AAA – Break Down / Break your name / Summer Revolution [21st Single]

August 1, 2009 at 5:07 am (AAA) (, )

AAA break down

AAA’s 21st single, entitled Break Down / Break your name / Summer Revolution, was released on 07.29.08.

Break Down is an addictive upbeat dance number taking on hints from the electric wave. The song opens up with Misako repeating “break down,” which is strangely addictive and then the instrumentation comes in and takes the listener into a new world. The following vocals sound nice and having vocals from both and the girls is an interesting mix here and puts some nice emotions into it. On the verses, every sounds good and provides some edgy vocals to match the extremely interesting instrumentation. Although the rap section isn’t that great, the following section of pure instrumentation certainly is. Break Down is definitely one of the group’s stronger songs and a great way to begin the single.

Break your name is a song sung by the Saihuun, a 15 member group with the boys of AAA up front. Opening the song is lines from the chorus and the vocals are nice here, coating over the cool instrumental quite well. As it goes on, the rock flavor is introduced and catches the ear quite nicely. The first verse features some smooth vocals from Urata although the rap section sounds a little off. It’s a nice and upbeat number which is worth the listen although it’s not as nearly as strong as Break Down.

With the boys having their time with the last song, the girls get their chance to shine with Summer Revolution. The song begins with the girls singing part of the chorus and the instrumentation immediately grabs the listener’s attention, having a sort of similar atmosphere to that of a GIRL NEXT DOOR song. However after those first two lines are repeated, the instrumentation takes on a slightly darker tone, which sounds even better. Both of the girls provide strong vocals that suit the music perfectly and leave the listener wanting even more. It’s a very memorable song and the girls should proud for bringing such a strong song to the table.

In order to promote the single, three PVs were made: one for each A-side. The Break your name PV is primarily a dance video that shows off the boys’ nice moves. Only the five boys of AAA show their faces while the other ten dancers just dance with black hooded outfits the entire time. It’s not the most interesting video but it does fit the atmosphere of the song well. In the Summer Revolution, the girls and the backup dancers dance in a sandy place surrounded by the clouds. It’s such a pretty setting and it will definitely catch the eye of the viewer.

Single Ranking: A

AAA definitely came back and hit their mark strong. All three A-side prove to be strong as their right and leaves the listener longing for more. Break Down emerges as the strongest track with Misako’s infectious repeating “Break Down” and a hot eletric instrumental. Summer Revolution follows in a close second, taking a GIRL NEXT DOOR style instrumental to the next level. Break your name is another good song that takes on some rock tendencies to shine. Overall, AAA delivered a very strong package and seeing as their next single is also to be a triple A-side, hopefully they’ll be able to bring more of this amazing quality.

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AAA – depArture [4th Studio Album]

February 28, 2009 at 8:47 pm (AAA) (, )

departurecover

AAA’s fourth studio album, entitled depArture, was released on 02.11.09. The singles released before the album are as follows: BEYOND ~カラダノカナタ, MUSIC!!! / ZERØ and 旅ダチノウタ.

-introduction- is just weird. It features an airplane hostess announcing that the listener will be getting on Flight AAA. It’s just so strange and really not necessary.

MUSIC!!! allows the group to show their happy and positive sides. A sunny and happy section of pure instrumentation starts off the song, which introduces the chorus. The vocals are pretty good here and the definitely match the sweet atmosphere of the song, making all the English phrases pop and catch the listener’s ear. Similar vocal consistency is achieved during the verses. Normally, a rap section would seem out of place but not this time. It has both a cool and a fun feel to it so that it doesn’t sound so separate from the rest of the song. MUSIC!!! is an enjoyable number that finds a place on the album.

SAVE YOUR SOUL is actually a pretty good song and a nice follow-up to MUSIC!!! Misako and Nissy give some good vocals and the instrumentation is interesting, having a cool and sleek atmosphere to really enjoy. It’s one of the stronger numbers on the album.

Admittedly, Jamboree!! is a little cheesy and a little generic but there’s something very likeable about it. It has more of an interesting arrangement and instrumentation than some of the other upbeat tracks and thus it stands out. You can really hear the fun time that the members are having through their vocals and the combination of them with the music makes for an enjoyable listen.

Wonderful Girls lets the boys come together without the girls. As seen from the all boys mini album, they can definitely deliver some blow-out songs. Wonderful Girls is actually another great song from them and has kind of a funky dance vibe that AAA just seems to be so comfortable singing along to. All the vocals are enjoyable and everyone holds their own nicely.

出逢いのチカラ III is one of the album’s few ballads. Now it’s always nice to have some balance for an album and for some that means ballads as well as upbeat numbers (not always though as Namie has proved by having select ballads while still having incredible balance). But this is just not the one to stand out. It’s extremely long, clocking in at over six minutes and it’s just a little too cheesy and generic to really achieve the state of being memorable.

a piece of my word is sung by the two girls of the group. Opening the song is a very sweet and relaxing instrumental that has a natural feeling to it, which makes it memorable. Then it’s the first verse and the vocals are so pretty, really communicating emotions. Even though the chorus is a little generic, the girls’ vocals come together very nicely. The one problem with the song is that it does seem to drag on, clocking at over five minutes. It would have been nicer if it was shortened but it’s still a nice song.

ZERØ was released alongside MUSIC!!! as its darker twin. Rock sounds drive this danceable instrumental and they make a dangerously addictive combination. The whole dark atmosphere is perfectly supported by the powerful vocals that the members deliver, communicating desperation and the need to escape. It’s a strong idea to have the verses be more mellow with the power really exploding on the chorus since each section becomes distinct. This is one of the album gems for letting the group try something new.

HORIZON is also home to a certain funkiness that some of the other tracks have. Unfortunately, it’s not as catchy as the other ones. There’s just something magical missing from the instrumentation to really push it over the edge. Vocals are nice but nothing to really seperate them from any of the other songs. It’s an okay song but just not one that is amazing or anything.

I’ve never been a fan of BEYOND ~カラダノカナタ and my disinterest in the song hasn’t changed since its single release. The song is a pop number with light rock influences. On the first verse, the vocals are somewhat shaky and although there is some energy behind the music, the vocals don’t follow that lead. Much like the verses, the chorus isn’t interesting and the holding of notes gets to be a little annoying. Unfortunately, the vocals just aren’t able to handle that kind of strength on this song. At least the pure instrumental section was a little more fun although still nothing that great. It’s just not a great song and honestly, it’s not really one to look out for.

Up next is the fun and funky song, mosaic. The song starts off with a very funky instrumentation that will have the listener moving and smiling. Then it’s the verse and Nissy gives those great vocals that he can deliver, perfectly supporting the music and atmosphere. Misako also shows us what she can do since her vocals also compliment the music strongly. They dominate the chorus but they do such a good job and their voices come together just perfectly so it’s still enjoyable. Misako’s solo section on the third verse is definitely a standout part of the song and she sounds great when she repeats “missing.” Following is an addictive pure instrumental section that puts a spotlight on the guitar before re-introducing the chorus sung just by Nissy. Overall, mosaic is a very strong AAA song and it deserves a place on the album.

