KAT-TUN – Break The Records: By You & For You [4th Studio Album]

May 1, 2009 at 5:01 pm (KAT-TUN) (, )

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KAT-TUN’s 4th studio album, entitled Break the Records: By You & For You, was released on 04.29.09. The singles released before the album are as follows: DON’T U EVER STOP, White X’mas, ONE DROP and RESCUE.

DON’T U EVER STOP, the first single released before the album, is the opening track. The song starts off with a cool and interesting instrumental that builds anticipation in the listener. Then the rock sound comes in and it’s pretty nice although it doesn’t carry the aggression that one would expect from the title. On the verses, the rapidity that the lyrics are delivered with stands out to the listener quite nicely. The repeating “don’t stop” in the chorus is catchy and they all sound great together, staying in perfect balance. Koki’s rap section fits in this song perfectly with the attitude he delivers to hook the listener. DON’T U EVER STOP is an enjoyable song and the strongest single to be released in this album’s era.

SADISTIC LOVE, the first new song, is up next. Beginning the song is a very pretty and dark instrumental that gives the image of moonlight before moving into the true aggressive instrumental that suits KAT-TUN so well. On the first verse, those vocals ooze sexuality and make the listener melt. Even the rap section carries a sexiness to it that is unforgettable and that instrumental run just is addictive. The chorus kind of has a different feel to it since that aggression in the instrumentation is lessened and the focus is put on the vocals. The pure instrumental section is quite interesting as it gives the image of a war of sorts, further taking the listener deeper into the song. SADISTIC LOVE is a good song because it has that aggressive instrumental that catch the listener’s ear and it takes a few twists and turns to not stay on the same path the entire way through.

RESCUE goes back to the rock sound while keeping the mysterious feel. A heartbeat starts the song off on a strong note. Then comes the instrumentation slowly creeping in and there is a creepy feeling that arises in the listener. The chorus is next and the vocals sound great, staying perfectly with the music and amplifying the atmosphere. Unfortunately, the verses fall a little flat since the music sounds a little empty so a more diverse or aggressive instrumental could have tied the song together very well. RESCUE is a pretty good song although it could have been better.

WATER DANCE is a cool track that shows the group’s sleek side. That opening instrumental sequence sounds great and it kind of does give the atmosphere of a water ballet before moving into the song’s true sound. The beat becomes clearer and the overall music more aggressive. The vocals are good here because they are very sleek and smooth, carrying a kind of sexual atmosphere that catches the listener’s ear. What makes this song so memorable though is the chorus because of its haunting quality. There are the background vocals, singing English lines such as “kiss me” and “love me.” Then there are the center vocals and the combination of the two makes an interesting contrast in terms of tone. The rap section was unexpected but it does give the song a little extra flavor so it’s definitely welcomed. The pure instrumental section is nice and relaxing and the “I’m dancing in water” line sounds great. WATER DANCE is a very strong song and one to look out for.

ONE DROP, released beforehand as a single, is the next song. It opens up with the guys saying different words in English such as “eternity” and “love” before a very mysterious and cool sound comes in. Following is the chorus, bringing out the guys’ emotional side. The song’s standout point is the last line of the chorus: only lonely your teardrop. Even though it sounds a little strange, it definitely catches the listener’s ear. Once the usual rock sound comes in, it’s a bit disappointing. The rest of the song just follows that formula and never really hooks the listener.

Nakamaru Yuichi is the first guy to have a solo with WHITE WORLD. It starts off quite nicely with a soft sound that has a sort of upbeat sound to it, which makes it more interesting than a usual piano ballad opening. He opens with “do you remember” and from that phrase alone, the nostalgia of the song comes out. He sounds great on the chorus and he portrays the emotions of the song perfectly. It has sort of a wintery atmosphere that is wonderful without going too over the edge. WHITE WORLD is one of the best songs on the album and Nakamaru shines strongly here.

care is Akanishi Jin’s solo song. The guitar starts the song off in a very calm and natural way, suiting a feeling of waking up in the morning. He then comes in on the first verse and his vocals sound very good with the music, staying in the lower tone but carrying something magical about them that the listener can pick up on. On the chorus, it sounds more rock-oriented as the music becomes more diverse and he shows off those vocals very nicely. He brings the emotions out and this section serves as a good contrast to the more relaxing verses. Jin definitely shines on his solo song as he draws together soft and loud elements to make a cohesive song from start to finish.

