SHINee – SHINee World [Volume One]

August 30, 2008 at 6:59 pm (SHINee) (, )

SHINee’s debut album (their first full album), entitled SHINee World, was released on 09.29.08. 산소 같은 너 (Love Like Oxygen) was released as a digital single before the album.

The album opens up with the title track, The SHINee World (doo-bop). The song begins with a hot dance beat that immediately catches the listener’s ear and the speaking, which is done in a low tone carries an element of sexiness to it that leaves the listener wanting more. Then the first verse comes in and the vocals sound great here, mirroring the edge of the music. When the group comes together for the chorus, they really shine and the English phrases pop strongly. There is a slight instrumental change during the third verse and there is almost an out-of-this-world feeling that compliments the boys’ vocals before the hot edgy dance sound is spotlighted on a pure instrumental section. This is an absolutely fantastic opening number and SHINee makes the song catch the listener’s ear brilliantly.

Up next is 사랑의 길 (Love’s Way). Opening the song is a very pretty instrumental that reflects an emotional atmosphere before the first verse. The vocals are smooth and support that atmosphere and as the verse continues, the instrumentation begins to carry a little more energy that makes the song more upbeat. They sound nice on the chorus although it lacks a certain element that makes it memorable. Strangely enough, the rap sequence is very capturing as the low tone of the vocals seperates from the music to catch the listener’s ear. Following are some vocalizations that show off the vocal power of some of the members. Overall this song is nice and a good fit for the album although it doesn’t stand out to the listener as strongly as other ones.

Things take on a lighter pop sound with the digital single, 산소 같은 너 (Love Like Oxygen), released before the album. Taking off the song is that cool pop sound and then Jonghyun delivers some edgy and capturing vocals. The hook sounds fantastic as Taemin and Minho’s vocals compliment each other’s strongly and makes way for the brilliant chorus. Everyone shines on the chorus as the vocal strength of the group is put to the forefront. They hit the higher notes strongly and the music retains that smooth pop sound that is so addictive. Minho and Key then come for their raps, which are a really good fit for the song and keeps the listener enticed. This is one of the album’s strongest numbers and the boys definitely suit this sound perfectly.

The fourth song is 너 아니면 안되는 걸 (ROMANTIC). The song starts off with a nice and sweet midtempo sound that just makes the listener want to smile. During the first verse, the vocals are smooth and carry the song’s atmosphere perfectly. The chorus carries that pretty sweetness that the listener can enjoy as the boys provide strong vocals that portray the emotions. Joghyun really shines here as he sings “still I have romantic in my heart” with amazing vocals. It’s the emotions that make this song memorable and worth checking out.

Things pick up a little with the sweet song, 그녀가 헤어졌다 (One For Me). There is a nice midtempo instrumental that begins the song and then the first verse starts. The vocals are so smooth here and they move perfectly with the music, demonstrating power as well. Then comes the chorus, which is nice but a little bland. Once again, the rap sequence fits with the music and there is an excellent high note hit in the background. The music is sweet and the boys bring that sweetness to life with their excellent voices.

화장을 하고 (Graze) is the album’s next song. There is a nice midtempo instrumental driven by the guitar before the first verse. The vocals sound very smooth here and the combination of their voices with the guitar is an unstoppable force. They come together for the chorus and the vocals are strong as always, making the chorus the most memorable part of the song. The rap sequence has a certain sexiness to it that really works in the song’s favor and the English phrases pop nicely. In the series of slow numbers, this one shines even more than the last and is one of the best songs that the album has to offer.

화장을 하고 (Last Gift) continues the streak of slower songs but this one takes on more of a ballad feel. Opening the song is the piano driving the instrumentation and there is a clear beat. The boys give some nice vocals here and keep the atmosphere strong although the music doesn’t do anything to be truly capturing. Then is the chorus, which is nice but a little too simple to catch the listener’s ear. The third verse actually stands out because of the stronger vocals that give the listener a real look into the emotions.

내 곁에만 있어 (Best Place) takes a lighter more poppier sound and is a nice break from all the slow songs. A very pretty poppy instrumental begins the song and makes a smooth transition into the first verse. The vocals are nice here, being able to catch the listener’s ear. The chorus stands out as the boys give more power in their vocals and the emotions are much more visible here. This isn’t a very memorable song and feels like it drags on a little so it’s not one necessary to listen to.

The next song is 혜야 (Y Si Fuera Ella), Jonghyun’s solo song. The song begins with a very pretty instrumental and then the first verse starts. Joghyun really portrays the emotions here as he almost sounds like he was in tears while singing. As the song goes on, the instrumentation changes with slight rock influences to signal a change in the album’s atmosphere. He does a fantastic job of making the listener feel the emotions of the song but it isn’t as great as it could have been.

