Aira Mitsuki – PLASTIC [2nd Studio Album]

July 22, 2009 at 7:58 pm (Aira Mitsuki) (, )

PLASTIC

Aira Mitsuki’s 2nd studio album, entitled PLASTIC, was released on 07.22.09. The singles released before the album are as follows: ロボットハニー, サヨナラ TECHNOPLOIS and BARBiE BARBiE.

ロボットハニー is the album’s opening track. The song begins with an intersting instrumental that feels like the listener is being taken into an alternate world. Over time, the aggression comes and makes it shine even more. On the verses, there is a more calming atmosphere although the music retains its coolness. Aira’s vocals sound great here, really suiting the music very well. There’s just a happiness that comes through the chorus, which makes it really stand out. It’s sweet and it’s fun, which makes it a good opener for PLASTIC.

Aira teams up with AYUZE KOZUE for Summeeeeeeeer Set. Opening the song is a fun and upbeat instrumental that is insantly ear-catching. Then Aira comes in and there’s such a sweetness in her vocals that bring out the atmosphere more strongly. AYUZE also sounds good at her parts, supporting Aira very well. On the chorus, both girls sound great and each add to the overall strength of the song. It’s a very enjoyable song and one that works very well with the season.

ニーハイガール, a B-side released before the album, is up next. The song starts off with a really cool twinkling instrumental that is very ear-catching and then Aira’s distorted vocals come in and it’s pretty hard to undestand what she is saying. The whispered vocals in the background is a nice touch and add a sort of creepiness to the song. It’s a pretty repetitive song so it gets to be old rather quickly.

Aira and Terukado come together again, this time for BAD trip. The song begins with a really cool and aggressive instrumental that definitely piques the interest of the listener. Having the background vocals by Aira spices things up a little and then the first verse comes in. Much like Beep Count Fantastic from the last album, the focus is on the instrumentation and what an amazing team the two of them make with tracks like these. It may not be as catchy as Beep Count Fantastic but it has the same instant addictive quality.

CHANGE MY WILL gets the energy up in a fantastic way. The song starts off with such a cool and almost sloppy instrumental except it’s done so perfectly that it doesn’t sound bad. Aira’s vocals perfectly fit the music when she comes in and makes things even better. Following, the instrumentation becomes truly aggressive and keeps the listeners on their their toes. The chorus sounds awesome when she sings the title of the song and the higher pitch of her voice in contrast to the low and aggressive instrumental is a dangerous combination. The pure instrumental section is awesome because it takes things in such an interesting and slightly different direction. For its purely aggressive instrumentation and overall cool feel, CHANGE MY WILL is definitely a gem on this album.

The sixth track on the album is the interesting and sleek HIGH SD スニーカー.  A soft and cool instrumental, giving the listener a dreamy and spacey feeling. Here, Aika’s vocals sound great and catch the ear very easily. Then a twist arrives and the instrumentation becomes aggressive and addictive, really having a different feel from the opening instrumental. Then Aira’s vocals are heavily distorted so that it’s near impossible to decipher what she is saying. This stood out proudly on the サヨナラ TECHNOPOLIS single and it shines here as well.

Another B-side from the same single, distant STARS, follows. The song begins with a very soft and pretty instrumental with Aira’s vocals filled with emotion and strength. The choice to center on the piano was a nice one since it changes things up from the usual instrumentation. It’s nice to see Aira slow things down and with this song, she did quite a good job.

プラスティックドール was the song used to promote the album as it got a PV and from the moment the song opens, it’s easy to see why. A really dreamy and spacey instrumental opens the song, taking the listener to another world and then the aggressive nature works its way in. On the first verse, Aira’s vocals sound so smooth and perfectly matching the instrumentation that the listener can’t help but fall in love. The chorus sounds great as the instrumentation becomes just the slightest more aggressive and Aira’s vocals become stronger. It’s insanely catchy and leaves a fantastic impression. The pure instrumental section features some very distorted words from Aira in the background before transitioning back into the dreamy chorus. It’s one of Aira’s best songs and definitely is one of the most memorable songs on the album.

Now comes the addictive song, サプリ. The song begins with a fantastic instrumental that has kind of an old school feel to it. Then comes the first verse and Aira’s vocals sound great, really fitting with the cool and catchy music. One small part that really stands out is that key change before the chorus. Somehow it makes all the difference and leaves the listener wanting more. There is a kind of cuteness on the chorus, which actually works really well and leaves the listener wanting more. It’s also to hear a key change in the last chorus, which makes it all the more memorable. It’s definitely one of the strongest songs on the album.