 Kamenashi Kazuya is up next with 1582. Starting off the song is a very interesting futuristic instrumental that really sounds great. When he comes in to sing, his vocals support the music perfectly and at certain points, it sounds like there is a slight distortion on his voice in order to connect him further with the music. Of course there are a few rock elements thrown in to tie him to the futuristic sound and they come out strongly on the chorus, which makes it a part to remember. He does a little breathing afterwards and it shows that he can definitely bring the sexy to spice things up. Kame does a very good job on 1582, bringing a futuristic sound and his sexiness to the forefront.

Tanaka Koki steps up for PIERROT. It opens up with a cool rock filled instrumental that is extremely ear-catching and it has that aggressive element that makes KAT-TUN songs so addictive. Koki then comes in for the first verse and there’s something about his vocals that sound different than usual but they really work with this song. He is portraying emotions and at some points, he does sound like he’s screaming rather than singing but that’s kind of the charm of his voice. This is true especially on the chorus since his vocals are extremely loud but that works since the music is so powerful and commanding as well. The rap section adds some nice flavor to the song and gives even more attitude. PIERROT is a great solo for giving the audience that aggressive rock instrumental to overtake them.

花の舞う街 is Ueda Tatsuya’s chance to shine. Opening the song is the piano, which really gets its job done of showcasing beautiful emotions and sorrow for the listener to enjoy. Then it turns into a more upbeat and cute sound, which is a bit awkward. Ueda’s vocals on the first verse are good and portray his loveable personality very well. The chorus is a little plain and it doesn’t have the necessary magic to make it sound amazing. It’s an okay song but it’s a little too basic and a more interesting instrumental would have made all the difference.

Taguchi Junnosuke gets the last solo with WIND. The song begins with the beautiful piano, instantly notifying the listener that the emotions are going to come through. Taguchi sounds great as he sings the first verse, his vocals really staying smooth and portraying emotions. Suddenly, the instrumentation becomes more diverse and even a little jazzy. The combination of the music and Taguchi’s vocals is perfect since it really puts the listener in the atmosphere of the song. He sounds like he’s having such a good time on the chorus and you can tell that he’s putting his all into singing. The pure instrumental section is just fun and sweet, really standing out to the listener. Taguchi definitely did his thing on WIND, giving his loveable and adorable personality for everyone to love.

君道 has a light-hearted feeling to it that sets it apart. Opening the song is a very sweet and carefree instrumental that introduces the atmosphere of the song nicely. Then comes the first verse and the vocals are a little on the low side and there’s just something natural about them that works with the song. There are some light rock influences that come in, adding to the carefree atmosphere of the song. The chorus is nice with a more diverse instrumental and everyone sounds great together, particularly on the very last note of the section. 君道 is a cute song and the group actually pulls it off quite well.

春夏秋冬 is a beautiful mysterious track. The song begins with a very pretty instrumentation that carries a beautiful element of mystery to it. All the guys sound great on those opening few lines and nicely portray the beauty of the song for the listener. Then the first verse comes in and the guitar has a bigger part in the instrumentation while that cold beauty continues to come through. The vocals are great and go with the music perfectly. Somewhat surprisingly, there is kind of a dual feeling on the chorus as there’s something kind of upbeat and almost cute in conjunction with the mysterious element. One part that stands out particularly nicely is the “bye bye” since it’s sung a little higher than the other lyrics and sounds just heavenly. It’s a great song and a gem on this album.

White X’mas brings the wintery feeling to the album. Beginning the song is the piano, showcasing a loving and sweet atmosphere for everyone to hear. On the first verse, the vocals are smooth and support the music very well. As usual, the chorus features some great harmonizing and everyone sounds great although the emotional context of the song should have been pushed further in terms of instrumentation. The problem with the song is that it doesn’t really seem to reach that needed climax point but it’s still a nice song.