始まりのキセキ is the typical cutesy track that is all smiles. Well it’s actually not as bad as it might initially sound and the sections of pure instrumentation are actually kinda interesting. It’s not really one of the best songs on the album but it’s by no means a bad song.

With the  whole theme of departure comes the finale, 旅ダチノウタ. Beginning the song is a gorgeous instrumental with a naturalness to make it shine. Of course Nissy gets the biggest part in the song but since he has good vocals, it was a good idea to give so much time. He sounds great on the first verse and his vocals really portray genuine emotion and heart. Naoya and Misako sound great on their respective parts as well. One thing that was really not needed was the rap section since it just came off as sounding awkward and un-necessary, the last line in particular. Overall though, it’s a good song and the most appropriate way to finish off the album.

Album Ranking: B –

Well depArture was an all right album. It got a little too samey with a lot of the upbeat numbers having a funky atmosphere. However there were some standout songs like SAVE YOUR SOUL, mosaic and Wonderful Girls. A litle more diversity would have made this album much more enjoyable.

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AAA – 旅ダチノウタ [20th Single]

January 30, 2009 at 7:32 pm (AAA) (, )

aaamore

AAA’s 20th single, entitled 旅ダチノウタ, was released on 01.14.09. Both the B-sides of this single were used as promotional songs: piece of my word was used the new CM song for Kyoto Kimono Yuzen Co. Ltd. while mosaic was the theme song for Mirai Seiki Shakespeare, featuring AAA themselves.

旅ダチノウタ is a sweet song centering around the concept of departure. The song starts off with a sweet instrumental that catches the listener’s ears and soon some vocals come in and they compliment the overall pretty and delicate atmosphere very well. Following is the first verse and Nissy does a very good job of portraying emotion as he’s given the biggest part here. Urata and Chiaki also do their job well and their line together really shines. Everyone comes together for the chorus and their vocals really go well together and Urata and Nissy’s solo lines sound great. The rap section did feel a little out of place (especially that last line, which was particularly awkward) but it did allow the listener to get a better feel for the instrumentation. 旅ダチノウタ is a great song primarily because of the openness and emotional presence that the members bring to it, allowing the listener to really connect with them.

The first B-side is piece of my word, a song sung by the two girls of the group. Opening the song is a relaxing and calm instrumental that also carries a certain nostalgic atmosphere to it. Then the first verse begins and the vocals here really portray emotion, catching the listener’s ear. The chorus is nice although a litle generic. The vocals are wonderful as the girls’ really sound strong together. piece of my word is a pretty good song but it does seem slightly generic and it drags on since it is a pretty long song, clocking in at over five minutes.

mosaic is the second B-side. The song begins with an upbeat and fun instrumental that is a welcome change from the previous two tracks. After a funky introduction, the first verse arrives and although upbeat, there is a still a mellow feel to it that sounds great. The vocals coming from each member or wonderful, particularly Nissy’s and Misako’s. The chorus is absolutely wonderful since those vocals continue to portray the fun atmosphere of the song and the “how does it feel?” really pops.Misako’s solo section is wonderful since her vocals are shown off strongly and the following pure instrumental section puts a spotlight on the guitar, adding to the song’s true funkiness. mosaic is a perfect song and it really should have been the title track.

In order to promote the single, a PV for 旅ダチノウタ was made. The video is very simple, fitting with the simplistic and sweet atmosphere of the song. The main setting is of the group standing around / sitting on a play structure under a beautiful night sky as they remember fond memories. All of the members show their emotions very well, showing off their ability to connect with the music. The theme of the song as seen from the title is “departure” and there is a very nostalgic feeling about this song communicated through this PV.

Single Ranking: A –

AAA’s first single of the year certainly starts them off on a good note. The A-side and piece of my word both carry a nostalgic feeling that have fueled rumors of the group’s breakup. mosaic is the real star song of the single, showing the group’s strength: upbeat numbers. Hopefully their new album will deliver the same quality and the rumors of their split are just that: rumors.

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[Part Six] Oricon Year 2008 Top PVs

December 12, 2008 at 10:06 pm (AAA, aiko, alan, Amuro Namie, Arashi, ayaka, BoA, C-ute, DOUBLE, Hamasaki Ayumi, Hey! Say! JUMP, Ishida Yuko, Ito Yuna, Jyongri, Kobukuro, Koda Kumi, Leah Dizon, Morning Musume, NEWS, Nishino Kana, Otsuka Ai, Perfume, Shiraishi Kikyo, Suzuki Ami, Tanimura Nana, Tohoshinki, Utada Hikaru) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

tabooplayroom

With all the PVs released this year, there have been some real standouts. We’ve seen some amazing dancing, sad love stories, cuteness and pretty lights. So here is the list of the best PVs released this year.

01. Koda Kumi – TABOO PV

02. Hey! Say! JUMP – 真夜中のシャドーボーイ PV

03. Koda Kumi – Under PV

04. Suzuki Ami – ONE PV

05. Perfume – Macaroni PV

06. NEWS – 太陽のナミダ PV

07. Hey! Say! JUMP – Your Seed PV

08. Ito Yuna – miss you PV

09. Jyongri – Winter Love Story PV

10. Hamasaki Ayumi – (don’t) Leave me alone PV

11. Koda Kumi – anytime PV

12. alan – 空唄 PV

13. Tohoshinki – 呪文-Mirotic- PV

14. alan – RED CLIFF ~心・戦~ PV

15. alan – 風の手紙 PV

16. Koda Kumi – 秘密 PV

17. Hamasaki Ayumi – Marionette PV

18. Koda Kumi – Moon Crying PV

19. Arashi – Beautiful days PV

20. Otsuka Ai – クラゲ, 流れ星 PV

21.Tegomass – アイアイ傘 PV

22. Leah Dizon – Vanilla PV

23. NEWS – SUMMER TIME PV

24. Koda Kumi – 恋の魔法 PV

25. Koda Kumi – 甘い罠 PV

26. Hamasaki Ayumi – Mirrorcle World PV

27. Arashi – One Love PV

28. DOUBLE and Amuro Namie – BLACK DIAMOND PV

29. Amuro Namie – Sexy Girl PV

30. AAA – Crash PV

31. Ishida Yuko – Changes PV

32. Morning Musume – Resonant Blue PV

33. aiko – KissHug PV

34. Tanimura Nana – SEXY SENORITA PV

35. Tanimura Nana – If I’m not the one PV

36. Shiraishi Kikyo – BLACK PV

37. C-ute – 涙の色 PV

38. Tohoshinki – Beautiful you PV

39. alan – 恵みの雨 PV

40. Suzuki Ami – can’t stop the DISCO PV

41. BoA – be with you. PV

42. Nishino Kana – I PV

43. Leah Dizon – Under The Same Sky PV

44. Utada Hikaru – HEART STATION PV

45. Amuro Namie – WHAT A FEELING PV

46. Tohoshinki – Purple Line PV

47. ayaka x Kobukuro – あなたと PV

48. Koda Kumi – MORE PV

49. C-ute – 江戸の手毬唄 PV

50. Koda Kumi – あなたがしてくれたこと PV

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[Part Five] Oricon Year 2008 Top Albums

