alan – 懐かしい未来 ~longing future~ [3rd Single]

June 30, 2008 at 11:37 pm (alan) (, )

alan’s 3rd single, entitled 懐かしい未来 ~longing future,~ was released on 07.02.08. The title track was used as the NHK TV special program SAVE THE FUTURE’s theme song.

懐かしい未来 ~longing future~ is a ballad that channels the element of earth. The song begins with a soft instrumentation before going into the first verse, in which alan smoothly sails her way through. Her soft vocals work perfectly with the music to bring out the emotional presence of the song. The chorus allows alan to show off more vocal power and the instrumentation takes on more of an uplifting feel. Soon after alan really belts out her truly amazing voice and its presence fits perfectly with the song. The pure instrumental section is absolutely gorgeous as it begins with twinkling sounds coming into the music before alan gorgeously plays the ehru. The addition of her playing the ehru is an absolutely wonderful treat as its soothing sounds work to enhance that natural and beautiful feeling from the song. 懐かしい未来 ~longing future~ is an excellent song that shows off alan’s vocal range and her ability to play the ehru with a beautiful instrumentation.

The B-side to the single is Seed of Green. The song starts off with a twinkling sound before a very earthy instrumentation comes in. There is such a natural beauty that the music evokes and it really stands out to the listener. The first verse begins and alan sings her way through it very smoothly and moves with the music perfectly. the hook is like a bridge as the instrumentation begins to become a little more varied in time for the chorus. The chorus sounds very nice as alan sounds great vocally and the instrumentation remains interesting. The following pure instrumental section sounds great as the sounds of nature come alive. Pure instrumentation brings the song to a nice finish. Seed of Green is a wondrful compliment to the title track and evokes a certain natural quality that catches the listener’s ear from first listen.

In order to promote the single, a PV for 懐かしい未来 ~longing future~ was made. The video is simple yet beautiful as it features only a few scenes but that choice captures the very natural and earthy atmosphere of the song. One scene features alan on a beach underneath a pretty sky wearing the same outfit from the covers. Another scene features her looking at a large painting and later in the same room, she plays the ehru. Another scene includes alan standing outside with a wonderful painting in the middle of a field. The PV is wonderful and is a perfect fit with the song.

Single Ranking: A

alan’s 3rd single features 懐かしい未来 ~longing future,~ a natural ballad that captures the element of earth wonderfully. Seed of Green also captures a certain earthiness that makes the entire single a cohesive one. alan sounds great on both songs to make this a fantastic single.

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Leah Dizon – Vanilla [5th Single]

June 28, 2008 at 6:52 pm (Leah Dizon) (, )

Leah Dizon’s 5th single, entitled Vanilla, was released on 06.25.08. When the single was first announced, the name of Vanilla was titled Let’s Groovin,’ which makes sense as a similar line appears in the song. Vanilla is meant to convey a “true, simple and pure love” and it does a nice job of portraying that feeling. Leah explores with reggae on LOVE SWEET CANDY and the overall atmosphere of the song fits perfectly with the feel of Vanilla. The CD Only version of the single features 悲しみと笑顔の中で, which has a sound somewhat similar to previous songs Softly and Missing from her debut studio album, Destiny Line. Leah co-wrote all three songs present on the single, just as she did for both songs from her Love Paradox single. Vanilla is a great single following Love Paradox and Leah’s new album, which has been announced for an August release according to HMV, looks to be strong with these songs.

Vanilla is a cute dance song with a little funky side to it that makes it really catch the listener’s ear. The song starts off with a sort of funky instrumental before the catchy hook comes in. Leah sings in all English and the first phrase, “just groovin” is where the original title for Vanilla was derived. Then the first verse starts and Leah’s vocals are somewhat deep but they are delivered with enough attitude to really make them pop. The English phrase “I don’t need no silly promises” stands out being surrounded by all Japanese phrases. Once that part of the verse finishes, Leah sings higher and the instrumentation takes on more of that cute sound, just in time for the chorus. The chorus is highly catchy with its kawaii sound and the English phrases that finishes off the line such as “celebrate my love for you” and “I just wanna be with you.” The final line of the chorus, “just having fun and being in love” stands out nicely and transitions nicely into the hook. The second verse features vocals similar to the first but they sound even softer with a certain slickness that works. The English line “I hide my jealousy like a pro” is a nice line that pops. The pure instrumental section really is a standout as the funkiness and fun of the song is spotlighted with a little vocalizing from Leah that sounds great. The hook serves as a perfect close for Vanilla as an addictive section that makes the listener want to get up and dance. Vanilla is a wonderful dance song with cute elements that make it pop and the use of English is strong as Leah sounds perfectly natural singing it. It’s definitely another great A-side after Love Paradox.

Leah experiments with the sounds of reggae on LOVE SWEET CANDY and the experiment definitely worked. The song begins with a twinkling reggae beat that introduces the song nicely and really does evoke a fun atmosphere. The first verse sounds great as Leah’s vocals follow the instrumentation perfectly. They are soft enough to match the sound of the music but show enough power to keep the energy of the instrumentation. The hook before the chorus continues the song’s strength as Leah shows off a little more vocal power and an English line echoes in the background. Leah sounds great on the chorus with even stronger vocals that reach higher and the instrumentation becomes slightly more varied and the sounds after she sings “love sweet candy” really stand out to the listener. The English lines “the sweetest ice cream” and “the taste of a dream” are nice and make the chorus really pop. The final chorus is sung even higher than the other choruses and Leah’s vocals here still sound great and move with the music well. Pure instrumentation brings the song to a great close. LOVE SWEET CANDY is an excellent song from start to finish and is a nice change of pace as Leah successfully explores the sounds of reggae.