NEIRO is the final track on the limited edition. The piano begins the song on a strong note, having a feeling of windy hope blow through to the listener. For the first verse, the vocals are nice and carry an element of fragility to them. The chorus is good since everyone vocalizes well and harmonizes well together although it does sound a little simple. Vocally, this is a very good song but the music is just a little too basic and it lacks that magic that would have made it a great ballad rather than just an okay one.

MOON appears as the last song on the album only on the regular edition. It starts off channeling the sounds of enka and it does so wonderfully, really giving a traditional beauty. Then from nowhere, the song goes into rock mode and an aggressive instrumental comes crashing through. What makes it memorable though is those enka influences never disappear completely and appear here and there throughout the track. They sound great on the first verse and their vocals pop against the music strongly. The chorus could have been stronger since it does sound a little formulaic but it’s still enjoyable. That pure instrumental section is absolutely fantastic and definitely strikes the listener strongly. MOON is the perfect incentive for buying the regular edition since it’s one of the album’s best tracks.

Album Ranking: B +

Break The Records: By You & For You certainly gets creativity points. With their last album, the group stuck a little too much with the rock sound but they try out different sounds here and bring them to the rock sounds to form something new. Some of the best tracks have a very mysterious feeling to them like SADISTIC LOVE and WATER DANCE, also bringing out the sexual energy for everyone to hear. In terms of solos, Koki and Nakamaru take first place with Kame right behind them. MOON is a wonderful track and one of the most memorable numbers on the album so it’s a great incentive to get the regular edition of the album. Break The records: By You & For You is a solid release and brings various new elements together although it would have been nice if they had more aggressive danceable tracks.

Most Memorable 5 Songs: DON’T U EVER STOP / SADISTIC LOVE / WATER DANCE / WHITE WORLD / MOON

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KAT-TUN – RESCUE [10th Single]

March 8, 2009 at 5:03 pm (KAT-TUN) (, )

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KAT-TUN’s 10th single, entitled RESCUE, was released on 03.11.09. The title track was used as the theme song for Yuichi Nakamaru’s dorama Rescue -Tokubetsu Kodo Kyujotai.-

RESCUE is a kind of creepy low-rock track. The song begins with the sound of a heartbeat, which is a very interesting way to open up the song before a few words start the song. As the instrumentation slowly creeps in, there is a very frightening feeling that arises in the listener. Then the vocals come in on the chorus and they are perfect at capturing the atmosphere of the song. With the rock instruments, they sound completely at home. On the verses, however, there is a kind of empty feeling though and it just doesn’t connect with the listener. It’s a nice song but it would have been more enjoyable if the verses were stronger.

7 Days Battle is the B-side present on all editions of the single. Opening the song is a very mysterious and eerie sound and then the instrumentation comes in with a sleek edge that will catch the listener’s ear. Slowly rock instruments slip into the music and then it has that cool KAT-TUN feel. On the verses, the vocals are somewhat distorted so it’s hard to really understand what exactly the boys are saying but somehow it’s okay. Their vocals sound so cool and interesting here that the listener can just fall in love with the overall atmosphere of the song. Well the chorus is a little generic for the coolness of the verses but it’s nothing too bad. English phrases like “I’m in battle” and “Are you ready to rock?” stand out and pop nicely within the context of the song. The rap section is a nice touch because it also carries that cool flavor with also a playfulness to it that works. 7 Days Battle is a great song and is a nice change from the common rock songs that they have delivered in the past.

The B-side only available on the First Press Limited Edition is On Your Mind -Please Come Back To Me.- Beginning the song is the sweet sound of the piano, which instantly establishes a sorrowful atmosphere. When the first verse comes, the vocals are wonderful, really capturing emotions that the listener can feel. That “please come back to me” in the chorus is so representative of the entire song and is sung with such powerful emotion that the listener will not forget this line. The song reaches its climax right before the pure instrumental section as the music becomes more powerful and powerful vocals are shown off. On Your Mind -Please Come Back To Me- is a wonderful ballad with a lot of emotion that the listener can really feel.

In order to promote the single, a PV for RESCUE was made. Although quite simple, the PV is extremely visually appealing. It features a dark setting in what appears to be a desolate world and the boys are just kinda set there for the duration of the video. They look great and the emotions of the song come across their faces well. I could have done without the dancing girls though.

