MEG – Journey [2nd Mini Album]

September 7, 2009 at 3:43 pm (MEG) (, )

MEG_Journey_Regular

MEG’s 2nd mini album, entitled journey, was released on 08.26.09. The album was centered around the theme of going on a journey and was produced by The Shanghai Restoration Project.

Droplets serves as the mini album’s opening track. The song begins with a relaxing instrumental with hints of traditional isntruments to make it sound even cooler. Then the first verse comes as there is a very mellow mood with almost a sorrowful tone as MEG sings. The chorus features MEG singing “we see it coming down” and “We’ll watch it disappear and vanish in the air.” Lyrically, there is a transient atmosphere that comes to the listener’s ears and it fits with the overall mellow vibe of the song perfectly. It’s a very nice way to start things off, really showing the very calm atmosphere of the album as a whole.

Questions follows, keeping the same laid-back sound but also bringing its unique coolness. The song starts off with a sort of funky instrumentation that also carries a softness. On the first verse, she delivers lyrics such as “You’re a stranger, could be danger” and she goes through various thoughts, really suiting the song’s title. On the chorus, she repeats the word “why,” effectively being a soothing tool for the listener’s ears and she ends it quite slickly by singing “Got me feeling like a spy, no hello or goodbye, and then it keeps me wondering why.” However one of the best lyrics of the song comes as the beginning of the second verse as she sings “all the mind tricks make my mind sick.” Questions is the most memorable track on the mini album and really should have been chosen as the promotional track.

Following the cool energy from the last track is Rush. Opening the song is MEG listing different cities in a very cool voice that is different from the usual calm voice that she had been using. There’s so much more spunk and energy, which makes the listener want to hear more. The lyrics of this song perfectly suit the theme of journey as MEG sings “One day to go and so much to do, I could use a helping hand / Maybe I should make a list, there is no more room to pack.” She sounds very cute when she repeats the names of cities in Japan and then says “I’ll see you there.” Rush is the second best track and gets points for mixing the cool atmosphere with her spunkiness.

The fourth track on the album is Dreamscape. The song begins with a cool instrumental that instantly gets the listener’s interest. MEG does some vocalizing before going into the first verse. Admittedly, that excitement dies down as MEG sounds so lacking emotion. Unfortunately this doesn’t get much better as the song goes on as the song is so repetitive with the vocalizations. After two strong tracks, Dreamscape falls flat despite it’s amazing title.

Just Like That is the following track. Beginning the song is a very sleek and mysterious instrumental that intrigues the listener and then MEG comes in with some jazzy vocalizations, perfectly suiting the song’s atmosphere. MEG’s vocals sound quite different on the track for some lines as they are much deeper and sleeker than usual. It’s an interesting contrast to have her normal voice for when she sings “Just Like That” and the more hushed voice for lines like “Take a break for days” and “I could live here.” Despite its repetitiveness, it’s still a nice song and suits the theme of going on a journey very nicely.

Journey, the title track, is the last original song on the mini album. The song begins with a cool instrumental, giving the image of water flowing. This is the only track in Japanese so it’s an interesting way to close things off. Her vocals are great here, really sounding smooth and suiting that image of calmly flowing water. The vocals are even a little bit angelic, sounding as it they could appear from a lullaby. It’s a very nice way to end things with MEG’s peaceful vocals over the sweet instrumentation.

Album Ranking: A –

MEG followed BEAUTIFUL with a very nice mini album, going in a completely different direction. This package is tied together by soft and mellow sounds but certain tracks carry unique parts that make them shine. Questions and Rush both have their own coolness to them that sounds wonderful while Just Like That has a more jazzy sound. It’s a strong collection of songs perfect for lounging and relaxing.

Most Memorable Tracks: Questions / Rush / Journey / Droplets

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MEG – BEAUTIFUL [6th Studio Album]

May 27, 2009 at 9:50 pm (MEG) (, )

MEGBeautiful

MEG’s 6th studio album, entitled BEAUTIFUL, was released on 05.27.09. PRECIOUS and FREAK were released before the album although FREAK was not included on the CD portion of the album. Instead, it was remixed by Nakata and placed on the DVD portion.