悲しみと笑顔の中で is a B-side only present on the CD Only version of the single. The song has a similar sound to songs like Softly and Missing from her debut album, Destiny Line. A twinkling soft instrumentation starts off the song that immediately captures the atmosphere of the song. As the sequence ends, the listener can hear elements of traditional Japanese instruments, which are a very nice touch and add a little spice to the instrumentation. The first verse features some soft and sweet vocals from Leah that sound perfect with the music. The chorus sounds great as the instrumentation really stands out and Leah’s voice mixes with the music to capture the feel of the song nicely. The English line “I’ve been trying to hide my heart” pops very nicely as well. The last few words of the chorus are spotlighted as the music goes softer for a moment. The third verse stands out as Leah sings a little bit stronger and the difference is notable to the listener. Following, she sings in all English and the lyrics are very pretty. She sings “when your heart is lost in your fears, don’t let darkness destroy your hope.” The song is an excellent addition to the single and is a very pretty soft track that should not be skipped.

In order to promote the single, a PV for Vanilla was made. From the moment the video opens, the fun atmosphere is established. The dancing that Leah does with her female dancers fits perfectly with the cute and happy atmosphere of the song. The opening dance sequence features some dancing that resembles putting on make-up and is a great opening for the video. Color is definitely one of the video’s strong suits as the colorful look matches the colorful feeling of the song. The dancing sequences match the funkiness perfectly as Leah and her dancers do some nice dancing. The second verse features a more sexy Leah with a glamorous touch to really make it stand out. Another part of the video features Leah in the kitchen with two other girls and there dancing resembles making a cake. One girl gets a message on her cell phone and after Leah adorably sticks her tongue out, a dance sequence begins. Chairs are a integral part of this dance routine and also display the song’s funkiness. Another scene includes Leah lying on her bed and she sings with a happiness in her eyes. The PV for Vanilla is highly enjoyable and certainly worth watching as it is a perfect visual for the audio.

Single Ranking: A

Leah Dizon’s 5th single is a great follow-up to her hot single Love Paradox. The title track is a wonderful dance track with enough cuteness and funkiness to make it sparkle. Vanilla really does represent a “true, simple and pure love.” Leah experiments with reggae on LOVE SWEET CANDY and the result is absolutely wonderful. The B-side on the regular edition, 悲しみと笑顔の中で, is a sweet ballad that Leah sounds absolutely great on. From start to finish, Vanilla is a strong single and all three tracks are worth listening to. From Love Paradox to Vanilla, Leah’ sophomore album looks to be extremely strong.

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Tegomasu – アイアイ傘 [3rd Single]

June 28, 2008 at 5:36 pm (Tegomasu) ()

Tegomass released their third single, entitled アイアイ傘, on 06.18.08. Coming nearly a year after their last single, Tegoshi and Masuda team up again for the ending theme for the anime series Neo Angelique Abyss. The single features the title track A-side, two B-sides as well as an extra B-side,僕のシンデレラ, only present on the regular edition of the single.

アイアイ傘 is the album’s title track and is a sweet ballad.  The song begins with a dreamy and twinkling instrumentation to introduce the song’s beauty wonderfully. The first verse features the sound of the strumming of the guitar in the instrumentation to move with both boys’ voices very nicely. Both Masuda and Tegoshi have smooth vocals so that it catches the listener’s ear. The chorus stands out as the two harmonize very nicely and reach the notes perfectly to capture the atmosphere of the song. Although the title of the song sounds a little bit fast, it still works nicely to bring the chorus to a strong start. The last line of the chorus is sung nicely and makes a nice transition into the small pure instrumental section. The pure instrumental section is great and it supported by some vocalizing from the boys. This section evokes a feeling of the sunshine after the rain, which fits perfectly with the song’s lyrical story. The final note of the song sounds just a bit off but is still a nice finish. They then soothingly sing off with pure instrumentation to bring the song to a close. It would have been nicer had the vocals been removed and just instrumentation brung the song to a close. アイアイ傘 is a sweet ballad that is brought to life as the boys’ voices really work well together.

僕らのうた picks the energy up with an uptempo beat. Piano instrumentation starts off the song before the chorus starts off, which really brings an uptempo and cheery feeling. Following is a choir accompaniment and although choirs have a tendency to sound awkward in J-Pop songs, their presence is a nice fit with the sound of the song. The first verse starts and Tegoshi sounds great with the somewhat poppy instrumentation. Once Massu starts singing, the instrumentation becomes slightly more varied in order to make it pop right before the chorus starts. The pure instrumentation sequence that appears before the third verse sounds great as the spotlight is put on the piano, which really makes the music stand out. The third verse features some great harmonization from the boys and then another pure instrumentation sequence comes, this time focusing on the guitar, which shows off some rock flare and is a highly enjoyable part of the song. The boys sing the chorus out, which brings the song to a nice close and makes it strong from start to finish. It’s a great uptempo number that is a good match on the single by bringing a more upbeat sound in the midst of the slower songs that comprise the single.

Both editions of the single feature もしも僕がポチだったら… as a B-side. Acoustic guitar driven instrumentation opens the song and segues nicely into the first verse. Both Tegoshi and Massu have nice smooth vocals that work in the song’s favor and Tegoshi holds the final note nicely before a small instrumental break. The chorus is nice as there is a relaxing feel to it that works well with the boys voices. Tegoshi sings a little higher than usual and it does catch the listener’s ear. The final line of the chorus is what really stands out as a nice finish. The pure instrumental section is a very nice part of the song that sounds great with the spotlight on the acoustic guitar. It re-introduces the chorus nicely. Pure instrumentation follows, bringing the song to a close. The track is a slow and relaxing song that the boys sound nice on and although it isn’t as strong as the title track or the other B-side, it’s a nice listen.