Single Ranking: B +

After their disappointing last single, the boys stepped it up this time around. RESCUE and 7 Days Battle both harness that rock energy that defines KAT-TUN but in different ways to make a diverse overall package. With a kind of dance beat to accompany it, 7 Days Battle emerges as the stronger number and should have been the A-side. On Your Mind -Please Come Back To Me- is a strong ballad as the emotions come overflowing for the listener. I wonder if their next release will be so soon. Perhaps an album is in the works.

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KAT-TUN – One Drop [9th Single]

February 15, 2009 at 12:12 am (KAT-TUN) (, )

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KAT-TUN’s 9th single, entitled One Drop, was released on 02.11.09. One Drop was used as the theme song for the dorama Kami no Shizuku while D-T-S was used in a Lotte “Plus X” CM.

One Drop is an emotionally charged rock track. The song starts off with each boy saying a word such as “eternity” and “love” before a mysterious sound comes in, making way for the chorus. It sort switches from that mysterious vibe and turns into a more emotional one as the boys’ vocals come together strongly and portray such emotion. The final line, although non-sensical, does stay on the listener’s ear: “only lonely your teardrop.” It then comes into the boys’ usual rock sound so it’s kind of disappointing. On the first verse, it sounds like the boys are holding back a little bit vocally and the music comes to overpower them. The full chorus is definitely not very interesting with the repeating “bye bye” line that soon becomes a little annoying. It sort of sounds like KAT-TUN’s usual rock routine and unfortunately, they just don’t hook the listener in this time around.

D-T-S is the B-side available on both editions of the single. Opening the song is a rock instrumentation that once again, feels very done-before. When the first verse comes in, there is a certain coolness about it that is particularly reflected in Koki’s voice. Unfortunately, the chorus doesn’t take any cues from that coolness and just sounds kind of messy. All the vocalizing really didn’t help but it kind of just sounded like screaming. Following is a rap section which admittedly sounds out of place although it does pump a little more needed energy into the song. This song just doesn’t grab the listener but it was a nice try on the boys’ part.

Present only on the limited edition is On My Mind. The nice thing about this song is that it’s different from the previous two tracks in terms of its sound. The boys prove that they can deliver a sweet ballad as their vocals really compliment the softness and gentleness of the song. Truthfully, it’s no mind-blowing ballad or anything but it does get points for showing us a different side of the boys.

In order to promote the single, a PV for One Drop. The video features the boys showing off their glamorous lifestyle as they are seen in a limo, scenes of the boys in their homes and walking the red carpet. Honestly, the video has nothing to do with the song but it’s always nice to see Johnny’s guys looking good. Kame looks extremely hot and that in itself is worth the watch.

Single Ranking: B –

Unfortunately, KAT-TUN just didn’t deliver it this time. Both One Drop and D-T-S are uninteresting rock songs but at least On My Mind keeps the listener a little more. Perhaps the boys should try going on a more aggressive dance route with their songs since I think it could really drive some much needed energy into their music.

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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) ()

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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) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

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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 Two] From The Boys of JE

December 7, 2008 at 5:02 pm (Arashi, Hey! Say! JUMP, Kanjani∞, KAT-TUN, KinKi Kids, NEWS, SMAP, Tackey & Tsubasa, Tegomasu, TOKIO, V6) (, , , , , , , , , , )

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Without a doubt, the “Kings of JE” title belong to Hey! Say! JUMP. I have fallen for these boys and am amazed at how far they’ve come since their debut single in 2007. These guys have released three singles this year and each single got better and better. Dreams come true was a very catchy and upbeat pop number that really showed the boys’ personality and made it an enjoyable listen. After that, the boys really impressed me with Your Seed / 冒険ライダー. It was with Your Seed, that I really got hooked on this group as they showed that mature sound that they do so well with. Even 冒険ライダー featured a slightly mature sound while still having that regular boyband feel. It was a perfect single and I couldn’t have asked for any better. But then they released 真夜中のシャドーボーイ and I fell in love all over again. The song featured a Spanish twist to bring out the boys mature side yet again (I think it should be manditory for all JE groups to have a Spanish influenced song since it always goes well). Along with falling in love with the music, I fell in love with the members of the group. Yamada is my absolute favorite and I’m glad he’s been the center of attention. He’s a good singer, great actor and is really hot. Yabu is my favorite BEST member and he’s extremely sexy. Thanks to both Sensei wa Erai! and Scrap Teacher, I’ve fallen for Nakajima and Daiki as well and I look forward to seeing more episodes of Scrap Teacher with them. Chinen and Takaki have considerably grown on me as well. Basically, Hey! Say! JUMP has done everything right this year except for one thing…AN ALBUM! If JE does not give them an album soon, I will go crazy so here’s to hoping we get an album in the first three months of January…

