Tohoshinki – If…?! / Rainy Night [19th Single] [3rd TRICK Single]

February 26, 2008 at 7:06 pm (Tohoshinki) (, )

if.jpg

Tohoshinki’s 19th single, entitled If…! / Rainy Night, was released on 02.27.08. The song TRICK from their latest album T, is a mash up of five different songs. Quickly following that album was the TRICK project in which five singles were to be released each with a solo song from each member on the single. This single features, Rainy Night, a solo song sung by Junsu as the B-side and therefore is dubbed “his single.”

The single opens up with the hot dance track with Junsu on lead vocals for If…?! The song opens up with a dance beat with light techno influences hidden behind it. When the first verse begins, the vocals sound a little whiny but grow over time. Soon there are notes hidden in the higher register that change the feel of the song for a moment very nicely and transitions smootly into the chorus. The chorus is the strongest part of the entire song with vocals perfectly complimenting the music and the hot dance sound coming across strongly. It ends for a god finish as it repeats the first line of the chorus and echoes reverberates into silence for a few moments. As the catchiest song from the entire TRICK project, the group really brought everything on the song.

Rainy Night, Junsu’s solo song, …The song opens up with a very fantasy-like feeling with a beautiful instrumentation. Junsu’s vocals during the verses are very well-maintained in terms of pitch that fit the instrumentation whether that requires softer notes in the lower range or belting out a powerful note to finish the verse. The arrangement during the chorus serves the overall atmosphere of the single and fits the vocals perfectly. Showing a certain cuteness element, the chorus finishes with “baby I still love you.” One of the strongest points of the song is that the emotion comes across from so many song elements such as the soft and powerful vocals, the instrumentation and the arrangement. The third verse brings the focus while the piano steps to the background. The transition from this verse into the chorus is perfect as the music comes back into the picture. The song ends as beautifully as it began with final pure instrumentation. Rainy Night has been the strongest solo song of the three singles released for various reasons and its inclusion really shows off just how much of a talented vocalist Junsu is.

Single Ranking: A

If…?! / Rainy Night, the third single of the TRICK project, continues the good quality from the last single. The songs serve as perfect compliments to one another. If…?! is a hot dance track with slight techno influences woven into the beat. Junsu steps up on Rainy Night, a ballad showcasing wonderful vocals and clear emotion. If the next single can keep the same quality, then the TRICK project is on its way to be a complete success.

Permalink Leave a Comment

EXILE – Pure / You’re My Sunshine [27th Single]

February 25, 2008 at 6:19 am (EXILE) (, )

cdversionxe7.jpg

EXILE’s 27th single, entitled Pure / You’re My Sunshine, was released on 02.27.08 fairly recently after the release of their latest album EXILE LOVE. All the songs on the single received tie-ins. Pure was used as the LISMO CM song while You’re My Sunshine was the theme song for the movie Team Batista no Eikou. The B-side, 変わらないモノ, also had a tie-in  as the DAIHATSU TANTO TUCOM CM song.

The first song on the track, Pure, is a sweet ballad with uptempo elements to it. The first verse features vocals more in the lower range while keeping with the music. The chorus gives the song a bit more energy with more of an uptempo approach and makes it stand apart perfectly. The vocals show strength and range as notes in the higher range are hit. The second verse is similar to the first with a little more power behind the vocals while still complimenting the music. The third verse changes up the instrumentation a bit and adds an undescribable flavor to the song. Following, the chorus is sung with the instrumentation playing less of an active role and here more emotion comes across from the vocals. Pure is a wonderful song and a great introduction to the next album’s era.

Track number two, You’re My Sunshine, is a perfect compliment to Pure. An upbeat and summery song, You’re My Sunshine captures the energy perfectly. The first and second versew feature smooth vocals that blend perfectly with the music and the higher notes that are hit are well sung. The chorus brings out the feel even more because of the instrumentation coming out a bit stronger and the vocals, which are as always strong. The third verse features the boys repatedly singing “everything’s gonna be all right” and it works perfectly in the context. The ending “sun shining bright” really brings home the sunny summery imagery associated with the song. The ending instrumentation is a wonderful finish to the song and no other way would be better. You’re My Sunshine is a wonderful pop uptempo number that has a summery feel to it and the boys performed wonderfully on it.

変わらないモノ, the B-side, is a wonderful midtempo track. The vocals during the first verse really present good emotion  and accompany the music well. The hook serves as a bridge and to the instrumentation introduces the chorus with a “climax effect.” The chorus is very beautifully sung with emotions jumping right from the vocals and the harmonization was excellent as usual. The second verse has even stronger harmonization and vocal strength than the first verse, making the song stronger as it progresses. The third verse gives the song a new energy as the instrumentation changes direction slightly and the boys follow suit perfectly. The notes that reside in the higher range are hit perfectly and effortlessly. The song ends with instrumentation for a beautiful finish.