Another B-side, present only on the regular edition, is 僕のシンデレラ. The song picks up the tempo of the single with another upbeat sound. After pure instrumentation, the first voice comes in. Both Massu and Tegoshi sound nice with their vocals over the music. The chorus is nice although it doesn’t stand out as strongly as hoped. However they sing the title of the song greatly as a finish for the single. The pure instrumental section sounds great as the guitar comes back to play a role in the music and is a nice compliment to the piano. Pure instrumentation brings the song to a nice close and although the chorus doesn’t stand out as much as hoped, 僕のシンデレラ is a very nice song with an upbeat sound that the listener can enjoy.

In order to promote the single, a PV for アイアイ傘 was made. The video tells the simple story of a boy and a girl sharing an umbrella. The PV begins with a boy walking across a street and as he walks on the sidewalk, Tegoshi and Massu are in the sky and create rain. He takes out his umbrella to cover himself and soon a girl comes over and runs for cover under him umbrella. Tegomass also have a little water fight as they spray each other with hoses and it shows a fun side to the video. There are also scenes of the two singing with strings of beautiful sparkling blue jewels behind them. After the two turn off the hoses and stop the rain, the sun comes out and the girls thanks the boy and leaves. His expression once the girl leaves is truly sad and really emphasizes the cute element of the song. The video ends with a shot of a beautiful tree. The PV is a great visual for the song as the lyrical story is brought out.

Single Ranking: A –

Tegomass’ 3rd single features four songs, two upbeat and two slower. The strongest song is the A-side and title track, アイアイ傘, which is a sweet story of love in the rain. The other slow song is もしも僕がポチだったら… and centers on an acoustic sound that catches the listener’s ear. Both upbeat songs are nice, particularly 僕らのうた. Tegomass did a great job on this single and it’s definitely worth the listen.

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ayaka – Sing to the Sky [2nd Studio Album]

June 24, 2008 at 5:00 pm (ayaka) (, )

ayaka’s 2nd studio album, entitled Sing to the Sky, was released on 06.25.08…All four singles released prior to the album have found their way onto the album: Jewelry day, CLAP & LOVE / Why, 手をつなごう / 愛を歌おう and おかえり as well as her digital single For today.

POWER OF MUSIC, an uptempo number, opens up the album. The song opens up with an uptempo piano interlude before the chorus starts. ayaka’s vocals sound great with a little power here and once the first verse starts, the music slightly changes to a softer tone that sounds great in contrast. The pure instrumental is in vein of the softer side with a beautiful focus on the piano playing before ayaka comes in with fantastic vocals. During one of the choruses, the music is taken away and the sound of clapping accompanies ayaka’s vocals. The effect of that is that the fun atmosphere of the song really comes out. POWER OF MUSIC is a highly catchy song that is the perfect album opener as the fun atmosphere is captured and ayaka’s vocals are at their usual great quality.

愛を歌おう appears as the second track. Opening up with a more aggresive instrumentation, the chorus sticks out because ayaka delivers her true vocal talents as she reaches up sings her heart out. When the verse comes in, ayaka uses softer vocals to work with the music, which has also become softer to combine to form an atmosphere. Slowly the guitar begins to come back into the music in time to introduce the chorus. The third verse takes things in a slightly different direction from the other verses as it keeps that same energy from the chorus and ayaka sounds completely comfortable here. The following pure instrumental section really spotlights just how energetic and fun the instrumentation is. The song ends with the strumming of the guitar to bring the song to a nice finish. The song may feel a little repetitive but it’s definitely a song that cannot be forgotten.

The third song on Sing to the Sky is the uptempo and hopeful, SKY. The song begins with a nice uptempo but relaxing sounding instrumentation. ayaka uses a softer vocal approach during the verses to continue this atmosphere well. More vocal strength is shown off on the chorus, particularly when she sings “fly to the sky” in English. The chorus really does stand out from the rest of the song very well. The pure instrumental section is a nice change of pace as the piano steps out from the instrumentation nicely before the chorus arrives again. SKY is a nice uptempo song that the listener can enjoy strongly.

Jewelry day, the first single released from this album’s era, appears as the fourth track. Opening up with a guitar-driven relaxing instrumentation, the song’s atomsphere is established from the very beginning. The first verse begins with some great vocals that ayaka knows how to deliver. When she says “oh jewelry day” it sounds wonderful and makes it stand out all the more. The transition from the verse to the chorus is pretty subtle but it’s easy to find it and it really is beautiful. ayaka shows off her power as well as her range as she sings with her deep and husky voice as well as reaching up higher. The pure instrumental section is absolutely gorgeous as ayaka brings some wonderful adlibbing with her higher vocals that capture the naturalness of the song and it brings the song to an excellent climax and close. Jewelry day is a wonderful song that spotlights ayaka’s pipes over a natural and pretty instrumentation to make ayaka sound perfectly at home.

グンナイベイビー is a relaxing uptempo song that is a perfect fit on the album. The song begins with a pretty mellow but uptempo instrumentation and the first verse continues this feeling. She delivers the lyrics with some rapidity and with some power that sound great. The chorus introduces even more instrumentation and ayaka’s vocals show even more power before. The pure instrumental section shows off the relaxing feeling that the instrumentation instills. Nearing the end, the guitar is spotlighted with ayaka’s vocals at their most powerful.

Digital single, For today, finds its way onto the album as the sixth track. The song opens up quickly with an uptempo and happy instrumentation before the first verse arrives. ayaka’s vocals perfect here as she displays both power and constraint. The transition into the chorus is subtle but it’s definitely there, introducing the catchy chorus. It’s particularly the second half of the chorus that sticks in the listener’s head. The pure instrumental section is really great as it spotlights the versatility that the song really holds and ayaka delivers some wonderful and powerful vocals that only she can deliver. ayaka’s vocals are consistently strong towards the end of the song and the instrumentation really finishes the song off with a bang. A digital single, For today, really found its home on Sing to the Sky and is one of ayaka’s more catchier songs.

