ayaka – 風になりたい [Cover Song]

August 6, 2009 at 10:20 pm (ayaka) ()

Kaze ni Naritai

ayaka’s cover song, entitled 風になりたい, was released on Boomania ~The BOOM Special Best Covers,~ released on 07.22.09.

風になりたい is a mesmerizing song that takes the listener to another world. The song begins with a beautiful and soothing instrumental that suits ayaka’s angelic vocals perfectly. As usual, ayaka provides smooth and powerful vocals that carry so much emotion for the listener to feel. Then the instrumentation picks up and has a sort of jazzy style that sounds amazing. The chorus sounds great with the string instruments shining a bit more alongside ayaka’s vocals. It’s such a pretty song that really suits ayaka’s style, making it a perfect cover. This definitely should have been included in ayaka’s upcoming BEST album.

Song Ranking: A +

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ayaka – みんな空の下 [11th Single]

July 9, 2009 at 2:45 pm (ayaka) (, )

ayakaminna

ayaka’s 11th single, entitled みんな空の下, was released on 07.08.09. The title track was used in a Kao’s Ascience commercial. This single will be ayaka’s last before taking a hiatus to focus on her health and marriage.

みんな空の下 is a beautiful ballad with a sense of hope inside. The song starts off with a very pretty instrumental that just gives the feeling of hope in the listener. Then comes the first verse and ayaka’s vocals are at their usual strength, smoothly melting over the music. In her vocals, there is truly emotion so that the lyrics come alive. There is something so natural and magical about the chorus with those amazing vocals. The instrumentation stays the same and it definitely helps capture the listener since the focus is all on ayaka.  The pure instrumental section is very strong and there’s something raw about it which catches the listener’s ear despite being somewhat short. It’s a wonderful song and if ayaka has to go out, she chose a strong song to go out with.

ayakaMinnaPromo2Things take a slightly different tone with the B-side, ありがとう。. Opening the song is a upbeat and positive instrumental that compliments that of the A-side quite well. The first verse and as usual, ayaka’s vocals sound great and match the atmosphere of the song perfectly. The chorus sounds nice because the vocals are still great and the jazziness of the instrumentation comes across a little more strongly. It sounds really good at the ending of the chorus when it’s just the piano and ayaka for those few seconds. The third verse follows a similar vibe with the focus more on the piano and it defintitely catches the listener’s ear. This is one of ayaka’s strongest songs and this should have been a double A-side because this song is really deserving of A-side status.

In order to promote the single, a PV for みんな空の下 was made. The entire video only features ayaka singing in a beautiful field at sunset, looking at the camera. It may be simple and it’s an absolutely beautiful video that gets the emotions of the song across perfectly. One thing that is noticeable about the PV is that it features a different version of the song, instead carrying an acapella version of the first half of the song. It adds a freshness to the song and ayaka’s vocals are as amazing as ever. ayaka looks great and the background setting is breathtaking. This video perfectly suits the song and leaves the listener already missing ayaka.

Single Ranking: A

ayaka is one of the strongest newcomers to J-Pop and it’s sad to know that she won’t be contributing her amazingness to the music scene. However her health is of utmost importance and it’s good that she has someone to support her and give her love at this time. みんな空の下 is the perfect way to segue into a undefined hiatus. The lyrics of both songs have an element of hope for the future in spite of everything and can apply to ayaka herself. I wish her and her husband the best and only hope that someday, she will come back to music because she will surely be missed.

ayakaMinnaPromo

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ayaka – 夢を味方に/恋焦がれて見た夢 [10th Single]

May 1, 2009 at 5:00 pm (ayaka) (, )

ayaka1

ayaka’s 10th single, entitled 夢を味方に/恋焦がれて見た夢, was released on 04.22.09. 夢を味方に was used as the Benesse promotional campaign used to cheer high school students on in their studies. It was recently announced that ayaka had married actor Mizumisha Hiro and that she was diagnosed with Grave’s Disease so she will continue to do music this year and will then put her career on hold for some much deserved rest.