Single Ranking: A

EXILE’s 27th single, entitled Pure / You’re My Sunshine, features different moods but all tackled with an amazing approach. Pure is a very interesting ballad with uptempo nuances that make it all the more special. You’re My Sunshine shows the sweet and poppy side of the boys, which sounds great and captures the summer feel effortlessly. 変わらないモノ is a powerful midtempo number with beautiful vocals and a wonderful instrumental. Although coming soon after the release of their latest album, the single proves that the boys haven’t lost any steam and look to continue just as strongly.

Permalink Leave a Comment

NEWS – 太陽のナミダ [8th Single]

February 25, 2008 at 6:19 am (NEWS) (, )

taiyou_no_namida_limited.jpg

NEWS’ 8th single, 太陽のナミダ, was released on 02.27.08. The title track was used as the theme song for the movie Kurosagi. In order to offer something on both the editions of the singles, different B-sides were featured. 美しすぎて is one B-side that was left on both versions but the second B-side is different. On the limited edition, バンビーナ is featured while the regular edition features Lady Spider.

The single opens up with 太陽のナミダ, an Arabian-influenced addictive song. The first verse opens up with lower-pitched vocals that have a certain breathy quality that intermittently appears to give a sexy quality to the vocals. The chorus shows off stronger vocals and blend well with the instrumentation without overpowerig it. The second verse is similar to the first however the vocals are a little stronger and set it apart more. In the case of this song, the instrumentation really accentuates certain notes and sections in which the vocals follow perfectly, creating a true balance. The chorus is a perfect example of this as the boys sing the title of the song at the chorus’ finish. The various pure instrumentatal sections following the chorus really bring the music to the forefront and because of the addictive beat, creates fantasy-like imagery. 太陽のナミダ is an extremely strong A-side and shows off a strong instrumental and smooth voices that harmonize amazingly.

Track number two, 美しすぎて, is present on both the limited and regular editions. The song opens up with a very cute and upbeat instrumentation that introduces the overall feel of the song perfectly. The first verse maintains the same atmosphere as the opening while accompanying a more mellow instrumentation and soft but beautiful vocals. The chorus is very enjoyable with a cute element found within the music and the perfect harmonization of the boys’ vocals. The phrase “beautiful eyes” stands out especially and is sung with perfect pronounciation. The second verse presents even more vocal strength while keeping the same instrumentation as the first verse. The slight change in the instrumentation sets the third verse for such strength and in vocal terms, they delivered. The song ends with beautiful instrumentation and creates an amazing finish.

バンビーナ, song number three, is only present on the limited edition. From the opening of the song, it’s clear that there’s going be some hot upbeat energy in the song. The first verse opens with smooth vocals that compliment the beat amazingly with a hint of sexiness in them. The chorus is addictive and stands out from the rest of the song with stronger vocals that still compliment the music. The second verse is very similar to the verse and because of their similarity in vocal terms, it gives the song perfect low. The third verse takes the song in a slightly techno direction that is addictive on its own level. The vocals show such strength on this song, it blows the others away in that department. Pure instrumentation was the perfect way to close such an amazing song.The instumentation is very directional in this song as well, highlighting certain note(s) that the vocals follow. This track is one of the best and the inclusion of it on the limited edition was definitely a smart decision.

The third track to the regular edition, entitled Lady Spider, has a summery feel to it. The opening of introduces a hot dance beat that prevails throughout the song. The boys really step it up on the vocal department on the verses, showing off some impressive talent that blends well with the beat. The instrumentation really hihglights certain notes that the boys hit effortlessly and the nuances of the arrangement contribute to the perfect sound. The way they sing “lady spider” shows a certain playful sexuality that keeps the song interesting. This song was another amazing addition to the single and placing it on the regular edition was a smart move.

taiyou_no_namida_pv1.jpg

 

The PV for 太陽のナミダ is one of the strongest PVs for Johnny’s Entertainment of this year as of yet. It features the boys in what appears to be a medieval castle scene. The rain is a very nice effect that perfectly compliments and reflects the overall atmosphere of the song. The choreography is also very impressive. The boys look in sync and show a true mastery of the moves.

Single Grade: A +

All the songs on this single are amazing. The A-side and title track uses the looming Arabian sound to create an addictive song. The B-side present on both editions is cute and creates the atmosphere without going overboard. The two other B-sides placed on their respective editions of the single are both A-side material and are certainly not to be forgotten. The accompanying PV for the single is also amazing, proving that the entire single was well-done. As my introduction to NEWS, it’s one I won’t forget.

Permalink 10 Comments

Ito Yuna – WISH [2nd Studio Album]

February 24, 2008 at 2:20 am (Ito Yuna) (, )

yuna_wish_dvd.jpg

Ito Yuna’s second studio album, entitled WISH, was released on 02.20.08. With some standout tracks such as I’m Here, Moon Rabbit, Power of Love and Unite As One, WISH offers some very good songs. However the biggest problem the album faces is that there aren’t enough memorable tracks so in that respect, the album does sound a little bland. Four singles were released before the album: I’m Here, Mahaloha featuring Micro of Def-Tech, Urban Mermaid and あなたがいる限り – A WORLD TO BELIEVE IN – with Celine Dion. In order to promote the album, alone again was released to radio stations. Unite As One also received a tie-in as the ending theme of the Konami game TIME HOLLOW-Ubawareta Kako wo Motomete. –

The album begins with Power of Love, which opens up quickly but strongly in the first verse with a very cool beat and some talented vocals by Yuna. However once the chorus arrives, there is a certain “cheesiness” element that appears and makes a sharp u-turn from the opening. The English lines are really corny but support the overall atmosphere of the song. Once the second verse comes around, the same cool feeling from the verse comes in and her vocals have more strength behind them. The third verse bears a similarity to the chorus but because of the powerful vocals and slightly different arrangement, it stands apart as much stronger. When she sings “never let me go,” her vocals show power and transition smoothly into a small instrumental section. If the song continued in the vein of the verses instead of making such an awkward transition to thechorus, then this song would have been really strong.