December 10, 2008 at 5:01 pm (AAA, aiko, Aira Mitsuki, Arashi, ayaka, AZU, Berryz Koubou, BIG BANG, BoA, capsule, EXILE, Hamasaki Ayumi, Ito Yuna, KAT-TUN, Koda Kumi, Kuraki Mai, Leah Dizon, MEG, melody., Misia, Morning Musume, NEWS, Perfume, Shimatani Hitomi, Stephanie, Suzuki Ami, Tiana Xiao, Tohoshinki, Utada Hikaru) ()

kingdom

Well there have been many albums released in 2008, some good and some bad. This is a countdown of the top 30 albums released this year. Who’s album reigned number one? Who made it onto the countdown? Continue reading to find out…

albums1It’s no surprise now which album takes the title of Album Of 2008. Just take a look at the picture above or to the right. Koda Kumi’s Kingdom was a fantastic album from start to finish and one really deserving the title of album of the year. It all started with the first single of the Kingdom era BUT / 愛証. BUT was my first Kuu song and the beginning of the love that would follow. It’s an absolutely addictive song and definitely one of her best songs to date! With each release, I became more excited: FREAKY, 愛のうた, LAST ANGEL (featuring Tohoshinki) and anytime all proceeded Kingdom and each single was another reason to make me anticipate the album. When I finally listened to it, I was blown away. Introduction For Kingdom is absolutely gorgeous and continues the trend of Kumi’s amazing introductory tracks. Some of the album gems are 甘い罠 (the traditional addictive Arabian number), Under (the hottest new track showing off that coolness that Kumi portrays so well), MORE (the best ballad with the emotions coming through clearly) and Black Cherry (full version of INTRODUCTION from her previous album and a fantastic dance track). Having a video for each track was also fantastic as we got to see sexy Kumi in the Under PV, beautiful Kumi in the MORE PV and we got another storyline (恋の魔法, 秘密, 甘い罠 and あなたがしてくれたこと). Kumi always makes wonderul storyline PVs ever since BEST ~second session~ so it was nice to see her do another one. This album is perfect from every angle since we really got variety. From the beautiful ballads to the upbeat dance numbers to the cute tracks which make you smile, Kingdom has it all and then some. It really helped Kumi shine this year and it sucks that promotion for the album was cancelled because of a comment she made. Nonetheless, Kingdom is a praise-deserving album and I can only wait to see what she has in store for us with her next album, TRICK (hitting Japan on 01.28.09).

Coming in 2nd place for album of the year is Supreme Show by Suzuki Ami. It’s no secret that Nakata and Ami make a suzuki-ami-supreme-showperfect team and Supreme Show is the perfect result of that chemistry. The single tracks and their B-sides are actually some of the album’s strongest material. ONE serves as the perfect album closer with its aggressive sleek instrumental and memorable vocals from Ami. Tracks 2 to 4 are can’t stop the DISCO, climb up to the top and SUPER MUSIC MAKER (SA’08 S/ A Mix), all of which are extremely addictive. The album also made me love A token of love even more since it really feels like a part of Supreme Show. Some of the new tracks really shined though like TEN, Mysterious and TRUE. TEN is the opener and although it is very lyrically simple, the music is heaven and features a different sound from many of Nakata’s other productions. Mysterious is a return to that cool vibe with a dark atmosphere, which makes it one of Supreme Show’s most memorable songs. TRUE also proves that Ami can slow it down and still make magic. Supreme Show is the culmination of hard work beween the dream team of Nakata and Ami. I only hope they will continue to work together and produce even more strong tracks.

albums3If you want an emotionally charged album filled with strong rock tracks and touching ballads, look no further than GUILTY by Hamasaki Ayumi. Ayu went through a lot when she recorded the album. Her dear friend passed away; she broke up with her long-time boyfriend and she had to go through being deaf in one ear. So the emotions in her life really came to fruition on the album. Three of the four tracks released before the album: glitter, talkin’ 2 myself and decision are all strong and give the album the extra edge it needed to draw the listener in. The new tracks then made the listener addicted. Mirror, (don’t) Leave me alone, MY ALL, Marionette and untitled ~for her~ all stood out brightly. (don’t) Leave me alone was the perfect new rock track that showed Ayu’s attitude with strong lyrics about fake kindness. Marionette was a beatiful new ballad still holding some rock tints on the chorus that is a standout number. MY ALL was the other new happy song and with a similar sound to Replace, it’s definitely nice to her Ayu happy. The song is so sweet, it will make you cry. This album is really one of Ayu’s best and it sucks that it didn’t get the weekly number one spot on Oricon.

Well it should be very obvious that Suzuki Ami is talented. Two albums in the top 5 is no easy feat but then again, we can’t all be as talented as Suzuki Ami. Before she teamed up with Nakata exlusively, they albums4collaborated for only one single:  FREE FREE / SUPER MUSIC MAKER, which originally didn’t grab me but it really grew on me. She worked with various other artists to form the awesomeness that is our fourth place album winner, DOLCE. Two singles were released before the album: FREE / SUPER MUSIC MAKER and Potential Breakup Song.  Those three tracks alongside the B-side of the latter, feel the beat, really were some of DOLCE’s highlights. Some of the new tracks that stood out strongly were Bitter… (joining Studio Apartment), Stereo Love (joining Tomoe Shinahara) and アイノウタ (joining Rocketman). It’s actually nice to hear Ami’s voice without all the distortion (although she sounds better with it). The album had quite the diversity and definitely caught my ears with the various sounds. Even though some of the songs sounded kind of weak, it turned out to be a very cohesive package worthy of praise. However I still prefer Supreme Show so I’m hoping Ami will stay with Nakata because the two of them just make magic together.

albums5Spot number five may come as a surprise but this girl worked really hard and her efforts paid off big time. She said that each track was like revealing a new secret and it gives the listener that personal connection that makes it a little more special, which makes aiko’s 秘密, the fifth strongest album of the year. Two of the strongest tracks, シアワセ and 横顔, were released before the album and really popped on the album. However it was the new tracks that really made this album memorable. 星電話 is the best new track and the album’s best number overall as it shows off those wonderful aiko vocals with a laidback style that any listener can enjoy. Some of the other new enjoyable tracks are 秘密, キョウモハレand ウミウサギ. One thing that makes this album so strong is that aiko’s style comes across on each track, making it one of the most cohesive albums of the year. It’s one heck of an album and it’s definitely worth listening to if you haven’t heard it yet. Also, did I mention that the covers (particularly the one to the left) are absolutely gorgeous? Like seriously.

06. Morning Musume – Cover You

07. Leah Dizon – Communication!!!

08. ayaka – Sing to the Sky

09. Utada Hikaru – HEART STATION

10. Tohoshinki – T

11. Perfume – GAME

12. MEG – STEP

13. Aira Mitsuki – COPY

14. AZU – AS ONE

15. melody. – Lei Aloha

16. Berryz Koubou – 5 (FIVE)

17. Arashi – Dream”A”live

18. BoA – THE FACE

19. Kuraki Mai – ONE LIFE

20. EXILE – EXILE LOVE

21. Misia – EIGHTH WORLD

22. Ito Yuna – WISH

23. NEWS – color

24. capsule – More! More! More!