 夢を味方に is a hopeful sweet song. Opening the song are the beautiful sounds of the piano, immediately introducing the listener to a story of beauty. Then as it goes on, the beat becomes clearer and soon ayaka is in singing the first verse. She is absolutely fantastic at giving emotion in her voice so that the listener can really feel the element of hope coming through from her heart to theirs’. Truthfully, the chorus does fall a little flat since there’s no real instrumental change and there’s not even a build-up. Nonetheless, she sounds nice and the emotion is still there. The “just fly high” at the end of the chorus does seem a little misplaced but it’s a good representation of the song’s message. Having a backing chorus never really works for anyone and it doesn’t work here either but the following third verse has the needed energy that the song needs as the guitar pumps in some vivid sounds for the listener can really appreciate. 夢を味方に is an enjoyable song and there’s definitely the element of hope that makes this a good song to cheer on students.

 恋焦がれて見た夢 slows things down in order to come to ayaka’s forte. The song begins with the piano but this time, the emotions come right off the bat and the listener enters a whole new world. ayaka sounds beautiful on the first verse and the simplicity of the music allows her to be the true center. Before the chorus, she shows off that vocal range and that serves as the only build-up needed. She continues to sound great on the chorus and the emotions stay wonderfully on the listeners’ ears. That little section of pure instrumentation following the first chorus is heavenly and very pretty.

 In order to promote the single, a PV for 夢を味方に was made. The video features ayaka walking through town and another scene under an absolutely beautiful sky. There’s just something missing from this video that keeps it from being particularly eye-catching. It seems to be going for a natural look but it just didn’t connect as well as it should have.

 Single Ranking: B +

 Both 夢を味方に and 恋焦がれて見た夢 are great songs, showing off ayaka’s true style. 恋焦がれて見た夢 is the superior track with a simple instrumental and ayaka’s vocals giving the needed emotion. 夢を味方に is also good in that the purpose of the song comes across well with hope from ayaka. I do hope that ayaka will come back to the music industry since she is definitely a strong player. However her health is more important and I’m glad that she has someone to support her and make her happy.

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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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ayaka x Kobukuro – あなたと [2nd Collaboration Single]

September 22, 2008 at 5:08 pm (ayaka, Kobukuro) (, , )

ayaka and Kobukuro’s 2nd collaborative single, entitled あなたと, was released on 09.24.08. The choice to release the song as a single was made after the request of many fans after hearing the song at a live event. This song was used as the Nissan Cube CM song.

あなたと is a beautiful ballad filled with emotion. The song starts off with a very sweet instrumental that immediately catches the listener’s attention. Soon the first verse begins and Shunsuke is the first to sing. His vocals are strong and carry with the music very well. ayaka then sings and there is a certain delicate element to her voice that sounds so beautiful and makes the listener notice. All three voices go together perfectly on the chorus as they capture the emotional presence of the song so well. Kentaro sounds great on his verse as well and his vocals also are strong and demand attention. On the third verse, all three deliver some great vocalizations before the beautiful pure instrumental section comes in with the spotlight on the saxophone.

In order to promote the single, a PV for あなたと was made. The video is pretty simple as it features the three singers near windows and outside it is raining, which really captures the song’s atmosphere. Once the three hands reach one another, the skies clear up to reveal a gorgeous view with all three singers in front of one window. Although it’s simple, it’s a really good fit for the song and reflects the song’s meaning well.

Single Ranking: A +

ayaka and Kobukuro come back again to make the beautiful song, あなたと and the magic comes back to life. All three voices go well with each other perfectly and because they are such good singers, they carry the emotional presence of this song effortlessly. Once again, they delivered excellence and this one is another one to look out for from these three.

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ayaka – Sing to the Sky [2nd Studio Album]

June 24, 2008 at 5:00 pm (ayaka) (, )

ayaka’s 2nd studio album, entitled Sing to the Sky, was released on 06.25.08…All four singles released prior to the album have found their way onto the album: Jewelry day, CLAP & LOVE / Why, 手をつなごう / 愛を歌おう and おかえり as well as her digital single For today.

POWER OF MUSIC, an uptempo number, opens up the album. The song opens up with an uptempo piano interlude before the chorus starts. ayaka’s vocals sound great with a little power here and once the first verse starts, the music slightly changes to a softer tone that sounds great in contrast. The pure instrumental is in vein of the softer side with a beautiful focus on the piano playing before ayaka comes in with fantastic vocals. During one of the choruses, the music is taken away and the sound of clapping accompanies ayaka’s vocals. The effect of that is that the fun atmosphere of the song really comes out. POWER OF MUSIC is a highly catchy song that is the perfect album opener as the fun atmosphere is captured and ayaka’s vocals are at their usual great quality.

