EXILE – THE HURRICANE ~FIREWORKS~ [31st Single]

July 23, 2009 at 4:38 am (EXILE) (, )

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EXILE’s 31st single, entitled THE HURRICANE ~FIREWORKS,~ was released on 07.22.09.

FIREWORKS is the first song on the single. Beginning the song is a cool upbeat instrumental with some traditional sounding influences, which makes a very interesting combination. Then the chorus comes and the vocals are just okay, suiting the music nicely although it does feel a little cheesy with lines like “your love is like fireworks.” The verses are a little better just because the vocals sound cooler and suit the music much better. It’s a nice song although not the most interesting.

優しい光 is the next track. It’s a pretty ballad in terms of the instrumentation although the lead singer’s vocals do get to be a little high at times. However, it is quite a nice song and a good fit with the boys’ style.

The boys team up with FLO RIDA on THE NEXT DOOR -INDESTRUCTABLE.- It’s an edgier dance song with an aggressive sound that definitely shines. This should have been the A-side since it’s a sound that really works with the boys’ voices well.

Single Ranking: B

THE HURRICANE ~FIREWORKS~ is a good single in terms of diversity. FIREWORKS has a good dance sound, 優しい光 has a pretty and emotional sound while THE NEXT DOOR -INDESTRUCTIBLE- carries the needed edge. However if the first two songs hit the mark a little harder then the overall package would have been more enjoyable.

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EXILE – THE MONSTER ~Someday~ [30th Single]

May 2, 2009 at 5:01 pm (EXILE) (, )

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EXILE’s 30th single, entitled THE MONSTER ~Someday,~ was released on 04.15.09. This single comes as the first one following the merge of EXILE and J Soul Brothers to form a 14-member group.

Someday is a poppy upbeat song made for being happy. That opening instrumental sequence is very pretty and is actually really ear-catching. Then comes the first verse and as usual, the vocals are good and compliment the relaxing music very well. Even though the chorus doesn’t really sound that different from the verses, there’s just something likeable about it, which is good. The pure instrumental section sounds wonderful and definitely has a summery feeling that just helps the listener drift off into paradise. Someday is a very good song and perfect for the season.

THE NEXT DOOR is a aggressive and energetic number. Beginning the song is a very cool dance instrumental with that hip-hop flare that makes the listener stand in awe. When the first verse starts, rock elements come out to play, spicing up the instrumentation even more. The vocals sound great with the music and they primarily stay in the higher range but the listener can’t help but love it. More of the members get a chance to sing on the chorus and it offers a nice little vocal variety and with the music staying strong, it stands out as a good section of the song. THE NEXT DOOR is a great track and is one of this group’s more memorable songs.

給珍愛的未來 is a beautiful love ballad. The song starts off with the piano, introducing the listener to a delicate and fragile atmosphere that has a certain feeling of spring to it. When the first verse comes, the vocals are fantastic, portraying emotion and truth, which stays on the listener’s mind. The instrumentation supports this with such a sweetness and the combination is perfect. The chorus stands out as the music becomes stronger and the vocals follow suit so that a magical feeling emerges. It’s another strong song for the boys with the emotional context standing out very nicely.

GENERATION, a dance song, is the last track on the single. Opening the song is a dance instrumental that just has fun written all over it. The first verse starts in and the vocals are good although they could have been better, more emotive. There’s just something about the music that is missing and so it feels a little hollow. This persists in the chorus so although the vocals are good, the music isn’t capturing enough and doesn’t hook the listener as strongly as it should. It’s by no means a bad song but a fuller instrumentation would have made the song much more memorable.

In order to promote the single, a PV for Someday was made. The video is simple, just featuring the fourteen guys dancing and a group of adorable kids watching. It was a nice idea to have everything centered around the color white, since it tied the whole video together. Not the must intriguing video but the dancing was really good.

Single Ranking: A –

The guys did a great job here and this is a strong single to introduce the new 14-member line-up. Someday takes on a summery sound to make the listener want to dance along and be happy; THE NEXT DOOR goes for a cool sound that the boys really excel out; 給珍愛的未來 is a sweet ballad of love with emotions coming across strongly; GENERATION fell a little flat but it’s a nice song nonetheless. Hopefully they’ll be able to keep up this quality in the future.

