Gackt – The Next Decade [35th Single]

August 7, 2009 at 8:03 pm (Gackt) (, )

Next Decade

Gackt’s 35th single, entitled The Next Decade, was released on 08.05.09. The title track was used as the theme for Kamen Rider Decade: All Riders vs. Great Shocker.

The Next Decade is a cool rock number. The song begins with a rock instrumental that carries an aggression to it, which is nice, although it feels like there’s something missing. Gackt sounds nice on the first verse, his vocals carrying emotion and fitting the atmosphere very well. The chorus opens up with “you’re the next, next decade” and his vocals sound a little shaky here. The random cheer was weird following that line was random but at least it made the listener take notice. Overall, it’s an okay song and could have been better. There was just something special lacking in the instrumentation and the vocals weren’t as strong as they usually are.

In order to promote the single, a PV for The Next Decade was made. The video feels just like a trailer for the movie as it shoes Gackt in different scenes from the movie. It’s a good way to promote the movie and he certainly looks good in it.

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Gackt – Flower [34th Single]

June 30, 2009 at 4:50 pm (Gackt) (, )


Gackt’s 34th single, entitled Flower, was released on 07.01.09.

From the title, Flower would seem like a peaceful and sweet track but Gackt throws a curveball and delivers a cool sounding rock track. The song opens up with a nice rock instrumentation which feels like something is crashing. It’s not exactly the most capturing way to begin things and things don’t much change on the first verse. His vocals are nice but nothing that really shine in the listener’s ears. The chorus isn’t very interesting either with only slightly louder vocals separating it from the verses. It’s just not very grabbing and leaves the listener wanting more.

In Flames is this single’s B-side. The song starts off with a mysterious sounding instrumental that intrigues the listener and takes their curiosity. Then the dark and cold instrumentation comes in and that element of mystery persists. Gackt sounds very strong on the first verse and those vocals really smoothly follow the music. For a moment, it feels like the song is about to end with the music winding down and out of nowhere, the music becomes more aggressive as do Gackt’s vocals. It definitely catches the listener off guard and commands attention. The song’s other strength is the absolute beauty of the lyrics, which will definitely touch the listener’s heart. In Flames really should have been the A-side since it’s the stronger of the two tracks.

Single Ranking: B

After Lost Angels, Gackt had to deliver one strong single to finish off the project. Well, he kind of did that. In Flames is one of the most memorable songs of the consecutive single project and would have made a strong A-side. Flower is just not very interesting and doesn’t have that spark that grabs the listener’s attention. Hopefully he’ll be doing an album soon since he’s long overdue.

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Gackt – Lost Angels [33rd Single]

June 24, 2009 at 1:13 am (Gackt) (, )


Gackt’s 33rd single, entitled Lost Angels, was released on 06.24.09.

Lost Angels is an emotional rock number with beautiful and tear-jerking lyrics. The song begins with a soft instrumental that has an orchestral feel, leading up to something definitely worth hearing. Instantly, there is a fragility and emotional context that stands out to the listener. Suddenly, the instrumentation switches over into an emotional rock one when Gackt comes in with the vocals. That same emotion is reflected in his vocals and catches the ear of the listener. It’s nice to have the verses be so pretty and to have the chorus have that rock sound because they don’t clash and show two sides of Gackt that he is in complete control of. This song is easily the best of the three A-sides heard thus far and shows Gackt still has it in him to bring amazing songs like this.

The first B-side of the single is the even more aggressive rock number, No Reason. Opening the song is a very technological sound that carries a futuristic feel before the aggressive rock instrumentation comes in to crash the world of the listener. His vocals sound great when he sings the first verse as there’s just something very magical behind it. It’s a really great song because of that cool rock sound that catches the listener from the moment the song opens.

Suddenly is the final B-side on the single. The song starts off with another technological soudn that feels like the gateway to the future and then the rock instrumentation comes in, this time carrying a sad tone to it. As usual, his vocals sound good when he comes out for the first verse. The emotions are clearly there and the music really supports it. Although it is the weakest song on the single, it’s still worth the listen.

Single Ranking: A –

Gackt really stepped it up on this single. The last two were “nice” but this one shows Gackt’s true colors for the listeners to hear and feel. All the songs carry a rock sound but executed it in different ways. While Lost Angels takes a mixture of gentleness and aggressive rock, No Reason amplifies the aggressiveness and Suddenly tones it down. Overall, it’s a very strong single and the best out of the three so far.

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Gackt – Faraway ~星に願いを~ [32nd Single]

June 16, 2009 at 4:10 pm (Gackt) (, )


Gackt’s 32nd single, entitled Faraway ~星に願いを,~ was released on 06.17.09. The single comes as the second of four consecutive singles to commemorate the countdown to Gackt’s 10th anniversary.

Faraway ~星に願いを~ is a rock spirited love song. The song begins with a rock-filled instrumental to really kick things off on the right way. Then comes the first verse and his vocals support the simple instrumentation, driven by the guitar (both rock and acoutstic). The clapping helps catch the listener’s attention and the cheering adds to the overall energy. With the distortion on his vocals during the chorus, it definitely stands out. It’s just a nice fun number that will make the listener want t dance along with Gackt.

The B-side f the single is Oblivious ~顔のない天使.~ Beginning the song is a very pretty instrumental with the acoustic guitar really catching the listener’s ear. His vocals carry the necessary emotion to bring the song to life on the first verse. It becomes clear that sadness will reign and it comes most strongly on the chorus. The instrumentation becomes more powerful as do his vocals. It’s a pretty good song with the emotions coming out for the listener to hear and feel.

