[Special] Top 500 J-Pop Songs #368

Title: Slow Motion (スローモーション)
Artist: Nakamori Akina (中森明菜)
Released: 1982
Genre: Pop Ballad

If there was one person who could rival Queen of J-Pop, Matsuda Seiko, it would have been Nakamori Akina. Nakamori provided a balance to the more girl-next-door image and sweet sound of Matsuda, as she had a more rebellious image tied with a huskier and deeper voice. Nakamori scored numerous hits in the 1980s, but it all started with Slow Motion. Her debut single is an entrancing pop ballad. The lyrics are rather sweet sounding and Nakamori’s gentle vocals work well on top of the rather glittery background. I especially love the sweeping feel of the chorus opening, which is the highlight of the song. While Nakamori’s voice isn’t as husky and deep yet, there are glimpses of what’s to come. It’s an enjoyable listen and the first of eight entries.


[Special] Top 500 J-Pop Songs #369

Title: 5 more minutes
Released: 2004
Genre: Pop

5 more minutes gives me nostalgia as it was one of my favourite songs when I first got into J-Pop. While it is nostalgic, it is also a fantastic song. The first of BONNIE PINK’s entries, this tune was released as the B-side to her 18th single, Last Kiss. I love the sound of this song. It’s pop, but has a bit of rock to it and really screams of something from the 90s female singer-songwriter phase in the US. I love the fact that there is contrast with the use of Japanese in the verses and English in the chorus. BONNIE really rocks this song out as the choruses are catchy and the vocoder vocals overlaying the guitar dominated part really gives an interesting touch. I think BONNIE also sounds fantastic in this song and she especially shines during the bridge where her voice seems most emotive. Good listen.

[Special] Top 500 J-Pop Songs #370

Title: Koi Shiyou♪ (恋しよう♪; Let’s Love)
Artist: Leah Dizon (リア・ディゾン)
Released: 2007
Genre: Pop

Now that I’ve gone over the list, I do not know why I put this song above the last one. I do enjoy this one quite a lot though. Leah Dizon’s second and final entry drops off the list. Koi Shiyou is an upbeat pop song with an insanely catchy chorus. This song is mainly driven by the fact that the melody is so strong. The musical arrangement is upbeat and fun and I enjoy some aspects of it though such as the beat. Leah Dizon isn’t particularly stellar at singing, but she sounds decent in this song. It would’ve been even stronger with a better vocalist, but Dizon is able to make it her own and she does show a few bouts of decent vocals. It’s just a fun listen.

[Special] Top 500 J-Pop Songs #371

Title: Venus in the Dark
Artist: Nakashima Mika (中島美嘉)
Released: 2003
Genre: Jazz Pop

Nakashima’s second entry on the list is the album track, Venus in the Dark, released from her second album. The best part of this song is just has amazingly produced it is. It is a gorgeous fusion of pop and jazz and it fits perfectly with Nakashima’s smoky vocals. The opening already gives us a glimpse of what the song will be later on and it’s such a fun and attention grabbing sound. The musical arrangement is stellar with its guitar and percussion undertones and explosions of brass to give the song some energy. I also love how the background vocals blend so well with the rest of the song. The melody is also very intoxicating. Stellar song.

[Special] Top 500 J-Pop Songs #372

Title: Hadashi no Kisetsu (裸足の季節; The Season of Barefoot)
Artist: Matsuda Seiko (松田聖子)
Released: 1980
Genre: Bubblegum Pop

One of the Queens of J-Pop, Matsuda Seiko has had a long lasting career that has stretched over 35 years. She still consistently releases songs today and has released over 70 singles and 50 studio albums. Interestingly enough, her debut song is still my favourite from the idol. Hadashi no Kisetsu encapsulates the 80s sound for me with its lighthearted and relaxed feel. It still has surprises of synthpop in there, but its the kind of song that has elements that can still be heard today. While she has had bigger hits, I love the melody to this one. The blast of energy in the chorus is not only incredibly catchy, but also highlights Matsuda’s clear and refreshing vocals. This is her only entry on my list though.

[Special] Top 500 J-Pop Songs #373

Title: Too far away ~Onna no Kokoro~ (女のこころ; A Woman’s Heart)
Artist: Abe Natsumi (安倍なつみ)
Released: 2007
Genre: Pop Ballad

Debuting as a member of massive girl group, Morning Musume, in 1997, Abe Natsumi was the “it-girl” of the group. Eventually graduating in 2003, she released a slew of singles and albums. Too far away ~Onna no Kokoro~ was her ninth single and is her first and only entry on the list. A pretty standard pop ballad, Too far away talks about having hope in a relationship that is long distance. I really enjoy this song. The musical arrangement can be rather dull, especially during the verses as it seems more comprised of keyboards than a nice piano. With that said, the sweeping strings and melody in the chorus really push the song forward. Especially the last chorus, the song brings it up a notch. Abe really contributes to the song and her voice really highlights the emotion the lyrics focus on. I think it is quite beautiful.