Kuchiroro joins Aira for 夏飴. A jazzy sort of instrumental starts things off and it’s definitely surpsising since it differs frmo the usual instrumentation. Aira sounds good here and her vocals really suit the music. Then the instrumentation takes on a more familiar dreamy style that sounds great. Kuchiroro sounds okay although he isn’t the strongest addition to the song. His rap section is also pretty weak in addition to being cheesy. It’s not the best song since the instrumentation is a little dull and Kuchiroro does nothing for the song.

The final collaboration of the album is with Shigeo on Time is. Really cool sounds begin the song and give the image of lights turning on one by one in the darkness. The song goes on the instrumentation becomes present as well as the beat, gradually gaining more attention from the listener as the anticipation builds up. Over after a minute of pure instrumentation, Aira comes in and her vocals really suit the atmosphere of the song. It sounds really cool when she sings “time is up.”  It’s definitely one of the coolest songs on the album and is a good balance between focusing on the music and on the vocals.

The twelfth track on the album is the impressively catchy サヨナラ TECHNOPOLIS, centering around the theme of the end of the world. The song kicks off with part of the chorus, in which Aira sings English phrases like “plastic babe” and “the end dance,” which really catch the ear. However the catchiest part of the song are the songs. Aira’s vocals have such a coolness that cannot be ignored and melt over the instrumentation addictively. Then Aira repeats the title of the song, making for a good entrance to the chorus. Overall, this is one of the strongest songs on the album and leaves the listener wanting more.

BARBiE BARBiE is the album’s semifinale. Starting off the song is a cool summery sort of instrumental which actually sounds pretty cool. Then comes part of the chorus and Aira’s vocals sound very nice here over the cheerful instrumental. Overall, the structure and sound of the song is similar to that of ロボットハニー. The vocals feature lyrics delivered with rapidity which is nice although the interest isn’t as high as it could be. While it’s a nice song, it’s similarities to its predecesor prove to be a little annoying.

Re:† serves as the album closer. That opening instrumental is aggressive and almost scary, really grabbing the listener’s attention at first listen. The background vocals add to the creepiness of the song and keep things going at a good pace. As the song goes, it makes instrumental twists and turns, which keeps the listener’s interest perfectly. The only problem with the song is that it’s too long. Otherwise, it’s a very enjoyable song and a good way to finish off PLASTIC.

Album Ranking: A –

PLASTIC is a very solid collection of songs that show how Aira has grown from her last album. From the aggressiveness of BAD trip and CHANGE MY WILL to the dreaminess of プラスティックドール to the fun dance feel of サプリ, Terukado and Aira definitely make a dream team. It’s a bit strange to not have COSMiC CHOP on the album with the other two B-sides from the same single making appearances, especially since it’s one of her strongest songs to date. Nonetheless, PLASTIC does a great job of bringing together strong album tracks and memorable single ones for a cohesive collection of songs.

5 Most Memorable Songs: プラスティックドール / サプリ / BAD trip / CHANGE MY WILL / サヨナラ TECHNOPOLIS

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Aira Mitsuki – プラスティックドール [PV Review]

July 2, 2009 at 2:29 am (Aira Mitsuki) (, )

Plastic Doll Promo

In order to promote Aira Mitsuki’s upcoming album, PLASTIC, a PV for プラスティックドール was made. PLASTIC will be released on 07.22.09. The song itself will be reviewed alongside the rest of the album when it is released.

The プラスティックドール PV features an actual storyline, perhaps a first for Aira. The plastic doll is seen running through town and slowly, loses his limbs one by one. As he loses the limb, it magically vanishes and Aira’s limb becomes plastic. The video goes on until the actual plastic doll breaks and Aira becomes a doll completely. The song itself has such a fantasy feel to it and this little storyline really suits the video perfectly. Other scenes include close-up shots and shots of Aira playing the drums. This was a great way to promote PLASTIC and the song definitely does that as well, leaving the listener wanting to hear the rest of the album.

PV Ranking: A

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Aira Mitsuki – BARBiE BARBiE [5th Single]

May 20, 2009 at 7:23 pm (Aira Mitsuki) (, )

AiraBarbie

Aira Mitsuki’s 5th single, entitled BARBiE BARBiE, was released on 05.20.09.

BARBiE BARBiE is a sweet song that carries happiness. The song opens up with an instrumental that takes the listener to another world but once the actual music comes in, it bears a similiarity some of her older songs so it feels “done before.” On the verses, she sings some of the words quickly so that is a nice pace but overall it’s not very interesting. It’s not a particularly interesting song but it’s all right for what it is.