Alone again, a sweet midtempo song, serves as the second track. Yuna’s vocals show power in the first verse and compliment the music very well. During the chorus, Yuna’s vocals show power but here it sounds awkward. The opening lines are sung too high in the upper register and some notes are too strong when they should be sung softer. The pure instrumental section was a nice break from the song and really sets in the relaxing atmosphere behind the music. Although the vocals are a very nice part of the song and the first verse has some flavor to it, the song doesn’t really go in a particular direction and sounds like it’s been dragging on for a while.

After making an appearance on a tribute album to Celine Dion, a collaboration for Yuna and Celine was planned and then あなたがいる限り – A WORLD TO BELIEVE IN. – The song opens up with Celine singing in English and then Yuna singing in Japanese. Truthfully it sounded kind of strange hearing the transition between the two singers and the instrumental really does have a direction. The chorus features both singers and both show off their vocal skills but there is a minor clash in vocal strength and it comes off as just being “loud.” I know Celine can sing and Yuna can sing but putting them together probably wasn’t the best idea.

Next up is one of the songs released from the singles, Urban Mermaid. The overall vibe of the song is very different from its title as Yuna delivers a midtempo / pop track. The first verse is nicely delivered and gives a nice relaxed feeling but the chorus abruptly comes in as she sings “I’m a beautiful mermaid.” Not only is the line cheesy, the entire chorus sounds so out of place from the first verse. Going into the second verse, the transition is definitely smoothed out but doesn’t change the overall direction of the song. As a described anthem for women, the song really isn’t that strong to be deemed an “anthem.” I think that the choice of this song for a single was wrong but has a certain “Yuna-element” to it that fits well with her depite the blandness of the track.

Track number five, HEARTBEAT, opens up with a slight jazz and techno instrumentation and a very soft ethereal feeling that gives the song flavor. During the first verse, her vocals are soft and blend well with the music and transitions well into the chorus. In the chorus, her vocals show more power while consistently with the interesting music. Following the second chorus, a pure instrumental section comes in with a small English-speaking segment. The song ends like the instrumental section with some English speaking, making the song memorable. Because of the very interesting instrumentation as well as the right-pitched vocals, HEARTBEAT emerges as one of the most memorable songs on the entire album.

The next track, Colorful, opens up with a sweet and relaxing piano melody that creates an overall feeling for the song. The first verse features some poppy and good vocals by Yuna that go perfectly with the music. The transition between the hook and chorus is a bit abrupt but doesn’t detract from the overall flow. The chorus returns to the poppy atmosphere in contrast to the more relaxed vibe of the hook. Following the chorus is a short pure instrumentation section that sounds great. For a finish, the song fades out during the chorus, which is a good way to end a great song. The song is very enjoyable thanks to the interesting arrangement and instrumentation along with Yuna’s perfectly suiting vocals.

The seventh song, Unite As One, is the powerhouse piano ballad of the album. During the first verse, the instrumentation begins completely with the  piano until other sounds gradually make their way in. All the while, Yuna’s voice supports the music well. The chorus steps apart because of Yuna’s vocals and even the arrangement steps it up a bit. Following the chorus is a beautiful instrumental section that captures the essence of the song perfectly. During the third verse, the vocals show amazing strength in Yuna that had yet to be seen (there even sounded like a beautiful note in the whistle register). The only problem the song really faces is that it’s too long. Clocking over in almost seven minutes, it does feel like it’s dragging on at times. However the song is a strong ballad worth listening to with great vocals and a beautiful instrumentation.

Yuna’s collaboration with Micro of Def-Tech, Mahaloha, is up next. The song is a nice midtempo track with a Hawaiin vibe to it. Both Yuna and Micro’s voices sound nice together and the relaxing atomosphere definitely comes across very strong. However the biggest problem the song faces is that it doesn’t really go anywhere and sounds a bit boring. Vocally, there are no stand out moments and not even the instrumentation can save the song in terms of interest. Yuna’s traditional cheesy English lines come in during the chorus but don’t add to the overall atmosphere like they usually do. Mahaloha really doesn’t stand apart as being one of the best songs on the album and probably shouldn’t have been released as a single.

