[Album] Kuraki Mai – FAIRY TALE

FAIRY TALE is the third album released by Kuraki Mai. Four singles were released before the album’s release, with one being a number one hit. The album was another success for her as it peaked at #1, although it only sold 730,000 copies (half of her second album).

Released: October 23, 2002
1. Fairy tale ~my last teenage wish~
2. Feel fine!
3. Ride on time
4. key to my heart
5. Winter Bells
6. Loving You…
7. Can’t forget your love
8. Trip in the dream
9. Not that kind a girl
10. Like a star in the night
11. Fushigi no Kuni (不思議の国; Strange Country)
12. fantasy

Kuraki Mai’s albums always start with a catchy pop tune and this one is no different. Fairy tale ~my last teenage wish~ is a powerful song although it does sound a bit outdated. I do like the melody and it is super catchy, but I feel like it fits more in the late 90’s than the early 00’s. Still, it is a fun tune and I think Kuraki’s voice sounds quite strong here.


Feel fine! is the album’s third single and its biggest hit. It’s a catchy, upbeat summer tune that sounds more updated than a lot of the other songs on the album. I do like the music a lot because it has a stronger pop/rock element to it. It sort of sounds like something the Beach Boys would have done. I do think Kuraki could be a little stronger in the chorus, but her sweet vocals are still pleasant enough.

Ride on time starts off in a cool way. It gives me some funky pop vibes and the guitar in the background is a nice inclusion. Unfortunately, the chorus is just not what I was hoping for. It sort of reverts to her usual style of song and at this point, it comes off a bit outdated compared to the more contemporary verses. The melody isn’t that memorable either and everything drags on to over five minutes.

key to my heart was used as the album’s promotional song as it was used as the theme song to the game, Tales of Destiny 2. This is the album’s first ballad and it is a nice change of pace. It sort of reminds me of something from her first album, but it just isn’t that strong. The whole song lacks a strong melody and Kuraki’s voice isn’t dynamic enough here to really bring some surprise. Not her worst ballad, but a bit of a snoozefest.


Fortunately, Winter Bells is a stronger tune. Like the title mentions, this song is a winter tune and has a Christmas vibe to it. Although these kinds of songs can often end up a bit bland, Winter Bells is one of the better songs on here. The album’s second single is a bright and catchy pop tune. The music has your typical sleigh bells, brass instruments and bouncy beat that are featured in many Xmas songs, the melody is quite a joy to listen to.

Loving You… is a little different from Kuraki’s usual sounding pop tunes. There are some similarities in terms of the beat and background vocals, but I like that there is a emptiness in the music that isn’t as apparent in a lot of her other songs. I quite like the melody as well and I think she sounds great singing during this part. One of the stronger album tracks, although it is a bit too long.


Can’t forget your love was the album’s first single and brings us back to the ballad zone. It starts off in a gentle way with the bells and sparkling synths. Soon, a nice beat comes in as well. It sounds a lot like her songs from her other two albums, especially ‘Secret of my heart’. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the energy nor the hooks of that song. It just sort of floats along and doesn’t really have anything that stands out.

Trip in the dream is a nice change of pace as we are given an upbeat R&B tune. It sort of reminds me of ‘What are you waiting for’ from her last album. Like that song as well, it has a really interesting verse but falters on the chorus. The hooks are weak and the impact of the song is just really low. It feels like it should build into something stronger, but doesn’t take things to the next level.

Not that kind of girl is a really weird change and it has an eerie-ness about it that helps to bring something different. It reminds me of a late 90’s pop tune but like a weaker version. It’s too slow and the melody just drags on slowly when it should be more powerful. I think the song has potential, but just falls flat.


Like a star in the night is the album’s last single and starts off quite nicely. It opens in a gentle way that highlights Kuraki’s sweet vocals. Unfortunately, the chorus is boring. It tries to change things into a brighter setting, but it comes off really flat instead. I can barely get through it because it just doesn’t sound good.

Fushigi no Kuni is on the lighter side of things but is still a bright pop song. It has a bouncy beat that keeps the energy up with a funky synthline. Sometimes Kuraki’s choruses come off a bit heavy with background vocals, but it works nicely here. It feels like the song is fuller and there are different parts that help make everything feel as though the chorus is intertwining within itself.

fantasy ends the album on a slower note and it is the simplest ballad with the piano, guitar and Kuraki’s. It’s not a bad song and I feel like it doesn’t have Kuraki’s usual heavy background vocals or R&B beat. The melody is also memorable, which is a nice change from the other ballads on here.  It’s a sweet finisher.

Overall: This is yet another album I am not that into. There are a few decent tunes, but I would say this one is even weaker than her last one because there are less songs I would repeat. I feel like this album tries to continue what her last album did, which was attempt to replicate her first album. Many of the songs either had weak melodies or they ended up sounding really outdated (or both), which made the majority of the album just forgettable. It didn’t really try to expand Mai’s sound and so it comes off lackluster.