25. Shimatani Hitomi – Flare

26. Stephanie – Stephanie

27. KAT-TUN – QUEEN OF THE PIRATES

28. BIG BANG – Number 1

29. AAA – CHOICE IS YOURS

30. Tiana Xiao – desTiny

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[Part Four] Oricon Year Top Singles

December 9, 2008 at 5:10 pm (AAA, Aira Mitsuki, alan, Amuro Namie, Angela Aki, Aoyama Thelma, Arashi, ayaka, Berryz Koubou, BoA, BONNIE PINK, Buono!, C-ute, Crystal Kay, Fukui Mai, GIRL NEXT DOOR, Hamasaki Ayumi, Hey! Say! JUMP, Hirahara Ayaka, Ishida Yuko, Ito Yuna, Jyongri, KAT-TUN, Kawashima Ai, KinKi Kids, Kitahara Aiko, Kobukuro, Koda Kumi, Kuraki Mai, Leah Dizon, MEG, MilkyWay, Misia, Morning Musume, Nakashima Mika, NEWS, Otsuka Ai, Perfume, Shibasaki Kou, Shiraishi Kikyo, SMAP, Suzuki Ami, Tackey & Tsubasa, Takasugi Satomi, Tanimura Nana, Tegomasu, Tohoshinki, TOKIO, Utada Hikaru, V6) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

mnsb2

Well there have been a lot of singles out this year. Some of them have been amazing and have made me fall in love with certain artists while others made me feel very disappointed. Which single took the number one spot? How many Johnny’s singles and H!P singles made the countdown? You’ll have to continue to find out.

mnsb1Hey! Say! JUMP has definitely impressed me this year, much more than I thought they would. I can’t even describe just how great their music has been but I’ll try anyway. The group’s fourth single, 真夜中のシャドーボーイ, wins title of “Single of Oricon Year 2008.” If there is one thing that these guys know how to do it, it’s make an upbeat single that makes the listener take notice. 真夜中のシャドーボーイ uses Spanish and Arabian themes to push their instrumentation over everyone elses. Except for Kei, Keito and Ryutaro, everybody has a real turn to shine. Yamada, Daiki, Nakajima and Chinen all have this center role (Yamada having the actual center role) since this song was used to promote their new drama Scrap Teacher so it was nice to see different people getting the time to shine. Everything about the song was perfect. With the constant repetition of the word “チェリー,” the listener is taken to another world. These boys really pull off the mature sound strongly and Chinen’s voice sounds different on this song than the others ones. Daiki, Nakajima, Yabu and Takaki all sound great too. With the multitude of live performances the song has gotten, the guys have looked hot and they sing the song with such confidence. It’s an amazing single that reigns above all the others so they should be very proud to have “Single of the Year.”

It was very hard to choose a first place winner and this single was so close to taking the top spot. Second place though kumitaboocddvdis something to be proud of too though and the runner up for “Single of the Year” goes to Koda Kumi with TABOO. After the controversy, Kumi went for a more conservative approach with MOON. However there’s something magical about Kumi when she does the sexy thing. She exutes confidence and it really makes for an enjoyable time when you can get up and move with Kuu. TABOO is the sexy anthem of 2008 as Kumi provides smooth vocals that lay over the hot instrumental. The verses are what make this song so addictive, particularly the last lines when she sings “drive away.” Kumi uses a certain cleverness with these lyrics using various metaphors to describe secret love and they come across to the listener perfectly. Plus I’m sure this single has given many others faith that Kumi will always have that sexiness in her because people have been worried that it’s been declining. Always is a nice compliment to the A-side even though it’s pretty forgettable. TABOO is the hot dance track that Kumi delivered and is just too good to pass up. Even the PV for the song was perfect. They really made sure this would be a strong single from all angles. This song single-handedly has me assured that TRICK will not be an album to forget.

cantstopthediscocddvdThird place was also really close to nabbing that top spot. The moment I heard the title track, I was instantly addicted and I knew the album that would soon follow would be amazing. That is why third place goes to Suzuki Ami with can’t stop the DISCO. It’s no secret that Ami and Nakata make a dream team because every single they release together just shines. I loved ONE but the moment I heard can’t stop the DISCO, I fell in love with the team. I first heard the chorus when it was used for the Mister Donuts CM and couldn’t get enough of it. But then when I heard the verses…I was blown away.  Ami really pulls off the cool vibe here and she’s given me one of the most addictive lines of 2008: me to me no kakehiki (love tactics). I can’t get enough of this song and it’s definitely one of the highlights of Supreme Show. Even the B-sides were amazing: climb up to the top and SUPER MUSIC MAKER (SA’08S/A Mix) were extremely strong numbers that helpe make this one cohesive single from start to finish (and that includes having each song have perfect transition into the next).

In case it wasn’t clear already, Hey! Say! JUMP has put out some fantastic music this year. So does it really come as a yssurprise that they have two singles in the top 5 best singles of 2008? I didn’t think so. Hey! Say! JUMP takes fourth place as well for their 3rd single, Your Seed / 冒険ライダー. It was with this single that I officially became a fan of these guys. Your Seed is the first time they really brought a mature song and the difference from Dreams come true shocked me. Everyone sounded great on this song and the rap section is absolutely infectious. I still haven’t found out who is doing that but the first person that came to mind was Nakajima. Was it actually him? Probably not but ya never know. It’s hard to really put my love for this song into words so let’s just say everything about this song was perfect. Not one thing could have made it any better. 冒険ライダー also had a kind of mature sound while having that fun-loving breezy atmosphere that just makes you wanna smile. I particularly like the chorus when all the boys come together and harmonize so perfectly. Also Yabu shines on his few solo lines before the final chorus so good job to him. So it’s the single that made me a Hey! Say! JUMP fan and one of the best releases of the entire year! The boys are on fire!!!

singles5Johnny’s Entertainment was definitely on a roll at the beginning of the year. NEWS’s first single of the year, 太陽のナミダ, comes in fifth place of Single of the Year. The title track uses Spanish and Arabian influences to really make the instrumentation addictive. Everybody sounded great on the song and personally, Massu’s voice stood out a little more than everyone else’s. Nonetheless, everyone sounded fantastic and their vocals really were smooth over the instrumental. バンビーナ and Lady Spider were also amazing, really catching my ear. It was actually Lady Spider that made me a real fan of NEWS because it just really sparkled in my eyes. It’s so catchy and one that could have been an A-side. バンビーナ really shows the sexy side of the boys. The lyrics have that dirty edge to them and they might even make you blush. Tegoshi can friggin sing and if you had any doubts about it, listen to バンビーナ. They did a magnificent job on this single and it’s certainly not one to pass up. As an overall package, it’s their strongest single to date so give it a listen if you haven’t already and fall in love with these boys like I did.