DAYS, an introductory track clocking in at just less than two minutes, begins the album. Opening the song is a very trippy instrumental that is kind of slow so there is a slightly haunting atmosphere about the song. This is particularly seen in MEG’s long and drawn out vocals. After she sings “fly with me,” the vocals sound kind of shaky as she’s trying to hold them for so long. After a bit after the minute mark, the tempo sounds just slightly faster and MEG speaks a little. On the one hand, it does introduce the sound of the album nicely but it’s not a particularly memorable song.

The first full track is PRECIOUS, released as a single beforehand. The song starts off with a dreamy instrumental which is nice although MEG’s vocals are a little to be desired. The use of the guitar was very smart since it makes the music stand out from the rest of the album. Things pick a little more on the first verse as there’s just something more likeable and cool about it. Unfortunately, the chorus sounds a little generic and keeps the listener from really falling into the song’s atmosphere.

TELEPHONE is the next track. The song begins with a cool and relaxing instrumental which carries a soft sweetness to it. MEG’s vocals are actually very loveable here and suit the music perfectly. English phrases like “I need the telephone” and “we feel the telephone” stand out and she really brings those particular phrases to life. The hook is a very good lyrical connection to the theme of the telephone as she sings “your love runs on the electric wave and I recieve it…” The chorus continues the fun sound previously established and all the English is very ear-catching. Of course the pure instrumental section stnads out and has a sort of aggression to it that is perfect. Without a doubt, TELEPHONE is one of the ost addictive new tracks.

LIES takes on the sound of previous numbers like SUPERSONIC with a clear focus on the instrumentation. It starts off on a very strong note and catches the listener’s attention. Once she starts singing, it is near impossible to understand what she is singing, even though the song is in all English. Nonetheless, the lyrics carry a sexual atmosphere to them as she sings “You rush my heart with endorphin, I really really don’t know what you’d say next morning.” There doesn’t seem to be any particular chorus but after she says “lies,” there is an awesome distortion on her vocals that just sounds fantastic. As always, these kind of songs end up being one of the best on the album and LIES is no different.

STAR slows things down a bit. The opening instrumental is kind of jazzy and thus it stands out from the rest of the instrumentals on the album. Her voice actually manages to carry emotion despite the distortion on it and it really feels like she’s telling a story that is soothing to the listener. Even though the chorus doesn’t change that much from the verses, it sounds awesome and manages to stand out, catching the attention of the listener. It’s a good song and is definitely worth the listen.

STAND definitely carries the Nakata sound but it doesn’t sound generic at all. The song opens up with a very pretty and calming instrumental, before slowly becoming more diverse and opening the doors of a new world. On the first verse, she sounds great and she seems to go a little higher than usual. There’s just something very loveable about the chorus because it feels very freeing. The English phrases like “And finding the rainbow” and “it’s not far away” stand out strongly. She also sounds fantastic when she sings “stand,” reaching a little high but keeping up the energy.

WHY has a more aggressive instrumental but the problem is that it’s so long that it can feel a little like it’s dragging on. f it were a little bit shorter, it would have been nicer because MEG’s vocals are actually pretty cool. The chorus has some cool English like when she sings “Why do I need such surprise…ah yeah, silky kiss.” WHY is an awesome song and had it been just a little shorter, it would have been even better.

Things continue at a weird pace with the following song, JOKER. It begins with a sort of sleek instrumental that gives the image of walking through a maze. In combination with the sort of haunting atmosphere of the music, MEG’s vocals really fit here. The chorus is easily the most memorable part of the song as she sings “1,2,3…and fall in place, say ‘lucky fortune’ it’s a phrase for you.” It’s definitely one of the coolest songs on the album and it really finds its place on BEAUTIFUL.

SKIN, which was used as a promotional track, is the semifinale. She starts off with the chorus, which is basically the only lyrical part of the song. She sings “look at me, there’s nothing we should worry about” and “touch my skin, I’m in the dreamy wonderland.” Her voice sounds particularly strong when she sings “Cast the skin” since she holds the note for so long at a higher range. Outside of this section, the rest is instrumentation that carries an aggressive vibe to it that cannot be ignored. No wonder it was chosen to promote the album because it’s one of the best songs BEAUTIFUL has to offer.