The ninth track, A Long Walk, opens up with distorted and choppy guitar playing that leaves a very strange impression. The other instruments come in adding a weird spacey feeling to it and make it a real part of the song. During the verses, Yuna’s voice shows the most strength of the song. The chorus also shows off Yuna’s voice a bit as she holds out the ends of notes and maintains relative power behind them. The English also seperates the lyrics and her voice as well. The whole mysterious atmosphere works on all the different layers of the song from her prolonged vocals, the arrangement of the song as well as the instrumentation. Although it has its strange moments, A Long Walk, is one of the best songs on the album.

Moon Rabbit, the tenth track, features a spanish guitar to create a relaxing uptempo track. During the verses, Yuna’s voice nicely accompanies the music but her vocals could have been a little stronger to keep up. The chorus displays some more strength behind them to seperate the chorus from the rest of the song. The frequent English throughout the song doesn’t detract from the overall feel of the song and adds a certain cute element to it. The instrumentation serves as a bridge between the verses and the chorus by directing the vocals. The third verse is a nice change of pace with a slightly different instrumentation and strong vocals. Overall the song has somewhat of a “dated” feel to it which is seen especially during the final chorus.

The first song released as a single for the album, I’m Here, serves as the eleventh track. The opening of the song is very impressive with an interesting instrumental that continues into the first verse. Here Yuna sings at a faster pace and comes off great. During the hook, the instrumentation changes a bit and serves as a good lead into the chorus. The chorus booms a little more than the rest of the song and Yuna pulls it off very well with strong vocals and perfect tempo. Following the second chorus is an instrumental break which continues the overall flow of the song. I’m Here was the best single released and sounds great released in the context of the album.

The title track, Wish, is a traditional ballad. While Yuna’s vocals certainly are strong, the song sounds somewhat like a watered down version of Unite As One. Once again, the length really gives the song a feeling of dragging on. Clocking in at almost six minutes, there really is no need for the song to be so long. There are true moments when the song shines during the verses and at the end of the chorus but it doesn’t really stand apart as being amazing. Unite As One was a much stronger ballad than this and both have similar sounds to them.

Cuteness reigns on the next track, Tokyo Days. The opening English is really corny but per usual, it works in the context of the songs. To support Yuna is a chorus that sings the English lines and their recurring appearance does prove more annoying than helpful. Yunas vocals sounds great however and the instrumentation captures the fun and playful atmosphere perfectly. The song does feel longer than it actually does, which is a recurring problem on the album. The song ends with the chorus fading out with Yuna hitting a powerful note at the end for a great finish. Overall the song is a nice addition to the album and is worth listening to as well.

The bonus track for the album is MY HEART WILL GO ON, a cover the Celine Dion song of the same name. Singing all in English, Yuna’s pronounciation is expectedly perfect and her vocals are powerful as well. There isn’t much to say about the song as a cover but she did a very nice job of covering it.

Album Ranking: B –

 Yuna’s second studio album, WISH, has its strengths and weaknesses. Yuna’s vocals remain consistently strong throughout the entire album and there are songs that feature various interesting instrumentals (such as Power of Love and HEARTBEAT). One problem the album has is that there aren’t very memorable songs and there is a certain cheesiness that continues in various songs. Not enough tracks stand out as being strong to make this a solid album. One plus that the album does have is that the album tracks are much better than the single tracks, thus saving the best material to be found on the album. Next time, Yuna should try more experimentation in her music and keep with the quality of songs such as I’m Here, Power of Love and HEARTBEAT.

Permalink 2 Comments

Utada Hikaru – HEART STATION / Stay Gold [20th Single]

February 18, 2008 at 9:35 pm (Utada Hikaru) (, )

heart_station__stay_gold.jpg

Utada Hikaru’s 20th single, HEART STATION / Stay Gold, was released on 02.20.08. The single is another double A-side single (following the release of her last single, Beautiful World / Kiss & Cry). HEART STATION was used as the Recochoku 2008 Download Service CM song while Stay Gold was the 2007 Ascience song.

The first track on the single, HEART STATION, is one of Hikki’s strongest songs ever. The song opens up somewhat similarly to Keep Tryin’ but with an ethereal flavor to it. The whole atmosphere of the song is somewhat sorrowful and plays with the metaphor of a radio station that tunes into the frequencies of the heart (“heart station”).  The verses are wonderful as the vocals are smooth and blend perfectly with the music. The chorus features notes more in the upper register and Hikki hits them perfectly. Her voice hits it really clearly as she draws out the ending notes of “I love you,” “I miss you” and other notes of that nature. Supporting Hikki’s notes is the instrumentation, which directs the song to these notes. Following the first chorus, Hikki speaks in English and is a nice addition to overall feel to the song. The song ends with Hikki repeating “heart station” with great vocals. HEART STATION is definitely one of Hikki’s best and she brought true strength with an ethereal sound.