눈을 감아보면 (Four Seasons) keeps the sweet atmosphere. The song starts off with a nice instrumental that introduces the song on a strong note. Then they come in with the first verse and the vocals are very nice here, moving with the music strongly. Because of all the slow songs that precede this one, the vocals sound okay but they don’t shine. It’s a nice song but it’s definitely not one of the most memorable songs that the album has to offer.

In My Room (Unplugged Remix) is another ballad and the boys sound good here but it doesn’t do anything to really set itself apart from the slew of slow songs that the album has to offer.

누난 너무 예뻐 (Replay), which appeared on their mini-album, closes the album. The song begins with a nice upbeat instrumental and then the first verse starts. The boys’ vocals sound nice here, moving with the music nicely. The chorus is nice as their vocals sound smooth and the repetition of “replay” sticks out in the listener’s mind. Overall it’s enjoyable and picks things up nicely.

Album Ranking: B

SHINee World is a nice album but the biggest problem is that there is a slew of ballads and the listener can never come back to the hot dance beats that began the album and that made them sound so strong. Of course there are some nice slow numbers like 화장을 하고 (Graze) but it’s the upbeat tracks The SHINee World (doo-bop) and 산소 같은 너 (Love Like Oxygen) that are the album’s jewels. This album could have been much stronger had some of the slow songs been replaced with dance numbers, creating a package with more variety.

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SHINee – 산소 같은 너 (Love Like Oxygen) [Digital Single]

August 30, 2008 at 2:22 am (SHINee) (, )

SHINee’s digital single in order to promote their new album The SHINee World, entitled 산소 같은 너 (Love Like Oyxgen), was released on 08.22.08.

산소 같은 너 (Love Like Oxygen) is a pop dance song that really captures the listener from start to finish. The song begins a sleek dance instrumental and soon Jognhyun comes in and delivers some very memorable vocals as they show off power. Following is Onew, who provides some smoother and more enticing vocals. Key follows with some more nice vocals that keep the atmosphere of Onew’s vocals before Taemin and Minho deliver the hook. Their vocals go perfectly with each other’s and makes a smooth transition into the chorus. The chorus is a real standout part of the song because the boys hit the higher notes smoothly and it keeps the listener wanting more. Later in the song, Jonghyun gives some great vocals that sound great and definitely fits with the music. Closing the song is a rap sequence delivered by Minho and Key which catches the listener’s ear and then they sing the title of the song repeatedly. This song is absolutely addictive and a great choice to be put out as a digital single.

In order to promote the single, a PV was made. The video is pretty simple as it features the boys dancing. Although there isn’t much going on there, the boys definitely have a fluidity to their moves and the viewer can appreciate just how smoothly and strongly they hit their marks. Each of the boys gets their own color to wear, making each person shine. The solo scenes stand out as well and Onew is the most eye-catching of the group. It’s definitely an enjoyable video worth checking out as the boys look great and it works with the song’s atmosphere.

Single Ranking: A +

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Leah Dizon – Communication!!! [2nd Studio Album]

August 26, 2008 at 5:02 pm (Leah Dizon) (, )

Leah Dizon’s 2nd studio album, entitled Communication!!!, was released on 08.20.08. Only two singles were released prior to the album: Love Paradox and Vanilla (including their respective B-sides). Leah explores new sounds such as rock on Lost At Sea and BxKxRxxx and reggae on LOVE SWEET CANDY, giving this album a little more versatility than her last and allows her to try out new things.

The album’s opener is the cute and fun song, Step into my world. There is a twinkling sound reminiscent of a cradle toy that begins the song before the chorus comes in. Leah’s vocals are very cute here as she sings “step into my world baby” and “step into my world tonight” over a fun upbeat instrumental. On the verses, there is a more calming feeling as Leah gives some very nice vocals. The hook features a lot of English that really shows the happy and sweet atmosphere of the song, particularly when she sings “I’ll spend everyday the rest of my life to bring you the happiness you’ve brought to me.” Repeating English phrases from the chorus then bring the song to a close. Step into my world is so light-hearted and cute that it serves as a great album opener.

Love Paradox, a hot dance track, comes in as the second song. Opening the song is a strong dance beat with an American flavor, really catching the listener’s ear. Then the first verse begins and Leah sounds very strong as her voice perfectly compliments the music. English phrases such as “oh no, thank you” and “no time for love” pop nicely and communicate the song’s meaning really well. Every other line during the chorus is sung and it’s a strong way to make it stand out in the listener’s mind. She continues to deliver good vocals and phrases like “why can’t I let it go” and “am I falling in love” connect the chorus strongly. The third verse is particularly impressive with the English lines such as “sometimes love just ain’t enough” pushed to the back and Leah bringing the best vocals of the song. Finishing off the song is the chorus, which then fades for a perfect finish. Love Paradox was a fantastic single and it’s still amazing in the context of the album.