Suzuki Ami and Nakata really are the dream team. can’t stop the DISCO was amazing as was this year’s 6th best single, amisuzukionecddvdONE. The moment I heard ONE, I was addicted and I began following Ami thereafter. The song features a more aggressive instrumental with some perfect vocals from Ami to give it that extra flavor. When the song first opens, we are treated to the best part of the entire song: キラキラの the one. This one line makes the song fantastic but the rest of the song nicely follows this section. The chorus also stands out with the English phrases like “I love music and this world” and “I love your smile.” It’s absolutely perfect in every way so it’s the perfect way to introduce the formal come together of Ami and Nakata. Originally the B-side, A token of love, did not really impress me but after giving it some time, I fell in love with it. A token of love also features that aggressive sound that supports Ami so perfectly. I really like that last line of the chorus, the title of the song, because she says it with such edge and sleekness that it sticks in your head. Plus that ending instrumental sequence is fantastic, really standing out to the listener. Overall, this is definitely one of the strongest singles of the year, without question. It shows Ami’s cool side and is the perfect product of the dream team.

singles7alan has had a smash year with her Element Project. Each single repesented one of the 5 Godai elements and the best one to emerge of the five: 空唄. The title track is a beautiful upbeat song in which alan claims she can fly away. I think because this is the real upbeat number chosen to be an A-side, it stands out from all the other singles she has released. It really portrays the element of the sky well and lets the listener believe what she is singing. If you want even more amazingness, then turn to the B-side, My Stage. This is definitely alan’s most cheery and infectious song because the instrumentation is so light and heavenly, prompting the listener to just smile while listening. Honestly, I think I would have preferred My Stage to be the A-side since it’s a real standout in alan’s discography. I hope that she’ll be doing a similar song to this on her album…whenever that will be coming out. It shows the versatility of alan as an artist and proves that she can do music closer to mainstream music while still having that special touch that only alan can bring.

Perfume also had a strong year, releasing various singles that showed Perfume’s quirky and fun nature. However they singles8really stood out when they released Baby cruising love / マカロニ. They’re really the best examples of electrpop ballads as the instrumentation is strong and the girls’ voices suit them perfectly. Baby cruising love was nice because it still had traces of that unforgettable Nakata aggressiveness. However the real star of the single and the reason it placed so high on this chart was because of マカロニ. It is the prime example of how to slow down an electropop song and still maintain the quality. There is such a relaxing and natural atmosphere about this song that when I listen to it, I can just smile and drift off into another world. And having an emotional connection with a song just makes it all the better, which is why this is Perume’s best song to date. It was released at the end of the winter and I can see that there are some wintery traces hidden in the instrumentation. I’m hoping that the girls will bring another strong song like this for their next album, which looks to be strong looking at the singles released thus far. Good lucks girls and I hope the future brings you luck!

24If you want the best winter song released this year then you definitely have to look at 24 Xmas Time by Kuraki Mai. I was blown away when I first heard the song because there is something so natural and fun about this song that I can’t help but love. The song kind of goes back to her older style with songs like Love, Day After Tomorrow, which is always a good thing because I adore that song. Okay, let’s be truthful, the song isn’t that wintery or Christmas-like but that’s okay because it’s just a fantastic song. The verses are what make it so addictive and those moments where the instrumentation changes to set up Mai for a strong line (such as my favorite line in the whole song which translates to “kyou mo, watashi wa sekushii.” The B-side was nice, although a little generic but it compliments the whole wintery theme of the single nicely. I can’t believe Mai put out such a great single after a few that were questionable. I’m already anticipating her new album, touch Me!, because of this one song.

I love Tanimura Nana. She’s talented; she’s fun and she’s ready to go! Her 10th single, If I’m not the one / SEXY singles10SENORITA, featured two different songs that show off two different sides to her. If I’m not the one is a very beautiful ballad with Nana lamenting that she needs to know if she can’t be her admired’s one and only. She really portrays her emotions strongly and it keeps the listener focused and sympathetic towards her. However the star song on this single is SEXY SENORITA, a fun song that shows off Nana’s sexy and playful side. Her vocals here are strong and the chorus stands out proudly. She portrays attitude and sass, which is perfect for making the listener believe her. I really like the English phrases such as “call me, call me” and “crazy crazy.” I’m still waiting for an album to be released from her since I know I’m going to love it but she’s going to school (she’s attending one of the most prestigious law schools in Japan so go Nana!) so I can’t blame her. I just want any piece of news of a new release soon and it better be an album. Congratulations Nana for being such a threat with your fourth single, If I’m not the one / SEXY SENORITA, which rounds out our top 10.