愛を歌おう appears as the second track. Opening up with a more aggresive instrumentation, the chorus sticks out because ayaka delivers her true vocal talents as she reaches up sings her heart out. When the verse comes in, ayaka uses softer vocals to work with the music, which has also become softer to combine to form an atmosphere. Slowly the guitar begins to come back into the music in time to introduce the chorus. The third verse takes things in a slightly different direction from the other verses as it keeps that same energy from the chorus and ayaka sounds completely comfortable here. The following pure instrumental section really spotlights just how energetic and fun the instrumentation is. The song ends with the strumming of the guitar to bring the song to a nice finish. The song may feel a little repetitive but it’s definitely a song that cannot be forgotten.

The third song on Sing to the Sky is the uptempo and hopeful, SKY. The song begins with a nice uptempo but relaxing sounding instrumentation. ayaka uses a softer vocal approach during the verses to continue this atmosphere well. More vocal strength is shown off on the chorus, particularly when she sings “fly to the sky” in English. The chorus really does stand out from the rest of the song very well. The pure instrumental section is a nice change of pace as the piano steps out from the instrumentation nicely before the chorus arrives again. SKY is a nice uptempo song that the listener can enjoy strongly.

Jewelry day, the first single released from this album’s era, appears as the fourth track. Opening up with a guitar-driven relaxing instrumentation, the song’s atomsphere is established from the very beginning. The first verse begins with some great vocals that ayaka knows how to deliver. When she says “oh jewelry day” it sounds wonderful and makes it stand out all the more. The transition from the verse to the chorus is pretty subtle but it’s easy to find it and it really is beautiful. ayaka shows off her power as well as her range as she sings with her deep and husky voice as well as reaching up higher. The pure instrumental section is absolutely gorgeous as ayaka brings some wonderful adlibbing with her higher vocals that capture the naturalness of the song and it brings the song to an excellent climax and close. Jewelry day is a wonderful song that spotlights ayaka’s pipes over a natural and pretty instrumentation to make ayaka sound perfectly at home.

グンナイベイビー is a relaxing uptempo song that is a perfect fit on the album. The song begins with a pretty mellow but uptempo instrumentation and the first verse continues this feeling. She delivers the lyrics with some rapidity and with some power that sound great. The chorus introduces even more instrumentation and ayaka’s vocals show even more power before. The pure instrumental section shows off the relaxing feeling that the instrumentation instills. Nearing the end, the guitar is spotlighted with ayaka’s vocals at their most powerful.

Digital single, For today, finds its way onto the album as the sixth track. The song opens up quickly with an uptempo and happy instrumentation before the first verse arrives. ayaka’s vocals perfect here as she displays both power and constraint. The transition into the chorus is subtle but it’s definitely there, introducing the catchy chorus. It’s particularly the second half of the chorus that sticks in the listener’s head. The pure instrumental section is really great as it spotlights the versatility that the song really holds and ayaka delivers some wonderful and powerful vocals that only she can deliver. ayaka’s vocals are consistently strong towards the end of the song and the instrumentation really finishes the song off with a bang. A digital single, For today, really found its home on Sing to the Sky and is one of ayaka’s more catchier songs.

Why arrives as the seventh song. The song opens up with the first verse, which sets in the relaxing atmosphere with almost a hidden magical feeling behind the music. The hook serves as a bridge as ayaka begins to let the power of her voice emerge alongside a buidling music. The chorus really does stand out as ayaka really shows off her vocal prowess. The pure instrumental section really spotlights the magical beauty that the song evokes before returning back to the vocals. It is the last chorus in particular where ayaka lets her voice fly and hits the more powerful note perfectly. Beautiful instrumentation finishes off the song just as wonderfully as it began. Why definitely captures a magical atmosphere that ayaka’s voice really enhances with power and range.

