Goto Maki – SWEET BLACK [Mini Album]

October 4, 2009 at 11:00 pm (Goto Maki) (, )


Goto Maki’s first mini album since her departure from Hello Project and entry into avex, entitled SWEET BLACK, was released on 09.16.09. The SWEET BLACK project was started for Maki as a way to get her back into the game through a radio program and digitally released singles: Fly away, Lady-Rise and with. Plastic Lover was included on a HOUSE NATION compilation CD.

The album kicks off with the dancehall styles of Queen Bee. The song opens up with BIGGA RAJJI shouting and introduing himself, Maki and Aili and immediately the song’s one flaw pops up: his voice. It’s just grating and annoying that it really does take away from the strength of the song but once the listener can get past it, the song is smooth sailing. Maki sings part of the chorus, which consists of a repeated “boom” and “Queen Bee” at the end. On the first verse, Maki provides smooth and sleek vocals that suit the instrumentation perfectly. There is an underlying element of sexuality that comfortably comes through her vocals and spices up the song. The hook that follows the chorus features a slightly softer sound but it still fits with the rest of the song so it stands out quite nicely. If this snogwas sung just by Maki, the song would have been a lot better. Nonetheless, Queen Bee serves as a good album opener and shows Maki’s true energy.

Maki Sweet Black PromoThe second song was the second digitally released single, Lady-Rise. Opening up the song is a hot upbeat instrumental and instantly, the listener knows something great is about to come up. On the first verse, Maki’s vocals continue to carry a tone of sexuality and coolness to them that really makes the song come alive. Right before the chorus, the music builds up a little and Maki gives slightly stronger vocals and although the changes might only be small, they are really effective at introducing the chorus. The chorus features more catchy energy that will keep the listener dancing and one moment that stands out is when Maki calls out the title of the song. The third verse is a nice break-down moment and re-introduces the chorus with a bang. Maki even cutely shouts “Ow!” to really punctuate the coolness of the song. It’s a fantastic song that hasn’t lost any of its magic since its release.

Maki enters the world of the dark disco with the next track, Candy. The song starts off with a cool and mysterious upbeat instrumental that kind of channels Maki’s old sound before avex. She sings “”am I greedy?” and the sexuality comes running out from that moment as it continues to run through the whole song. The verses sound quite nice and set up the atmosphere of the song very well but the chorus does lose a little bit of that strong energy. It’s just lacking that sort of magic that the verses have to really draw in the listener. She sings “are you a man?” and “are you the man?” It’s a nice song but it’s still missing that spark that the other songs have.

Maki teams up with KG for one of the album’s two ballads, TEAR DROPS. The song begins with a beautiful piano opening which really reflects the sorrow of the song and immediately brings out the emotional atmosphere for the listener to feel. Maki sounds fantastic on the first verse, her vocals really portraying fragility and sadness that suit the song. KG also gives some great vocals that compliment Maki’s and keep the emotions rolling from the heart. The chorus features the piano slightly more prominently and there is a sparkling atmosphere that runs through the music that really stands out. On the third verse, Maki sings “sweet, sweet, my tear drops” and “sweet, sweet, your tear drops” before KG  belts out a powerful vocal. TEAR DROPS is easily one of the album’s best songs and the better of the two ballads.

Back at a-nation ’08, Maki debuted a song entitled hear me. Well the beat was kept and with some rewording of the Maki SWEET BLACK Promo 2lyrics and a guest appearance from KEN THE 390, Mine was born. The song takes off with a hot instrumental and KEN THE 390 introducing the song in a combination of English and Japanese for Maki to follow. She sounds great on the first verse, her vocals suiting the sleek atmosphere of the song perfectly. The chorus is catchy as expected although it doesn’t flow as well as the chorus of hear me. KEN THE 390 never has verses that last very long so the focus stays on Maki, which is good but he might as well not have been there at all. To finish off the song with a little extra sweetness, Maki giggles. Although Mine is certainly a catchy song, it just doesn’t flow as well as hear me and it lacks the magic in certain spots.

Maki’s first avex digital single, Fly away, is up next. An orchestral instrumentation starts things off to really begin with a bang before the hot dance instrumental comes booming in. Maki’s vocals here are superb, really staying sleek and cool to fit the atmosphere of the song. The English parts “imgination” and “get alive” stand out and the background vocals provide a slightly haunting feel to the song. The chorus features lines that begin with “fly away” and Maki aces every single one, keeping the listener’s interest without fail. The third verse really stands out as it feels like the build-up to the climax, the instrumentation becoming slightly quieter and more mysterious. Maki follows with some cool vocalizations that really do add a lot of flavor to the song. Like Lady-Rise, Fly away maintains its special magic and remains a strong number to enjoy.

Plastic Lover serves as the album’s semifinale. Starting the song off is a light electronic instrumental that takes the listener into a new world. Then the beat comes thumping in and the edgy electronic side comes out to play, grabbing the listener’s interest immediately. Maki smoothly sings “so what” as the start of the first verse and from there, the sleekness really comes through perfectly. Throughout the verse, the coolness keeps streaming and sets up the listener for an enjoyable chorus. The instrumentation is more energetic and Maki gives some great vocals, particularly at the end when she holds the higher one. During the second verse, there is an angelic part that makes the listener feel like he/she is flying as there is such a levity in both the music and Maki’s vocals. The pure instrumental section sounds great and re-introduces the chorus fantastically. The music during those last few vocal moments really catches the ear and Maki’s final line features some great vocal strength. Plastic Lover was abolutely amazing when it was released on the HOUSE NATION compilation and it shines just as bright on SWEET BLACK.

Closing the album is the spring ballad, with…Opening the song is a very calming and soothing instrumental that catches the ear of the listener and evokes a feeling of true love. Then Maki sings the first verse and her vocals are quite pacifying, suiting the atmosphere of the song very well. There is just something very sweet and natural about the chorus that just can’t be ignored as it works its way into the listener’s heart. The repeating words also stand out and catch the ear of the listener nicely. with… is a very good way to end SWEET BLACK, giving the listener a smile to finish with.

Album Ranking: A

The image of SWEET BLACK is to reflect the duality of a girl’s heart, featuring both a sweet and mature side and that is what Maki has perfectly captured with this album. Although TEAR DROPS and with… are the album’s only ballads, they both shine in their own right with the former being the sorrowful one and the latter being the hopeful one. There is a host of dance numbers, which is where Maki shines. From the playful sexiness of Lady-Rise to the cool and sleek Fly away to the fun and energetic Plastic Lover, Maki really does give it her all. Perhaps the only mis-step on the album was Candy, which was just lacking a little something to really make it stand out. Also BIGGA RAJJI was annoying and Mine didn’t live up to the amazingess of hear me but both of the songs still managed to catch attention. Hopefully SWEET BLACK is an indication of the high quality music we can expect from Maki in the time to come.

Top 5 Most Memorable Tracks: Lady-Rise / TEAR DROPS / Mine / Fly away / Plastic Lover

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