AiraBarbieBarbieThe single’s first B-side is the addictive number, CHANGE MY WILL. The song starts off with a really crazy and cool instrumental that will immediately attract the attention of the listener. Then Aira comes in and her vocals give a really sleek touch the song before the song goes into hyper aggressive mode. Even if the music kind of takes the spotlight from Aira at some points, it’s okay because it’s that good. On the chorus, Aira takes control back with higher pitched vocals and these go along with the music as well just because of the crazy coolness of the entire track. Honestly, the whole song sounds kind of messy but strangely, that’s where its charm lies. It’s what make it so interesting and addictive so this song should have been the A-side since it’s much more interesting than BARBiE BARBiE.

Up next is Freedom Star. The song begins with some great drums and the song moves into a cuter feel with the chorus. Aira sounds very sweet here and the music definitely establishes an atmosphere that hits the listener at first listen. It sounds nice but it could be a little stronger. Luckily that missing piece comes on the verses where there is a kind of video-game feeling because of the emptiness of the music. It’s as if they chose to only use the most basic elements here and that’s what grabs the listener and puts Aira in the forefront. There is a part right before the chorus where the music changes and even though it’s only momentary, it stands out quite nicely. Freedom Star is a nice song and although it is not as memorable as CHANGE MY WILL, it fits on the single.

In order to promote the single, a PV for BARBiE BARBiE was made. Aira’s videos tend to be very colorful and kind of weird and the BARBiE BARBiE PV is no different. From the opening scene of Aira looking like a marionette, I’m assuming that she is playing the doll figure of BARBiE and the rest of the video shows her enjoying town. Basically, the colors are what are interesting but that’s really it.

Single Ranking: B +

This single is definitely is not as strong as サヨナラ Technopolis but it’s not bad either. CHANGE MY WILL is easily the most interesting number on the single and should have promoted as the A-side. Freedom Star has its catchy moments while BARBiE BARBiE is actually the least interesting song. Nonetheless, Aira did bring some goodness to the single and hopefully her album will have some more aggressive stuff in the vein of CHANGE MY WILL.

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Aira Mitsuki – サヨナラ Technopolis [4th Single]

January 17, 2009 at 11:56 pm (Aira Mitsuki) (, )

sayonara-technopolis

Aira Mitsuki’s 4th single, entitled サヨナラ Technopolis, was released on 01.21.09. The idea for the song came from Aira’s disappointment about the condition of our planet due to global warming and what not so the the title track emerged as a song from that idea. Aira also bought some land on the moon, as seen in the single’s cover.

サヨナラ Technopolis is one of Aira’s most addictive songs to date, featuring a very cool atmosphere that the listener can get hooked on. The song begins with the hook, featuring some English phrases such as “plastic baby” and “technology, my world,” which catch the listener’s ear before we brought into the amazing first verse. On the verses, Aira does a sort of combination of singing and rapping, which make the verses the best part of the entire song. Her voice sounds so cool here and the almost robotic element to it just suits the music so well. The chorus is really simple, just featuring Aira repeatedly singing the title of the song. Although the pronounciation is a little iffy so it’s hard to really catch all the syllables, she sounds great. サヨナラ Technopolis is one addictive electropop song, which keeps the listener addicted from beginning to end.

HIGH HD スニーカー is the single’s first B-side and is a very interesting number. The song begins with a soft and starry atmosphere as Aira sings over a pretty and sweet instrumental, coming close to a ballad sound. It’s very comforting and suddenly, the song switches gears and takes on a cool and aggressive tone. The vocals are distorted and it even sounds like other people are singing on the track at some points but it actually adds to the song’s uniqueness and coolness. In the middle of the song, it seems like it’s coming to an end as we can hear static fading but that is only to fool the listener as the highly aggressive music comes back in and stirs things up again. HIGH HD スニーカー is definitely a song to be remembered and a strong compliment to the A-side.

The second B-side is COSMiC CHOPPER, an absolutely fantastic electropop dance number. Opening the song is an addictive electropop dance instrumental that will have the listener falling in love with the song’s sound. Then Aira comes on for the first verse and there is a soft and mellow feeling to it that sounds great, complimenting Aira’s very pretty vocals. On the chorus, there are various English phrases which pop nicely and it’s during this part of the song that it has a sort of electronic disco feeling to it. However it’s the moments of pure instrumentation that really come through shining because they just sound so cool and addictive.

distant STARS closes off the single. The song begins with a very slow and soft instrumentation that somehow gives off the feeling of being home. At first, her vocals are very distorted and after what feels like a switch being turned, the distortion turns off and we get to see Aira’s real vocals. distant STARS is a pretty simple song but somehow, it works and is a nice balance to the other more upbeat numbers on the single.

