Kuraki Mai – わたしの、しらない、わたし. [New Song]

September 4, 2009 at 9:51 pm (Kuraki Mai) ()

ALL_MY_BEST_-_2CD

Kuraki Mai’s new song, entitled わたしの、しらない、わたし., was included on her newest BEST album entitled ALL MY BEST. It served as the only new song on the album as well as a promotional song. The album was released on 09.09.09.

わたしの、しらない、わたし. is an elegant upbeat number. The song starts off with a part of the chorus and Mai’s vocals are quite pretty here, really standing out alongside the strong music. She sounds particularly good when she sings the title of the song and when she sings “preciously,” she sounds absolutely angelic. On the first verse, she gives more great vocals that support the music perfectly cand catch the listener’s ear easily. Theg uitar really accentuates the beauty of the music on the pure instrumental section and leaves the listener wanting even more. It’s a fantastic song and is a very strong incentive to buy this BEST album.

In order to promote the BEST album, a PV for わたしの、しらない、わたし was made. The video features two different Mais, one in front of a pink background and the other in front of a blue one. It seems as if two different sides of her are being represented, which is always a good concept.

Song Ranking: A

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Kuraki Mai – Beautiful [32nd Single]

June 9, 2009 at 2:01 pm (Kuraki Mai) (, )

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Kuraki Mai’s 32nd single, entitled Beautiful, was released on 06.10.09. The title track was used as the Kose’s Cosmeport Salon Style CM song.

Beautiful is a beautiful track that will calm the listener’s nerves. The song begins with a relaxing instrumental alongside some very angelic vocalizations from Mai before the first verse comes in. She sounds great here and she really does support the beauty of the music, catching the ear of the listener. The chorus stands out particularly for those English lyrics like “so beautiful” and “smile for me.” Her vocals are fantastic and the music retains its beautiful and mellow quality. Beautiful is a wonderful song and one worth checking out for the beautiful music and strong vocals.

MaiBeautiful2wana is a nice cool jazzy track that lets Mai try out something new. It has kind of a dark atmosphere to it, which serves as a good contrast to the A-side. As usual, her vocals are good and suit the instrumentation very well. It’s always nice to see her try out something different and wana allows her to do so.

In order to promote the single, a PV for Beautiful was made. The video features Mai waking up and walking to the beach. There’s so much blue from the sky to the ocean and it’s all very beautiful. It may be simple but there’s beauty in its simplicity. It suits the song very well and will keep the audience focused from beginning to end.

Single Ranking: A –

Kuraki Mai does it again with Beautiful! She shows no signs of slowing down after her latest studio album. Beautiful is a very mellow and smooth track that will give the listener a sweet feeling inside while wana has a sleek sound that stands out. Hopefully she’ll release some more after her upcoming BEST album.

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Kuraki Mai – PUZZLE / Revive [31st Single]

May 1, 2009 at 5:01 pm (Kuraki Mai) (, )

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Kuraki Mai’s 31st single, entitled PUZZLE / Revive, was released on 04.01.09. While PUZZLE was used as the theme song to the movie Detective Conan: The Raven Chaser, Revive was used as the next theme song for the Detective Conan series.

PUZZLE is an addictive upbeat pop song that will…That opening instrumental sounds great and has an element of mystery to it that definitely stands out. Then Mai and a rapper say some English lines together in order to introduce the song. Following is the first verse and Mai delivers that attitude that only she can and her vocals sound perfect for this type of song. What really makes this song so amazing is the chorus as she stays in the higher range and speaks with some rapidity. That last line of the chorus is single-handedly the standout point of the song as the instrumentation gets aggressive for a moment and so do Mai’s vocals. Much like 24 Xmas Time, an unidentified rapper is present and he really does his thing. There’s a sleekness in his voice that draws the listener in and he makes way for Mai to come back in. He comes back in for the final words of the song as he says “when the lights glow, we shine like a Hollywood night show.” PUZZLE is definitely the stronger A-side and is one of Mai’s strongest tracks.

Revive is an upbeat Spanish-influenced track that carries a coolness to it. The song begins with the Spanish guitar, really seducing the listener into another world. Then the beat comes in and makes the music even stronger. Mai then sings the first verse and there is something very alluring about her voice. At some points, it feels like she’s trying to fit too many words into the line but it’s not too bad. The chorus is interesting because it is kind of divided into two parts and it makes it sound like she is speaking with another her. One part is sung lighter and higher while the other is more commanding and powerful. So the combination of the two works in Mai’s favor as it grabs the listener’s attention. She ends singing “resume and revive” and the English serves as the perfect way to close the song. There is an unidentified man speaking a little bit of Spanish and then Mai gives some very nice vocalizations that have an angelic quality to them. She gets a little funky at the end as she says “I show you the new world, I can do the revive.” The song closes with more great instrumentation, leaving the listener wanting more.