Why arrives as the seventh song. The song opens up with the first verse, which sets in the relaxing atmosphere with almost a hidden magical feeling behind the music. The hook serves as a bridge as ayaka begins to let the power of her voice emerge alongside a buidling music. The chorus really does stand out as ayaka really shows off her vocal prowess. The pure instrumental section really spotlights the magical beauty that the song evokes before returning back to the vocals. It is the last chorus in particular where ayaka lets her voice fly and hits the more powerful note perfectly. Beautiful instrumentation finishes off the song just as wonderfully as it began. Why definitely captures a magical atmosphere that ayaka’s voice really enhances with power and range.

ゴールドスター is an uptempo catchy track that is one of the best the album offers. The track opens up with a cool guitar-driven instrumentation before the first verse starts. ayaka’s vocals are sung somewhat deeply, fitting with the very cool atmosphere of the song and that is a certain attitude that she delivers with the lyrics. The hook begins to show off a little more vocal power when the chorus comes in, which is very addictive. Her vocals sound great and the instrumentation makes the chorus very addictive. The third verse continues the song’s addictive pattern before the pure instrumental section comes in, spotlighting just how how important the guitar is in the instrumentation. Heavy guitar-driven instrumentation brings the song to a wonderful close, making ゴールドスター one of the very best songs on the album.

魔法使いのしわざ is a nice uptempo number that is a very memorable album track. The song opens up with a very piano-centric instrumentation before the first verse starts. ayaka’s vocals are wonderful as usual and she sings the first words of each line with a certain pep that makes the listener interested from first listen. The chorus begins picking up as the instrumentation becomes more uptempo and the vocals carry even more energy. The song ends nicely with some softer vocals from ayaka that still maintain that enjoyable energy. 魔法使いのしわざ is a very enjoyable uptempo song driven by the piano to keep the listener hooked from the beginning to the end and although the song is somewhat short, ayaka’s vocals sound great and she takes the listener into the world of the song.

The tenth song on the album is 手をつなごう. The song begins with a relaxing instrumentation spurred by the sounds of the guitar. The first verse opens up with some great vocals from ayaka as she hits the higher notes effortlessly and sails in the deeper notes perfectly as well. There is a build-up to the chorus and transition from the verses with the hook, which begins to signal an instrumental change. The chorus maintains that same relaxing feeling with even more great vocals from ayaka, capturing the atmosphere of the song perfectly. More energy arrives into the song with the third verse as the music changes slightly, showing off light rock flares, that only amplify the song’s power during the pure instrumental section. Nearing the end, ayaka reaches high and hits a note excellently. The song ends wonderfully with the soft and soothing sound of ayaka finishing the song off on a perfect finish. 手をつなごう is definitely a song to be remembered for ayaka’s way of bringing it to life.

愛も嘘も真実 is a mellow and addictive song that finds its home on Sing to the Sky. The song begins with a mellow and cool instrumentation before the first verse starts. ayaka’s vocals here really capture the sound of the music as she accentuates the last syllable of the lines. The chorus allows ayaka to show off her wonderful vocals even more and the beat is very catchy, making the chorus stand out even more. The pure instrumental section puts an emphasis on hte jazz elements of the song that make it really stand out before the third verse is delivered. With the music more hushed, ayaka sounds wonderful as the softness in her voice stands out. The addictive jazzy instrumentation finishes off the song perfectly. 愛も嘘も真実 is an absolutely perfect song that makes the listener fall in love with ayaka’s voice.

CLAP & LOVE comes as the twelfth song on the album. The track begins with an absolutely addictive rock instrumentation before the first verse starts. ayaka shows off the true power that her vocals can hold as she sings her way through them. The hook serves as an introduction for the chorus as the instrumentation becomes more basic and then comes full force during the chorus. The chorus really is something to sing along to as ayaka brings the song to life with great vocals and a strong ability to hold her notes. The third verse is simple as it features back-up vocals repeating “come on” as ayaka delivers some amazing adlibbing by hitting her note so powerfully. The same great adlibbing followed by a great instrumentation segment finishes off the song excellently. CLAP & LOVE hasn’t lost any steam from its single release and would’ve made an excellent album opener.

君がいるから is a nice uptempo number. The song opens up with an uptempo and catchy instrumental track with twinkling sounds that appear before the first verse starts. ayaka’s vocals blend perfectly with the music here and the transition into the chorus is very smooth. The chorus has an element of happiness that ayaka’s vocals suggest and in combination with the instrumentation, that atmosphere comes to life. The third verse is a bit stronger than the other verses as a kind of hopeful atmosphere is created with ayaka’s voice and she is able to show off her range as she hits the high note very nicely. The following pure instrumental section sounds great as a following, putting an emphasis on the coolness and happy atmosphere of the track. Nearing the end, there is a bigger spotlight on the beat of the song, which really works in the song’s favor. The song ends with some great adlibbing from ayaka and a little instrumentation that ends perfectly. The song is a nice uptempo number with a very happy atmosphere to make the listener appreciate it from start to finish.

The fourteenth song is おかえり, the last song released as a single for the album. The song opens up with the first line of the chorus, which instantly hooks the listener before a flourish of instrumentation comes in. The first verse primarily features vocals on the softer side from ayaka to go with the music. The hook serves as a bridge as the instrumentation begins to take a bigger presence and she begins to display the vocal strengths even more. The chorus is very addictive, particularly because of the first line, containing the title of the song. The pure instrumental section shows just how the naturalness of a song fits ayaka’s style before the third verse comes in, complete with great vocals both displaying her range and her power. The song is an excellent way of showing off what ayaka can do and is certainly a catchy song that should not be left behind.