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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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EXILE – LAST CHRISTMAS [29th Single]

December 6, 2008 at 4:34 pm (EXILE) (, )

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EXILE’s 29th single, entitled LAST CHRISTMAS, was released on 11.26.08. The song is a cover of WHAM’s song of the same title.

LAST CHRISTMAS is an wonderful upbeat wintery number. The song begins on a very strong note with the boys vocalizing before the beautiful and upbeat wintery instrumentation comes in and entices the listener. On the chorus, the boys really sound great as their vocals are smooth and even have a certain sex appeal to them. What stands out the most from the chorus is the opening line “last christmas,” which is sung perfectly. The verses follow suit and stand out as Atsushi sings his heart out, hitting the higher notes fantastically. Overall, LAST CHRISTMAS is a very enjoyable song worth checking out from these very talented boys.

Single Ranking: A –

LAST CHRISTMAS certainly is one of the best Christmas songs of 2008 and a much more memorable single coming from these boys than The Birthday ~Ti Amo.~ I hope they get to be releasing material aside from new songs for BEST albums soon.

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EXILE – The Birthday ~Ti Amo~ [28th Single]

October 5, 2008 at 11:47 am (EXILE) (, )

EXILE’s 28th single, entitled The Birthday ~Ti Amo,~ was released on 09.24.08. The title track was used as the CM song for Meiji’s Melty Kiss.

The Birthday ~Ti Amo~ is a sweet midtempo number. The song starts off with a very pretty instrumentation with some Spanish influences that give it that kind of dreamy feeling the listener can just fall into. On the first verse, the music becomes more simplistic so the focus is on the boys’ voices and the vocals are pretty smooth here so that was a wise decision. Introducing the chorus nicely is the progression of the music that becomes slightly louder until the chorus comes in. It’s a nice section although it doesn’t stand out as much as hoped from the verses. Nonetheless, it’s quite enjoyable and the whole song is catchy so it’s no problem. The Birthday ~Ti Amo~ strongly takes on those Spanish sounds to make this song catch the listener’s ear and it compliments the boys’ smooth vocals strongly.

In order to promote the single, a PV for The Birthday ~Ti Amo~ was made. The video is very long, clocking in at just over eight minutes. It’s actually a really boring video that tells a story and while it’s always nice to have a storyline, this video was just so boring that it wasn’t even worth it.

Single Ranking: A –

The Birthday ~Ti Amo~ gets points for successfully taking on Spanish sounds to transform this ballad into a quite catchy midtempo song. It’s another good one from EXILE worth looking at.

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EXILE – EXILE ENTERTAINMENT BEST [2nd Consecutive BEST]

July 22, 2008 at 1:07 am (EXILE) (, )

EXILE’s 2nd consecutive BEST album, entitled EXILE ENTERTAINMENT BEST, was released on 07.23.08. This album is the second of the three BEST albums that form EXILE Perfect Year 2008. This album features the group’s most energetic tracks and is comprised of a few new songs and re-recordings of old songs with new band members Atsushi and Takahiro.

The first new song on the album is SUPER SHINE. The song starts off with a cool twinkling sound before the song’s true sound comes in. With some opening vocalizations, the song then goes into the chorus, which is catchy for the interesting instrumentation and the way that the boys hold their notes well. The first verse then comes in and the boys sound great here. Closing the song is the same twinkling sound that opened it. The song is definitely a fun song that stands out to the listener strongly as the boys vocalize strongly and the instrumenation remains as interesting as ever.

Following SUPER SHINE is MY FANTASY, a upbeat song still holding a more mellow vibe. The song begins with a cool sounding instrumentation and some nice vocalizing. The first verse then begins and it’s actually the instrumentation that catches the listener’s attention instead of the vocals, which are a little too soft anyway. The chorus is somewhat forgettable but the English is a nice fit for the song’s atmosphere. MY FANTASY is a pretty forgettable song and doesn’t fit as well with the overall theme of this BEST album as being energetic.