Single Ranking: B +

Gackt steps things up a little from the first single. Faraway ~星に願いを~ has a nice rock flavor that is catchy and the B-side is a very pretty song. There’s just something missing from these songs. They lack that magic like Vanilla or Blue Lagoon. Although, they are very strong lyrically.

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Gackt – 小悪魔ヘヴン [31st Single]

June 8, 2009 at 10:20 pm (Gackt) (, )

Koakuma Heaven

Gackt’s 31st single, entitled 小悪魔ヘヴン, was released on 06.10.09. This single comes as of the first of four consecutive singles to commemorate the countdown to Gackt’s 10th anniversary.

小悪魔ヘヴン is another catchy electric track. The song begins with a cool instrumental that carries the same sort of electro feeling that his recent signles carry. It’s definitely a great way to start off the song and there’s a sweetness to it that stands out. Next comes the first verse and the slight distortion on her vocals actually catches the listener’s ear very well and commands attention. The chorus is catchy and nice, definitely worth listening for although it’s primarily the music that is responsible for its catchiness. So of course the pure instrumental section stands out and just keeps the listener’s interest quite well. It’s fun and the lyrics are quite naughty, which Gackt seems to be very good at doing.

Gackt comes back to the rock sounds with this single’s B-side, My Father’s Day, dedicated to his stage father, Ogata Ken. The song begins with full rock instrumental that sounds a little off somehow. It’s just missing that special edge to catches the listener’s ear. When he sings on the first verse, it sounds like it could be the opening theme of an anime series, which is kind of strange coming from Gackt. Overall, it’s kind of boring and it would have been better if he had stuck to the electric sound.

Single Ranking: B

Gackt started off the four consecutive singles nicely although it could have been better. The title track is pretty interesting but My Father’s Day was pretty uninteresting. Hopefully the next song will be more addictive.

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Gackt – Journey through the Decade [28th Single]

April 30, 2009 at 4:07 pm (Gackt) (, )


Gackt’s 28th single, entitled Journey through the Decade, was released on 03.25.09. The song was used as the Kamen Rider Decade theme song.

Journey through the Decade is a calm rock song with emotion. The song starts off with a rock-filled instrumental that gives the image of a desolate world. Gackt then comes in for the first verse and his usual vocals support the music perfectly. The use of the piano is nice in that it provides a change from the usual rock instrumentation however there seems to be some magic element missing since it doesn’t strike the listener as being too strong. Sadly, it doesn’t come forward on the chorus either. Although his vocals are strong and portray emotion, the instrumentation just sounds kind of typical and boring. The pure instrumental section is nice since the guitars are spotlighted but it’s nothing that stands out that much. Journey through the Decade is just okay but nothing great. Perhaps a more aggressive instrumental would have done it.

In order to promote the single, a PV for Journey through the Decade was made. The video just features Gackt transforming into a robot to fight another person who does the same thing. It wasn’t very interesting nor entertaining but it does have a certain fit with the song’s image.

Single Ranking: B –

After the great single, Ghost, this is pretty disappointing. Gackt’s vocals are actually pretty good but the music  doesn’t portray what the lyrics seem to and maybe a more aggressive isntrumentation could have better spotlighted the song’s emotions.

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Gackt – Ghost [27th Single]

January 24, 2009 at 5:01 pm (Gackt) (, )


Gackt’s 27th single, entitled Ghost, was released on 01.28.09. The title track was featured in Terminator TV series Sarah Connor Chronicles.

Ghost takes Gackt’s rock sound and infuses it with a dose of electronic power to make it memorable. The song begins with an addictive instrumental that has a very sleek technological feel to it. When the rock elements come in, it becomes even fuller and catches the listener’s attention a little more. Gackt’s vocals have a slight distortion on them to fit with the overall vibe of the song and it was a good decision since they compliment the music very well. It’s kind of hard to first notice when the chorus begins but it does soon become clear. It’s not as strong as hoped but the following section of pure instrumentation sounds absolutely fantastic. Gackt’s vocals certainly are enjoyable on this song but the standout part of the song is without a doubt, the energetically thumping instrumentation with fuses electronic sounds with rock.

This single’s B-side is the emotionally carged rock number, Blue Lagoon. Beginning the song is a very mysterious instrumental that intrigues the listener to hear more. Soon the cold pulsating atmosphere comes in and it really stands out. Gackt’s vocals on the first verse are magnificent, smoothly carrying over the music and reflecting the deep emotion of the song. Again, the sections of pure instrumentation are the most memorable because they just really are the emotional basis of the song. Blue Lagoon is a wonderful song and a great compliment to the A-side, just sticking to the rock sound this time around.

In order to promote the single, a PV for Ghost was made. The video is very simple, featuring scenes from it’s tie-in as well as a darkly lit stage featuring Gackt doing some dancing (which he hasn’t done in years). It’s not that great of a video but it does have a certain cool effect that matches the song’s atmosphere.

Single Ranking: A

Gackt definitely started his year off on the right way. Ghost brings in electronic sounds in order to bond with his rock sound to make one very memorable instrumental. Blue Lagoon sticks to the rock sound, taking on a very isolated and cold sound to make the listener crave more. It’s a great single that all Gackt fans or fans of rock in general should check out.

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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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