[Album] Sowelu – Geofu

Sowelu debuted in 2002 and scored a few a few moderate hits before releasing her top 5 album first album in 2003. The album proved to be a success and moved over 200,000 copies. Unfortunately, this album also turned out to be her best selling. Four singles were released prior to Geofu.

geofu
Released: June 25, 2003
1. shine
2. Fortune [MV]
3. Rainbow (original mix) [MV]
4. across my heart [MV]
5. I Wanna Know
6. beautiful dreamer (album version) [MV]
7. Part of me [MV]
8. CC
9. Can’t take my eyes off of you
10. call my name
11. my dear
12. breath ~Omoi no Youryou~ (想いの容量; The Capacity of Thoughts) [MV]

Geofu opens with shine, a pretty laidback midtempo R&B tune. The one thing I really liked about Sowelu was the fact she always released a few R&B tunes. Unfortunately, shine is pretty cheesy sounding. There are some nice aspects about it such as the twinkling in the background and the pretty chill beat. However, the melody is quite boring and I got pretty bored of this soon as it is rather generic. I do like how the verses open with “Hello good day”, but the majority of the English sounds rather cheesy. It’s not a bad song, but highly forgettable.

fortune

Fortune was released as the fourth single and is easily my favourite song off the album. Like the last song, this one has a chill R&B sound to it, but the delivery is much better. The melody is much catchier and I really like the use of the background vocals in the chorus, which helps the song as Sowelu is able to add a few adlibs every once in a while to keep it from getting too monotone. I actually really enjoy how full the musical arrangement is and the acoustic guitar really gives the song a bit of edge considering the majority of it sounds especially programmed. But the melody really makes this song. It’s so catchy.

rainbowbreath

Rainbow is a nice change. Released as the one part of her third single, it is a more upbeat change. It’s definitely more straightforward pop than the last two songs, although there are still some little R&B elements in the verses. It’s not a bad song in general, but it is a little odd. There is a strange transition from the verses to the chorus as it goes from something a little more midtempo to something very bright and upbeat. At times, the transition is quite jarring. I like both parts of the song (although the chorus is incredibly cheesy), but it doesn’t fit well together as one part sounds more contemporary and the other is more 90s J-Pop with its awkward background vocals.

The first ballad on the album, across my heart is a nice R&B jam and was actually Sowelu’s first released song. It definitely gives me some nice 90s R&B feelings. I love how it is so slow and one of those “rainy day” kind of songs. The musical arrangement and melody is somewhat sad sounding, but the lyrics are really nice and seem to have a slightly more hopeful feel to them. What is really nice though is that it is the first song where I really get to hear Sowelu’s vocal ability. She hits some nice notes and while she isn’t the strongest vocalist, she does do a decent job of working with this kind of song. A nice surprise.

I Wanna Know brings us back to the more midtempo feel. I really like this one cause it’s catchier than some of the other songs on here. I think it has a slightly sexier feel to it as well, which is a nice change to the cheerful feel of the rest of the album (although this one is still quite cheerful). I love the funky beat with the simplicity of the synths and rest of the music. It isn’t overpowering, but is a  just sweet. It’s a nice song.

beautifuldreamer

beautiful dreamer was Sowelu’s debut single. I’m not entirely sure what the difference between the album and single version are, but it’s a pretty twinkly sounding pop tune with strong R&B inspiration. I really love the verses. We hear a nice taste of Sowelu’s lower register and the melody is quite charming. At first, I thought this song was a bit boring and odd, but I’ve grown to like it. The chorus isn’t anything that stands out that much, but it is quite cute. It’s quite poppish and I really love the beat of the song, with the slight R&B influence heard in the vocal arrangement. It’s a good song to hear Sowelu’s vocals as well.

partofme

Part of me was released as Sowelu’s second single. It’s probably the most straightforward pop ballad on the album. I like the music because it has an eerie mystical feel to it. With that said, that’s all the song has going for it. The vocal arrangement is rather dull and just doesn’t go very far. It would’ve been nice if there was a little more contrast in the song since it just stays pretty flat throughout. It’s nice, but dull.

CC is an interesting change. Here we have a funky disco inspired dance tune. I like the change, but there’s something about this song that just doesn’t really hit the right chords. I love the beat and the music, but it doesn’t work well with Sowelu’s vocals. Also, there is an odd transition from the verses to the chorus. The choruses are much better than the verses though. I just wish there was a little something more.