The album closes with 今夜も星に抱かれて・・・. The song opens up with a beautiful piano interlude before the first verse starts. ayaka’s vocals sound perfect here as they really capture the emotion of the song perfectly and her power is shown off. Her vocals during the chorus allow her to go even higher for some lines and the ending line really is beautiful. After the second chorus, more orchestal instrumentation is introduced in time for the third verse, where ayaka further shows off her strong vocals. When the chorus returns, the same instrumentation solely consisting of the piano returns and she even speaks in English “every day, every night I miss you” The final line of the chorus, “it’s you” really captures the emotion of the song leaving pure instrumentation and some adlibbing to bring the song to a close. This piano ballad is the perfect way to close the album, showing off ayaka’s beautiful vocals.

Album Ranking: A +

ayaka’s sophomore album is a perfect collection of songs that show off just how versatile ayaka is an artist. From the powerful album tracks such as CLAP & LOVE and Jewelry day, the album tracks match the overall atmosphere established by the singles, creating a cohesive and enjoyable album from start to finish. The uptempo tracks such as POWER OF MUSIC and ゴールドスター show that ayaka can really capture the energy and fun while also being able to deliver beautiful ballads such as 今夜も星に抱かれて・・・. ayaka certainly brought everything she had with Sing to the Sky and it certainly paid off.

            

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Arashi – One Love [22nd Single]

June 22, 2008 at 9:07 pm (Arashi) (, )

Arashi’s 22nd single, entitled One Love, was released on 06.25.08. The song was used as the theme song for the Hana Yori Dango movie.

One Love is an uptempo track made for smiling along to. The song begins with an uptempo instrumentation that is centered around the bagpipes before going into the song’s true sound. The first verse features some great vocals that work well with the music to create an enjoyable atmosphere. The boys harmonize well and display their vocal talents well. The chorus is wonderful as the vocals are strong and the instrumentation exutes a feeling of hope. The pure instrumental section is a breath of fresh air before introducing a chorus focusing on the boys’ vocal abilities. The song finishes off with the boys singing “la la la” repeatedly and then the same wonderful instrumentation of bagpipes finishes off the song just as it began. One Love is an excellent happy song that captures a hopeful atmosphere perfectly.

The B-side of the single on the regular edition is How to fly. The song opens up with a cool instrumentation before going into the first verse. The vocals sound perfect with the music to really capture the atmosphere well. The chorus sounds great as the boys harmonize well and the music shows a little more variety than in the verses. The vocals in the second verse stand out even more than they do in the first verse. The pure instrumental section spotlights the guitar, emphasizing just how pretty the song’s instrumentation really is. How to fly is an excellent addition to the single and a very fun song to listen to.

In order to promote the single, a PV for One Love was made. The video is pretty simple but beautiful as special effects are used strongly to resemble watercolors. The video celebrates a wedding with the gorgeous background and the magnificent colors. The video is very pretty and is definitely something worth checking out.

Single Ranking: A +

Arashi’s 22nd single features two excellent songs to form a cohesive and enjoyable single. Both One Love and How to fly are excellent songs that make the listener engaged and interested in listening to the boys. With an uptempo sound and uplifting feeling, these songs are definitely not to be missed.

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Shibasaki Kou – よくある話~喪服の女編~ [16th Single]

June 20, 2008 at 6:21 pm (Shibasaki Kou) (, )

Shibasaki Kou’s 16th single, entitled よくある話~喪服の女編~, was released on 06.04.08.

よくある話~喪服の女編~ is a light and breezy song that is wonderful. The song starts off with a fun instrumentation with slight island elements to it. Soon the music picks up and those elements come forward even more for a fun and enjoyable sound. When the first verse comes in, Kou’s vocals are somewhat on the softer side but really work with the music. The chorus sounds great as Kou sings her way through over the exciting instrumentation. The third verse continues the greatness of the song as Kou’s vocals continue to mesh with the music. Although Kou’s vocals work very well with the music, it’s the fun and interesting instrumentation that really keeps the listener hooked to the song. The impressive instrumentation finishes the song off for an excellent finish of a fun song. よくある話~喪服の女編~ is a fun and happy song from Kou that really keeps the listener engaged and hooked from the first listen.

風ゆらのうた, the B-side, is a slower song that focuses more on Kou’s voice. The song begins with a slower midtempo sound with rock tints. Kou’s vocals work very well with the instrumentation here as they are spotlighted rather than the music. There is a certain deepness, almost huskiness, to her vocals here that they mesh with the music perfectly to capture the atmosphere. The chorus is all right and her vocals show more of a range and power. The following section of pure instrumentation really is strong as it spotlights sounds that are pushed to the background during vocal sections. The song is a nice change of pace from the A-side and shows off Kou’s voice more.

In order to promote the single, a PV for よくある話~喪服の女編~ was made. The video is pretty simplistic as it features Kou adorned in a beautiful kimono. With other musicians providing the musical accompaniment, Kou looks great and that is what the video is made. There isn’t very much that the video offers besides some nice scenery but it’s a nice visual representation of the song.

Single Ranking: A –

Shibasaki Kou’s 16th single features enjoyable two songs. よくある話~喪服の女編~ is a breezy and fun song with a wonderful instrumentation that has the listener at first listen. 風ゆらのうた is more of a darker song with a true emphasis on Kou’s vocals rather than the music as both are combined to form an enjoyable song. Kou really did a good job with this one and hopefully her later releases will keep this quality.

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AAA – CHOICE IS YOURS [Boys Only Mini Album]

June 19, 2008 at 9:30 pm (AAA) (, )

AAA’s fourth mini album, entitled Choice Is Yours, was released on 06.18.08. This mini-album only features the male members of AAA and consists of 6 songs to really show off what these boys can do.

