Otsuka Ai – LOVE LETTER [5th Studio Album]

December 14, 2008 at 5:01 pm (Otsuka Ai) (, )

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Otsuka Ai’s 5th studio album, entitled LOVE LETER, was released on 12.17.08. The singles released before the album are as follows: ポケット, ロケットスニーカー / One × Time and クラゲ、流れ星.

The album begins with the title track, LOVE LETTER. She opens up right away with the chorus and it’s almost acapella because of the soft beautiful piano. Her vocals are wonderful here, hitting the higher notes with grace and ease. She then moves into the first verse and the instrumentation remains simple, perfectly supporting Ai’s vocals. Overall, the song is extremely simple with just Ai and the piano but the two form such a strong combination that the listener is introduced to the album on a strong note. Her vocals sound heavenly, really communicating emotion and it makes the listener anticipate what is to come next.

The second song on the album is ロケットスニーカー. This song was unimpressive when it was released as a single and it still maintains that same quality. It’s another one of Ai’s upbeat and fun songs but what makes this one different is that there is a certain laidback element to it. The verses are kind of catchy but the chorus really doesn’t out. It was nice to have a slightly different instrumentation from her other similar songs but unfortunately that doesn’t save the song from being boring.

loveletter1バイバイ is the third song on the album. A very nice and fun instrumental begins the song on a happy note and then Ai comes in with the first verse. Her vocals are very nice here and communicate that funness very well. The instrumental is quite interesting as it features the guitar and the piano coming together to form a very interesting sound. Ai seems to come back more to her cute voice on the chorus and that nicely seperates that section from the rest of the song. This song really has that “Ai” feel to it so it comes across as a little typical but it’s not a bad song.

The next song is クラゲ、流れ星. Opening the song is the piano, which introduces the listener to the beauty of this song. The string instruments also help to establish a strong instrumental foundation. Throughout the song, Ai’s vocals are so sweet and capturing that the listener just falls in love with it. It’s almost like a fairy-tale because of the combination of Ai’s vocals and the instrumentation. This song carries a bunch of emotion that makes the listener really fall in love with it.

君フェチ is one of the album’s sweetest songs. The song begins with Ai singing a line over a very calming and smooth instrumental. Ai’s vocals are very pretty here and they connect with the listener very strongly. The chorus stands out as the insrumentation is slightly different and there is a slight vocal push from Ai, while still keeping that pretty and natural vibe that makes this song so addictive. Around the three minute mark, there is a haunting feeling that comes through as the instrumentation sounds dark and there is a whispery effect on Ai’s vocals. This is a fantastic song and definitely one to listen to.

Following is the upbeat Creamy & Spicy. The song starts off the chorus and it’s very simple. Ai is supported by the guitar and soon a few claps come in. Usually, she hits her high notes with strength and beauty but when she sings the title of the song, it comes across very awkward, almost ear-piercing. The following pure instrumental section does sound really good though and gives a very fun atmosphere. On the first verse, Ai shows a lot of strong vocals but it would have better had she stuck to a lower tone because it would have suited the music much better. Overall it’s a fun number that could have been stronger but it’s enjoyable.

One of the more happy and poppy tracks, ド☆ポジティブ, is up next. The song begins with a pop-rock instrumentation loveletter2that has that traditional Ai sound before coming into the first verse. There’s actually a really cool atmosphere that comes from that opening instrumentation and when Ai comes to sing, it kind of changes tone to a happier feeling. Luckily there is something quirky and engaging about the combination of the instrumentation and her vocals that keeps the listener interested. This continues into the chorus as Ai gives a slightly stronger vocals. It’s hard to pinpoint just what part of the instrumentation so loveable but there’s something there that makes this song different from Ai’s usual upbeat positive numbers. ド☆ポジティブ is strangely addictive and stands out as another strong album track.

360°, one of the tracks used to promote the album, appears as the ninth track. This song is one of Ai’s more creative ones and it really does shine on LOVE LETTER. A piano sequence begins the song absolutely beautifully, creating a very dreamy atmosphere for the listener. Soon a darker atmosphere comes in the piano goes to a lower key. Having these two atmospheres follow each other actually mirrors the emotions of the lyrics, which speak about liking someone and hating them at the same time. The chorus features two words: 観覧車 and merry-go-round and the repetition of these words really stands out to the listener. The rest of the song features Ai singing with a slight whisper to her voice that is almost haunting. Before the final chorus, Ai shows us how vocal strength as she hits some of the highest notes I’ve heard from her. Again, there is a haunting quality about it that makes it really memorable. There is another chorus and yet again, she vocalizes, hitting the higher notes beautifully before the song comes to a close. This song is absolutely fantastic and definitely one of the album’s shining jewels.