The album closes with its title track, also used to promote the album. This is the closest song that can be called an electro ballad and unfortunately, it’s the worst song on the album. The music just isn’t very appealing although the lyrics are nice, such as when she sings “I’ll always be your miracle.” it was a nice attempt but the execution was poor.

Album Ranking: A

BEAUTIFUL is a vast improvement over MEG’s last studio effort. This album has variety and the recurring use of English spices things up lyrically. From JOKER to TELEPHONE to LIES, MEG shows off her skills and Nakata’s production power to catch the listener’s attention. The album is only ten tracks, which is a shame since MEG was on a roll this time around.

6 Most Memorable Tracks (The Memorable Tracks): SKIN / LIES / JOKER / WHY / TELEPHONE / STAND

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MEG – FREAK [Song + PV Review]

May 12, 2009 at 8:22 pm (MEG) ()

MEGFREAKII

In order to promote MEG’s upcoming album, a PV for FREAK <yasutaka nakata remix> was made. Interestingly enough, the song will not be included on the CD portion of BEAUTIFUL.

While the original version features an edgy and cool sound, Nakata’s version takes a more sweet and cute route, fitting in with MEG’s discography thus far. The song begins with a nice and dreamy instrumental and then come the “hello hello” parts and they don’t just sound as cool without the original and crazy instrumental. Her voice is still distorted but this time, it’s made to sound very cute, which isn’t bad but it’s just disappointing after the original. It was a nice try but it doesn’t sound anywhere as good as the original.

The video for FREAK <yasutaka nakata remix> is basically the life of the MEG doll. It starts off with her building the doll and the dolltown is shown. There are actually scenes from the original video included at the end just to tie things together. Honestly, it’s a bad video but it does connect MEG back to her old style…which may or may not be a good thing.

Song Ranking: C
PV Ranking: C

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MEG – FREAK [14th Single]

February 13, 2009 at 9:56 pm (MEG) (, )

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MEG’s 14th single, entitled FREAK, was released on 02.11.09. The single comes produced by a different artist rather than the usual Yasutaka Nakata, this time featuring production by Hadouken!

FREAK is an addictive foray back into the world of electropop for MEG, taking a more aggressive approach than her style with Nakata. The song starts off with MEG repeating “”hello?,” an integral part of the song and there’s something strangely addicive about it. With all the English phrases that almost dominate the song, one of the biggest standout lines is “I don’t know. What’s going on? Sorry I can’t make it out. Who’s that girl? Let’s get set go!” The verses consist of a combination of Japanese and English lyrics and there is a real strange atmosphere that makes the song all the more better. MEG’s vocals are really fun here and they sound a lot more enjoyable than they did during her work with Nakata. On the hook, MEG’s does some vocalizations before delivering “Freak freak freak on you.” FREAK is definitely one of MEG’s best songs, if not her best, to date.

The B-side is the fun and trippy TOXIC. Opening the song is a very lighthearted instrumental which has a cuteness to it while still maintaining that aggressive edge. The hook features MEG saying various things she loves such as “I love candy” and “I love pancake” and the chanting katakana phrases like “very very good” and “very pretty girl” add to the cute and fun atmosphere of the song. On the chorus, the instrumentation takes a very cool and loopy feel, which kind of takes the listener to another world. The lyrics have kind of a sexual atmosphere to them such as “It’s toxic, try my soul.” TOXIC is a wonderful compliment to the A-side and definitely one that will stay on the listener’s mind.

In order to promote the single, a PV for FREAK was made. Keeping with the weirdness of the song, the PV reflects that atmosphere well. Scenes from the video include MEG rocking out with Hadouken! on stage, MEG laying in a glass box and MEG smoking while the guys argue (the whole time, MEG sporting a ridiculous hairstyle). It’s so wacky that the viewer can’t help but love it and it does go well with the song.