Crash opens up this mini-album. the song begins with a cool instrumentation before going into the first verse. The boys sing their way through this effortlessly as their smooth voices work with the instrumentation, which features some rock elements to it to make it all the more enjoyable. The hook really begins to deliver that energy and their vocals still maintain that strength. The chorus picks up the energy with louder vocals as well as what sounds like a crowd yelling with them. The rap works perfectly with the energy level of Crash and is a perfect fit in this song. The song finishes with awesome instrumentation, bringing the song to a close. Crash is a perfect way to open up the album as it brings energy and talented vocals from the boys.

Hasta la vista ~アスタ・ラ・ビスタ~ follows as the next track on the album. The song opens up with an orchestal instrumentation that evokes almost a slow magical feeling before the song’s true beat comes in, introducing more uptempo elements. The first verse comes in and the vocals sound great over the music and creates an atmosphere filled with sexual energy. The hook begins to pick up the lyrical rapidity to make the chorus pop. The boys harmonize well and their voices mix to make a perfect sound. The song is an excellent song that keeps up the energy after Crash.

ZAPPER appears as the third track. The song opens up with an uptempo and cool-sounding instrumentation before going into the chorus, a catchy section with dance beats filled behind the music. The first verse follows and the vocals fit perfectly with the music and keep that same fun dance sound. As the song progresses, it doesn’t get repetitive or tiring at all as the boys keep the listener engaged. The rap section sounds a bit nasally at points but is a welcome part that keeps the song fresh and interesting. The boys’ range is shown as they hit the higher notes and also deliver more power into some notes. ZAPPER is an excellent dance track that shows off the boys’ vocal talents.

The fourth song is Crying Freeman. A more mellow uptempo instrumentation opens up the song before some twinkling sounds come in that are somewhat remisiscent of winter. The first verse alone really shows how great the boys can vocalize. The vocals reach to the higher notes to more powerful notes that show off true range. The chorus sounds great as the vocals combine with the music to solidify the atmosphere previously established. Instrumentation really comes to life during the pure instrumental section, where the guitar in particular seems to step out and make its presence known. That same beautiful music finishes off the song just as wonderfully as it began. Crying Freeman is an excellent song that shows off vocal talent over a winter-time instrumentation.

BET is the fifth song on the album, which puts a focus on both singing and rapping. The song opens up with a variety of vocals that show off the boys’ range over a fun instrumentation. The chorus is really catchy with some great harmonization as well as some more aggressive rap lines. Following is the rap section, which sounds particularly aggressive to draw attention to the song. The most notable point about BET is the more aggressive approach to the song, which makes it stand out all the more and it is a great semi-final track. The song is fairly short but it definitely packs a lot of punch in that small amount of time.

The final song on the album is あきれるくらいわがままな自由. The song begins with a beautiful instrumentation that has elements of winter that emerge from it to enhance the beauty. The first verse starts and the vocals sound absolutely wonderful. The chorus features the boys harmonizing well and showing off their vocal prowess to really make the emotions come out strongly. The third verse features a slight change in instrumentation along with even more power behind the vocals that keep the song alive. The English line “baby please come back to me” just displays the emotional presence of the song. This song is an excellent way to finish the album as it a great representation of the sounds of winter and the boys’ vocals are at their excellent usual quality.

In order to promote the new mini album, a PV for Crash was made. The PV opens up with the five boys walking into a mine dressed for the part in miners’ gear. The rest of the video features the boys performing dance moves in the mine. The video is pretty simplistic as it is a dance video but it is still enjoyable and it matches the energy of the song well. The video ends with the mine caving in.

Album Ranking: A

The boys really went all out for the release of their mini album, CHOICE IS YOURS. The album features six tracks, that all show off the guys’ vocals and some great beats. The two ballads, Crying Freeman and あきれるくらいわがままな自由 evoke winter-time feelings and the boys really do bring the songs to life. The uptempo dance songs all get the job done perfectly, Crash in particular, and really show off the boys’ flare. If a mini-album for the girls is upcoming then hopefully they will keep this quality.

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Crystal Kay – 涙のさきに [24th Single]

June 17, 2008 at 9:47 pm (Crystal Kay) (, )

Crystal Kay’s 24th single, entitled 涙のさきに, was released on 06.11.08. The song received a tie-in as the CM song for ITOEN TULLY’S BARISTA’S SPECIAL.

涙のさきに opens up strongly with the chorus over a hot dance beat. Crystal’s use of English actually creates a cool atmosphere that is perfect to dance to. When the first verse comes, a more mellow feeling is established with still that energy looming in the back of the instrumentation. Crystal’s vocals are also shown off here as she delivers power and a few times, she goes a little higher. The chorus is pretty nice as well as Kuri sings her way through an energetic sound. The pure instrumental section is wonderful as it spotlights the hot beat that the song is all about. The hook that opened up the song is easily the best part of the song and the rest of the song should’ve followed that example but it’s still a nice song that shows Kuri straying away from her typical sound for a more Americanized sound, which works here.

The B-side of the single is Girl Move On. The song opens up with a Latin flavored instrumentation along some nice vocals from Kuri before the first verse comes in. The beat is addctive and Kuri’s vocals, although on the softer side, work with the music to capture the feeling of the song. The chorus really stands out and at some points, Krui speaks a few words of Spanish, which adds to the flavor of the song. Girl Move On is a nice B-side with enough strength to push this single forward.

In order to promote the single, a PV for 涙のさきに was made and it’s pretty on the weird side. The video features Kuri as well as a bunch of cheerleaders. Soon a masked villain comes in and threatens to attack the cheerleaders as he holds a powertool to a doll of one of the cheerleaders. Time freezes as they run away and then a woman secret agent stops the villain and leaves the girls and Kuri to dance. It’s pretty weird but does kind of go with the feel of the song.

Single Ranking: B +

Crystal Kay’s 24th single features songs different from her traditional sound. The title track has an American vibe, which Kuri sounds perfectly at home on. The hook sounds great and the rest of the song isn’t bad either. The B-side has a Latin flavor that stands out, showing off Kuri’s vocals well. Hopefully her new album will continue in this direction.