Much like 24 Karats -Type EX- on previous studio album, EXILE LOVE, the same style is brought with AI for So Special-Type EX.- Instead of having the whole group however, Atsushi steps to the position, making it a duet. The song begins with a sweet and softer instrumental before the first verse starts. AI’s vocals sound pretty deep here and don’t exactly catch the listener’s ear as strongly as they should. Atsushi’s vocals sound nice but nothing particularly noteworthy. The two voices mesh well together on the chorus however, complimenting each other well. Overall the song is again, pretty forgettable and not a good fit with the album’s theme.

New Songs Ranking: B

The new songs on EXILE ENTERTAINMENT BEST are all right, although there are the ups and downs. SUPER SHINE is very catchy and definitely fits the overall theme of the album perfectly. So Special is pretty bland and not memorable while MY FANTASY is somewhat between the two. Not the greatest new numbers but the collection of other songs is nice for an EXILE fan.

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EXILE – Pure / You’re My Sunshine [27th Single]

February 25, 2008 at 6:19 am (EXILE) (, )

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EXILE’s 27th single, entitled Pure / You’re My Sunshine, was released on 02.27.08 fairly recently after the release of their latest album EXILE LOVE. All the songs on the single received tie-ins. Pure was used as the LISMO CM song while You’re My Sunshine was the theme song for the movie Team Batista no Eikou. The B-side, 変わらないモノ, also had a tie-in  as the DAIHATSU TANTO TUCOM CM song.

The first song on the track, Pure, is a sweet ballad with uptempo elements to it. The first verse features vocals more in the lower range while keeping with the music. The chorus gives the song a bit more energy with more of an uptempo approach and makes it stand apart perfectly. The vocals show strength and range as notes in the higher range are hit. The second verse is similar to the first with a little more power behind the vocals while still complimenting the music. The third verse changes up the instrumentation a bit and adds an undescribable flavor to the song. Following, the chorus is sung with the instrumentation playing less of an active role and here more emotion comes across from the vocals. Pure is a wonderful song and a great introduction to the next album’s era.

Track number two, You’re My Sunshine, is a perfect compliment to Pure. An upbeat and summery song, You’re My Sunshine captures the energy perfectly. The first and second versew feature smooth vocals that blend perfectly with the music and the higher notes that are hit are well sung. The chorus brings out the feel even more because of the instrumentation coming out a bit stronger and the vocals, which are as always strong. The third verse features the boys repatedly singing “everything’s gonna be all right” and it works perfectly in the context. The ending “sun shining bright” really brings home the sunny summery imagery associated with the song. The ending instrumentation is a wonderful finish to the song and no other way would be better. You’re My Sunshine is a wonderful pop uptempo number that has a summery feel to it and the boys performed wonderfully on it.

変わらないモノ, the B-side, is a wonderful midtempo track. The vocals during the first verse really present good emotion  and accompany the music well. The hook serves as a bridge and to the instrumentation introduces the chorus with a “climax effect.” The chorus is very beautifully sung with emotions jumping right from the vocals and the harmonization was excellent as usual. The second verse has even stronger harmonization and vocal strength than the first verse, making the song stronger as it progresses. The third verse gives the song a new energy as the instrumentation changes direction slightly and the boys follow suit perfectly. The notes that reside in the higher range are hit perfectly and effortlessly. The song ends with instrumentation for a beautiful finish.

Single Ranking: A

EXILE’s 27th single, entitled Pure / You’re My Sunshine, features different moods but all tackled with an amazing approach. Pure is a very interesting ballad with uptempo nuances that make it all the more special. You’re My Sunshine shows the sweet and poppy side of the boys, which sounds great and captures the summer feel effortlessly. 変わらないモノ is a powerful midtempo number with beautiful vocals and a wonderful instrumental. Although coming soon after the release of their latest album, the single proves that the boys haven’t lost any steam and look to continue just as strongly.