Stay Gold, the other A-side, is a piano driven ballad. Drawing influence from a Stevie Wonder song of the same name and a Robert Frost poem entitled “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” the song is beautifully written. The opening instrumentation introduces the overall sorrowful atmosphere perfectly and melts straight into the chorus. The chorus is easily the strongest part of the song with beautiful vocals that are somewhat breathy but are powerful enough to work in the context of the song. The verses have Hikki singing in a lower key and the instrumentation makes a rather large change in order to compliment her vocals better. As the verses transition into the chorus, the instrumentation begins to return to its regular glory. The song ends on a lovely note as she breathily sings “my darling.” Stay Gold serves as an excellent contrast to HEART STATION and showcases Hikki’s strengths in terms of vocals and lyrics.

hs.jpg

For this double A-side single, a PV for HEART STATION was created. Hikki hasn’t had a “proper” PV for this album yet so the PV was a very nice surprise. The opening is amazing as the camera goes through what appears to be a vortex until we are able to see it’s Hikki’s eye. The rest of the PV is simple as it consists of Hikki sitting on a train with headphones are. Presumably she is listening to “heart station” as she sings. The camera angles add to the feel of the song with shots from her perspective as well as another’s (unidentified). Having the other passengers turn into silhouettes also shows creativity and true artistic direction.

Single Ranking: A +

Hikki’s 20th single, HEART STATION / Stay Gold, features two very strong tracks. HEART STATION features Hikki’s current ethereal style with great vocals and a clear atmosphere. Stay Gold, a piano ballad, features beautifully written lyrics and breathy but strong vocals. As the lead in for her new album of the same name, HEART STATION is one to be remembered as is Stay Gold.

Permalink 2 Comments

Arashi – Step and Go [21st Single]

February 18, 2008 at 8:25 pm (Arashi) (, )

cover-12.jpg

Arashi’s 21st single, entitled Step and Go, was released on 02.20.08. Although the A-side received no tie-in, the B-Side entitled 冬を抱きしめて was used as the C1000 Lemon Water CM song.

The title track, Step and Go, is an upbeat song with a lot of energy. The opening line, “we’re gonna step and go,” sets up the rest of the song by creating a fun atmosphere. The insrumental has a video-game-like quality to it that works perfectly in the song’s favor. The first vocals are controlled and go well with the music. Lines such as “we’re gonna step and go” set themselves apart from the rest of the chorus because of their highlighted vocals, making the chorus easily the most addictive part of the song. Following the chorus is a section in which all the boys sing, which creates stronger vocal talent and great harmonization. The second chorus follows the same formula of the first verse and sounds even greater a second time around. The third verse is the strongest verse as the instrumentation takes a new turn with what sounds like a harmonica playing and smooth vocals that accomapany it perfectly. The rap is a great addition to the song and brings a new flavor that keeps it interesting.

冬を抱きしめて, the B-side, is a poppy summery song. The vocals within the chorus are a bit strange as they draw out the sounds on the endings of the words but it does keep the sound interesting. The harmony between the voices is one of the song’s biggest strengths and throughout the verses and the choruses, this is preserved. The verses are more mellow and capture the summer atmosphere very nicely. The pure instrumental section is what really stands apart from the song by the hot guitar playing and even the assisting horns. Following that instrumentation, the vocals show a little more strength during the chorus. Overall the song is a nice addition to the single and captures the summer mood very strongly.

sgsc.jpg

In order to promote the single, a PV for Step and Go was made. This video is very simple and consists of different shots of the boys moving in slow motion with a white background. Some lyrics are present on the screen and the because of their way of appearance and font, there is a comic-book effect behind them. There are other scenes with all of them together but otherwise there isn’t very much. However the PV matches the fun and happy atmosphere of the song amazingly and even if the video doesn’t have much going on, it works in the context of the single.

Single Ranking: A –

Arashi’s 21st single, Step and Go, certainly is enjoyable for its happy nature and fun sound. The video-game quality of the instrumentation only adds to that sound and makes it a song to dance to. The B-side presents the sounds of summer with perfect harmonization. Overall it’s a solid single worth listening to.

Permalink 5 Comments

Hirahara Ayaka – 星つむぎの歌 [13th Single]

February 16, 2008 at 7:48 pm (Hirahara Ayaka) (, )

hoshi_tsumugi_no_uta.jpg

Hirahara Ayaka’s 13th single, entitled 星つむぎの歌, was released on 01.23.08. As her first single for the year, Ayaka certainly brought her A-game.

The title track of the single, 星つむぎの歌, is a soft relaxing ballad with a fantasy-like atmosphere. Her vocals have a breathy quality without sounding too quiet. The soft vocal approach perfectly compliments the instrumentation. During the verses, the mellow atmosphere comes strongly. The chorus stands out a little more due to the introduction through the instrumental. However with a little tweeking in the instrumental (by going to a higher pitch for a moment), it would have really made the song reach the next level. The pure instrumental section is really pretty and gives the song a perfect moment of relaxation. The only problem with the song is that the vocals maintain relatively similar throughout the song. Although they are nice, it would have been nice to see a little more power behind them. It’s a very nice listen and perfect for summer nights.

The B-side for the single, 今・ここ・私, ia a guitar driven poppish track. During the verses, a more mellow feeling is achieved. There is a very good flow into the chorus from the verses and with a simple guitar riff, the chorus sets itself apart from the verses. The chorus features some very nice vocals from Ayaka, which compliment the guitar perfectly. The pure instrumental section takes the instrumental in a nice and different direction by taking the focus away from the guitar and reaching a higher key. The song is very “nice” but doesn’t really stand out as being amazing or possessing that a drawing section.