In order to promote the single, a PV was made for each A-side. The video for PUZZLE is pretty simple as it just features Mai singing with dancers in a red room with a string of lights running down the middle of the wall. There are also black-and-white close-up scenes of Mai singing into a microphone and color ones of her with rose petals blowing in the wind (and the petals all come back together to form one whole rose at the end). The Revive PV features two different Mai’s, differentiated by the color surrounding her: one with red and the other with blue. The only differences between them are the hair and the dresses. She looks gorgeous though and the red background looks really deep and pretty. It would have been nice if there was some sort of story going on in the video since it feels like the kind of song that tells a story.

Single Ranking: A +

Following her latest album, Mai keeps up the quality. PUZZLE is an addictive upbeat track that will make the listener want to dance along while Revive draws on Spanish influences to keep the listener interested all the way through. I can’t wait to see what she’ll bring next since she’s on a roll.

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Kuraki Mai – touch Me! [8th Studio Album]

January 28, 2009 at 10:55 pm (Kuraki Mai) (, )

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Kuraki Mai’s 8th album, entitled touch Me!, was released on 01.21.09. The singles released before the album are as follows: 夢が咲く春 / You and Music and Dream, 一秒ごとに Love for you and 24 Xmas Time. The title track was used as a promotional track for the album.

The album opens up with the title track, touch Me!, a smooth upbeat number. She sings part of the chorus, which starts off in English “there’s a secret, my first touch” and the rest follows in Japanese. That last note is held with such beauty and strength and then a section of pure instrumentation comes after, giving off a sort of dark vibe that the listener can enjoy. On the verses, Mai gives smooth vocals that generally remain in the lower range, staying with the atmosphere of the music. Before the chorus, the music becomes fuller and Mai gives a stronger vocal performance to match. The chorus is what makes this song so memorable as there is something so catchy and fun. The “touch me” is sung so commandingly and with such vigor that it lingers on the listener’s mind from the chorus. There is a slight instrumental change during the pure instrumental section, which is great since it kind of leads the listener through a story. touch Me! is a great way to open up the album and it channels Mai’s old sound well.

一秒ごとに Love for you, released before the album, comes up next as summer bliss. That summery atmosphere comes alive straight off from the first opening moment with the drums and Mai’s vocalizations over a very cool instrumental. Then comes the first verse and Mai brings that coolness in her vocals that makes the listener stand up and take notice. One interesting part of the song is that before the chorus, she sings “一秒ごとに” and then “Love for you” is the start of the chorus. The chorus features essentially two parts, one sung more in the background and the other with more prominent vocals and the combination of these two really make it memorable. This is a great song that will definitely have you moving and feeling summer no matter what time of the year it is.

mai1Up next is the insanely cathy upbeat number, Break the tone. Opening the song is a very funky and addictive instrumental that will stay in the listener’s head. Then she dives into the chorus and her vocals are so smooth and edgy at the same time so that it makes a very strong combination. She sounds absolutely fantastic when she sings “break the tone” and the following pure instrumental section puts a spotlight on the guitar, an interesting choice to push the music. On the verses, it feels like she’s telling a story as her vocals stay strong and she constantly says things in the background to add to that fun flavor. The hook features a slight instrumental change along with some angelic breathy vocals. She even delivers a little rap section that shows her cute attitude, definitely a memorable part of this song. She closes the song with some words that show more attitude, particularly the second to last line: “If you don’t like it, that’s too bad.” Break the tone is definitely one of the best album offerings and certainly one to remember.

We come to the sounds of spring with the fourth song, 夢が咲く春. We begin with a sweet and calming instrumentation that carries a bit of funkiness to it. On the verses, Mai’s vocals go perfectly with the music and it’s clear that this type of song supports her very well. However it’s the chorus that makes this song so loveable. Particularly when she sings the title of the song, her vocals portray this emotion that is so likeable and infectious. She also holds that last note of the chorus strongly. 夢が咲く春 is a wonderful spring song that is one of the album’s most memorable tracks.

