Kuraki Mai – touch Me! [8th Studio Album]

January 28, 2009 at 10:55 pm (Kuraki Mai) (, )

touchme_reg

Kuraki Mai’s 8th album, entitled touch Me!, was released on 01.21.09. The singles released before the album are as follows: 夢が咲く春 / You and Music and Dream, 一秒ごとに Love for you and 24 Xmas Time. The title track was used as a promotional track for the album.

The album opens up with the title track, touch Me!, a smooth upbeat number. She sings part of the chorus, which starts off in English “there’s a secret, my first touch” and the rest follows in Japanese. That last note is held with such beauty and strength and then a section of pure instrumentation comes after, giving off a sort of dark vibe that the listener can enjoy. On the verses, Mai gives smooth vocals that generally remain in the lower range, staying with the atmosphere of the music. Before the chorus, the music becomes fuller and Mai gives a stronger vocal performance to match. The chorus is what makes this song so memorable as there is something so catchy and fun. The “touch me” is sung so commandingly and with such vigor that it lingers on the listener’s mind from the chorus. There is a slight instrumental change during the pure instrumental section, which is great since it kind of leads the listener through a story. touch Me! is a great way to open up the album and it channels Mai’s old sound well.

一秒ごとに Love for you, released before the album, comes up next as summer bliss. That summery atmosphere comes alive straight off from the first opening moment with the drums and Mai’s vocalizations over a very cool instrumental. Then comes the first verse and Mai brings that coolness in her vocals that makes the listener stand up and take notice. One interesting part of the song is that before the chorus, she sings “一秒ごとに” and then “Love for you” is the start of the chorus. The chorus features essentially two parts, one sung more in the background and the other with more prominent vocals and the combination of these two really make it memorable. This is a great song that will definitely have you moving and feeling summer no matter what time of the year it is.

mai1Up next is the insanely cathy upbeat number, Break the tone. Opening the song is a very funky and addictive instrumental that will stay in the listener’s head. Then she dives into the chorus and her vocals are so smooth and edgy at the same time so that it makes a very strong combination. She sounds absolutely fantastic when she sings “break the tone” and the following pure instrumental section puts a spotlight on the guitar, an interesting choice to push the music. On the verses, it feels like she’s telling a story as her vocals stay strong and she constantly says things in the background to add to that fun flavor. The hook features a slight instrumental change along with some angelic breathy vocals. She even delivers a little rap section that shows her cute attitude, definitely a memorable part of this song. She closes the song with some words that show more attitude, particularly the second to last line: “If you don’t like it, that’s too bad.” Break the tone is definitely one of the best album offerings and certainly one to remember.

We come to the sounds of spring with the fourth song, 夢が咲く春. We begin with a sweet and calming instrumentation that carries a bit of funkiness to it. On the verses, Mai’s vocals go perfectly with the music and it’s clear that this type of song supports her very well. However it’s the chorus that makes this song so loveable. Particularly when she sings the title of the song, her vocals portray this emotion that is so likeable and infectious. She also holds that last note of the chorus strongly. 夢が咲く春 is a wonderful spring song that is one of the album’s most memorable tracks.

Moving onto I can’t believe you!!, which is more of an autumn sound. The song starts off on an interesting note as there is a slightly mysterious sound to it. It really does feel like she’s telling a story when she comes in with the first verse and that’s what makes this song so addictive. Her vocals are wonderful as usual and when she sings “do I know I can’t believe you?,” there is a certainbreathiness that comes through her vocals that work. The chorus is enjoyable with the slight instrumental change and the more poppy feeling established by the way she seperates the words. The English phrases such as  “you can be yourself” add a nice touch to the song before she delivers that final chorus. Overall, this is another great song that is catchy and seems to channel her older sound while still keeping it up to date.