Coming in second for the “Kings of JE” is one of my favorite boybands, NEWS. The boys have released three heat1singles and one album this year, having their ups and downs. The boys’ first release of the year was with 太陽のナミダ, an absolutely fantastic dance song with Spanish and Arabian influences that sounds absolutely fantastic. Two of the B-sides on that single (バンビーナ and Lady Spider) also helped me fall for these guys, particularly Lady Spider. It is these types of songs that NEWS shines at so they really should continue exploring them. They followed up with SUMMER TIME, a sweet and cute summery number with that fun pop atomsphere that is perfect for that time of year. Once again, two B-sides (EASY COME, EASY GO and Liar) hooked me onto the single. Then came Happy Birthday, which was the weakest single from this era but still a nice enjoyable song. GAME of LOVE, which was the second B-side, was very strong and could have been the A-side. Then the album came and that’s why these boys don’t win the title of “Kings of JE.” After the amazing album, pacific, I was hoping that this album would be just as good, if not better. Unfortunately, this album was filled with forgetttable songs that just made me so disappointed. The one amazing new standout number was ケセナイ, sung courtesy of the man to your right, Tegoshi (Ryo and Shige were there too but it was Tegoshi leading). He definitely wins the “Prince of NEWS” title because he’s done everything right this year. He’s brought killer vocals to each song and he has looked since day one of this year until now (and before of course). I absolutely love Tegoshi and he’s one of my favorite members (alongside Massu) so it’s no surprise that he would deliver. Also the boys brought a concert DVD, which was absolutely entrancing. Certain performances such as SHOCK ME vs Devil or Angel. 愛のマタドール and ゴメンネ ジュリエット really made the DVD a perfect watch because the boys really bring the heat (i.e. see Yamapi perform his solo song…it’s…wow). I hope the boys are able to deliver strong material next year but I don’t doubt them. All the singles leading up to the album were fantastic so I’m hoping next time around, they put a little more effort into making the album as varied as the singles. On a related note, Tegoshi and Massu teamed up again as Tegomass and released their third single, 相合傘, which is a beautiful ballad about being unable to tell your feelings to the one you love while sharing an umbrella. It was an adorable single and I’m glad that they did this, which leaves me ready for an album from them next year.

ohnoWell I’m sure people will diasagree with this position but I give Arashi third place for “Kings of JE.” They’ve have been some very busy boys this year, releasing four singles and an album, which makes them the most active releasers of the year in Johnny’s Entertainment. They released Step and Go in February and that was my first taste of these guys and it caught my attention. It’s definitely the type of song that gets stuck in your head. Then they released Dream”A”live, an album packed with enjoyable uptempo numbers to keep the listener moving. It was pretty enjoyable and I would crown it “Johnny’s Entertainment Album Of The Year” (even though that may not be much of a prize seeing as only NEWS, SMAP and KAT-TUN were released an album besides Arashi but they get it nonetheless). But it was One Love, which really made me interested in these guys. This song is absolutely fantastic and is definitely the best song they have released thus far. It’s so pretty that it could even make me cry. Following was truth / 風の向こうへ, which everyone seemed to eat up. Honestly though, I didn’t really see what was so fantastic about it. Luckily Beautiful days was a step up and stood out to me. If you want proof that people love Arashi, just look at the sales. They have absolutely smashed the charts and stomped people out from the top spots. I was really surprised but I congratulate them and hope their success continues. My favorite member is without a doubt Ohno. The first thing I noticed about his him was his face and how it kind of had a sadness to it, at least to me anyway. I think he’s a good leader and look forward to see him grow and sing in the future.