Leah then explores the sounds of reggae on the next track, LOVE SWEET CANDY. A twinkling reggae instrumental begins the song, which introduces a very light and fun atmosphere. On the first verse, Leah’s vocals are soft but carry a sweetness that is unmistakeable to the listener as she follows the direction of the music perfectly. For the hook, the English line “my love’s like candy” repeats and Leah gives a little more vocal power, which allows for a perfect introduction to the chorus. The chorus is insanely catchy as she sings in a higher pitch and the English words “kiss” and “wink” pop cutely. Longer English phrases “the sweetest ice cream” and “the taste of a dream” stand out to the listener sweetly as well. There is a small pure instrumental sequence that leads the listener from its start to end and then the chorus is re-introduced with Leah singing in a higher octave than before. Closing the song is more pure instrumentation to make LOVE SWEET CANDY a fantastic song and a great way for Leah to explore new sounds.

Things slow down for the fourth song, Without a good-bye. The opening instrumentation really presents an emotional atmosphere that stands out to the listener, allowing for a good transition into the first verse. Leah’s vocals carry emotion here and she is able to hold them out strongly. There are slight rock tints that come out on the chorus and although Leah expresses the emotions powerfully, her voice seems somewhat different. Perhaps she is singing in a different octave in order to communicate the song’s true atmosphere. However she does close the chorus strongly as she sings “without a good-bye.” This song is nice in that it shows Leah’s ability to bring the emotions to the table although it is the weakest song on the album.

The sweet pop song, Vanilla, is the fifth track on the album. The song begins with a funky pop instrumental that leaves the listener wanting more and then she comes in with the hook as she sings “just groovin,’ have a celebration, step with me, yeah yeah yeah.” Then the first verse starts and Leah sings with somewhat deep vocals that actually stand out nicely and the English phrase “I don’t need no silly promises” pops strongly. Soon, Leah begins to sing a little higher and to follow suit the instrumentation takes on a lighter tone. The chorus is extremely cute and catchy and the English phrases help convey that “pure and simple love” as she sings “celebrate my love for you” and “I just wanna be with you.” For the verses, the second verse stands out even more than the first as there is a real cool sleekness about it that Leah definitely brings strongly. After the chorus comes back in, she says “step with me now” and the pure instrumental section appears. There is a real funkiness about it that leaves the listener wanting so much more. Closing the song is the hook, making a perfect and clean finish. Vanilla is another great song released before the album that hasn’t lost any of its magic on Communication!!!

Nothin’ to Lose, a song sung entirely in English, is a sleek dance song that emerges as one of the most addictive songs on the album. Opening the song is a hot dance instrumental and then the first verse begins. Leah sings with attitude and slickness, really catching the listener’s ear. The hook continues its strength and the final line “the stakes are high but he’s one of a kind” really introduces the chorus strongly. She sounds great here and the final two lines “cause when you got nothin,’ you got nothin’ to lose” is absolutely fantastic. There is an element of sexiness about this song that is wonderful, allowing Leah to sound very comfortable. After a small section of pure instrumentation, the chorus comes back in and continues to entice the listener. Much like Love Paradox, the song has an American quality to it that Leah brings out strongly, which makes this one of the absolute best songs on the album.

Leah explores rock sounds on Lost at Sea, a powerful and emotional song. A nice acoustic-guitar-driven instrumental begins the song and then there are some vocalizations that hold a naturalness that matches the song. Leah’s vocals during the first verse are somewhat deep and move with the music fantastically. She then comes in with the hook, sung in English that really catches the listener’s ear. There is more of a beat as the guitar becomes a little bit more powerful and the English communicates the song’s emotion strongly as she sings “I’m a fiend and you’re a drug” and “as long  as you exist I’ll never stop.” The rock sounds come out the most strongly on the chorus and Leah delivers some of the best vocals on the entire album here, filled with emotion and strength. The hook is what finishes off the song after some repeating English phrases. As her first foray into the sounds of rock, Leah passes with flying colors on Lost at Sea for so successfully bringing all the emotions of the song and displaying them through powerful vocals.

The title track, a cool dance song, is up next. The song takes off with a very interesting and sleek instrumental, moving into the first verse strongly. Leah sings with attitude to match the edginess of the music. English phrases such as “surrender your inhibitions” and “we’ve been using body language” are what make the hook pop nicely. She brings more sexiness on the chorus with lines such as “you wanna know what turns me on?” There is a nice pure instrumental section perfect for a dance break that really catches the listener’s ear as the music of this song is what really makes it so catchy. She whispers the title of the track to bring it to a close, making Communication!!! both a hot dance song and an fantastic title track.