Single Ranking: B

The arrangement for both singles is relatively simple and as a result, both produce a very mellow and relaxed vibe. Ayaka’s vocals in both songs compliment the music well but a little more vocal strength could have brought the songs to a new level. However both songs are enjoyable and the title track has a wonderful instrumental that makes the song the better of the two. This is a “nice” release from Ayaka but hopefully next time, she’ll bring an even stronger song and B-side.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Suzuki Ami – Dolce [6th Studio Album]

February 15, 2008 at 8:38 pm (Suzuki Ami) (, )

dolce_cd.jpg

Suzki Ami’s 6th studio album, Dolce, was released on 02.06.08. This album is her second of the “Ami joins…” series as every track has her joining someone new to create a highly techno-influenced album. Along with this new sound came a more sexy image that compliments her new musical style. Songs like feel the beat (album version) and MUSIC really capture the essence of her techno experimentation. Other songs such as Bitter… and Stereo Love give some needed variety to the album. Only two songs were released before the album: FREE FREE / SUPER MUSIC MAKER and Potential Breakup Song.

FREE FREE, the opening track, finds Ami joining Nakata Yasutaka (capsule) for a synthesized techno track. The sounds of this song are a good representation of Ami’s new sound and image and are good for the opening track. In order to compliment the highly techno music, her vocals are highly synthesized and truthfully it’s not very appealing. They’re so synthesized, they don’t really even sound like her. There’s no real power behind them so the instrumentation quickly comes to the forefront. The sexiness that Ami is currently using in her image comes across especially through the moments where her breathing is heard. The song clocks in at a little over five minutes and because of the monotony of the song, it does drag on. Although her new sound really is clear in this opening song, it’s not particuarly captivating in any way.

Ami joins Sugiurumn for the second song, feel the beat (album version). The style of the song is somewhat similar to that of FREE FREE with lower-pictched vocals and a strong instrumental presence. Ami repeats “I feel the beat” repeatedly throughout the song, which adds a nice flavor to it and compliments the instrumentation. There really isn’t music lyrical variety and because of the low pitch of the vocals, the instrumentation once again comes to the forefront. Strangely enough it works in the song’s favor since the instrumental is a very hot techno beat with a more relaxed vibe than that of FREE FREE and works with the vocals better. This song should have been the opening track since it displays the new techno flavor and is a strong track at that.

The third song, Potential Breakup Song, has Ami joining Aly & AJ for this poppy track. Although it maintains a very similar flow to the original, the lyrical flow is so smooth, it gives the song its own flavor. The sexiness comes through as she whispers some of the lyrics during the hook and flows perfectly into the chorus. The chorus is easily the most addictive part of the song with stronger vocals and her softer vocals perfectly compliment the techno-influenced beat. Her English pronounciation is pretty good as she sings “this is a potential breakup song…” The guitar that plays a fair role in the instrumentation really brings out the instrumental but doesn’t overpower Ami’s vocals. Overall this is a very enjoyable listen and brings an interesting Japanese twist to an American song.

The album’s fourth song, Bitter…, finds Ami joining STUDIO APARTMENT in a smooth track with energy. A very mellow piano introduction introduces this song but after roughly half of a minute into the song, the instrumentation changes. Synthesizers come into play and give the song more of an uptempo feel while still maintaing the mellowness that. Ami’s vocals stay within the lower range during the verses and blend well with the music. The chorus sticks out to me more as her vocals show some more range and the catchiness factor increases. The chorus is repeated quite a few times just so in that regard, some might perceive it is somewhat monotonous but I don’t think it detracts from the overall feeling of the song until the end when two choruses could have been cut out. The song finishes on pure instrumentation and is an excellent way to end since it opened the song as well, creating a cyclical effect. Bitter… is one of the songs that stands out most on the album and is definitely worth the listen.

Ami joins RAM RIDER for SWEET DANCE, the fifth song on the album. The song opens up with some English in very hushed English vocals and introduces the overall feel of the song very well. Soon her slightly synthesized vocals come into play and and blend well with the mellow atmosphere of the techno beat. There is a very continuous flow throughout the entire song so the chorus doesn’t truly seperate itself from the verses in terms of instrumentation but the feel is established well. The instrumental sections of the song prove to be very enjoyable and show off the techno flare that Ami is capable of. This song is one of the album’s strong tracks with a relaxed sound but is still uptempo with a certain poppish element to it.

CAPTAIN FUNK joins Ami for The WeekeND. The instrumentation of the song is very catchy and is has a wonderful techno influenced sound. Ami repeats “it’s the weekend,” which gives the song a cute element but it’s slightly annoying because of the number of times it’s repeated. The overall atmosphere of the song is cute and her vocals reflect this perfectly using a lower register to go with the beat. The instrumental sections really brings the song’s strength to the forefront. It’s one of the album’s most addictive songs but it’s so long that it’s somewhat distracting. If it were cut to somewhere around four minutes, then the song would be perfect.