シャチハタ is a track centering around a jazzy instrumentation. In fact the entire song is instrumntation save for a few scatting moments from Ai. Unfortunately, the scatting doesn’t even sound like Ai so it comes across as very strange. It would have been better had the track just been pure instrumentation in this case because the scatting just ruins it.

One × Time is the next song on LOVE LETTER. The piano begins the song before various other instruments come into the picture. Much like the A-side that accompanied on a single release, this song is relatively uninteresting. Ai’s vocals are nice but the lack of interest generated by the instrumentation just makes this another song.

loveletter3The album’s semifinale is ポケット, which was released as a single before the album. The song begins with the piano, which immediately stirs up the emotions in the listener and signals a very sweet rest of the song. Soon the first verse comes in and Ai’s vocals here are so calm and smooth, perfectly complimenting the simplicity of the instrumental. The chorus manages to stand out as the guitar makes its presence known more, diversifying the instrumentation and Ai’s vocals are a little bit stronger. Following the first chorus is a little pure instrumental section which might seem slightly out of place because it sounds pretty upbeat but it introduces the sweet second verse well. ポケット is a wonderful ballad as Ai evokes the wonderful emotions to resonate with the listener. It was great when it was released as a single and it hasn’t lost any of its magic.

The album closes with the personal track named after her own name, 愛. The song begins with a very pretty and natural instrumental, which twinkles in the listener’s ear. Then Ai comes in with the first verse and provides some very smooth and pretty vocals that melt over the instrumentation. What makes the chorus stand out is that each phrase begins with “愛” and her vocals on that one note alone make the chorus pop. Before the final chorus, she vocalizes a little bit and sounds wonderful here, showing the power behind her voice. The first line of the final chorus is sung acapella and Ai really busts out the emotions as her vocals communicate something very personally emotional to the listener. This song is absolutely gorgeous and is the perfect way to close this album.

In order to promote the album, three new PVs were made: one for ド☆ポジティブ, one for 360° and one for 愛. The PV for ド☆ポジティブ is pretty strange and simple. It features Ai (who wears an afro) rocking out with her band in the garage. There is a woman there who owns the place and she watches them. After the group finishes the song, they high-five each other and then walk right past her and leave. It was a bit hard to find a deeper meaning in it but then again, it might just be one of those fun PVs.

The PV for 360°  features a very simple setting. Ai wears a dress, accentuated by butterflies and piano keys as she sings the lyrics spinning around on a merry-go-round or just standing in front of a white background. There is such a strange atmosphere about this PV that strangely works with the atmosphere of the song. So although it might be simple, it compliments the song well.

There is a very personal connection between Ai and the song 愛 and the PV reflects that closeness. Scenes from Ai’s life are included in the PV such as scenes of Ai when she was a young girl, her parents’ marriage and her mother’s pregnancy. There are other scenes of children and couples, showing a love that can be felt by everyone. The other scene features Ai sing a crowd of people in a countryside setting. The video really fits with the song by bringing that personal connection for everybody to see.

Album Ranking: A

Ai really surprised me with this album so let her surprise you too by giving the album a chance! ロケットスニーカー and One × Time were misleading because they weren’t particularly memorable tracks but the new album tracks blow those two out of the water. 360°  is the best offering on the entire album, showcasing Ai’s versatility as an artist and as a vocalist. From the sweetness of 君フェチ to the naturalness of 愛 to the fun spirit of ド☆ポジティブ, Ai brings many different styles to LOVE LETTER, to make one strong package. Another noteable thing about the album is that Ai shows off her vocals on many of these tracks, hitting the high notes with ease. LOVE LETTER is certainly memorable and shows Ai still has that magic inside of her.

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1 Comment

  1. Naddie said,

    I just saw the PV to 360 on the TV yesterday and went in a rush to find this album. That song is absolutely BEAUTIFUL – I was like, “This is Otsuka Ai?! Really?!” It’s completely different and trippy from what Ai usually does and I’m so happy she’s branching out with her styles. I wish the song had been released as a single instead of the rest of the singles, haha. (Just ’cause I really want the instrumental.)

    I haven’t listen to the whole album yet, but I’m hoping it’ll be good, since your review is pretty favourable to it 🙂

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