Single Ranking: A

It’s obvious from this single that MEG and Hadouken! make an awesome team and despite her separation from Nakata, she brought the heat. In fact, she brought it hotter than when she was with him. We’ll have to see what MEG’s next step is but I’m sure she’ll keep up the quality.

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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 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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MEG – PRECIOUS [13th Single]

September 19, 2008 at 5:53 pm (MEG) (, )

MEG’s 13th single, entitled PRECIOUS, was released on 09.17.08.

PRECIOUS is a more laid-back electropop song. The song begins with a line from the chorus and although the music is nice and MEG’s vocals go well with the music, the listener doesn’t immediately connect. Soon the instrumentation becomes a little more varied and the flow is much better, allowing the listener to more easily enjoy. Following is the first verse and MEG’s vocals are good here and because the music is so relaxing, it doesn’t carry that electropop spark that other Nakata songs have. The chorus is nice but once again, it just doesn’t stick out as much as hoped so there’s no particular one section that the listener loves coming to except for the moments of pure instrumentation. Overall the song isn’t bad but it’s definitely not one of her more catching numbers, leaving the listener to rely on moments of pure instrumentation to provide strength.

The B-side of the single is Candy. Opening the song is another laid-back and softer instrumental, this time evoking a real sweetness for the listener’s ear. Then the first verse appears and MEG’s vocals are pretty nice here although there is just something slightly offputting about the song once MEG begins singing. The chorus is incredibly simple, featuring MEG repeatedly singing “candy” and it’s actually really annoying as she draws out the word. It’s hard to describe but there is just something about the combination of MEG’s voice and the instrumentation that just doesn’t work.

In order to promote the single, a PV for PRECIOUS was made. The opening dance moves come off a little awkward and bare with just her standing in front of black. However the whole use of telekinesis was a really cool idea and the special effects actually come across strongly here. Cats are in this video and their presence is really strange and the scene where they are dancing with MEG is just beyond strange. The video has its high points and low points but generally the middle of the video with MEG using telekinesis to set the table is pretty cool and worth watching.

Single Ranking: C +

This single is not terrible but it could have been a lot better. The A-side is pretty forgettable and the B-side, while slightly more memorable, is a bit offputting and even annoying at points. Hopefully she’ll get something stronger for her next single.

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MEG – STEP [5th Studio Album]

June 17, 2008 at 9:20 pm (MEG) (, )

MEG’s 5th studio album, entitled STEP, was released on 06.18.08. Much like her previous album, BEAM, this album was produced by Nakata Yasutaka. Both singles released before the album, MAGIC and HEART, have found their way to the album as well as the B-side to the HEART single, NATALIE.

MAGIC, her first single of the STEP era, opens up the album. The song begins nicely with a happy techno sound followed by a cool sounding instrumentation. The distortion of MEG’s vocals is set to work with the instrumentation as during the verses, it is lower pitched to fit the more relaxing atomsphere while the happiness and energy of the chorus is matched in her voice. MAGIC is a nice song with a cuteness element to it that makes it all the more enjoyable. It’s definitely a good way to open up the album into MEG’s world of STEP.

KITTENISH follows MAGIC as the second track. A cool and more funky techno instrumentation opens up the song before going into the first verse, which sounds great. MEG’s vocals are nicely distorted to go along with the techno beat. The chorus is nice and continues the cool sound of the song but there should have been something right before to really introduce and separate the chorus that would make it pop. Otherwise, it’s enjoyable and the following pure instrumental section sounds wonderful as well. Although simplistic much like the previous track, KITTENISH is a nice follow up with a cool sound.

The third song is Make Love, clocking in at over seven minutes. The song opens up with a hot and cool sounding techno beat. Once the first verse comes in, she speaks over the beat and her words are echoed to capture the feel of the song. Soon a more aggressive sound is brought into the instrumentation and then vanishes, revealing the same cool instrumentation. Although she begins by speaking her way through the song, she delivers some lines with a distorted singing voice, which shows off her range. The song, sung entirely in English, really spotlights the cool instrumentation as MEG works her way through the song wonderfully. It’s an excellent way to keep the steam of the album going.