Ami joins Nakata Yasutaka (capsule) again for SUPER MUSIC MAKER. With a hot techno flare and a hidden sexiness hidden behind an electronic voice speaking in English, the song emerges as a stronger counterpart to FREE FREE. Like the first track, her vocals are highly distorted but in the context of the song, they work amazingly well. They don’t sound foreign and have some more power behind them. It’s a very enjoyable listen and is one of the strongest songs on the entire album.

Track number eight, MUSIC, has Ami joining RAM RIDER on a hot dance song. It opens up with a very “cool” techno instrumentation and then makes a jump into a second layer where Ami’s sings “music,” while extending the notes of “-ic.” The vocals are a bit simplistic in order to keep up with the instrumentation so it kind of falls to the background while the various nuances of the instrumentation come through. In fact, it is when the pure instrumentation sections come in that the creativity of the song is truly displayed. The second verse has alternating vocals from both singers and the distortedness of their vocals blend together very well. One problem that the song faces is that there is no real distinction between the verses and the choruses so it feels somewhat monotonous. However the instrumentation is brilliant and because it’s in the forefront, the catchiness comes through. The song ends similarly to how it opens with the word “music” repeated various times and finishes on a instrumental bang. Although it’s a bit simple in vocal presence, the instrumentation is so creative that the song is memorable.

Stereo Love, in which Ami joins Tomoe Shinohara, is the cute ninth song on the album. Opening up with a strong techno beat and a feminine sigh, it quickly blends into the true instrumentation. The vocals during the verses are pretty mellow and work well with the music. English phrases such as “happy as joy” really bring home the cuteness vibe the song exudes and this comes across even stronger during the chorus. The chorus opens up with “need and want your love” and from there continues a cute but addictive uptempo section. Her vocals come into a higher register and the rhythm following it has a very child-like cute feeling that works very well. To really end the song with the same atmosphere, Ami’s giggling brings the song to a close. Stereo Love stands out from the album by showing Ami’s cute side and is a wonderful part of the album.

アイノウタ, the tenth song on the album, has Ami joining ROCKETMAN featuring YOU THE ROCK for one of the most creative songs on the album. Using a hot dance beat and a summery sound, the collaboration is not one to be forgotten. What’s interesting about this song is that Ami’s only section of the song is the chorus, which emerges as the strongest part of the song as well. The verses are all raps from ROCKETMAN and still compliment the music. The contrast between their voices is actually what makes them stand strongly apart from each other. It’s a pretty short song but is definitely an enjoyable one as well. This is one of the strongest songs on the album for its catchiness and creativity.

Ami joins Hoff Dylan for 人はPOP, the eleventh song on the album. The song opens up very immediately with Dylan Hoff singing in a somewhat nasally voice. Truthfully, his voice is slightly reminiscent of Otsuka Ai and sounds slightly strange within the context of the song coming from him. The chorus is so basic and the word “pop” is repeated so often that it gets annoying really quickly. The biggest problem that the song faces is over-simplicity. The verses maintain a very basic rhythm that isn’t very catchy and the choruses are very monotonous. The instrumentation is simple as well but there are moments (during pure instrumentation sections) when there is something special hidden behind it. Overall this track is way too basic and monotnous to really catch on but it gets points for having a fun summer sound.

新しい日々is the semifinal track and features Ami joining YO-KING for a guitar driven midtempo song. The atmosphere of the song is very relaxing and has an end-of-summer feel that is perfect to close your eyes and listen to. The only problem is that Ami’s vocals get a little loud during the chorus and don’t mesh as well with the beat as they could have. The verses are more enjoyable as Ami sings in a lower key that creates a balance.The instrumental section is probably the strongest part of the song as without the vocals, the instrumental is able to truly be appreciated. Although the music is very enjoyable, the vocals get kind of annoying and at times seem to strong and deep and act in counterbalance to the music.

The final song on the album, if, is unique in that nobody joins Ami. As the solo song and first press bonus, it’s an okay way to end the album. In this poppish midtempo number, there is a cuteness element to it that fits perfectly with that almost fantasy-like atmosphere of the song. I can’t put my finger on it but there’s something holding this song back from being stellar. I would have preferred another song finish this album but it is by no means a bad song.

bi.jpg

For further promotion for the album, a PV for Bitter… was made. Overall the PV is very simple and consists of few scenes. One of the strongest parts of the video was the color contrast between the dreary rain and black she wore in the telephone booth to the bright pink dress she wore in other scenes. Although there could have been a little more excitement in the PV, the atmosphere perfectly matches that of the song and is very strong.

Album Ranking: A –

Ami’s sixth album is notable for showing off her new techno flare and a new sexier image to accompany that sound. The three strongest tracks on the album are as follows: feel the beat (album version), which is the perfect blend of mellowness and her techno flavor, Stereo Love, which shows off her cuter side in an amazing pop track and Bitter…, which shows that Ami can tie in a poppishness with a bittersweet ballad. The biggest problem that this album faces is the lack of overall cohesiveness. It does a wonderful job of flow between the early techno tracks but then the techno magic is lost in the later half of the album. If there was a larger balance then it could have made the album so much stronger.