Can’t take my eyes off of you is a cover of a Frankie Valli song. They pretty much remodeled the song into a midtempo pop song with some dance elements in the music. It’s a nice listen and I do like that they updated it a bit. However, I do find Sowelu’s vocals to be a bit awkward during the verses since her voice just stands out so much above the simple beat. The chorus is a nice switch though and it’s a welcome surprise. The overall song is quite decent, but it’s a bit forgettable.

call my name switches us back to the R&B sound. This one is a bit more bossa nova inspired, which is a good switch and brings us a slightly different sound. I actually like this one because the background vocals are a nice touch during the choruses and it works well with the relaxed but groovy beat. Sowelu also sounds really nice here and her vocals match this style well since she has a sweeter tone to her voice.

my dear reminds me of an 80s soul song, but without the power vocals. I do like Sowelu’s voice, but she can’t pull a song of this magnitude off as cleanly as it should be done. Especially by the end, she gets a bit lost in the music. It’s a nice song because the lyrics are quite sweet, but it would’ve been nice if the music was changed a bit to suit her vocals more.

breath ~Omoi no Youryou~ ends the album on an midtempo R&B ballad. I don’t think the overall song is particularly stellar, but I do like some small surprises about it. Like the little talking parts in the background and the nice use of background vocals on top of the nice beat. The vocal arrangement is quite nice though and I do like the charming feel of it. It’s really sweet and this is especially heard in the slight nip of a note it gives. A nice ending.


Overall: Geofu had some nice things going for it. I love R&B and it was nice to hear a lot of R&B influences in this album. Also, Sowelu does have a nice voice that lends itself well to sweeter songs. Unfortunately, the majority of the material was lackluster and just blends into each other. I think the album would’ve been better if most of the songs had stronger melodies. The majority are nice and quite relaxing and calm, but they aren’t particularly catchy or memorable.

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[Album] BoA – LISTEN TO MY HEART

It took BoA a few singles before she hit it big with LISTEN TO MY HEART. The title track of the album is definitely the song that catapulted her into stardom and allowed her debut album to skyrocket to the top of the charts and sell close to one million copies. There were actually four singles released prior to the album, one released the same day, and another released after.

listentomyheartalbum
Released: March 13, 2002
1. LISTEN TO MY HEART [MV]
2. POWER
3. Every Heart -Minna no Kimochi- (-ミンナノキモチ-) [MV]
4. don’t start now
5. Kimochi wa Tsutawaru (気持ちはつたわる; Feelings Deep Inside) [MV]
6. share your heart (with me)
7. Dreams come true
8. Amazing Kiss [MV]
9. happiness
10. ID; Peace B [MV]
11. Nobody but you
12. Nothing’s gonna change
13. LISTEN TO MY HEART (Hex Hector Main Mix: English version)
14. the meaning of peace

listentomyheart

The title track makes an explosive start to the album. LISTEN TO MY HEART is definitely one of BoA’s strongest songs, if not the strongest on this album. It’s a funky dance/pop tune that pretty much encapsulates the singer’s sound and style. The whole song is so well executed and it sounds so polished. I love the attitude that the song has and BoA’s vocals are powerful enough to not get drowned by the many synths and strong beat. It’s definitely one of the songs that gets stuck in your head and it’s no surprise this song was her breakthrough hit.

POWER pretty much continues the dance/pop sound, but this one does have some interesting differences. The music isn’t as fast-paced and the beat is slowed down. Also, it has a very heavy presence of the electric guitar, which makes up the highlight of its arrangement. The song has some K-Pop influences to it, which I think largely stem from its darker sound. I like the song, but it’s definitely not the most polished one. The vocals don’t sound as clean and BoA is belting it out quite a lot during the chorus. I do find the chorus comes and goes so quickly, so it doesn’t make a very lasting impression either. It’s a decent tune, but there it’s not something I would repeat.

everyheart

Fortunately, Every Heart -Minna no Kimochi- helps to bring a more well-executed listen. Used as an ending theme to Inuyasha, Every Heart is the first ballad on the album. It is very much pop with a few R&B elements to it. I really enjoy this song because it’s so sweet and charming. Everything is really well-done, from the musical arrangement to the vocals and the melody. I think the inclusion of strings during the chorus really help to give the song a sweeping quality to it that help to enhance the melody. It’s a solid track altogether. Surprisingly, my favourite part is right at the end where BoA does a few adlibs to end the song.