11. Misia – Catch The Rainbow [Digital Release]

12. Morning Musume – ペッパー警部

13. Leah Dizon – Love Paradox

14. C-ute – 江戸の手毬唄 II

15. alan – 風の手紙

16. Perfume – Dream Fighter

17. Tohoshinki – 呪文  -Mirotic-

18. Arashi – One Love

19. Morning Musume – リゾナント ブルー

20. Ito Yuna – miss you

21. Koda Kumi – anytime

22. Perfume – love the world

23. Tanimura Nana – JUNGLE DANCE

24. V6 – 蝶

25. Kinki Kids – Secret Code

26. NEWS – SUMMER TIME

27. Leah Dizon – Vanilla

28. Aira Mitsuki – チャイナ・ディスコティカ

29. Berryz Koubou – 行け 行け モンキーダンス

30. alan – 懐かしい未来 ~longing future~

31. MEG – HEART

32. AAA – MIRAGE

33. Ishida Yuko – Changes

34. Hey! Say! JUMP – Dreams come true

35. Tohoshinki – Runaway / My Girlfriend

36. Tohoshinki – If…?! / Rainy Night

37. Tohoshinki – Purple Line

38. Utada Hikaru – HEART STATION / Stay Gold

39. Tegomass – アイアイ傘

40. Takasugi Satomi – ありがとう

41. Ito Yuna – 恋は groovy x2

42. BONNIE PINK – Ring A Bell

43. Shiraishi Kikyo – again

44. Shiraishi Kikyo – BLACK

45. Shimatani Hitomi – 泣きたいなら

46. Hamasaki Ayumi – Mirrorcle World

47. ayaka x Kobukuro – あなたと

48. alan – RED CLIFF ~心・戦~

49. Amuro Namie – 60s70s80s

50. Berryz Koubou – MADAYADE

51. Nakashima Mika – ORION

52. Crystal Kay – 涙のさきに

53. Jyongri – Winter Love Story

54. C-ute – 涙の色

55. Kuraki Mai – 夢が咲く春 / You and Music and Dream

56. Arashi – Step and Go

57. Arashi – Beautiful days

58. V6 – LIGHT IN YOUR HEART / Swing!

59. AAA – MUSIC!!! / ZERO

60. Aoyama Thelma – 守りたいもの

61. Koda Kumi – MOON

62. NEWS – Happy Birthday

63. Kitahara Aiko – その笑顔よ 永遠に

64. Shibasaki Kou – よくある話~喪服の女編~

65. Milky Way –  タンタンターン!

66. Kuraki Mai – 一秒ごとに Love for you

67. C-ute – FOREVER LOVE

68. Otsuka Ai – クラゲ, 流れ星

69. Aira Mitsuki – ロボットハニー

70. ayaka – おかえり

71. Utada Hikaru – Prisoner of Love

72. Shimatani Hitomi – WAKE YOU UP / 雨の日には 雨の中を 風の日には 風の中を / Marvelous

73. Hirahara Ayaka – 孤独の向こう

74. Milky Way – アナタボシ

75. alan – 恵みの雨

76. BoA – be with you.

77. BoA – VIVID

78. Fukui Mai – アイのうた

79. V6 – VIBES

80. Hirahara Ayaka – さよなら 私の夏

81. EXILE – LAST CHRISTMAS

82. Tohoshinki – Close to you / Crazy Life

83. Nishino Kana – Style

84. Arashi – truth / 風の向こうへ

85. KAT-TUN – White Xmas

86. GIRL NEXT DOOR – Drive away / 幸福の条件

87. GIRL NEXT DOOR – 偶然の確率

88. TOKIO – 雨傘 / あきれるくらい 僕らは願おう

89. Tohoshinki – Beautiful you / 千年恋歌

90. SMAP – そのまま / White Message

91. Angela Aki – 手紙 ~拝啓 十五の君へ

92.Tackey & Tsubasa – 恋詩-コイウタ / PROGRESS

93. AAA – BEYOND~カラダノカナタ

94. Kawashima Ai – カケラ / Flag

95. SMAP – この瞬間, きっと夢じゃない

96. EXILE – The Birthday ~Ti Amo~

97. Buono! – ガチンコでいこう!

98. Berryz Koubou – ジンギスカン

99. Buono! – Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!

100. Buono! – ロッタラ ロッタラ 

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[Part Three] Artist Profiles

December 8, 2008 at 5:01 pm (AAA, aiko, Aira Mitsuki, Aladdin, Amuro Namie, Angela Aki, Aoyama Thelma, Arashiro Beni, ayaka, AZU, BIG BANG, BoA, BONNIE PINK, capsule, Crystal Kay, DOUBLE, Every Little Thing, EXILE, Hamasaki Ayumi, Ishida Yuko, Ito Yuna, Jyongri, Kobukuro, Koda Kumi, Kuraki Mai, Leah Dizon, MEG, melody., Mihimaru GT, Misia, misono, Miyavi, Nakashima Mika, Nishino Kana, Otsuka Ai, Perfume, Seamo, Shimatani Hitomi, Shimizu Shota, Shiraishi Kikyo, Stephanie, Suzuki Ami, Takasugi Satomi, Tanimura Nana, Tiana Xiao, Tohoshinki, Utada Hikaru, WaT) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

There have been so many artists this year that should be proud for putting out some fantastic music. From the boys to the girls, from the new artists to the veterans, they have made this Oricon Year one of strong music. Today, we’ll explore artists that have released this year (exluding those from Hello Project and Johnny’s Entertainment, who have already been covered).

suzukionecddvdLet’s start things off by covering one of my favorite genres, Japanese electropop. From Perfume to Aira Mitsuki to SAWA, there have been many different styles from electropop that stood out. But there is one producer who is the head of this genre: Nakata Yasutaka. And there is one person who reigns queen of J-Electropop 2008: Suzuki Ami. Nobody brought the heat like Ami. DOLCE was released at the beginning of the year and even though, it didn’t feature Nakata’s touch all over the album, FREE FREE and SUPER MUSIC MAKER were integral parts of that album. Then to commemorate her 10th anniversary, she continued to release. Both singles, ONE and can’t stop the DISCO, got me hooked on her. Even the B-sides,  A token of love and climb up to the top, were extremely impressive and it made me really anticipate Supreme Show. I was definitely not disappointed because tracks like TEN, Mysterious and TRUE are twinkling jewels of the Nakata and Ami team. She brought something new to the electropop scene: sexiness. Let’s face it, electropop is more on the cute and quriky side but it’s nice to see something new and that’s what Ami is. She has her own style that makes her stand out against the other girls of electropop. She did a fantastic job this year and definitely deserves high praise. Perfume, also produced by Nakata, impressed me this year. After releasing a fantastic single, Baby cruising love / マカロニ (マカロニ still holding the title as best electropop slow song), the girls came with GAME. It was a strong album featuring many impressive numbers such as Butterfly and シークレットシークレット which made me really take notice of them. However it was the following singles, which cemented me in fandom. Love the world and Dream Fighter were two excellent singles that really have me anticipating another album from them. They gamedefinitely bring that electropop flavor well. Aira Mitsuki also had some memorable tracks come through to make me a fan of hers. Swallowtail D.A.N.C.E. (Cherryboy Function Version), Beep Count Fantastic (featuring Terukado), チャイナ・ディスコティカ and Rock n’ Roll Is Dead are all addictive tracks and she has a habit of getting the best tracks with a focus on instrumentation rather than vocals. With these kind of tracks, it’s no wonder that she stands out in the electropop crowd. I know MEG isn’t the most popular product of Nakata’s work but she has gotten some standout songs like SUPERSONIC, MAKE LOVE and the amazingly fantastic NATALIE <FM 16 MIX.> That last song is one of my favorite electropop songs ever so it’s clear she can bring the magic. Although Nakata is the king producer of electropop, his group capsule wasn’t as strong as I was hoping for. There were some standout numbers on their new album, More! More! More! such as Phantom and e.d.i.t. but overall, they were definitely not the strongest electropop members. Electropop certainly stood out this year and with the growing popularity of Nakata, I look forward to seeing what he brings us in 2009 (particularly for Ami and Perfume).

kikyo_shiraishi1Let’s move onto J-Urban. The J-Urban scene has been pretty quiet this year with certain acts like EMYLI and m-flo not releasing anything but we did have some nice new songs. Newcomer, Shiraishi Kikyo, made waves with me. Both BLACK and again really hooked me because a new talented girl who was doing something upbeat with that sexy vibe was coming through. I thought she did a very good job and she should certainly be proud. Her third single was a little on the bland side but her fourth is already a step up. I’m not exactly sure why she’s changed to Nori Shiraishi but honestly, I think it’s kind of funny. I guess we’ll see what that does for her. Somehow, I still haven’t heard the full version of again and I don’t think a full PV was ever released (that’s nice guys…). I look foward to seeing what she’ll do in the future. DOUBLE stood out to me because she collaborated with superstar Amuro Namie for the sleek and catchy, BLACK DIAMOND. These two girls brought the heat on this new track and definitely set me up to see what she is going to do next. We also saw the Aoyama Thelma achieve massive success with second single, そばにいるね featuring Soulja (to my surprise and confusion). However it was her 4th single 守りたいもの (plus amazing B-side, MADONNA), which caught my attention. I know Thelma can make some very good songs but I’m hoping that her music will be more diverse in 2009 (how about some more upbeat numbers Thelma?). Crystal Kay had some enjoyable songs too as she released another album (Color Change!) and two singles (涙のさきに and ONE). 涙のさきに was pretty catchy and some of the songs on Color Change! were nice but I’m hoping next year, the music will be even better.