Permalink 5 Comments

Tohoshinki – Runaway / My Girlfriend [18th Single] [2nd TRICK Single]

February 11, 2008 at 4:44 pm (Tohoshinki) (, )

t.jpg

Tohoshinki’s 18th single, Runaway / My Girlfriend, was released on 02.13.08. The song TRICK, from their latest album T, is a mash-up of five different songs. Quickly following that album was the TRICK Project in which five singles were to be released each with a solo song from each member on the single. This single features My Girlfriend, a solo song by Yoochun, as the B-side and therefore is dubbed “his single.”

The opening song on the album, Runaway, opens up with a hot techno beat and that looms alongside slight rock-influences. The rock-influence comes from strong “rock-guitar” sounds that manage to not clash with the dance atmosphere. The first verse is nice but the vocals are a bit screechy as the guitar plays a more central role in the instrumentation . The hook comes in with more hushed vocals and mixes well with the music. The repeating “try again” in the chorus is addictive and proves that the strength in the song is the predominant dance element. In the second verse, the vocals are more controlled, proving that it can work very well if the vocal performance  is right. The instrumental section is extremely interesting as they play with the sounds, blending well into the hook and chorus (which begins with distorted vocals). This song is a great dance song and although it doesn’t compare to some of their other dance songs, it’s enjoyable and interesting.

My Girlfriend, Yoochun’s solo, is a wonderful poppy midtempo track that returns to the more mature side of the group. This is really seen in the vocals during the verses, which use more of breathy technique to present that sexiness. The rap in the second verse is kind of awkward since it seems to come out of nowhere and it would have been better taking it out. The chorus is pretty enjoyable despite its simplicity and really brings the great instrumental to the forefront. The third verse gives a “dream-like” atmosphere and keeps the song fresh. One note about the song is that the English is pretty good and doesn’t detract from the overall feel of the song. Yoochun did a great job on his solo song with a great melody, a stunning vocal performance and an emotional capture. The only part that could have been improved was the rap, which should have been removed.

Single Ranking: A –

The second single of the TRICK project, Runaway / My Girlfriend, gives a sign of hope for the campaign. Both songs on this single are a large improvement from the ones of the last single. Runaway uses a dance beat with somewhat rock and techno influences and is a successful experiment. The vocals are great and the chorus is addictive. My Girlfriend, Yoochun’s solo, is extremely strong as a poppish midtempo track. The breathy vocals play a key role in expressing the playful sexuality behind the words while the lyrics and music still have a cute element to them. Hopefully the next single will have the same caliber as these songs.

Permalink 1 Comment

Tohoshinki – Two hearts / WILD SOUL [17th Single] [1st TRICK Single]

February 9, 2008 at 10:19 am (Tohoshinki) (, )

cover-9.jpg

Tohoshinki’s 17th single, Two hearts / Wild Soul, was released on 02.06.08. The song TRICK, from their latest studio album T, is a mash-up for five different songs. Quickly following that album was the TRICK Project in which five singles were to be released each with a solo song from each member on the single. This single features a solo song by member Changmin as the B-side and therefore is dubbed “his single.”

The opening song on the single, Two hearts, opens very nicely with what sounds like an old Japanese instrument somewhat like a guitar and sets the song up to very pretty. The little sparkling sounds really play an important part in the arrangement of the song, making the verses stand out. This is especially seen at the end of the verses, which really stand out to me. Overall the vocals of the song are nice and match pretty nicely with the music. After the verses the line “oh baby, make you mine” should have been left but overall it was a nice listen. The third verse is great too as “two hearts” is repeated in somewhat breathy vocals. However that isn’t a lacking point since it gives a certain playful sexiness to it. The ending of the song is the chorus fading out and I would preferred if the music ended the song since its the strongest element. Two hearts is actually a pretty good song because of the arrangement and the sparkling sounds that keep it interesting. However, without those sounds and keeping the same instrumentation, it would have been a pretty generic song.

WILD SOUL, Changmin’s solo song, is a venture into rock territory. The instrumentation of the song opens up very well but Changmin’s voice crashes in and comes off a bit awkward. Although the boys of Tohoshinki have very strong vocals, Changmin unfortunately did not deliver on this song. During the verses, the song is arranged so that the music temporarily stops every time he says the final word(s) of a line which is a nice effect but doesn’t work well with his voice. Also the way he sings it comes off as being pretty slow, which distrubs the flow. The chorus is too screechy for the song and clashes against the rock flavor of the track. The English lines that he “shouts” (to a presumable audience) is unexpected and awkward. Another problem that the song faces is that even though the song is not too long, it feels like it is. If he chose to sing the song (chorus particularly) in a lower key, this song may have been really strong.

Single Ranking: C +

As the first single of the TRICK project, Two hearts / WILD SOUL, has both its strong points and weak points. Two hearts is a nice track to listen to with a wonderful arrangement but it’s not one of their strongest song. WILD SOUL however was definitely not a smart move. Although the rock attempt was a good change of pace, the vocal performance ruined the song entirely. A lower key could have made it actually quite strong but it came off as screechy and awkward unfortunately. Hopefully the next single will have a little more power behind it.

Permalink 2 Comments

Next page »