With a sound that makes it somewhat of a slow-jam, Not Too Bad appears as the album’s ninth track. This song features quite a bit of English, roughly being equal to the Japanese. The chorus starts off and the English phrases such as “hair cut” and “baby you’re not too bad” really pop. Leah sounds very sleek on the verses, delivering a certain attitude to her vocals and the phrase “you’re looking so damn fine” that closes the verses really stands out to the listener. Once again, it’s the English that fuels the third verse and there is a slow coolness to it that is memorable.

She comes back to the sounds of rock for BxKxRxxx. There is a certain element of fun that comes through the introductory pop-rock instrumental. She then sings the first verse and her vocals sound very pretty here, moving over the music strongly. Then the rock sounds really come full-force on the chorus and Leah delivers more good vocals to match with the English phrase “out of sight, out of mind” really sticking out in the listener’s mind as well as her ability to deliver the lyrics with such rapidity. There is a section of vocalizations over a cool and sleek aggressive rock instrumental that sounds fantastic and then the chorus comes back in. The same vocalizations close the song perfectly. BxKxRxxx takes the more poppier side of rock and once again, Leah shines here, perfectly capturing the song’s attitude.

The album’s semifinale is the sweet ballad, Under The Same Sky. A very soothing and pretty instrumental that gives off the feeling of a hidden paradise begins the song and then Leah sweetly sings the first verse. Her vocals carry a vulnerability that allows the listener to really feel what she is singing. Instrumentally, the chorus is more diverse than the verses and Leah’s vocals continue to carry emotion, making this section really catch the listener’s ear. Certain notes are spotlighted and Leah holds the last note of the chorus with such prettiness that the listener follows a smooth finish each time. Finishing the song is more beautiful instrumentation, which is the absolute perfect way to close it. Under The Same Sky is a wonderful song that finds a spot on this album perfectly.

Leah closes the album on a strong note with the cute song, Thank You. She sings “oh happy days for you and me” over a sweet instrumental with a clear beat, really standing out to the listener. Then the full chorus comes in, which features a few other English lyrics that show Leah’s gratitude for the person she is singing to. On the verses, she sounds very pretty and the instrumentation matches by creating a very friendly atmosphere. More pretty instrumentation then brings the song to a close, then finishing off the album. Thank You is a very memorable track and it’s a great way to end Communication!!!

Album Ranking: A

Leah takes a different route on this album then she does on Destiny Line. Communication!!! takes Leah through the sounds of rock, hot dance sounds and sweet soft numbers. Both of her attempts with the sounds of rock are pulled off strongly as Lost at Sea and BxKxRxxx both sound fantastic. The two strongest songs on the album are Love Paradox and Nothin’ to Lose, bringing that hot American style that she sounds so perfectly comfortable with. She also brings strength to the cute songs: Step into my world, LOVE SWEET CANDY, Vanilla and Thank You. Although there are only two real slow songs on the album, she steps up for Under The Same Sky (although Without a good-bye is the worst song on the album). Overall, she brings everything on this album and there is that magic that only she can bring that makes this album a success.

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Leah Dizon – Step into my world [PV Review]

August 26, 2008 at 5:02 pm (Leah Dizon) (, )

In order to further promote Leah Dizon’s latest album, entitled Communication!!!, a PV for Step into my world was made. The video was not included in the CD + DVD edition of the album however.

The video begins with a record being played on a record player, which attones for the scratching sound as the twinkling instrumentation is introduced. Leah is then seen behind a black background with yellow stars spread out throughout the black. She is dressed very nicely here and looks very pretty. The rest of the video features two Leahs as they interact with each other from different places. This includes one Leah taking off her bracelet and dropping it to the other Leah so that she may use it as a hula-hoop as well as one Leah dropping a ball to the other who plays with it and then returns it. Other scenes include the two Leahs dancing, the two singing as well as the two eating chocolate. It’s actually a really cute video and is a good fit for the song. The only mis-step with this video is the animated Leah who repeatedly winks which does not look so cute. It should have definitely been removed but otherwise, the video is cute and worth checking out.

PV Ranking: B +

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KinKi Kids – Secret Code [27th Single]

August 26, 2008 at 5:00 pm (KinKi Kids) (, )

KinKi Kids’ 27th single, entitled Secret Code, was released on 08.27.08. The title track was used as the theme song for the dorama 33 pun Tantei. The limited edition of the single features the B-side, strategie while the regular edition features ビターショコラ.

Secret Code is the A-side of the single. A light-hearted jazzy instrumental begins the song and makes a smooth transition into the first verse. The vocals are very smooth and are very catchy, making sure the listener follows from start to finish. There is a way that the lyrics are sung with breaks between every few words that actually makes them catch the listener’s ear. During the pure instrumental section, there are almost rock tints which actually sound great with the jazzy sound. It’s a very nice song and catches the listener’s ear strongly.