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EXILE – EXILE LOVE [6th Studio Album]

February 3, 2008 at 4:26 am (EXILE) (, )

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EXILE released their sixth studio album, entitled EXILE LOVE, on 12.12.07. Ranging from summery songs like SUMMER TIME LOVE and 時の描片~トキノカケラ~ to wintery ballads such as I Believe, the album gives many different moods. Among the most interesting offerings on the album are the opening track (What Is Love), Make Love and空から落ちてくるJAZZ. The singles preceding the album were SUMMER TIME LOVE,  時の描片~トキノカケラ~  / 24 karats – type EX – and I Believe.

What Is Love, is the opening track, and is a strong way to open up the album. Using violins and a slightly synthetic beat, an ethereal sound is achieved. The song has a midtempo approach while maintain an upbeat poppy appeal. The catchiest part of the song is the hook, when the beat slightly changes and the vocals grow a little stronger. The transition into the chorus is just a bit discontinuous but the chorus is still pretty strong. There’s something capturing about the song but there seems to be a small element missing that could take it to the next level.

I Believe, the second song, has a wintery feel that makes for a soft beautiful ballad. From the opening, the bells and chimes alongside the sparkling beat create the whole feeling of Christmas. The verses are nicely done even though the vocals could have had a little more power. The transition from the hook to the chorus is a bit abrupt but doesn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the song. The hook once again prevails as the strongest section within the song as it serves as a bridge between the more midtempo approach of the verses and the uptempo nature of the chorus. The song ends a cappella and finishes off the song quite nicely. Overall the song is relatively simple but a wonderful Christmas time song and a nice addition to the album.

The next song is the uptempo pop song, Beautiful. The hook is the strongest part as it balances between the sweetness of the chorus and the mellower vibe from the verses. The instrumentation features some slightly weird sounds that work for the song overall in this case (seen after the first chorus). The guitar during the pure instrumental section creates a certain flavorful flare to the song. Although the song is enjoyable and the hook is strong, it seems a bit generic. This is particularly seen by the ending as they sing “it’s a beautiful day, love is beautiful baby.” So it’s a nice attempt that doesn’t exactly hit but doesn’t miss either.

The fourth song, ~Hibiki,~ is a beautiful ballad. From the instrumentation, there is a fantasy atmosphere within the song. The vocals are more low-pitched but still hold great to the beat.  The hook particularly impressed me with amazing vocals, making it stand apart fantastically. The chorus is also very strong and showcases just how powerful these boys voices are. Their vocal strength lies in both their ability to project and their ability to impressively hit high notes. Even though the song has so much inside of it already, the third verse gives the song even more spirit. This is a wonderful addition to the album and is one of the strongest songs on the entire album.

君がいるから, the fifth track, follows in the vein of the previous song. The instrumentation is somewhat similar but doesn’t possess that magic element. Instead of following the trend of some of the songs on the album, the chorus stands stronger than the hook when the instrumental introduces with a flurry of sounds. The hook is where that instrumental change begins but it’s the chorus that brings it to the forefront. The piano plays a key role in the song and greatly assists the wintery feel that the song possesses. The vocals are great and although they don’t go to the great range that the boys of EXILE are capable of, it remains one of the stronger songs on the album.

Make Love, the sixth song on the album, is definitely the most interesting song on the entire album. The harmonization between the boys of EXILE blend perfectly with the hot beat of the song. The sexual energy that fuels the song is found both within the synthetic and electronic beat and the consistently strong vocals. Although the chorus is relatively simple, it’s very addictive. In fact, the chorus consists of only “let’s make love” and “I feel like making love…tonight/with you.” However the real sections that stand out are both the slick verses and the hooks, powered by extremely strong vocals. The pure instrumental sections really give the song the extra kick. Because of the hot synthetic beat and amazing vocals, Make Love is my favorite song on the album.

The seventh song, SUMMER TIME LOVE, is a strong pop number with a clear summer feel. From the title, the summer imagery jumps out strongly from the moment the song opens and stays throughout the entire instrumentation. The chorus is pretty catchy and even the verses are able to keep interest. During the instrumental section, the true summer spirit is found in the sparkling sounds and uptempo beat. This track is definitely not a typical summer song and is one to be remembered.