Now let’s talk about the boys of J-Pop (not including JE boys). It was obvious from the start that Tohoshinki would be tohothe real standout guys of the year. They’ve released so much material that it’s ridiculous. They’ve released a total of 9 singles and an album (also a Korean album) so they’ve been really busy. How did they reach such a high number of singles? The TRICK project. The song TRICK from their album T wsa a mashup of five different songs and so the group released those five seperate songs as singles and added their own solo number as well. Some went very well (If…?! / Rainy Night [Junsu] and Runaway / My Girlfriend [Yuchun]) while some fell flat (Two hearts / WILD SOUL [Changmin]). Overall though it was an enjoyable project. In addition to those 5 singles, four others were released: Purple Line, Beautiful you /千年恋歌‎‎,  どうして君を好きになってしまったんだろう? and 呪文 -Mirotic.- That last single was amazing as was Purple Line so the boys should be very proud. The other two were okay and could have been stronger but hey, they can’t all be hits. Their 3rd Japanese album, T, also featured some great songs like CLAP! and LAST ANGEL -Tohoshinki Version.- These boys did a fantastic job this year and I can only anticipate what they’ll pull next year. Their next single, Bolero, has already been announced for a January release. Jaejong and Yuhno also really caught my eye because they were absolutely sexy during the Mirotic promotional time. It was…wow. Just look at the Mirotic and Wrong Number PVs. Another group of guys who stood out this year was EXILE, who released quite a bit themselves: three singles, three BEST albums and one studio album (released at the very end of 2007 but  believe it is counted in Oricon Year 2008). The singles weren’t as great as I hoped for but the album material was enjoyable from EXILE LOVE. The one amazing jaestandout track was Make Love, a hot and sexy number that really shows the boys’ mature side strongly. Atsushi has some wonderful vocals so I’m happy that he’s been given the chance to shine. Newcomer Shimizu Shota also made waves with me as he was a fresh new face with some great vocals (i.e. HOME). He released an album and even though I haven’t gotten a chance to listen to it, I will do so soon. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s good looking. BIG BANG was quite active this year, releasing in both Korea and Japan. G-Dragon has become one of my favorites because there’s something about his voice that really catches my ear. WaT released two singles this year and they were okay, nothing that really made me go wow but I still think they have some nice voices and hopefully the music will be stronger in the future. Although Kobukuro have not been very active this year, they did release the single あなたと with ayaka, which really stood out to me. I look forward to seeing more material from these guys in the future. In the world of J-Rock, Miyavi and Gackt did some releasing although Gackt wasn’t particularly impressive this year in terms of music (but he did look hot). Miyavi was a little better, releasing his album This Iz The Japanese Kabuki Rock. His voice is nice though so maybe he’ll do something stronger in the future. Seamo also caught my eye even though his singles were a little bit iffy. Again, he released an album that I haven’t listened to yet but I do want to hear it soon. So overall, the boys had some nice music (particularly Tohoshinki) and I hope next year it will be even better (because let’s face it, Johnny’s Entertainment music was a lot better than the other guys’ music).

kingdom1Now we go to the four female artists who I call my Fabulous Four: Koda Kumi, Amuro Namie, Utada Hikaru and Hamasaki Ayumi. There is absolutely nobody like Kuu. She’s fun; she’s free and she’s one of a kind. Kingdom was a fantastic album, filled with everything from sorrow to cuteness to sexy and it really showed how strong of an artist she is. Unfortunately, she made a comment about women’s rotting amniotic fluids which caused an extreme backlash. Contracts were cancelled and promotion for Kingdom was cancelled. Personally, I think the public over-reacted to the comment and it was totally undeserved for Kumi to go through all of that. But she continued to release in June with MOON, then TABOO. TABOO was just the song that make the public go Kumi crazy because it’s a return to her fun sexy dance side that we all love. stay with me will be released in a couple weeks (which will be counted on Oricon Year 2009 so I will not talk about that). I think she’s done a great job this year and I think next year will be even better. TRICK will be amazing and I know that from the bottom of my heart. Amuro Namie has had one hell of a year and everyone knows it. BEST FICTION was a smash hit, managing to almost take the crown of best selling album of Oricon Year 2008. Sadly it did not reach it but it’s okay because it was a million seller and it managed to stay at the number 1 spot for various weeks. Sexy Girl and Do Me More were amazing new tracks that made BEST FICTION worth checking out. She also released the hit single 60s70s80s, which achieved great sales, managing to outsell a slew of her previous ones. WHAT A FEELING was the star track on that single and it’s another one of Namie’s awesome tracks. I hope we’ll be getting some new material in 2009 but Namie deserves a nice long break so I hope she gets it. Utada Hikaru also had an amazing year seeing as HEART STATION is nearing the million mark and has outsold her previous album, ULTRA BLUE. There were some amazing new tracks on there like 虹色バス and Fight The Blues. The singleswere strong as well, which made me one of the most cohesive albums of 2008. Hamasaki Ayumi had a pretty good year herself even though she didn’t get wonderful sales. In fact, GUILTY became donther first album to not hit the number one spot…ever. Nonetheless, the album was good featuring tracks like (don’t)Leave me alone, Marionette and MY ALL. Well this was Ayu’s 10th anniversary so I was hoping she’d release a little more but what we got was Mirrorcle World and another BEST album. Her new single is set to be released very soon but it will count towards Oricon Year 2009. I wonder when we’ll be getting her new album but hopefully there will be a few more singles before that. Of course, she’s had her troubles during the year too. She officially announced that she is deaf in one ear; she broke up with her boyfriend who she has been seeing for a while and her friend passed away. You know, Ayu is a fighter and it’s one of the reasons why I respect her so much. I hope she has many years of happiness to look forward to.

So let’s move onto the female veterans of J-Pop. Well the term “veterans” can be disputed but I’m coining the girls that have been a while as “veterans.” Which veteran knocked it out of the park this year? Well that’s none other than aiko. 秘密 was one of the strongest albums of the year with many wonderful tracks that showed off aiko’s laidback and relaxing style. She also released KissHug, which was used as an insert song for the Hana Yori Dango movie. It didn’t aikoget the sales it deserved but I’m hoping she’ll have even more success in the future because her music is that good. Her talent is undeniable and that’s why she is “Veteran of the Year.” Kuraki Mai is incredible and if you want proof of that, just look at 24 Xmas Time. That was a fantastic wintery song that reached back to her old style. She released ONE LIFE, an album with some standout tracks such as ONE LIFE and Born to be free. She also released the following singles: 夢が咲く春 / You and Music and Dream as well as 一秒ごとに Love for you. They may not have been the strongest singles she’s released but they were actually pretty catchy. Mai will be releasing yet another album, entitled touch Me! in January so I can’t wait to see what she brings. Misia was another veteran who stood out this year. EIGHTH WORLD was a pretty good songs like 以心伝心 and Hybrid Breaks -Interlude.- She released various singles but none so addictive as digital release, Catch The Rainbow. It’s an absolutely fantastic track that will be seeing a physical release soon. Misia, good job this year for your 10th anniversary and I can’t wait to see what awaits us in 2009! BoA is definitely a force to be reckoned with. THE FACE was released early in the year and featured some new standout tracks like Girl In The Mirror, Style and AGGRESSIVE. Although it wasn’t as strong as her previous albums. She then released VIVID, which also was not up to BoA’s usual standards. However what makes her so strong is that she always tries new things. She’s mainow started her American career with the release of the hot single, Eat You Up. Her new song, Look Who’s Talking is even better and it makes me highly anticipate her debut album. Otsuka Ai did some nice releases as well. Even though ロケット スニーカー / One × Time was very forgettable (it ended up being the lowest selling single of her career for a reason), クラゲ, 流れ星 was a step up and already she’s set to release her 5th studio album, LOVE LETTER. It looks to be better than LOVE PIECE but I guess we’ll see when hits stores very very soon. Even though BONNIE PINK was largely inactive this year, she did stand out with the digital release of Ring A Bell and then physical release of its Japanese counterpart 鐘を鳴らして. Both songs were good (the English being the stronger version) and BONNIE should be proud of her accomplishments. I’m hoping she’ll put out an album next year because it feels like forever since Thinking Out Loud was released. Finally we come to Shimatani Hitomi, who could’ve been better. Her new album Flare did not live up to the hotness of its name but I’m hoping that next year, she will pull out the stops for her 10th anniversary.

