MUSIC is the third album released by Nakashima Mika. The album was another success for the singer, although it didn’t quite reach the heights of her first two albums. It peaked at #1 and sold over 547,000 copies. All the singles were relatively successful, peaking within the top ten except for the re-cut single.
Released: March 9, 2005
1. Sakurairo Maukoro (桜色舞うころ; When The Cherry Blossom Colours Dance)
2. Oborozukiyo~Inori (朧月夜~祈り; Misty Moon-lit Night~Prayer)
3. Hi no Tori (火の鳥; Phoenix)
4. Kumo no Ito (蜘蛛の糸; Spider’s Thread)
5. Rocking Horse
6. Carrot & Whip
7. Shadows of you
8. LEGEND (Main)
9. Hemlock (ヘムロック)
12. Fed up
13. Hitori (ひとり; Alone)
The album opens on an interesting note with its fourth single, Sakurairo Maukoro (#5 / 105,000). This is the album’s biggest hit and is a pretty piano ballad. It’s a really gorgeous song though. The verses are nice and light and flow smoothly into the song’s touching chorus. The song gradually builds with strings and percussion and it really helps to give it a fuller, fleshed out sound in its final moments. The melody is quite beautiful and Nakashima’s voice works wonderfully with it.
Oborizukiyo~Inori was already released on the mini-album prior to this album’s release. It features a more melancholic arrangement that focuses on a stronger traditional Japanese sound and strings. It’s not the most energizing song, but it makes up for it with its sheer beauty. It’s really something from this era of J-Pop that I miss.
I find Hi no Tori (#9 / 40,000) to bring something different. While it is on the slower side of things, it has a bit more punch to its arrangement and brings a bit of slick electronic elements in its foundation. Combined with the sparkling synths, subtle strings and dreamy background vocals, the song creates a dream-like quality. It’s a song that I’ve grown to love more over the years.
The first album track comes in the form of the darker Kumo no Ito. I love the overall energy and vibe that this song gives out. It’s arrangement goes for a dreamy, almost nightmare-ish feel that utilizes more soft electronic elements as well. I also feel like Nakashima’s voice fits wonderfully in this song and she is able to bring the right kind of emotion and tone to really emphasize the song’s energy. It’s haunting is cool.
It’s weird to think that we only get our first jazz song five tracks in. Rocking Horse is a bit change because it’s the first semi-upbeat tune and goes for a bit of a cheeky tone instead of the more serious ones that the other songs had. The music is a weird blend of jazz with some 70’s rock elements, but it works out here. It’s funky and cool.
Going for a more lighthearted vibe, Carrot & Whip comes sliding through with its light reggae vibes and jazzier elements. It feels like a song that would have fit perfectly on her last album because it really utilizes the brass sounds combined with a bouncy beat. I love its laid back nature and it keeps up the strong quality of the songs. I’m glad they included this B-side.
The third album track, we get into the more acoustic driven Shadows of you. It goes for a softer, light-rock sound which is an interesting change up, but to me, it’s the weakest song up to this point. It’s not bad, but the overall energy is a bit low and it doesn’t quite hit hard on either the arrangement nor the hooks.
Luckily, the album’s third single comes right in. LEGEND (Main) (#5 / 67,000) is my favourite Nakashima song because it is absolutely stunning. The song opts for a light, electronic feel and always feels like it is just floating along. Its energy level isn’t very high, but there is something lovely about the way the music transitions into the chorus. It just glides in and brings out a beautiful melody. Things get even better at the end when the song gets a bit more punch in its beat and the gorgeous background vocals give the song an even dreamier quality. Even after fifteen years, it still holds up in its beauty.
I never really paid attention to Hemlock before. I actually forgot the song existed, but I’m a bit upset that I did. It’s a really funky, pop tune that brings some of the jazzy disco elements from her first album. The song really gets driven by its cool percussion, groovy guitar and flashy strings. The melody isn’t particularly catchy, but the overall energy and quality of the chorus really brings an infectious feel. My only issue is that it is a tad bit too long.
Pushing things even further is the album’s first single, SEVEN (#3 / 53,000). This one really drives the jazzy elements, but steps up the energy levels and brings the song’s most upbeat song. The music is really fun and I love how it recalls some of the great moments from her last album. The melody is quite catchy as well, although it does suffer from a lack of power. The decision to have Nakashima use her falsetto to open the chorus doesn’t really bring much impact and causes the song to get carried by its arrangement. It’s still a great single and quite fun.
The only other B-side included, FAKE goes for a slow, loungy sound. These kinds of songs aren’t quite my cup of tea, but it’s clear that Nakashima does a great job with this style. Her voice is really expressive and despite the strained notes, her tone really fits the dramatic style of the melody. It’s not my favourite, but it’s still a solid offering.
While she would later become known for her rock songs as well, Fed Up is probably her first real pop/rock offering. It starts off in a dark way that feels like your usual piano ballad. Things only really amp up when the chorus hits and the music just explodes with the strong percussion, strings and heavy guitars. I love this contrast and it still brings elements that tie it in with the rest of the album. One of the stronger album tracks on here.
I love how things swing into the final song and the album’s re-cut single. Hitori (#15 / 26,000) feels like it goes in the other direction of the album’s first song, “Sakurairo Maukoro”. Despite both songs having rather sad lyrics, instead of a beautiful and lighthearted sounding ballad, we get one that goes for a darker and more melancholic tone. The arrangement also retains a gradual build up, but it feels more focused on the strings thing time to really bring that haunting edge. It’s a stunning way to end things off.
Overall: This album was exactly as I was expecting. It’s a really great one. All the singles are great and I actually enjoy them a bit more than her last album’s set of singles. However, there were a few weaker album tracks here and there so it wasn’t as consistent. Still, the overall quality of the album is stellar and you can tell how detailed everything felt with the gorgeous arrangements throughout each song.