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MEG – STEP [5th Studio Album]

June 17, 2008 at 9:20 pm (MEG) (, )

MEG’s 5th studio album, entitled STEP, was released on 06.18.08. Much like her previous album, BEAM, this album was produced by Nakata Yasutaka. Both singles released before the album, MAGIC and HEART, have found their way to the album as well as the B-side to the HEART single, NATALIE.

MAGIC, her first single of the STEP era, opens up the album. The song begins nicely with a happy techno sound followed by a cool sounding instrumentation. The distortion of MEG’s vocals is set to work with the instrumentation as during the verses, it is lower pitched to fit the more relaxing atomsphere while the happiness and energy of the chorus is matched in her voice. MAGIC is a nice song with a cuteness element to it that makes it all the more enjoyable. It’s definitely a good way to open up the album into MEG’s world of STEP.

KITTENISH follows MAGIC as the second track. A cool and more funky techno instrumentation opens up the song before going into the first verse, which sounds great. MEG’s vocals are nicely distorted to go along with the techno beat. The chorus is nice and continues the cool sound of the song but there should have been something right before to really introduce and separate the chorus that would make it pop. Otherwise, it’s enjoyable and the following pure instrumental section sounds wonderful as well. Although simplistic much like the previous track, KITTENISH is a nice follow up with a cool sound.

The third song is Make Love, clocking in at over seven minutes. The song opens up with a hot and cool sounding techno beat. Once the first verse comes in, she speaks over the beat and her words are echoed to capture the feel of the song. Soon a more aggressive sound is brought into the instrumentation and then vanishes, revealing the same cool instrumentation. Although she begins by speaking her way through the song, she delivers some lines with a distorted singing voice, which shows off her range. The song, sung entirely in English, really spotlights the cool instrumentation as MEG works her way through the song wonderfully. It’s an excellent way to keep the steam of the album going.

PRISM BOY is the next song to appear on the album. The song begins with a nice instrumentation that gives off a vibe of flashing lights before going into the first verse, which sounds pretty mellow in comparison to her other songs. During the verse, the instrumentation gets kind of annoying as it continuously repeats. The chorus picks things up in terms of energy level and it’s nice but nothing too spectacular. PRISM BOY is nice but nothing that blows it out of the water and kind of a bad fit after MAKE LOVE.

HEART takes up the same atmosphere that PRISM BOY does but captures it better. The opening instrumentation is relaxing and the distorted vocals work well to keep that relaxing vibe throughout the entire song. The ending note of the chorus is held nicely and shows off MEG’s vocals nicely. Although the song is simplistic, it’s a fun and nice listen  and a nicer finish after PRISM BOY.

SUPERSONIC is the next song on STEP. The song opens up with a mysterious techno instrumentation before going into the first verse. Once again, MEG speaks her way through it and captures a sexy atmosphere that the instrumentation suppports very well. Much like MAKE LOVE, MEG finds her way back to singing and she sounds great over the destructive instrumentation. SUPERSONIC is the longest song on the album but the energetic yet mysterious sound of the instrumentation keeps it an ineresting and fun listen.

Next is SEARCHLIGHT, a relaxing and cool song. The opening instrumentation nicely nicely introduces the atmosphere of the song before going into the first verse. It isn’t much different from the other slower songs on the album and it doesn’t particularly stand out as being something mind-blowing. The chorus is pretty boring as nothing really changes and it doesn’t pop as there is nothing to really separate it from the verse besides being sung in a higher tone. SEARCHLIGHT has its nice instrumentation points but it’s nothing particularly noteworthy.

NATALIE finishes the album, different from the version released as the B-side to the HEART single. Unfortunately, NATALIE <FM16 MIX> was much stronger than the album version as that video-game and magical quality was removed to make a boring finish for the album. The same relaxing sound is attempted here and the vocals aren’t anything to be proud of. Overall this was an absolute bad way to end the album and very disappointing as the FM 16 MIX of the song was so strong.

Album Ranking: B

MEG’s fifth studio album has its ups and downs. Songs such as MAKE LOVE and SUPERSONIC, in which MEG both speaks and sings her way through the song really show off the sex appeal that the instrumentation as well as MEG’s vocals combine to form. Songs like KITTENISH and MAGIC are nice songs that show off Nakata’s production skills. However songs like NATALIE are extremely boring and have no place on the album and the FM 16 MIX would have been a much better finish.

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Koda Kumi – MOON [40th Single]

June 14, 2008 at 6:08 pm (Koda Kumi) (, )

Koda Kumi’s 40th single, entitled MOON, was released on 06.11.08. Much like her previous singles 4 Hot Wave (2006) and FREAKY (2007), this single features four different songs. Moon Crying was used as the theme song for the Japanese drama Puzzle. That Ain’t Cool is the long awaited collaboration with American artist Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas. This song was used as a music.jp CM song. Once Again was written by J-reggae artist PUSHIM while Lady Go! finishes off the single on a happy and poppy note. Lady Go! was used as a song for a Visee CM. Moon Crying (Piano Version) appears as the first press bonus track for the single.

Moon Crying, a beautiful and emotional ballad with a certain element of magic to it, opens up the single. The song begins with some wonderful piano playing before the magical feeling of the song comes in. Kumi works through the verses with beautiful deeper vocals and the emotional atmosphere is strongly established. The chorus really allows Kumi to really show off her vocal strength and she sings higher and with more power. The pure instrumental section really emphasizes the beauty and the magical feeling that the music creates and blends with Kumi’s vocals to capture the emotion. The piano finishes off the song wonderfully with sweet instrumentation. Moon Crying is a beautiful ballad that shows off Kumi’s true vocal range and displays the emotional presence as strong as ever.