Fu Fu Fu is the B-side present on both editions of this single. The song begins with an upbeat twinkling jazzy instrumental that sounds so sweet and pretty. Coming up next is the chorus as the boys bring enjoyable vocals to the music that capture the happy atmosphere of the song and the English phrases such as “keep it up” stand out. The first verse follows and there are smooth vocals that compliment the music perfectly, keeping the listener interested. Fu Fu Fu is an excellent fun jazzy song that the listener can enjoy from start to finish.

On the limited edition, strategie is the second B-side. Opening the song is an instrumentation that has some Spanish influences before the chorus comes in. They sound great here with smooth vocals that carry a true catchiness. On the first verse, the instrumentation stays pretty simple so the emphasis is put on the boys as their vocals entice the listener as there is almost a sexiness with them that matches the song’s atomsphere. The pure instrumental section is absolutely addictive as it gives the feeling of a summer night that stays in the listener’s mind once the chorus is re-introduced. strategie is an absolutely fantastic number that could have been the single’s A-side because it’s that addictive.

ビターショコラ is the B-side only on the regular edition. The song starts off with a fun and upbeat jazzy instrumental that really keeps the listener enamored. Then the boys come in with the first verse and the smooth vocals carry an element of sexiness that leaves the listener continuously wanting more. The chorus is insanely catchy as there is more vocal strength and the lyrics are sung with a rapidity that makes them stand out. During the pure instrumental section, the guitar really shines through the jazz instruments and it definitely catches the listener’s ear. Once again, the boys bring strength to make this number a very strong one.

In order to promote the single, a PV for Secret Code was made. The video is very simple featuring the boys singing in white space with a jazz band to support them. On the floor it says “Secret Code” and that’s all there it is to it. It’s nothing really necessary to watch but it does fit the song nicely.

Single Ranking: A

This single features four great songs that show off the power of KinKi Kids. The jazzy atmosphere that runs through almost all the songs is enjoyable and the Spanish sound that emerges on strategie keeps the listener entranced and that B-side could have served as the A-side.

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Every Little Thing – あたらしい日々 / 黄金の月 [36th Single]

August 26, 2008 at 5:00 pm (Every Little Thing) (, )

Every Little Thing’s 36th single, entitled あたらしい日々 / 黄金の月, was released on 08.27.08. あたらしい日々 was used as the theme song for the drama Shibatora while 黄金の月 was used as a song of encouragement for one of the 2008 Olympic teams.

あたらしい日々 is the first A-side. The song begins with an upbeat pop instrumental with slight rock flares that sound very nice. Then it’s the first verse, sung with very smooth vocals that move with the music very nicely. There is a light-hearted and fun atmosphere that comes out on the chorus which features some very sweet vocals. The pure instrumental section starts off very fanciful and soon the rock tints come in to make it have that cool edge. Overall, the song is very enjoyable and fun, definitely worth a listen.

The other A-side is 黄金の月. This song features a more twinkling sound while still maintaining that poppish feel with rock flares in it to make the listener pay attention. Kaori brings more good vocals on this one, which makes it another enjoyable number.

In order to promote the single, a PV for あたらしい日々 was made. The video features Kaori sitting in a chair at a desk as two men constantly move her around in her room as she sings unphased. There is also a fun outdoor scene that really captures the light-hearted atmosphere of the song. The whole video should have taken on this look because it would have been a really sweet video. Then the video finishes off with everyone going to the beach, which also supports the sweetness of the song.

Single Ranking: B +

Both songs on this single feature a similar upbeat pop sound, which sounds nice but a little more variety would have been nice. Kaori’s vocals are sweet and the instrumentation definitely suits her but once again, variety would have made this single better.

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AAA – MUSIC!!! / ZERO [19th Single]

August 25, 2008 at 5:32 pm (AAA) (, )

AAA’s 19th single, entitled MUSIC!!!! / ZERO, was released on 08.27.08. ZERO was used as the opening theme for the anime series World Destruction and Crash [extended version] was used as the theme song for the Nintendo DS came World Destruction.

The first A-side is the happy pop song, MUSIC!!! The song starts off with a nice and upbeat instrumental that brings out the happy atmosphere and soon the chorus starts. The English phrases pop nicely during the chorus and the members deliver some very nice vocals. Vocal consistency is maintained during the verses to let the listener feel that happy feeling. The rap sequence during the first verse actually fits very well with the music and stands out. Misako’s section during the second verse sounds great as the emphasis is on her vocals while the music takes the backseat. Following is a fun pure instrumental section that once again shows the free and happy atmosphere of the song. MUSIC!!! is a really fun and it’s definitely a song that the listener should check out.

ZERO on the other hand is a darker dance song. The opening instrumental is rock-driven and sounds great and makes a smooth transition into the first verse. That darkness comes through on the first verse as the vocals follow the music and on the chorus, there is a real crashing instrumental that directs the vocals, tinged with power. This song tackles the rock vibe and the members throw their all into it, making it a definite standout song.

