the choruses, which serves as the high points of the song. Ayu really put a lot into this ballad and it definitely shows.

The third track on the single is Secret [Original Mix], which is the same version of the song present on her 8th studio album, Secret. The song is included because it was used as the theme song for the Japanese release of the Chinese movie Confession of Pain. I’ve always loved this song as once again, the emotion portrayed in the song comes across so strongly. Her vocals use more of a soft approach to express the tenderness / softness in the song and they match with the soft strings of the song. The chorus once again is the strong point as the strings become more prominent and Ayu’s vocals grow a little to match the strings. The lyrics are another strong point of the song, speaking of the theme of searching for love. These lyrics really touch your heart while listening to them in the right mood. This song has even been able to make me cry due to its beauty. The small instrumental section before the final choruses creates a climax effect and give a raining imagery. This song was beautifully written and arranged to create a wonderful ballad.

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Instead of doing two traditional PVs for both songs, Ayu decided to film a short movie entitled 距愛. She filmed the mini movie alonside actor Shawn Yue in Hong Kong. The movie has so speaking of any actor and only the music of all three songs are present in the movie. Both glitter and fated are used at different times during the movie to capture their respective emotions in the atmosphere. fated in particular served as a visual bridge between the emotion of the song through visuals and sounds. Secret was played as the credits were rolled and served as a nice ending theme to the movie. The idea of a mini movie was very creative but I would’ve personally preferred if there were 2 seperate PVs for each A-side.

Single Ranking: A

Both glitter and fated are such different songs and both being present on the same single, shows two very different sides of Ayumi. While glitter is the pop summer song sung with the element of hope, fated is the emotional ballad telling the story of a fated encounter and the following feelings soon after. Secret was a nice addition to the single and leaving it untouched was a good move since the song already is beautiful and would be hard to change it for the better. The mini movie was a creative idea to show the emotional presence of fated and the summer breezy feeling of glitter.

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Utada Hikaru – Beautiful World / Kiss & Cry [19th Single]

January 1, 2008 at 1:44 am (Utada Hikaru)

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Utada Hikaru’s 19th single, entitled Beautiful World / Kiss & Cry, was released on 08.29.07. Both songs on this double A-side received tie-ins. Beautiful World was used as the theme song for the first of the Rebuild of Evangelion called Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone while Kiss & Cry was used for the 2007 Freedom Cup Noodle CM.

The single opens with Beautiful World, an uptempo track with powerful lyrics that tie right in with the Evangelion storyline. Beautiful World opens up with a magical sound, similar to that of Keep Tryin’ and introduces the beautiful melody to follow. The song speaks of a beautiful boy (Shinji Ikari from Evangelion) who doesn’t realize his own beauty, standing in a “beautiful world.” The beat of the song matches perfectly with Hikki’s recently ethereal experimental sound. Hikki’s vocals are once again strong and there is another ad-libbing section at the end that brings the song to a polite finish.

The second track on the single and my personal favorite is the uptempo track entitled Kiss & Cry. Using a sample from Hotel Lobby, a track off her all English album, Exodus, Kiss & Cry was born. The song opens up with a blaring of horns, which is very unexpected and un-necessary and after a second of silence, the actual song begins. The introduction is a bit out of place with the rest of the song but does give a feeling of importance. The lyrics to the song are bit strange at times (cup of noodles, cup of noodles…) but they give the song a fun and happy vibe, creating a nice atmosphere to sing along to. My favorite section of the song is the ad-libbing section where she sings “you’ve got me on a natural high.” It ends the song on a light and breezy note and the vocals are truly impressive. The tie-in for this song expresses the theme of the song, freedom. The message of being able to let everything go and cry knowing there’s someone there to listen is present in the song, alongside the feeling of hope for the future for freedom. This song is one of my personal Hikki favorites and she did an amazing job.

The third track is Fly Me To The Moon (In Other Words) – 2007 Mix, – which is a remake of the song with the same name on her  Wait & See ~リスク~single. The song is sung entirely in English and has cute lyrics. The reason the song is present is because it also was involved with the promotion for Evangelion. By no means is it a bad song but it’s definitely not the best song she’s ever made. But it’s cute and if you’re in the mood for a song like that, then it’s a good song to listen to.

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The PVs for both songs were disappointing since Hikki wasn’t in either of them. For Beautiful World (left), a montage of clips from the Evangelion movie were used. The PV truly promotes the movie instead of the song so it was disappointing to just see clips of the movie instead of one of Hikki’s deep and meaningful PVs since it would be appropriate with the themes and ethereal sound of the song. The PV for Kiss & Cry (middle) is even worse for me personally. I don’t like the animation that was used for the PV and felt that a regular PV would’ve been more appropriate for the song as it could have been simple and meaningful. The one part that makes me dislike the PV the most is the fact that it cuts off the ending of the song (the ad-libbing of “the natural high”). All in all, the PVs, which are supposed to promote the songs ended up promoting their respective tie-ins. However the promotional images for the single (one seen, right) are wonderful and the one above definitely gives a Kiss & Cry feel and Hikki looks beautiful.

Single Ranking: A +

This double A-side single shows Hikki’s versatility and both songs are incredible pieces of work. Beautiful World is an ethereal masterpiece worthy of such a great tie-in as the theme song for the Evangelion movie. An uptempo song with lyrics tinged with sorrow, Beautiful World is one of Hikki’s best. Kiss & Cry is an even better song, using a sample from Hotel Lobby, to create a memorable uptempo track with a breezy feel. Hikki’s vocals are impressive as she ad-libs and is one of my favorite Hikki songs. The third track Fly Me To The Moon – 2007 Mix – is a nice addition to the single as it features Hikki singing in English and opens up very nicely. Although the PVs were disappointing, the songs were phenomenal and that’s all that really matters.

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