空から落ちてくるJAZZ is the eighth song on the album and uses a slick tempo to make a strong track. Strangely enough, the song isn’t as reliant on jazz as the title leads one to believe. It’s an uptempo track with a certain element that sounds very dark and the combination of the two creates a very interesting feel. It sounds like there is a slight jazz influence that runs throughout the song and keeps the song fresh. The third verse sparks even more creativity when they sing “do you feel the touch of love?” There is a slight sexual energy there that is subtle and works in the overall favor of the song. The vocals compliment the music perfectly by keeping to a lower pitch. This song is one of my favorite songs on the album for keeping it interesting.

love, the ninth song on the album and is a track that borders on the line between midtempo and upbeat. The transition between the verses and the hook is very strong and seems almost continuous. The chorus is a bit more striking as it’s sung in all Japanese, excluding the song’s title, drawing attention to it. With phrases “I’ll love you for the rest of my life” and “you are the sunshine of my life,” there is a cuteness charm within the song that works very well. The vocals are at their usual strength and keep with the beat well as always. Overall this was a pretty good song and again, there seemed to be just a small something holding it back from being amazing.

The tenth track, entitled sayonara, is a ballad with a guitar as the central instrument. The strength of this song is found within the arrangement of the song, which takes certain twists and turns that keep the song interesting. The boys of EXILE are consistently strong with their vocals and here, their vocal capabilities shine. The transitions throughout the song, including verses, hooks and choruses sounds effortless but the arrangement shows the change between the sections. At the final chorus, the emotion comes across so strongly, it almost sounds like the tears are beginning to fall. This song is very enjoyable and possesses one of the most interesting arrangements on the entire album.

Track number eleven, entitled 変わらないモノ, is an enjoyable pop song with R&B influences. While the verses are more mellow, the chorus gives the song that extra kick. The vocals are well maintained throughout the song and blend well with the instrumentation, which also carries the imagery to it as well. After a small instrumental break, a certain energy comes to the song that didn’t shine as much earlier. This song continuously grows stronger, making it enjoyable from the beginning until the very end.

時の描片~トキノカケラ~, the twelfth song, is a midtempo pop number that has a summer feel to it. The opening is a bit strange since it doesn’t really fit with the rest of the song but it doesn’t detract from the overall theme. The actual song begins off with a midtempo twist but then goes into the pop sound during the chorus. It has that sweet pop charm that reminds me of Tohoshinki. Between a back-to-back chorus, the instrumental changes up a bit and gives it an unexplainable magic. Overall it’s a nice listen that is perfect for the summer time.

The thirteenth track, Touch The Sky, features Bach Logic and is an uptempo track. The chorus really stands out as impressive as the vocals are consistent despite being sung somewhat quickly. The verses are well done and flows perfectly into the hook. Back Logic offers the rap nearing the end, which is kind of low-pitched but doesn’t clash with the uptempo beat of the song. Because the chorus plays a central role in the song, it keeps the song fresh and not at all repetitive. It’s a wonderful addition to the album and a memorable effort.

The final song on the album, entitled 24 karats – type EX, – is a great way to end the album. The song opens up with the sound of a screeching car and then flows nicely into the actual song. The song has a very aggressive beat so the opening rap fits perfectly. The transition from rapping to singing is effortless as the singing maintains a hip-hop flavor. The hook utilizes strong vocals, making it very memorable. The chorus consists of a catchy rhythm that blends perfectly with the beat, making it stand out. Sowelu is introduced in the chorus and her vocals are a little soft but mesh well with the boys. Up next, Sowelu sings her part and the slight similarity from the vocals from the chorus make for an incredible transition. Her vocals aren’t amazingly strong but they work very well in the context in the song. On the next chorus, Sowelu steps up to the plate in terms of vocals. The next rap isn’t as strong as the first one but it still has great energy. This is the perfect party song and a great way to end the album.

Album Ranking: A –

EXILE’s latest album offers a variety of sounds and feelings but there is a slight repetitiveness to some of the tracks that leaves the listener wanting more. On songs such as What Is Love and Make Love, EXILE proves that they can give unique songs with effortlessly. Their vocals are consistently particularly on the album’s ballads and perhaps that is their strongest asset. While the boys shine on hot dance tracks and beautiful ballads, the pop songs with R&B influences could have performed a little stronger.

 

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