ゴールドスター is an uptempo catchy track that is one of the best the album offers. The track opens up with a cool guitar-driven instrumentation before the first verse starts. ayaka’s vocals are sung somewhat deeply, fitting with the very cool atmosphere of the song and that is a certain attitude that she delivers with the lyrics. The hook begins to show off a little more vocal power when the chorus comes in, which is very addictive. Her vocals sound great and the instrumentation makes the chorus very addictive. The third verse continues the song’s addictive pattern before the pure instrumental section comes in, spotlighting just how how important the guitar is in the instrumentation. Heavy guitar-driven instrumentation brings the song to a wonderful close, making ゴールドスター one of the very best songs on the album.

魔法使いのしわざ is a nice uptempo number that is a very memorable album track. The song opens up with a very piano-centric instrumentation before the first verse starts. ayaka’s vocals are wonderful as usual and she sings the first words of each line with a certain pep that makes the listener interested from first listen. The chorus begins picking up as the instrumentation becomes more uptempo and the vocals carry even more energy. The song ends nicely with some softer vocals from ayaka that still maintain that enjoyable energy. 魔法使いのしわざ is a very enjoyable uptempo song driven by the piano to keep the listener hooked from the beginning to the end and although the song is somewhat short, ayaka’s vocals sound great and she takes the listener into the world of the song.

The tenth song on the album is 手をつなごう. The song begins with a relaxing instrumentation spurred by the sounds of the guitar. The first verse opens up with some great vocals from ayaka as she hits the higher notes effortlessly and sails in the deeper notes perfectly as well. There is a build-up to the chorus and transition from the verses with the hook, which begins to signal an instrumental change. The chorus maintains that same relaxing feeling with even more great vocals from ayaka, capturing the atmosphere of the song perfectly. More energy arrives into the song with the third verse as the music changes slightly, showing off light rock flares, that only amplify the song’s power during the pure instrumental section. Nearing the end, ayaka reaches high and hits a note excellently. The song ends wonderfully with the soft and soothing sound of ayaka finishing the song off on a perfect finish. 手をつなごう is definitely a song to be remembered for ayaka’s way of bringing it to life.

愛も嘘も真実 is a mellow and addictive song that finds its home on Sing to the Sky. The song begins with a mellow and cool instrumentation before the first verse starts. ayaka’s vocals here really capture the sound of the music as she accentuates the last syllable of the lines. The chorus allows ayaka to show off her wonderful vocals even more and the beat is very catchy, making the chorus stand out even more. The pure instrumental section puts an emphasis on hte jazz elements of the song that make it really stand out before the third verse is delivered. With the music more hushed, ayaka sounds wonderful as the softness in her voice stands out. The addictive jazzy instrumentation finishes off the song perfectly. 愛も嘘も真実 is an absolutely perfect song that makes the listener fall in love with ayaka’s voice.

CLAP & LOVE comes as the twelfth song on the album. The track begins with an absolutely addictive rock instrumentation before the first verse starts. ayaka shows off the true power that her vocals can hold as she sings her way through them. The hook serves as an introduction for the chorus as the instrumentation becomes more basic and then comes full force during the chorus. The chorus really is something to sing along to as ayaka brings the song to life with great vocals and a strong ability to hold her notes. The third verse is simple as it features back-up vocals repeating “come on” as ayaka delivers some amazing adlibbing by hitting her note so powerfully. The same great adlibbing followed by a great instrumentation segment finishes off the song excellently. CLAP & LOVE hasn’t lost any steam from its single release and would’ve made an excellent album opener.

君がいるから is a nice uptempo number. The song opens up with an uptempo and catchy instrumental track with twinkling sounds that appear before the first verse starts. ayaka’s vocals blend perfectly with the music here and the transition into the chorus is very smooth. The chorus has an element of happiness that ayaka’s vocals suggest and in combination with the instrumentation, that atmosphere comes to life. The third verse is a bit stronger than the other verses as a kind of hopeful atmosphere is created with ayaka’s voice and she is able to show off her range as she hits the high note very nicely. The following pure instrumental section sounds great as a following, putting an emphasis on the coolness and happy atmosphere of the track. Nearing the end, there is a bigger spotlight on the beat of the song, which really works in the song’s favor. The song ends with some great adlibbing from ayaka and a little instrumentation that ends perfectly. The song is a nice uptempo number with a very happy atmosphere to make the listener appreciate it from start to finish.