[Album] Joanne – Joanne 01

Joanne debuted in 2001 during the boom of young female singer debuts that included BoA, Hanul, and Dana among others. Joanne showed a lot of potential and was a rising star until family matters caused her to head back to the US. While she did release one Japanese single in 2009, she had only released one album in Korea. Sadly, Joanne passed away in 2014 after getting into a car accident. Joanne 01 is her first and only album.

Released: August 25, 2001
1. Pure (순수)
2. First Love
3. Good Day Sunshine (햇살 좋은날)
4. You Filled Me with Colour (낙서에 가득한 그대)
5. Game
6. With You
7. Hidden Time
8. Jealousy (질투)
9. Love Good Weather (사랑하기 좋은 날)
10. Fall Away (버려)
11. Temptation (유혹)
12. Crush

Joanne’s debut opens with Pure, one of the songs used to promote the album. It’s a surprising starter considering it is a pretty pop ballad. Still, this is my favourite song on the album. It sounds a lot of pop ballads from Korea around this time, but what makes it stand out is the sweet melody that is sung by the young Joanne. Her youthful tone suits the song and she actually shows some vocal prowess. It’s a good starter.

First Love is an upbeat dance/pop tune and while it is an odd transition into this song, it’s exactly what I need. It’s a strong tune and has a very catchy melody. Joanne’s voice does get a bit screechy at times during the chorus, but in general, her voice is rather mature and she pulls off this more serious pop style. It is a bit weird thinking a 13 year old girl is singing “Baby, I wanna be with you tonight” though. Besides that, it is no wonder it was the other promo song.

Good Day Sunshine continues the uptempo style, but with something more R&B. I do find the music to be a little lacking compared to last two songs, but the melody is still easy to follow and Joanne sounds much more comfortable in her range for the most part. My favourite parts are actually the verses though as Joanne’s lower vocal register is really nice to listen to.

You Filled Me with Colour is another ballad, but once again, more on the R&B side of things. This is totally something heard from the early 00’s in K-Pop. The verses are rather boring because the melody just does not stand out. The chorus is a bit more memorable, but the song goes for the sweeter side of things, so it sort of just floats along. A bit on the boring side of things.

Thankfully, Game brings things back up with something more uptempo. Another uptempo R&B/dance tune, this one sounds more like an American track in regards to music. The chorus is where things are a bit odd. The melody is nice, but I feel like it doesn’t totally mesh with the music. It’s catchy and a solid tune, just wish it pushed things a bit more.

With You is more on the slower side of things with its light R&B beat. I want to like this song, but it is just not that memorable. The verses are boring and the chorus isn’t much better. Like the last slow tune, it stays on the sweet and gentle side, but it ends up a bit flat. Only when Joanne pushes her voice a bit at the end do things get a bit more energy.

This album just keeps bouncing from fast to slow songs as Hidden Time is another upbeat offering. I like that it isn’t as in-your-face as the other faster songs and plays around a bit more with background vocals. Unfortunately, the chorus isn’t that catchy and I feel like the harmonized hooks could have been a bit better. It has potential, but doesn’t quite hit the point.

Jealousy is more on the bright pop side of things. I like that there is a change in sound, but I’m on the fence with this song. Joanne’s sweet vocals fit this song nicely, but the song itself just comes off a bit flat. There are some nice points in the melody that does come up, but I wish it had more energy to it. I feel like it could even more explosive and bright.

Finally a midtempo tune, Love Good Weather is a nice and relaxing change. It keeps up the more programmed music sound, but the touches of acoustic guitar that pop up help differentiate it a lot from the other songs and it comes off with a summery vibe. It has some nice hooks and is a decent song, although not the strongest album track.

Fall Away is back to the upbeat R&B/dance sound. Unfortunately, this is one of the weaker songs. It doesn’t have a powerful side to it and keeps at this more steady level throughout. I just wish it had more energy as the melody is a quite forgettable as well. It gives it this feeling of dragging on and on despite only being 4 minutes long.

Luckily, Temptation is better. It also has an uptempo dance sound, but it is much harder hitting and it has much more energy. The background vocals are a bit odd and the music is a bit weak considering the power of the melody. However, at least the melody is catchy and Joanne sounds more confident here.

Crush is the English version of First Love. Everything is pretty much the same except the lyrics. Since Joanne was from the US, her English is quite fluent and she pulls it off. The lyrics are a bit odd at times, but it generally works.

Overall: I think I was expecting a little more from this album as the promotional songs are quite solid. Unfortunately, the rest of the album doesn’t quite live up to the hype. There are a lot of upbeat songs, but some of them just aren’t that exciting. Except Pure, the ballads come off a bit dull and have weaker melodies. One thing can be said though and that is at 13, Joanne was a pretty solid singer. Her voice was distinct and really shines throughout many of the songs.