Moving onto I can’t believe you!!, which is more of an autumn sound. The song starts off on an interesting note as there is a slightly mysterious sound to it. It really does feel like she’s telling a story when she comes in with the first verse and that’s what makes this song so addictive. Her vocals are wonderful as usual and when she sings “do I know I can’t believe you?,” there is a certainbreathiness that comes through her vocals that work. The chorus is enjoyable with the slight instrumental change and the more poppy feeling established by the way she seperates the words. The English phrases such as  “you can be yourself” add a nice touch to the song before she delivers that final chorus. Overall, this is another great song that is catchy and seems to channel her older sound while still keeping it up to date.

Next is Secret Lover. The song starts off with a sweet and relaxing vibe similar to the one from the previous track. Her vocals sound so pretty and calming here that it sounds great. There is this little part before the chorus where the instrumentation spirals up for a moment and even though it doesn’t last very long, it stands out and has that little bit of magic that works. The chorus is nice particularly because she reaches up and hits the higher notes very well and the Spanish guitar gets a nice spotlight. Secret Lover is a very enjoyable song and a good follow-up to I can’t believe you!!

After a string of amazing tracks, Hello! is the first one to fall flat. It’s a ballad driven by a pretty instrumentation but there’s something very generic and “already done” about this song, so it doesn’t catch the listener’s ear very well. Mai’s vocals are nice but the song just feels so done before that it doesn’t find a proper place on touch Me!

Luckily, we fall into wintery bliss on 24 Xmas Time. The song starts off with a sweet upbeat instrumentation with wintery traces, still maintaining a normal pop sound. She then goes into the chorus, which is great. Her vocals portray emotion, particularly on English phrases like “special for me” and “don’t break my heart.” However, it’s the verses that make this song so wonderful. There is a real laid-back feeling that supports Mai’s smooth vocals and connect with the listener’s ears. There are three parts in this song that are absolutely addictive, each in one of the verses. There is a slight instrumental change on these lines and it makes all the difference. It’s first seen when she sings 何時間のファッション.ショー (What time is the fashion show?). Although it’s hard to describe, there’s something magical about it that is extremely likeable. KEN-RYW joins Mai for a few rap sections and his presence gives the song a little more attitude. 24 Xmas Time is actually the album’s strongest song and definitely should not be skipped over.

Catch is the following track. The song begins on an interesting note as there is something cold and mysterious about the instrumentation as the beat slowly comes in with Mai repeating ‘catch.” She sticks to the lower register on the verses, in keeping with the dark atmosphere of the song. Beofre the chorus, the instrumentation takes a more aggressive and catchy approach, which sounds wonderful. This part carries over to the chorus as we get a very catchy and crimson instrumentation with Mai giving wonderful vocals to support it, both showing off her power and her range. A guest rapper jumps on board and provides some sleekness to the track, which is very welcome. This song is a very strong addition to touch Me! and is one of the ones to listen to for sure.

The album’s semifinale is You and Music and Dream. The song starts off with a very pretty instrumental that gives off a feeling of grandeur and magic. Soon Mai sings the first verse and her vocals here are very strong, portraying both beauty and true emotion, supporting the music perfectly. There is a real feeling of hope that comes through and resonates with the listener. There is one part right before the chorus in which the instrumentation spirals upwards and it really is beautiful, leading the listener into the chorus. That grandeur comes full force here and mai’s vocals are shown off perfectly, particularly as she hits the higher notes angelically and with ease. You and Music and Dream was amazing when it was released as a single and it hasn’t lost any of its steam on the album release.

Mai’s cover of TOP OF THE WORLD comes as the album’s closing number. Since Mai is fluent in English, her pronounciation is perfect and it makes the cover all the better. Her vocals are strong and it sounds like she’s really having fun with it, which makes the song all the more enjoyable.

Album Ranking: A

Mai definitely started her 10th anniversary with a bang! touch Me! features different styles to keep the listener interested but overall, the album stays pretty upbeat, which is interesting. Tracks like Break the tone, touch Me! and Catch show that Mai is extremely comfortable with that style. All the seasons get represented here and they end up being some of the album’s strongest material:  夢が咲く春 (Spring), 一秒ごとに Love for you (Summer), I can’t believe you!! (Autumn) and 24 Xmas Time (Winter). She delivers great vocals and emotion on the ballads like Secret Lover and You and Music and Dream as well, offering a strong balance. touch Me! is a very strong collection of songs that show off just what kind of artist Mai is.

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Kuraki Mai – touch Me! [PV Review]

December 29, 2008 at 4:21 am (Kuraki Mai) (, )

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In order to promote Kuraki Mai’s upcoming album, touch Me!, a new PV was made for the album’s title track.