It was a close call for third place but ultimately I gave it to Arashi. So fourth place (but still really close to taking kenthird) is V6. The guys’ first single of the year was 蝶, which immediately caught my eye. Well it wasn’t so much the title track as the second B-side, SHOW ME, that made me fall for these guys. SHOW ME is amazing and fantastic, definitely worth being an A-side. It’s the real reason that I came to follow these guys music. However all the songs on that single were fantastic, including the two other B-sides (Keep a Chance and Twlight emotion). 蝶 was a great title track, taking on Spanish sounds to push the instrumentation over the edge. VIBES, a DVD single, was released soon after and it was kind of like a mini album since there were so many new tracks. VOLTAGE, サンキュー! ミュージック! and DIVE were the three standout songs on this single and definitely kept the group’s momentum of strong songs. Next they released LIGHT IN YOUR HEART / Swing!, which was a very catchy single worth listening to. I didn’t really get to know these guys very well but I’ve chosen my favorite member, who we can take a look at to our right. Let’s take a big thanks to Raid at Raid My Mini Bar for pointing out Ken Miyake to me. There is a picture of him on the website (a random picture in a group appears at the top) and that’s how I got introduced this very hot guy. I tried to find that picture but to no avail. I hope these boys will be putting out an album soon so I can see just how talented these boys are and I hope they continue to deliver hot uptempo tunes.

kokiIt was also hard to choose who would get the 5th spot for “Kings of JE” but I chose to give it to KAT-TUN. With three singles and one album under their belt for the year, KAT-TUN definitely had their share of releases. Let’s be honest, T∀BOO is the reason that these boys got this spot. They’ve released LIPS, DON’T U EVER STOP and White X’mas but none of those songs could hold a candle to that amazingness that is T∀BOO. It’s a sleek and sexy number that is not only one of the best opening tracks of the year but one of the best opening tracks ever. It is addictive and worth the listen if you haven’t heard it. QUEEN OF THE PIRATES was a nice album although a little too focused on rock and not strong enough ballads. Keep the faith was a strong follow up to the introductory track and was another album highlight. Who is my favorite member of KAT-TUN? Tanaka Koki of course. He always stands out to be when I watch their PVs and his voice catches my ear when I hear their songs. Plus he has such a different look from the rest of his bandmates, it’s hard not to see him. Even though the singles could have been a little stronger and a little more aggressive, I would say KAT-TUN did a good job this year with their releases and I’m excited to see what they bring next year. Also their tour DVD comes out next year and I’ll be waiting to see T∀BOO  live.

The rest of the groups I’ll be counting down did not release very much in comparison to their counterparts so I’ll just tackey1review them as one paragraph. 6th place goes to Kinki Kids, who actually only released one single. But what a single it was…Both Secret Code, the title track, and the B-sides made me really fond of these guys. It’s such a shame that they only released one single because I was looking forward to hearing more. While Secret Code takes on the cool jazzy route, strategie uses Spanish influences with Fu Fu Fu and ビターショコラ following the jazz suit. Plus I found out about Domoto Koichi, who is hot beyond belief. Up next is Tackey & Tsubasa, who take 7th place. Much like Kinki Kids, they only released one single but it was pretty good. 恋詩 – コイウタ- was really pretty so it was worth the listen while PROGRESS was a nice uptempo number. The 8th spot goes to SMAP, who released two enjoyable singles: そのまま / White Message and この瞬間, きっと夢じゃない. These guys have some really nice voices so I’m glad I was introduced to them. They also released an album entitled super.modern.artistic.performance, which I haven’t gotten around to listening to but I will soon. Kanjani∞ comes in 9th, mostly for Wahaha. That single was pretty catchy although not the most memorable song I could have hoped for. This group is just okay for me so I hope they release some material to really make me like them because I think that it’s just their style / image that just doesn’t suit me very well. Finally 10th place is TOKIO, who only released one single, 雨傘 / あきれるくらい僕らは願おう. It was nice although it didn’t really catch my attention like the other groups. I hope that these groups (Kinki Kids in particular) will be more active next year so I can really experience what they’re like.