In order to promote the single, two PVs were made: one for each A-side. The PV for MUSIC!!! matches the free spirit of the song and features the group doing some dances and they also have some solo scenes as well. Misako stands on a structure; Shuta does some fun dancing in the water and Nishi doing some cool moves. It’s a nice and fun PV so it’s worth watching. The PV for ZERO is a really good fit for the song as it features each member in a room, blocked by walls and a door in front of them. There is a whole dark atmosphere that the members show on their faces to match that same feeling in the song so it really is effective. Butterflies then appear and at the end of the video, a light comes to take them away. It’s an excellent video and definitely one to check out.

Single Ranking: A

AAA brought fire on this double A-side single. While the first A-side is a happy and fun song, ZERO takes on a darker sound and the group shines on it. This is a really strong single from them and definitely worth checking out.

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AZU – AS ONE [Debut Studio Album]

August 24, 2008 at 5:00 pm (AZU) (, )

AZU’s debut studio album, entitled AS ONE, was released on 07.23.08. The singles released before the album are as follows: CHERISH, JEWEL SKY, コイイロ and 時間よ止まれ featuring SEAMO.

INTRO is the album’s starting track. The song starts off with a very mysterious atmosphere that is driven by a very cleear beat, sticking out in the listener’s mind. As the introduction goes on, the instrumentation slowly becomes more diverse with new elements coming into the mix. It sounds great and as the first track, it really provides the listener with an incentive to keep listening.

Rainbow picks up where INTRO left off by beginning with the same cool and sleek instrumental, soon taking on a lighter pop sound. AZU sounds great here as her vocals show their power and sweetness as she sings the chorus. On the first verse, there is a more relaxing feeling that comes through as AZU’s vocals are somewhat deeper, still staying with the music perfectly. The pure instrumental section sounds absolutely fantastic as there is a jazzy feeling that really shines. Overall, Rainbow is a fantastic song and is a really strong continuation of INTRO.

SEAMO and AZU team up for the third song, 時間よ止まれ. Opening the song is a very sweet midtempo instrumental that reall solidifies a nice atmosphere that the listener can follow. AZU then comes in with the first verse as she delivers some very pretty vocals that move with the music very strongly. The chorus is nice although it doesn’t really pop as there is no real change in instrumentation or vocals. SEAMO’s rap seems a bit misplaced and it doesn’t really fit with the music. The music is very nice in this song and AZU has some good vocals but SEAMO doesn’t really connect with it as well, making this a somewhat forgettable track.

The fourth song is You’re My Only Shinin’ Star. Opening the song is a nice and calming midtempo sound that really is ear-catching. Then the first verse begins and AZU brings smooth and sweet vocals to match the soothing atmosphere set by the music. Instrumentally, the song becomes slightly more diverse on the chorus and the backing vocalizations are a very nice touch. AZU continues to sound strong and the final phrase, “I love you,” is sung with beauty as she holds her notes well. This is an excellent song and a very nice addition to the album as AZU brings very pretty vocals to a sweet and soothing instrumental.

The title track, As One, is next. There is a nice acoustic-guitar-centric instrumental that begins the song that doesn’t immediately cature the listener’s ear. AZU’s vocals during the first verse are very pretty and actually compliment the music very nicely. The chorus still doesn’t make the listener really experience a change that stands out because the music continues to be a little boring although her voice sounds great. Finally, the third verse is catchy as the guitar becomes a little stronger and AZU still sings with emotion and sweetness. Overall, it’s not a very memorable song but the third verse does stand strongly and the rest of the song should’ve kept a sound closer to that one.

最後の恋, which was a B-side on the last single, follows the title track. There is a very warm and sweet atmosphere that comes through the beginning instrumental. The first verse follows and AZU sounds absolutely fantastic as her voice smoothly compliments the music. She continues to sound beautiful on the chorus and the phrases that are pushed to the background are a nice part of the song as it almost feels like she is talking to the object of her affection. This song is one of the best songs on the entire album, definitely standing out to the listener with its sweet atmosphere and even sweeter vocals.

AZU’s debut single, CHERISH, is the album’s seventh number. The song opens nicely with an interesting pop sound that calmly transitions into the first verse. Her vocals sound very nice here and they work with the music in keeping an enjoyable atmosphere. There is a lot more sparkling energy on the chorus and because of AZU’s stronger vocals, it definitely stands out and makes the listener smile along. The saxophone that cmoes out on the pure instrumental section provides the song with a fantastic jazzy feeling that is extremely ear-catching. CHERISH finds its proper home on the album and is one of the album’s best tracks.

The next song is コイイロ. The song is another pop song but it’s one of the more forgettable numbers. There is a jazzy atmosphere that makes it a nice listen but the vocals aren’t as strong this time around, thus the listener can’t really become engaged with it.