In order to promote the single, a PV for サヨナラ Technopolis was made. The video continues to trend of Aira’s fun and colorful videos although this one gets strays a little away from all the animated stuff just because it features a scene of Aira walking in a dark building. Even though you can’t see her face, it comes across as the best part of the entire video. Don’t misunderstand it though because the video is mostly animated stuff but it’s nice to see Aira without them.

Single Ranking: A

Aira Mitsuki definitely stepped up her game with this single. サヨナラ Technopolis is probably her strongest A-side to date and the B-sides really compliment it. COSMiC CHOPPER is absolutely addictive and could have served as the A-side. HIGH HD スニーカー and distant STARS are also great tracks worth checking out. It’s really a single everyone should check out since it shows the true power of Aira.

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Aira Mitsuki – Valentine Step [Limited Single – HMV]

January 17, 2009 at 11:55 pm (Aira Mitsuki) (, )

vs

Aira Mitsuki’s limited single, Valentine Step, was released on 01.21.09. The single was limited to a certain amount of copies and was only sold in HMV stores.

Valentine Step is a fun upbeat track. The song starts off with the first verse and Aira’s vocals go really nicely with the upbeat and relaxing more poppy instrumental. On the chorus, there is a slight instrumental change that somehow makes all the difference. Her vocals are on point and the listener really catches the different layers of instrumentation here. There is then a section of great distorted vocals, which actually go well with the overall atmosphere of the song. Valentine Step is certainly a song to look out for just for its catchiness alone.

Single Ranking: B +

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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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Aira Mitsuki – ロボットハニー [4th Single]

October 31, 2008 at 5:01 pm (Aira Mitsuki) (, )

Aira Mitsuki’s 4th single, entitled ロボットハニー, was released on 10.29.08.

ロボットハニー is a sweet and cute electropop number. The song starts off with a very enjoyable cute instrumental with a few lines sung. On the verses, the music tones it down a little bit so that the focus can be on her voice. The distortion really works on her voice here to make it support the music so strongly. Unfortunately the chorus isn’t very memorable as the transition from the verse to the chorus is so slick that it just may go un-noticed the first time. Her vocals are nice but the music doesn’t really stand out so mcuh during the chorus. The small pure instrumental section on the other hand does stand out as there some slightly more aggressive moments to the music. Overall the song could have been better but it does have its catchy moments the listener can hold onto.

The first B-side, ニーハイガール, is a song that focuses on the music. Opening the song is quite powerful instrumentation that immediately catches the listener’s ear and once she begins singing, there is such a distortion on her vocals that it’s hard to hear what she’s saying. There also seems to be some croaking that might supposed to be whispering but it sounds pretty weird. This song takes the approach of certain electropop songs with the focus on the music rather than the chorus but it isn’t as successful as some of the other attempts.

Things slow down for the second B-side, Every night heartfull music song. This song comes into the rankings of the slow and sweet electropop songs like Macaroni by Perfume. The tempo is succesfully slowed down in order to make an addictively pretty song. Aira’s vocals really work in the context of this song as there is almost a dreamy quality to them that keep the listener lulled.

SAZAE FUNKADELIC finishes off the single on a stong note as the instrumentation is out of this world and the listener takes a ride with Aira throughout that world. Her vocals are very enjoyable here and the instrumentation is pretty aggressive, which always makes for a hot Aira song. SAZAE FUNKADELIC is a very memorable song and a great addition to this single.

In order to promote the single, a PV for ロボットハニー was made. Unfortunately, the video is extremely bad as it just features Aira in a fake world with a really ugly creature dancing next to her. It’s just not an enjoyable video and a lot more effort should have been put into it.

Single Ranking: A –

Strangely enough, the B-sides are stronger than the A-side. Both Every night hearfull music song and SAZAE FUNKADELIC are fantastic songs worth listening to. They could have served as the single’s A-sides and it would have made the single even better.

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Aira Mitsuki – COPY [Debut Studio Album]

September 6, 2008 at 11:54 pm (Aira Mitsuki) (, )

Aira Mitsuki’s debut album, entitled COPY, was released on 09.03.08. Three singles were released before the album: カラフル・トーキョーサウンズ NO. 9, チャイナ・ディスコティカ and Darling Wondering Staring / STAR FRUITS SURF RIDER

GALAXY BOY serves as the album’s opening track. The song starts off with a really cool space-like electropop instrumental with Aira singing along to make the listener really take notice. After some pure instrumentation, the first verse and there is a hollowness about the music so that the focus is on her voice. The transition from the verse into the chorus is a little hard to follow at first but once the chorus becomes clear, it is very catchy. The strongest element of this song is the spacey instrumentation that makes for a perfect introductory track of this album.