Johnny’s Entertainment certainly has the talent to back up their big name. Many people associate JE with boys who rely on looks rather than talent but that is absolutely not true. Of course these boys have the looks but they have extreme talent to match. Hey! Say! JUMP brought some amazing material this year, winning them title of Kings of Johnny’s Entertainment 2008. NEWS and Arashi also brought some very nice material and had NEWS made a stronger album, they might have taken the crown. Arashi had a very big year as the most releasing group of JE so I wonder what next year will have in store for them, seeing as it is their 10th anniversary. The other groups all had their own special touch even if some weren’t very active. I look forward to seeing what Johnny Kitagawa plans for in 2009…it better be an album from Hey! Say! JUMP at the beginning or I will be pissed.

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KAT-TUN – White X’mas [8th Single]

December 6, 2008 at 2:09 pm (KAT-TUN) (, )

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KAT-TUN’s 8th single, entitled White X’mas, was released on 12.03.08.

White X’mas is the group’s second ballad to be released as a single. The song begins with the piano to give that song a nice and sweet atmosphere and slowly the instrumentation becomes more grand, nicely introducing the first verse. During the first verse, the vocals are very good and smooth, perfectly supporting the beautiful music. Well the chorus is pretty good too as the boys come together to harmonize perfectly and even reach a little higher so that the emotions stand out although it would have been even stronger had the instrumentation been more grand. Overall the song is pretty good although it doesn’t ever really have a climax point but it’s a nice listen.

In order to promote the single, a PV for White X’mas was made. This video bears a certain similarity to NEWS’ 太陽のナミダ, featuring scenes of the boys on their own as well as a scene of them all together outside. However this one uses snow while the other uses rain. Both have a dark atmosphere to them that work well but the real strongest element of this video is the emotional presence. All the members really bring the emotions out, which perfectly connects to the emotions of the song. It’s a wonderful video just because it really makes the viewer see what they hear.

Single Ranking: B +

White Xmas is a very nice change from the boys’ previous rock numbers although it isn’t the most memorable. The emotions are clear and the vocals are very smooth, which makes for an enjoyable listen. It could have been stronger but it’s nice.

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KAT-TUN – KAT-TUN III -QUEEN OF THE PIRATES- [2nd Studio Album]

July 14, 2008 at 4:52 am (KAT-TUN) (, )

KAT-TUN’s 2nd studio album, entitled KAT-TUN III -QUEEN OF THE PIRATES,- was released on 06.04.08. The album features a rock sound that runs through it from more aggressive numbers to more mellow songs. The singles released before the album are 喜びの歌, Keep the faith, LIPS and DON’T U EVER STOP (which didn’t make the album cut).

The sleek and sexy, T∀BOO, opens the album. The song opens up with a magical orchestral masterpiece of an instrumental. As the song progresses, the dance beat is slowly introduced and then the first verse starts. The vocals are smooth and go perfectly with the music to make it a great listen. It’s the chorus that really hooks the listener as the boys sleekly sing their lyrics. The whispering element that goes with the boys’ voices really shows off a sexier and cool factor that makes the song just so addictive. More orchestral genius closes the song for a perfect finish. A fantastic song that really does stand out from the album, the opening number is actually the strongest and most addictive song on the album.

Up next is Keep the faith, which was released as a single before the album. After an addictive and aggressive instrumental sequence, the first verse starts. The vocals are smooth and cool, which fits the overall atmosphere of the song. There is a certain poppiness to the chorus that emerges despite the rock sound, which really catches the listener’s ear. The vocals here also are great, making the chorus really stand out. The third verse has a softness that is a nice change of pace before a rap sequence comes in, bringing back the hard instrumental. Keep the faith is an excellent uptempo number and the perfect follow-up to the first song.

After two hot tracks, the boys slow it down with AFFECTION ~もう戻れない~. A nice and smooth instrumental opens compliments the boys’ voices smooth vocals, which are sung higher than usual. They really capture the emotional presence of the song perfectly here and their vocals sound absolutely wonderful here. The chorus is catchy as the instrumentation has a certain energy to it that makes it stand out and the boys move with the music. The pure instrumental section sounds great as it spotlights just how pretty the music really is before the chorus comes in again only with a higher instrumentation. At some points, the vocals sound so high-pitched they they sound somewhat feminine but they still go nicely with the music. However the boys maintained a good vocal range, making the song a definite wonder.