dontstartnow

don’t start now was actually released as a re-cut single after the album’s release. The music is very K-Pop centric. I think it is because the music features a particularly odd synth layered on top of beats and some string-like sounds. I don’t think the song is that bad, but it’s definitely not the strongest. It always seemed like a second thought because while it has some cool parts like the chorus melody, it just never comes off as as polished as some of the other material (largely the work by the Japanese composers). It’s okay, but one of the weaker ones.

kimochiwatsutawaru

Returning to a more polished sound though is Kimochi wa Tsutawaru. I really like this song because it has a stronger R&B influence than some of her other singles. Also, the song features some more distinct qualities to the different parts of it such as the chorus being sung in a more dragged out way compared to the verses. While I do enjoy the song a lot, I do think there are some parts that are a bit odd. I do find some of the synths to be more of a nuisance than in other songs as there are times where it sounds that just added as many as they could here.

Share your heart (with me) slows things down even more with a nice R&B/pop jam. I really enjoy this song and it’s probably one of the stronger album tracks. I think one of the things I like most about it is how BoA sounds. She has a sweeter tone and it compliments the song’s thumping beats and twinkling synths. I do find it interesting because it does seem almost like a precursor to some of BoA’s later R&B-tinged pop tracks.

I used to really love Dreams come true but I haven’t enjoyed it as much in recent years. It’s still a decent song, but it does surprise me a bit because despite being written by Japanese composers it does have some K-Pop qualities. I like the fast-paced feel of the song and it works well with the intensity of the vocal arrangement, but I do feel like there is something missing from the song. It also has a tendency to drag on a bit.

amazingkiss

Luckily, Amazing Kiss is just around the corner. Probably the most cheerful and upbeat song on the album, this song is quite sweet and gives a more bubblegum type of feel. I do find the musical arrangement rather chaotic with its numerous synths and beats, but the melody is quite charming and it easily makes up for it. BoA also sounds in her element here and her voice fits the song quite well. Good song.

happiness starts out in a pretty cool way with its adlibbing before striking strongly with the chorus. I like how this one has some qualities that could be heard from her singles. The verses are especially evident of this as it has parts which sound very similar to Amazing Kiss. I wanna like the chorus a bit more, but I think the song is plagued with the same problem as Dreams come true, which is that it just goes so fast but feels like it is missing something. It’s a decent listen, but doesn’t stand out. It actually blends in to many of the other songs.

idpeaceb

ID; Peace B is a funky listen for sure. Released as BoA’s debut single, it was also her debut song in Korea. I like this one quite a lot. I feel the musical arrangement is quite strong and has quite a full sound to it, which compliments the melody quite well. The melody is quite catchy and BoA really works it here. Her voice sounds stronger and while she does have a sweeter quality to her voice at times, she does sound rather mature at others. It’s something not really found in most of the other songs.

I like the funky beat and synths of Nobody but you, however, I do find this song to just fade in the background. It definitely has a similar feel to many other album tracks on here. I do find some parts quite cool though, such as the ending of the chorus. I do find the melody quite decent, but I feel like the music doesn’t live up to it. I do feel like this is one of the stronger of the album’s dance tracks, but it is just a filler.

Nothing’s gonna change is a nice addition just because we finally get out of the heavily programmed dance/pop music of the last five tracks. The slower pop tune has some R&B elements to it and sounds a bit more from her K-Pop side. It’s a bit boring, but it does have some nice things about it such as the opening chorus line. It’s a total filler, but it’s a nice change after so many dance tunes so it works nicely.

Next is LISTEN TO MY HEART (Hex Hector Main Mix: English version). I’m not a big fan of remixes and this one reinforces that. It basically changes the original into a thumping boring mess. The beat isn’t bad, but it just ends up dull.

themeaningofpeace

To end the album, there is the meaning of peace, which was originally a duet with singer Koda Kumi. I actually enjoy this song quite a lot. I do find the choruses a bit boring and I wish there was a little more excitement to them, but I think it has a nice message behind it and it comes through in the music. I did wish this was the original with Koda Kumi, since I did find that more interesting with the contrast of their vocals. It’s not bad though.


Overall: BoA’s debut Japanese album is a decent listen, but I did feel like there were very few standout album tracks. The singles are certainly the strongest parts of the album and it is quite clear when you hear how polished they seemed compared to the other songs. I did like this album more in the past, but I’ve found now that the album tracks to blend together and not in a good way. It’s a nice cohesiveness found in the album, but a lot of the album tracks sound rushed and messy at times. Fortunately, there are some strong songs such as tracks 1, 3, and 5, that help keep the album afloat.

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