Kumi collaborates with American artist Fergie on the uptempo That Ain’t Cool. Fergie definitely gets her share of song time on this song and strangely gets much more than Kuu. That Ain’t Cool is almost entirely in English with the exception of a few Japanese phrases Kumi sings during her verse. The song opens up with Fergie singing the chorus, which is really addictive. Next Fergie delivers her verse with an almost talking voice that really shows off a certain playful arrogance that makes the song all the more fun. Her last line “when you hurt me, you really hurt yourself” really shows that concept off and makes for enjoyment. The hook is also pretty catchy despite it only being one line sung repeatedly. Kumi sings the second verse with a similar delivery to Fergie’s verse and sings almost totally in English except for a few Japanese phrases here and there. The song ends with a spotlight on the instrumentation, which is actually really interesting and catches the ear particularly during this section. Although Kumi doesn’t seem to have her fair share of singing on this song, the girls collaborate well to make a fun song with a very hot beat.

A venture into the world of reggae comes with the third track, Once Again. PUSHIM took creative control of this song as she wrote and produced it, taking Kumi into her world and Kumi sings through the song wonderfully. The song opens up with the hook over a relaxing and hopeful instrumentation. The English throughout the song adds a nice flavor to it as well. Kumi performs well during the verses with great vocals that work perfectly with the music to capture an enjoyable atmosphere. The chorus really stands out and she holds her notes on the singing of the title really makes those words pop. The third verse slightly changes things in terms of instrumentation to keep the song fresh and the uptempo sound really stands out as being strong. The song ends with the hook followed by the relaxing atmosphere of pure instrumentation. PUSHIM really delivered on Once Again and Kumi beautifully sung her way through it to make the song come alive. 

Lady Go! is a happy summer song that rounds off the single on a positive note. Lady Go! bears a similarity to some of Kumi’s previous summer songs, With your smile and girls, particlarly to With your smile in this case. The song begins with a fun instrumentation with almost a video-game like quality to it before going straight into the happy sound of the chorus that begins with Kumi energetically singing “Lady ready go!” and it makes the chorus really stand out. The verses are a bit more more mellow still with an interesting instrumentation as Kumi sings through effortlessly. The slight electronic sounds within the instrumentation really make the song pop and makes it a little different from her other summer songs. These sounds really come alive during the pure instrumental sections, which are always enjoyable. Lady Go! is an excellent way of finishing the single off as it’s happy and poppy and a perfect song for summer that Kumi keeps interesting and fun.

The first press of the single comes with Moon Crying (Piano Version), a version of Moon Crying featuring an instrumentation consisting entirely of the piano. This version isn’t that different from the original but it is a nice bonus for buyers and those who want to hear more of the piano playing because it really is beautiful. Kumi’s vocals stand out as strongly as on the original and it’s a nice change of pace from the original without straying too far away from the magical element that Moon Crying such an enjoyable song in the first place.

In order to promote the single, two PVs were made: one for Moon Crying and the other for That Ain’t Cool.

The PV for Moon Crying really captures the emotions in the song perfectly. The PV begins with Kumi awakening to see a trail of presents that lead her to a beautiful yellow gown. The video consists of various flashbacks such as two occasions at balls and one particularly emotional scene where Kumi begs her love to wake up and unfortunately he never comes to, leaving the viewers to assume he has passed on. The ending scene where she puts her hand to the aquarium and tears up really brings home the emotional presence of the song and when he vanishes from in front of her eyes, it really is heartbreaking. The Moon Crying PV is an excellent visual portrayal of the song throughout the emotional eyes of Kumi. It’s an absolutely wonderful PV and Kumi performed fantastically in it.

Although Fergie has a lot more song time on That Ain’t Cool, the two get equal screen time on the PV for That Ain’t Cool. Sexiness is the central theme of this video and both girls bring it to the table. One scene that appears throughout the video is of Kumi and Fergie standing back to back in a parking lot as they sing. In addition to this scene. both Fergie and Kuu have their solo scenes. Fergie’s solo consists of her in a black catsuit as she stretches out on a table. One move that she does throughout the video is stretching her leg upwards until it is completely straight, showing off her flexibility. Kumi’s solo scene features her on her bed taking pictures of herself with her phone that she can show her ex-boyfriend. She looks absolutely great here and her look is almost remiscent of her look during the Butterfly era. The PV for That Ain’t Cool is pretty simple but it’s fun and enjoyable, just like the song.

The first press bonus for the CD + DVD edition of the single is a performance of Moon Crying on Kumi’s Live Tour 2008 ~Kingdom~ Tour. This performance in particular was performed on 05.15.08 at the Yogogi National Gymnasium. Kumi did a great performance of the song here as her vocals were spot-on with the studio recording and she portrayed the emotions well. The audience members really seemed to feel her emotions as they sung along and the sorrow was displayed on their faces as well while listening. It’s a nice bonus to see Kumi perform the song and gives a look into the Kingdom Tour.

Single Ranking: A +

After a controversial remark surrounding women over thirty-five and the rotting of amniotic fluids, Kumi certainly faced a backlash. Promotion for her latest album, Kingdom, was halted and her contracts with several endorsements were closed. Months after that scandal, Kumi came back with MOON, featuring four excellent songs that are perfect for her return after a small hiatus. Moon Crying is a beautiful ballad that shows off Kumi’s vocal talents and features an emotional instrumental that carries magic with it. Fergie and Kumi team up for That Ain’t Cool, a slick and sly track in which both girls bring that sexy element to the table. Kumi sails her way through the dreamy Once Again, written and produced by J-Reggae aritst PUSHIM. The sounds of reggae are new to Kumi’s music but she shows off those pipes like magic to make one amazing song. Finally Lady Go! finishes the single as a traditional happy fun summer song. This one has electronic sounds that make it stand out all the more and captures the sounds of summer perfectly. MOON is a fantastic single that features four different sounds that Kumi make come alive with her voice.

                                                             

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