The boys come back with rock edge on HELL, NO. A nice rock instrumental starts off and then the first verse starts. The repetition of the phrase “hell no” really does stick out to the listener and the vocals are nice too. The chorus is more catchy than the verses as there is a certain edge that sounds great and the rapping in the background such as “so shake ya ass” helps establish the coolness and edge of the song nicely. The pure instrumental section is a little dry because the general instrumentation isn’t as aggressive and enjoyable as some of the boys’ other songs but it goes nicely into the third verse. The rap sequence sounds great and is a real standout part of the song to keep the listener hooked. Although it isn’t as aggressive and edgy, HELL, NO is still an enjoyable track.

The opening instrumental to DISTANCE is both interesting a little more aggressive than the previous track. The verses have a certain relaxing feel to them while the rock tints support the piano. The vocals are nice too and soon the chorus comes in. Again, the vocals are nice but they don’t particularly grab the listener and the instrumentation does not change that much. The closing instrumental sounds great though and stands out to the listener very strongly. DISTANCE is a nice rock song that has that more aggressive flare than the previous song.

Things slow down again with MOTHER/FATHER. After a sweet and soft instrumental, the chorus comes in and there is a certain sweet poppiness to it that makes the listener just smile. During the verses, the boys smoothly sing, really drawing attention to that personal touch that resonates with the listener. Although the song is preety simple, MOTHER/FATHER just hits the listener with a personal touch as well as some fantastic vocals from the boys.

LIPS, which was released before the album, is the next song. After a cool and sly instrumental sequence, things pick up with a rock sound to really make the listener take notice. The first verse features some smooth vocals in order to carry with the music. The chorus is nice although it doesn’t pop as much as it should, despite some great vocals. Although the instrumentation isn’t that addictive, it certainly does step up during the pure instrumental section as the guitar really sticks in the listener’s mind. LIPS is a pretty cool track that finds

喜びの歌 starts off with a slick instrumental and some cool vocalizing before the first verse starts. The rock elements fall to the back and there is a more poppy sound, which is unexpected after the pure instrumental sequence. Even with the chorus, the rock elements don’t come back as full force, leaving the listener expecting a little more. It’s only on the pure instrumental sections that the rock flavor comes out strongly enough for the listener to enjoy. One of the weaker songs on the album, 喜びの歌 is definitely not as strong as previous songs.

“un-” is the next song on the album. An interesting instrumental starts off the song before the first verse. The vocals sound nice and there is a poppy element  sounds nice but it’s definitely something that can get boring as time goes on. The chorus is nice but nothing that really stands out as being that strong. The vocals are nice as usual though. This is the weakest song on the entire album and really doesn’t catch the ear of the listener at all.

OUR STORY ~プロローグ~ is another slow jam. The vocals during the verses sound great and smooth as always and with the chorus, there is a certain emotional presence that comes forward by the boys’ vocals. Overall, the song is just okay, not as strong as the other slow songs and the chorus quickly becomes old. It’s definitely a track that is okay to skip and not a particularly wise choice for the semifinal song on the regular edition.

The regular edition closes with 何年たっても. After a cool and funky instrumental, the first verse comes in. The vocals are smooth in order to match the real cool instrumental and it does a nice job of keeping the listener interested. The chorus stands out as the boys show off a little more vocal power, to really take the listener into the world of the song. Usually the rap sequences are a nice fit but this one seemed a bit out of place. Overall 何年たっても is a nice and funky song that is a vast improvement from the last few tracks.

Album Ranking: B +

The album has its rock tints that show themselves strongly on songs such as Keep the faith and HELL, NO. The opening number is without a doubt the album’s strongest point and introduces the overall musical theme of the album perfectly. The slow songs such as AFFECTION ~もう戻れない~ and MOTHER/FATHER show off a nice personal touch that hits the listener strongly. One flaw is that the first half of the album is much stronger than the second half so the listener shifts in terms of enjoyment. However the album closes very nicely.

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