For some strange reason, Mai’s album promotional videos seem to always have a limited budget with not much going on (i.e. ONE LIFE’s title track PV) and this new one is no different. In fact, the entire video is like a live performance of the song so it’s not particularly interesting. The one thing about the video that stands out nicely is the diamonds, which turned out to be a nice touch. And she did look pretty, which is worth something. Overall, it’s a pretty disappointing video but if you’re familiar with her album PVs, then it doesn’t really come as any surprise.

PV Ranking: C

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

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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 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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Kuraki Mai – 24 Xmas Time [30th Single]

November 25, 2008 at 8:19 pm (Kuraki Mai) (, )

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Kuraki Mai’s 30th single, entitled 24 Xmas Time, was released on 11.26.08. Although a month away from Christmas, the single does a perfect job of bringing that wintertime feeling close to the listener’s heart. The title track was used as the theme song for the TV series Koisuru Hanakimi while the B-side was used as an insert song.

24 Xmas time is a nice chill midtempo number that immediately resonates with the listener. From the moment the instrumentation opens, the listener knows that they are going to be taken on a journey. Mai opens up with the chorus and the certain fragile element of the song really works here in keeping that gentleness present. It’s the verses, however, that make this song so addictive. Her vocals sound absolutely wonderful here and that gentleness works even better as the music takes on a lighter tone as well. She sings “I wanna take a chance,” which provides the chorus with a nice build-up. The third verse is a rap from KEN-RYW and he does a very nice job of keeping the flavor up. What’s interesting about this song is that from the sound alone, it’s not particularly wintery but rather a pop song with a winter bell that appears at times. It’s actually a good way to approach so that Mai’s style still can come through. 24 Xmas Time is definitely her best song post ONE LIFE and what a way to introduce the sounds of winter.

The B-side of this single is All I Want. This song definitely captures the wintery atmosphere as well as a longing for a loved one. Mai’s vocals really portray the emotions well and show off her range nicely. Right before the chorus, she sings “All I want for Christmas is you” and that line alone makes the listener feel the song’s meaning. It’s a great song and a good compliment to the A-side.

In order to promote the single, a PV for 24 Xmas Time was made. The video is pretty simple, centering around Mai singing into a microphone (on a microphone stand) with dancers behind her. One enjoyable part of this video is that Mai’s personality really comes out, such as when she is putting on a little blush and then she jokingly dabs some at the camera. She’s cute and fun here, which makes the video all the more enjoyable.

Single Ranking: A

After releasing various singles, Mai finally comes to one that is addictive on the first listen. 24 Xmas Time is a fabulous laid-back song that shows off Mai’s voice and goes back to her older sound. All I Want is a good compliment, taking the ballad route and getting the emotions out there strongly. This is easily her best single post ONE LIFE and worth checking out.

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Kuraki Mai – 一秒ごとに Love for you [29th Single]

July 14, 2008 at 1:55 pm (Kuraki Mai) (, )

Kuraki Mai’s 29th single, entitled 一秒ごとに Love for you, was released on 07.09.08. The title track was used as the 23rd opening theme for the anime series Detective Conan.

一秒ごとに Love for you…The song begins with a cool instrumentation with pop tones with light rock influences. The first verse comes in and Mai delivers her lyrics with a certain slickness that works perfectly with the music. The chorus isn’t as powerful as hoped but it does show off Mai’s vocals as she hits the higher notes and shows a little more power. Following the chorus, Mai gives the lyrics with rapidity that makes it all the more enjoyable. The same cool instrumentation finishes off the song to give it that extra kick.

The B-side of the single is ずっと…, a more laidback pop song that is nice listening. The song sounds even better than the A-side and the chorus has a certain popiness that sounds great. It really takes the listener into a different world, making it an enjoyable experience. It’s a nice song and really would have been a better fit as the A-side of the single.

In order to promote the single, a PV for 一秒ごとに Love for you was made. The video is pretty simplistic as it features Mai singing the song with her back-up band as well as her sitting in a chair. Mai conveys her emotions so well as she sings along that it really does make the viewer forget how simple the video is. The video also features random waves, which capture the summertime atmosphere.

Single Ranking: B

Kuraki Mai’s 29th single features the fun summer A-side as well as the sweet pop B-side. Actually ずっと… is the strongest song on the single and should have been the A-side. The single isn’t anything mind-blowing  but it’s nice.

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