The fourteenth song is おかえり, the last song released as a single for the album. The song opens up with the first line of the chorus, which instantly hooks the listener before a flourish of instrumentation comes in. The first verse primarily features vocals on the softer side from ayaka to go with the music. The hook serves as a bridge as the instrumentation begins to take a bigger presence and she begins to display the vocal strengths even more. The chorus is very addictive, particularly because of the first line, containing the title of the song. The pure instrumental section shows just how the naturalness of a song fits ayaka’s style before the third verse comes in, complete with great vocals both displaying her range and her power. The song is an excellent way of showing off what ayaka can do and is certainly a catchy song that should not be left behind.

The album closes with 今夜も星に抱かれて・・・. The song opens up with a beautiful piano interlude before the first verse starts. ayaka’s vocals sound perfect here as they really capture the emotion of the song perfectly and her power is shown off. Her vocals during the chorus allow her to go even higher for some lines and the ending line really is beautiful. After the second chorus, more orchestal instrumentation is introduced in time for the third verse, where ayaka further shows off her strong vocals. When the chorus returns, the same instrumentation solely consisting of the piano returns and she even speaks in English “every day, every night I miss you” The final line of the chorus, “it’s you” really captures the emotion of the song leaving pure instrumentation and some adlibbing to bring the song to a close. This piano ballad is the perfect way to close the album, showing off ayaka’s beautiful vocals.

Album Ranking: A +

ayaka’s sophomore album is a perfect collection of songs that show off just how versatile ayaka is an artist. From the powerful album tracks such as CLAP & LOVE and Jewelry day, the album tracks match the overall atmosphere established by the singles, creating a cohesive and enjoyable album from start to finish. The uptempo tracks such as POWER OF MUSIC and ゴールドスター show that ayaka can really capture the energy and fun while also being able to deliver beautiful ballads such as 今夜も星に抱かれて・・・. ayaka certainly brought everything she had with Sing to the Sky and it certainly paid off.

            

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ayaka – おかえり [9th Single]

May 17, 2008 at 10:57 pm (ayaka) (, )

ayaka’s 9th single, entitled おかえり, was released on 05.14.08. The single recieved a tie-in as the theme song for the Japanese dorama Zettai Kareshi.

おかえり, the title track is an uptempo relaxing song. The song begins with some great vocals by ayaka alongside a soft instrumentation before coming into a louder sound. The verses have a certain catchiness that work well with ayaka’s vocals. Right before the chorus comes a great note that ties the verse to the chorus. The chorus is nice and the way she sings the title certainly stands out strongly but there is an element missing that could have made it even stronger. The pure instrumental section is nice as it draws strength of the music before going into the third verse, which features some absolutely great vocals from ayaka. A strong instrumentation finishes off the song wonderfully and brings the song to a perfect close. おかえり is an enjoyable uptempo track that is still has a relaxing element to it.

The B-side of the single, 迷路, begins with an absolutely awesome instrumentation before going into the first verse. ayaka’s vocals work very well with the music, which features a rock taste. The hook serves as a bridge between the verses and the chorus, which is pretty simple but works well with the overall feel of the song. The pure instrumental section really showcases the power and catchiness of the music and the slightly distorted vocals sound great. The following third verse is perfect with a certain breathiness aspect delivered by ayaka that works in the context of the song. The wonderful instrumentation finishes off the song perfectly and brings the awesome song to an awesome close. 迷路 is a strong song with an element of rock behind the instrumentation that works well with ayaka’s vocals. Although the song is the B-side, it is definitely A-side quality and should have been the single’s A-side.

In order to promote the single, a PV for おかえり was made. Much like Jewelry day, there is an element of simplicity that makes the video very enjoyable. The scenes where ayaka is standing on a bridge has an absolutely beautiful view. The animated bubbles are a bit strange and perhaps they would have worked better if real ones were used but the PV was enjoyable overall.

Single Ranking: A –

ayaka’s 9th single features two strong songs. The A-side, おかえり, is a nice relaxing and uptempo track that soudns great. The B-side, 迷路, is even stronger and features a rock sound, which suits ayaka’s voice perfectly. Hopefully ayaka’s new album will feature the same quality as these tracks.

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