Up next is チャイナ・ディスコティカ, which was released as a single before the album. The song takes off immediately with the chorus; Aira sings “plastic fantastic” which is immediately ear-catching over a light instrumentation. Soon there is an aggressive element that comes through the electropop music, allowing for a smooth transition into the first verse. Her voice sounds great here, perfectly matching the sleekness of the music. During the pure instrumental section, there is a real interesting sound as it begins a little spacey and the distorted sounds provide the listener with a cool change of pace. The following chorus is heavily distorted, which actually works in the song’s favor in that it is very catchy.

Another song released as a single, カラフル・トーキョーサウンズ NO. 9, is the album’s third number. Opening the song is the chorus with a fantatic electropop that washes over the listener while being soothed by Aira’s voice. On the verses, there is more of a relaxed feeling as opposed to the chorus, which features some more powerful vocals that break the music and catch the listener. Overall it’s a nice song and it’s actually the verses which capture the listener rather than the chorus.

Darling Wondering Staring, another single song, is next. The song begins with a very sweet spacey instrumental that is a nice change of pace from the previous songs. She sings in English alongside an instrumental that is not very capturing at all. The chorus doesn’t pick things up so unfortunately the listener just continues through the song without having a particularly catchy part. It’s not a very good song and would have been better being left off the album.

Following a streak of singles is a new song, HEART LINE ALIVE. A nice instrumentation opens the song but once again, the listener doesn’t become enamored with the electropop sound. The song is just a little too slow and thus, the listener loses interest rather quickly. There isn’t any savory pure instrumentation sequence and it certainly doesn’t help that the song clocks in at over five minutes.

There is absolutely no need for チャイナ・ディスコティカ (Substance Remix) to be on this album as it was actually released on the second single. There definitely should have been a new track here instead of a remix. There is no reason for this song to be here.

The next song, ファンタジー・キャンディー, manages to pick up the listener’s interest level a bit. The song begins with the chorus as she sings the lyrics with a rapidity over a nice electropop instrumental. Just for having a poppier and upbeat sound, Aira manages to sound more comfortable and the listener can successfully follow. Per usual, the moments of pure instrumentation are heaven in that they hold a slightly different sound than the ones that run through the verses and chorus, allowing for a change of pace. It’s a nice song that is worth checking out.

ハイバッシュ (YOKENOHARA ver.) is the album’s eighth song. Sadly, this song is another song that drags on without really catching the listener’s ear. The vocals move with the music nicely but because the music isn’t very intereting, it doesn’t do the song any good.

Swallowtail D.A.N.C.E. (Cherryboy function ver.) finally takes a turn in the right direction. The electropop instrumental features both light and aggressive moments so that the listener never falls out of love with the music. It takes quite a while for Aira to actually come in and sing and when she does, there is a robotic element to her distorted voice that matches the music perfectly. Overall, this is one of the album’s better songs and definitely one that shines through the streak of uninteresting numbers.

Aira teams up with Terukado on Beep Count Fantastic. The song begins with an aggressive electronic instrumental that sounds fantastic. The opening instrumentation is quite long but it offers a nice chance for the music to really grow and make a smooth transition into the first verse. Her vocals are very soft, almost silenced by the heaviness of the music but they come through sweetly, catching the listener’s ear. Interestingly enough, the music actually stops and comes back just as aggressive as ever. Generally, the focus of this song is the instrumentation but because it is so strong, it emerges as one of the album’s best numbers.

The album’s semifinale is イエロー・スーパーカー. This song features more of a poppy sound to it that nicely matches the electropop madness. It’s actually a pretty nice track so having it come at the end was a nice move in that the listener’s attention is prepped for the finale.

Happiness land is the closing number of COPY. Of course they saved a great number for the finale. There is a real prettiness about this electropop number that catches the listener’s ear. Her vocals perfectly match the song’s atmosphere. It’s such a great song, one of the album’s best songs perfect for closing the album.

Album Ranking: B

COPY certainly has its ups and downs. With songs like Swallowtail D.A.N.C.E. (Cherryboy function ver.), Beep Count Fantastic and チャイナ・ディスコティカ, the listener could just fall in love with this album. However there is a slew of uninteresting songs that bring the overall quality of this album down. Had the focus been more centered on the aforementioned songs then it would have been a really strong album from start to finish.

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