PRISM BOY is the next song to appear on the album. The song begins with a nice instrumentation that gives off a vibe of flashing lights before going into the first verse, which sounds pretty mellow in comparison to her other songs. During the verse, the instrumentation gets kind of annoying as it continuously repeats. The chorus picks things up in terms of energy level and it’s nice but nothing too spectacular. PRISM BOY is nice but nothing that blows it out of the water and kind of a bad fit after MAKE LOVE.

HEART takes up the same atmosphere that PRISM BOY does but captures it better. The opening instrumentation is relaxing and the distorted vocals work well to keep that relaxing vibe throughout the entire song. The ending note of the chorus is held nicely and shows off MEG’s vocals nicely. Although the song is simplistic, it’s a fun and nice listen  and a nicer finish after PRISM BOY.

SUPERSONIC is the next song on STEP. The song opens up with a mysterious techno instrumentation before going into the first verse. Once again, MEG speaks her way through it and captures a sexy atmosphere that the instrumentation suppports very well. Much like MAKE LOVE, MEG finds her way back to singing and she sounds great over the destructive instrumentation. SUPERSONIC is the longest song on the album but the energetic yet mysterious sound of the instrumentation keeps it an ineresting and fun listen.

Next is SEARCHLIGHT, a relaxing and cool song. The opening instrumentation nicely nicely introduces the atmosphere of the song before going into the first verse. It isn’t much different from the other slower songs on the album and it doesn’t particularly stand out as being something mind-blowing. The chorus is pretty boring as nothing really changes and it doesn’t pop as there is nothing to really separate it from the verse besides being sung in a higher tone. SEARCHLIGHT has its nice instrumentation points but it’s nothing particularly noteworthy.

NATALIE finishes the album, different from the version released as the B-side to the HEART single. Unfortunately, NATALIE <FM16 MIX> was much stronger than the album version as that video-game and magical quality was removed to make a boring finish for the album. The same relaxing sound is attempted here and the vocals aren’t anything to be proud of. Overall this was an absolute bad way to end the album and very disappointing as the FM 16 MIX of the song was so strong.

Album Ranking: B

MEG’s fifth studio album has its ups and downs. Songs such as MAKE LOVE and SUPERSONIC, in which MEG both speaks and sings her way through the song really show off the sex appeal that the instrumentation as well as MEG’s vocals combine to form. Songs like KITTENISH and MAGIC are nice songs that show off Nakata’s production skills. However songs like NATALIE are extremely boring and have no place on the album and the FM 16 MIX would have been a much better finish.

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MEG – HEART [12th Single]

May 24, 2008 at 1:27 pm (MEG) (, )

MEG’s 12th single, entitled HEART, was released on 05.07.08. The title track was used as Dariya Cosmetic’s PALTY CM song.

HEART is a fun techno track that also captures a more relaxing feel. The song opens strongly with a techno-blasting instrumentation before the first verse comes in. The distorted vocals work with the sound of the music to capture an atmosphere perfectly. Due to a little introduction through music into the chorus, it stands out strongly. She holds the ending note of the chorus very nicely and it puts a nice spin on things. The song is rather simplistic but it’s a nice listen and is fun.

The other song on the single is NATALIE <FM16 MIX.> The opening instrumentation along with the stange distorted vocals from MEG introduce the song well to a fun and pretty techno sound. There is almost a video-game quality to the instrumentation that goes with her voice perfectly to create an enjoyable and fun sound. The hook serves as a bridge to the chorus as new instruments are introduced that come stronger in the chorus. The chorus sounds great and the distorted vocals only add to the fun flavor of the song. The song does kind of drag on at the end but it’s still a fun song that is pretty.

In order to promote the single, a PV for HEART was made. The video is pretty simplistic as it consists of MEG at home baking and watching television with her dog. There is something about the colors that just didn’t work for the PV and creates a strange feeling. Overall, the PV was all right and nothing special.

Single Ranking: B +

MEG’s 12th single features two tracks. HEART is a nice techno song that has a certain relaxing atmosphere to it as well. NATALIE <FM16 MIX> is a pretty techno track that features a wonderful instrumentation.

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