VIOLIN follows. The very soft and delicate atmosphere that opens up the song through the instrumental is a strong introduction. Moving into the first verse, AZU delivers some very pretty vocals to match the smooth music. The chorus isn’t as strong but her vocals portray more emotion here, which does stand out to the listener. This one is another wonderful song that AZU brings to life with beautiful vocals, perfectly capturing the essence of the song’s atmosphere. She is also to show off her vocal range in this one as she hits the higher notes as well, which makes it really stand out.

The tenth song is JEWEL SKY, a fun pop song that is one of the album’s best songs. A sweet pop instrumental with a slight jazzy touch begins the song before the first verse starts. Her vocals are really pretty here and do a good job of catching the listener’s ear. It’s the chorus that really makes this song so memorable as she delivers stronger vocals that suit the music perfectly. She opens by singing the title of the song and it’s a real standout point in the chorus. The pure instrumental section pops nicely as the saxophone makes another entrance, taking the listener on a ride before the chorus is re-introduced. JEWEL SKY hasn’t lost any steam from its single release, serving as a perfect semifinale for the album.

Closing the album is FAMILY, which features Cartet, Shiruken Jet and Bridget. The light and breezy pop instrumentation that begins the song is very nice and nicely moves into the first verse, which begins with a rap sequence. Despite the cute lightness of the music, the raps are actually a really strong addition. The chorus is a little cheesy with the English as they sing “you’re my brother” and “you’re my sister” but it’s still really fun and cute. The various raps and AZU’s singing all make this song a really strong finish because all the artists all come together much like a family on this song.

Album Ranking: A

AZu definitely shines on her debut album. With songs like JEWEL SKY, VIOLIN, 最後の恋 and Rainbow, she proves that she can handle different sounds and still compliment the music. There are few mis-steps on this album, making it a powerful album from start to finish.

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Fukui Mai – アイのうた [Debut Single]

August 23, 2008 at 2:21 am (Fukui Mai) (, )

Fukui Mai’s debut single, entitled アイのうた, was released on 08.20.08. The title track was used as the theme song for the TBS dorama Koi Zora.

A very sweet and personal instrumental opens up アイのうた and the first verse begins. Mai’s vocals carry a certain deepness to them that really compliments the simplicity of the music, centered around the piano. She shows off a little more vocal power on the chorus, which makes it sound great. During the pure instrumental section, the instrumentation takes on a slightly more complex route as there are slight orchestral elements that stand out. Closing the song is a beautiful piano instrumental, similar to the one that opened it. Mai’s voice really compliments the simple music here as there is a real and raw elegance to it that makes her stand out strongly.

The B-side of the single is My Song For You. There is more of a beat on this song than the title track and her vocals are shown off a little more, making it a definite compliment to アイのうた. There is still that husky element that sounds so great, really capturing the listener’s ear.

In order to promote the single, a PV for アイのうた wad made. There is a certain simplicity that matches the song’s atmosphere as it features Mai in an open field as she sweetly sings the lyrics of the song. Dressed in a white dress, she looks very pretty and the naturalness of the video makes it one to watch.

Single Ranking: A –

Fukui Mai certainly makes a nice splash into the music world with her debut single. The title track really stands out as her vocals carry a rich deepness to them that serves as the perfect compliment to the simplicity of the music. She continues to shine on the B-side and her vocals are shown off just a little more. Her voice is somewhat reminiscent of ayaka and she certainly has the talent to continue to shine.

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Shimatani Hitomi – Flare [7th Studio Album]

August 23, 2008 at 2:03 am (Shimatani Hitomi) (, )

Shimatani Hitomi’s 7th studio album, entitled Flare, was released on 07.16.08. The album was released before the following singles: Neva Eva, 深紅 / 愛の詩, 泣きたいなら and WAKE YOU UP /  雨の日には 雨の中を 風の日には 風の中を / Marvelous.

Opening up the album is Heavenly. There is a dance atmosphere for this song that combines with a cute feel to make this a very sweet opening track. With a 90s kind of sound, it does have a nice feeling to it although the chorus comes across as a bit winding and could’ve been cut down. Overall, it’s a nice song although it’s not the best opening track.

Start comes up next. The piano nicely supports her voice as an upbeat and happy atmosphere comes through, making the chorus very nice. Following is a section of pure instrumentation that sounds very pretty and then the first verse comes in. Hitomi’s vocals are sweet and carry a sweetness to them that captures the listener. Hitomi then definitely brings a uptempo sweetness on Start, making it a very enjoyable song to listen to from start to finish.

Following is 雨の日には 雨の中を 風の日には 風の中を. It’s a nice midtempo number with the beat standing out to the listener nicely. The pronounciation of the words on the chorus makes it really sound great and memorable. On the pure instrumental section, the song really shines on its prettiness. It’s a very nice addition to the album and Hitomi sounds great here.