Now we’ll talk about the newbies. These girls are still relatively new to the music scene but some of them have definitely taken no time in standing out from the crowd. Tanimura Nana has given us some fantastic music. Who could forget the incredibly addictive SEXY SENORITA or the smooth and sultry Ooh… or the catchy upbeat number nana3Place of Love? She’s taking on the sexy image just right and with each release, she gets better and better. I’m really looking forward to her debut album and I hope that it will be coming soon because I can’t wait any longer. Actually any new release from her will be welcome. It’s been a while. ayaka released her sophomore album, Sing to the Sky, early in the year and it was a huge step up from First Message. Songs like 愛も嘘も真実, ゴールドスター and POWER OF MUSIC really made a fan of hers. Her voice is incredible so it’s no wonder that the album shined like it did. ayaka definitely has the power to make it big so I wish her all the success in the world. In addition to an awesome album, she collaborated with Kobukuro again for あなたと, a beautiful ballad that blows their last single out of the water. She’s had a great year and definitely will be shining even more brightly in 2009. Leah Dizon certainly had an eventful year. She released two singles, her sophomore album, got married and is expecting a child in 2009. Love Paradox was her strongest single to date and Vanilla (LOVE SWEET CANDY included) was another memorable single from her. Communication!!! was also a pretty good album with great album tracks like Nothin’ to Lose, Step into my World and BxKxRxxx. I was very surprised to see that she was pregnant but I’m happy that she has found somebody and I wish them all the happiness together. I also wish they have a happy and healthy baby and she will be back better than ever next year, ready to show Japan just how strong of an artist she is. Ito Yuna has really impressed me this year, particularly with miss you and 恋は groovy x2. BREEEEEZIN!!!!!!! (the B-side of miss you) is her best song to date and one that definitely cemented my fandom. WISH wasn’t a bad album either, featuring some memorable songs like Power of Love. Hopefully her next album will be even better, shining strongly for all the fans. Even Jyongri had her time to shine with Winter Love Story, her newest single. All the songs on the single convinced me of Jyongri’s power. Her album may have been pretty weak but it looks like she’ll be on the path for strength. One other newcomer that caught my eye was Ishida Yuko with her wonderful new single Changes, which featured an addictive title track, I’ll be sure to look out for her in the future. She has a cool image and a great voice, worthy of celebration. AZU has had her time to shine as well with standout numbers like VIOLIN. She has the voice and talent to make it far so I hope she has more succes in 2009.  Other newcomers like Tiana Xiao, Nishino Kana and Takasugi Satomi have had some nice releases and even though they were not particularly engaging, I look forward to what they will do next year. Even Stephanie had some songs here and there.

Let’s go onto the girls who are neither veterans nor newbies. melody. has also done some nice work this year with the release of the beautiful andaaa calming Lei Aloha. The songs on that album really formed a cohesive one that emerged as one of the standouts of the year. I’m very sad to have heard the news that she will be retiring to focus on the fashion industry. I guess if she had to leave, I’m glad she left with a bang. Arashiro Beni has experienced some popularity this year with her collaboration with Dohzi-T. She also released three new songs for her BEST album, switched labels and starrred in a movie so she’s been quite busy. Mellow Parade was fantastic and hopefully she’ll do another song like this in the future. She has recently changed her name to BENI so I guess we’ll see how that goes for her. Other girls like Angela Aki, Nakashima Mika and misono have had their releases this year and it’s Mika who really impressed me with her most recent single, ORION. The B-side, FOCUS, stood out to me strongly and I have really got to listen to her new album.

Finally, we come to the groups which feature members of both sexes. To be honest, they haven’t been very impressive with the exception of one group: AAA. MIRAGE was absolutely addictive, featuring some Arabian sounds to push the track over the edge. Everyone sounded great on the track and it was really one to remember. Following a very unforgettable single, they released MUSIC!!! / ZERO. ZERO was wonderful, showing a dark atmosphere that the group really shined with. Other groups mihimaru GT, Aladdin and Every Little Thing failed to impress but hopefully they’ll step it up next year.

This year, some artists stepped up and some artists took a step back. But there are a lot of artists who should be proud for releasing such quality music. There is still one artist left though, an artist who will be crowned “Artist of the Year.” He/She will be announced in part 7 (the final part) of the Oricon Year 2008 Countdown.

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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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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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AAA – BEYOND~カラダノカナタ [18th Single]

June 5, 2008 at 9:38 pm (AAA) (, )

AAA’s 18th single, entitled BEYOND~カラダノカナタ, was released on 05.28.08.

BEYOND~カラダノカナタ is uptempo song with slight pop-rock influences. The song begins with a slightly rock-influenced uptempo instrumentation before going into the first verse. The vocals sound a little shaky and don’t capture the energy as powerfully as hoped. The chorus is kind of boring as it mostly features the holding of a note and the vocals aren’t powerful enough to really handle that. The pure instrumentation section was nice but nothing particularly noteworthy. Overall the song was not impressive and could have been a lot more powerful.

The B-side to the single is One Night Animal. The song begins with a nice uptempo beat that has a certain relaxing element to it. The opening features vocals that are partly said regularly while some are distorted. The vocals during the verse much more at home with the group and thus sounds a lot better. The chorus is really enjoyable and features the group performing some cool and slick vocals. The pure instrumental section is actually pretty cool and makes a good segue into the rap section. The rap is a nice touch as it contributes to the overall fun and cool atmosphere. One Night Animal is a much better song than the A-side and the two tracks should have been switched in terms of promotion.

In order to promote the single, A PV for BEYOND~カラダノカナタ.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t very good. The video featured primarily dancing and running scenes that take inspiration from the covers. Overall the PV was forgettable.

Single Ranking: B –

AAAs 18th single features two tracks and the title track was pretty disappointing after the spectacular MIRAGE. The B-side, One Night Animal, was what saved the single for me. Hopefully the next release will feature a stronger A-side

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