[Album] Elva Hsiao – Elva Hsiao

Elva Hsiao is one of my favourite C-Pop artists and she has a lot of fun tunes. Her self-titled debut album was released quite a while ago and helped catapult her into an overnight success due to the hit song “The Most Familiar Stranger”. Nowadays, Elva is more well known for her upbeat dance tunes, but she had some strong pop/R&B songs back in the day.

Released: November 17, 1999
1. Nobody (沒有人) [MV]
2. Cappuccino [MV]
3. Suddenly Thinking of You (突然想起你) [MV]
4. Born to Choose
5. Love is a Bad Thing (愛是個壞東西) [MV]
6. The Most Familiar Stranger (最熟悉的陌生人) [MV]
7. Dump It Dump It (甩啦甩啦) [MV]
8. You Come, You Go (你來你走)
9. Love Myself More (多愛自己一下) [MV]
10. What’s Next

Nobody is an interesting way to open the album. It begins with Elva singing without any accompaniment, which slowly proceeds to join in as the song progresses. The song eventually ends up being an odd acoustic piece with some R&B influences. I think it’s an interesting twist and it’s the type of song that is just so strange that it does help grab one’s attention. I’m more on the fence with this song though as it sounds different and I like the nostalgia of it, but it isn’t particularly polished. That and Elva isn’t the strongest singer and her flaws definitely sound more present.

Cappuccino is definitely more of something I can get behind. A cover of a Korean song, this song is much more polished and comes off quite refreshing. This upbeat pop tune really works well with Elva’s voice and it covers the flaws that were heard on the last song. It’s just a catchy song with its bouncy beats and lighthearted atmosphere. I even like the tidbits of rap that are included throughout the song.

Suddenly Thinking of You is a slowed down R&B/pop tune. I really love this style and it reminds me of a lot of J-Pop tunes from around this time. I like the melody is this song and it is rather dark and mysterious. With that said, the song is ruined by Elva’s vocals. She sounds flat at times throughout the chorus and the adlibs that are added in the background are pretty bad. This song would’ve been better without the struggle.

Born to Choose brings up the spirit a bit more. This one definitely has more qualities of the late 90s and it does sound a bit outdated. I don’t particularly think it’s that bad, but it could be polished a little more. There are some nice tidbits to it and I love the strong midtempo R&B feel. The melody is nicely done and it is quite catchy. It’s a decent song and a fun listen.

Love is a Bad Thing starts off slow with its sensual R&B sound and Latin elements. I really enjoy the first half of the song because it keeps things in a comfortable zone. Elva doesn’t sound too strained and the emotion of the lyrics is more easily seen. However, by halfway through the song, it turns into a pounding dance track. I really didn’t see this coming, but it’s not really a welcomed addition. I think the beat doesn’t really work with the song and really makes it blander even though its trying to give it some edge. Not my favourite.

Fortunately, my favourite song on the album pops up. Probably Elva’s biggest hit, The Most Familiar Stranger, is a classic Mandopop ballad laid on top of a slow and powerful R&B beat. The strongest part of this song though is the polished melody. It is quite melodic and does wonders for Elva’s voice. She hits the notes well and she really emotes the right feelings for the song. The lyrics are quite sad and everything works well in conveying this. The strongest song on the album and it needs no explanation.

Dump It Dump It has the weirdest name, but it’s a funky upbeat tune and something needed after the depressing previous tune. This song is a fun pop tune with some explosive ska qualities to it. I really enjoy listening to it for its catchiness although the chorus is pretty much just repetition. I especially love the arrangement for this song as it has such energy to it with the use of brass instruments. Also, Elva sounds pretty good here and she really brings power into her performance.

You Come, You Go returns us to the depressing R&B formula. I think this song is even stronger than the other ballads at that sad quality. With that said, while there are some nice qualities about it, I don’t think it’s particularly outstanding. The musical arrangement is decent and the sweeping strings work well with the somber atmosphere. However, the melody isn’t really as memorable as some of the others. I don’t like the extended notes in the chorus as they come off as a bit odd. There are some nice points, but I’m not totally sold on this song.

Love Myself More is one of the poppier songs on the album. It’s not as strong as Cappuccino, but it’s a nice addition. It just does get a little forgettable after a while as I find the melody doesn’t particularly match that well with the music. The arrangement has a few perks in its sound, but it gets drowned out by the horribly bland chorus. The chorus is pretty monotonous and doesn’t really edge it up in any way. It’s a decent song, but not one I would revisit often.

What’s Next starts off sounding pretty decent, but then it goes into a total mess. The upbeat pop sound is fun and I like the arrangement with its slight gospel quality. With that said, the melody is horrible. It wouldn’t be that bad if it was brought down a notch, but the majority of the song we hear Elva screeching her way to hit half the notes in the song. It just brings the song down and doesn’t really leave the song on a good note.

Overall: Elva’s debut is a fun listen, but it’s not the most memorable. There are some stellar songs and there are some great ideas thrown out there, but the majority of the album either ends up stuck with bland melodies or bad vocals. I like Elva’s voice and when she hits it right (like on The Most Familiar Stranger), she hits it really well. But there are times on here where her voice is flat or screechy and she ends up bringing the song down a bit. The music itself could be worked on a bit. While there are some good songs, the arrangements end up too quirky for the melodies placed on top of them.