The fifth song, Dita, carries an interesting sound with a French sound. The song stands out from the rest of the album for trying a new sound although it isn’t a particularly capturing song. 

深紅 is the next song. The song starts off with a very pretty uptempo instrumental that is heavenly and then the first verse comes in. Her vocals carry a slight deepness to them that actually works very well with the music. The chorus stands out nicely as her voice loses the deeper feeling and she shows more power. On the pure instrumental section, there is a real beauty to the music that catches the listener’s ear and the following chorus features a slight disortion on her vocals to put an emphasis on the music. Released as a single, it definitely hasn’t lost any steam from its release.

The sixth song on the album is 泣きたいなら. The song opens up with a very pretty instrumental that perfectly communicates emotion. Soon the first verse comes in and her vocals carry such a sweetness and fragileness that comes across so beautifully to the listener. A more complex instrumentation helps the chorus stand out strongly. Following is a very pretty instrumental section that continues to catch the listener’s ear. Hitomi does a fantastic song at bringing beautiful vocals to support the song’s very sweet atmosphere, making this song one to listen to.

Dear… appears as the album’s seventh number. Beginning the song is a sweet jazzy instrumentation that catches the listener’s ear, introducing the song perfectly. The first verse comes in and Hitomi delivers some very smooth vocals that carry that jazz sound strongly and the vocalizing in the background is a very nice touch. Things nicely pick up on the chorus, which features a more slightly more upbeat sound as Hitomi has a certain poppiness to her voice that stands out against the music. This song is definitely one of the most memorable tracks on the album and certainly is worth the listen.

Up next is 太陽の Flare. The song begins with a very sleek and cool instrumental that begins a little slow and soon picks up strongly, creating a light and free atmosphere that resonates with the listener. Hitomi then comes in with the first verse and her vocals are a little deeper here but compliment the music very nicely. On the chorus, the energy picks up again as the instrumentation really shines although Hitomi’s vocals could have been a little stronger. The pure instrumental section is absolutely heavenly as there is a slight rock flare that stands out, spotlighting the guitar. Overall, it’s the instrumentation that is the song’s strong point and although Hitomi does hold her own on the song, stronger vocals could have brought this song to the next level.

Released as a single before the album is WAKE YOU UP, which is the next song. An aggressive and addictive instrumental sequence opens the song up strongly although the backing vocals are very unnecessary. Hitomi then comes through with the first verse and her vocals sound very nice here, comlimenting the music perfectly. The chorus is more poppy which makes it memorable from the rest of the song and its repetition serves as a nice stand out. Closing the song is the aggressive instrumentation that opened it and it still sounds fantastic. WAKE YOU UP is a very enjoyable song that the listener can enjoy.

Shake it up! keeps the upbeat spirit while taking it down a little from the last track. Opening the song is an interesting and upbeat instrumentation that soon takes on a sparkling pop sound as Hitomi sings a line. Her vocals are very sweet here and the music does a nice job of establishing a very light atmosphere. There is a more relaxing feel on the first verse as Hitomi continues to deliver smooth vocals. Then it picks up for the chorus, which stands out as the most interesting part of the song with slightly stronger vocals and a more upbeat and fun instrumental. There is a slight jazzy sound that comes out on the pure instrumental section and it really sounds great. Shake it up! certainly features a fun and nice sound to make the listener enjoy from start to finish with a particular emphasis on the chorus.

The album’s semifinale is Neva Eva. A cool and upbeat instrumental, with jazzy influences begins the song and makes a smooth transition into the first verse. Hitomi’s vocals carry such a sleekness to them that compliments the music perfectly that the listener can’t help but love it. She continues to sound great on the chorus, even reaching a little higher vocally and hitting her notes strongly and the closing note is held with power and control. The pure instrumental section really shines here as the aggression of the music, which is one of the song’s strongest points, is spotlighted. For strong vocals and a more aggressive instrumental, Neva Eva stands out as the strongest number on the album and is definitely worth listening to.

Marvelous closes the album on a fun note. The song starts off with an upbeat piano-driven instrumental that carries a sweet prettiness. Hitomi sings her way through the first verse with smooth vocals, which makes the verses strong connectors. However it’s the chorus that makes the song so memorable, particularly when she sings the title of the song. Marvelous is a very nice way to end the album, keeping a very sweet atmosphere.

Album Ranking: A –

Flare certainly offers some enjoyable tracks although many of them are singles. Neva Eva serves as the album’s strongest tracks with 深紅, 泣きたいなら and WAKE YOU UP standing out as great numbers. Luckily some of the album tracks like Dear… and 太陽の Flare are capturing. Overall, it’s a nice package and some of these songs are some of the more memorable ones from Hitomi and she certainly tries her hand at some new sounds.

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