Next is Secret Lover. The song starts off with a sweet and relaxing vibe similar to the one from the previous track. Her vocals sound so pretty and calming here that it sounds great. There is this little part before the chorus where the instrumentation spirals up for a moment and even though it doesn’t last very long, it stands out and has that little bit of magic that works. The chorus is nice particularly because she reaches up and hits the higher notes very well and the Spanish guitar gets a nice spotlight. Secret Lover is a very enjoyable song and a good follow-up to I can’t believe you!!

After a string of amazing tracks, Hello! is the first one to fall flat. It’s a ballad driven by a pretty instrumentation but there’s something very generic and “already done” about this song, so it doesn’t catch the listener’s ear very well. Mai’s vocals are nice but the song just feels so done before that it doesn’t find a proper place on touch Me!

Luckily, we fall into wintery bliss on 24 Xmas Time. The song starts off with a sweet upbeat instrumentation with wintery traces, still maintaining a normal pop sound. She then goes into the chorus, which is great. Her vocals portray emotion, particularly on English phrases like “special for me” and “don’t break my heart.” However, it’s the verses that make this song so wonderful. There is a real laid-back feeling that supports Mai’s smooth vocals and connect with the listener’s ears. There are three parts in this song that are absolutely addictive, each in one of the verses. There is a slight instrumental change on these lines and it makes all the difference. It’s first seen when she sings 何時間のファッション.ショー (What time is the fashion show?). Although it’s hard to describe, there’s something magical about it that is extremely likeable. KEN-RYW joins Mai for a few rap sections and his presence gives the song a little more attitude. 24 Xmas Time is actually the album’s strongest song and definitely should not be skipped over.

Catch is the following track. The song begins on an interesting note as there is something cold and mysterious about the instrumentation as the beat slowly comes in with Mai repeating ‘catch.” She sticks to the lower register on the verses, in keeping with the dark atmosphere of the song. Beofre the chorus, the instrumentation takes a more aggressive and catchy approach, which sounds wonderful. This part carries over to the chorus as we get a very catchy and crimson instrumentation with Mai giving wonderful vocals to support it, both showing off her power and her range. A guest rapper jumps on board and provides some sleekness to the track, which is very welcome. This song is a very strong addition to touch Me! and is one of the ones to listen to for sure.

The album’s semifinale is You and Music and Dream. The song starts off with a very pretty instrumental that gives off a feeling of grandeur and magic. Soon Mai sings the first verse and her vocals here are very strong, portraying both beauty and true emotion, supporting the music perfectly. There is a real feeling of hope that comes through and resonates with the listener. There is one part right before the chorus in which the instrumentation spirals upwards and it really is beautiful, leading the listener into the chorus. That grandeur comes full force here and mai’s vocals are shown off perfectly, particularly as she hits the higher notes angelically and with ease. You and Music and Dream was amazing when it was released as a single and it hasn’t lost any of its steam on the album release.

Mai’s cover of TOP OF THE WORLD comes as the album’s closing number. Since Mai is fluent in English, her pronounciation is perfect and it makes the cover all the better. Her vocals are strong and it sounds like she’s really having fun with it, which makes the song all the more enjoyable.

Album Ranking: A

Mai definitely started her 10th anniversary with a bang! touch Me! features different styles to keep the listener interested but overall, the album stays pretty upbeat, which is interesting. Tracks like Break the tone, touch Me! and Catch show that Mai is extremely comfortable with that style. All the seasons get represented here and they end up being some of the album’s strongest material:  夢が咲く春 (Spring), 一秒ごとに Love for you (Summer), I can’t believe you!! (Autumn) and 24 Xmas Time (Winter). She delivers great vocals and emotion on the ballads like Secret Lover and You and Music and Dream as well, offering a strong balance. touch Me! is a very strong collection of songs that show off just what kind of artist Mai is.

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1 Comment

  1. Jinhwa said,

    I really enjoy reading your review about this album. I have listened to this CD about six times so I think your review is wonderfully written. I am very glad to see you gave this album an ‘A’ ranking because I really enjoy listening to this CD very much.

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