[Album] hiro – Naked and True

Naked and True is the second album released by former SPEED member, hiro. Five singles were released prior to the album, all peaking within the top 10 (four peaking within the top 5). The album was another success, peaking at #2 and selling over 230,000 copies.

Released: August 7, 2002
1. ME AND YOU (Riding Waves)
2. Confession
3. Notice my mind
4. Day After Day
5. Seaside Holiday & The Sun
6. Naked and True
8. Your innocence
9. For a Long Night
10. Eternal Place
11. love you
12. Namida (ナミダ)
13. Mitsumeteitai (DJ Hasebe remix PART-1) (見つめていたい; I Want to Gaze at You)
14. Shiawase no Michi (Album Version) (しあわせの道; Way of Happiness)
16. Hana ~Subete no Hito no Kokoro ni Hana o~ (花 ~すべての人の心に花を~; Flowers ~Flowers in the Hearts of Everyone~)

Compared to her first album’s opener, ME AND YOU (Riding Waves) is something very different and one of the album’s strongest songs. It has a more dance/jazz combination going on that helps sets it apart from the other songs. The song is completely in English, which is an interesting surprise, but hiro sounds great and her piercing vocals suit the song nicely. It’s catchy, dramatic and beautiful.


The album’s second single, Confession, is a bright pop tune in line with Treasure from hiro’s last album. It’s not as dramatic, but the music and general vibe is very similar. I quite these kinds of songs and hiro’s voice lends itself well to this style. It’s a bit on the generic, but that catchy chorus really makes up for it. I do wish the chorus had more punch to it, but it’s still a solid tune.


The album’s final single, Notice my mind, continues similarly to the last song, but definitely brings something more pop. I don’t think it is as strong as the last two song, but it is still a pretty catchy tune. The chorus is catchy and lighthearted, although I wish the music was more powerful. The transition is a bit weak and doesn’t quite match the shine of the melody. Another good tune.

Day After Day is more dramatic and has some R&B elements in it, which is a nice change. I like that the music sounds fuller, although there are some weird synth choices that are in the song. The chorus is a bit more “pop” in its delivery and although I wish the transition was a bit smoother, I still quite like the melody. hiro also sounds really nice throughout this song.

Seaside Holiday & The Sun is exactly what one would expect from the name, a bright, summery pop tune. I love that it is upbeat, but still has a relaxing feel to it. The chorus is very similar to a lot of the other singles on here, so I feel like it has a lot of potential to be an A-side. The only difference it really shares is the prominence of the guitar. It’s a strong album track.

Naked and True, the title track, is a change from the pretty dominant pop sound, with its heavy R&B beat. Although I do like the change of sound, I’m not sure if I am totally into this song. The music is funky, a bit over-programmed, but the melody is rather unpredictable that the hooks totally don’t stick the first time around. It is definitely a grower though.

Another change comes with CRAZY, which brings back the heavier dance elements. This is probably my least favourite song up to this point because the melody just isn’t particularly strong. I think hiro singing in falsetto sort of loses the energy. I do quite like the music though with its thumping beat. Unfortunately, there is a really weird rap that comes up halfway through that sounds out of place.


Your innocence was the album’s first single and its biggest hit. It follows the pure pop sound of many other songs on the album, but it is my favourite on the album just because the melody is the strongest. The chorus is exactly what I wanted from the other songs because the music is powerful and matches strong hooks. It’s great.

For a Long Night is another album track but changes things up with its more midtempo take on things. I love the eerie synth that plays with the light beat and xylophone. The subtle R&B vibes work nicely in the verses, especially with hiro’s bright vocals. The chorus isn’t as strong and the high notes are sort of odd. However, the song is still pretty catchy and I do think it is one of the stronger album tracks.


Eternal Place is the album’s fourth single and the first full-fledged pop ballad on here. It starts off with just hiro and a piano but gains some instruments as it goes on. Unfortunately, this is one of my least favourite songs on the album. hiro strains through the chorus and it just doesn’t sound very pleasant. The melody is also dull and not that memorable.


love you was the album’s third single and is the album’s next ballad. It’s not as slow as the last song, but it just doesn’t work either. I do like this one a bit more because the percussion helps to give the song some power. The melody is just not my cup of tea though. It’s a bit screechy and I don’t think hiro’s piercing vocals suit this soft song.

Namida is a change and I’m not sure if I’m really into this song either. It has a spring, laidback kind of feel. I do quite like how hiro sounds throughout this song as she softens her voice to suit its jazzier nature. It’s a nice surprise, although I don’t think I will remember this track in the long run. It is a nice change though.

Mitsumeteitai (DJ Hasebe remix PART-1) is the remix of hiro’s first solo song that was also featured on her debut album. This time, the song changes the more fast-paced, uptempo sound for something a bit slower and R&B. I think this one actually sounds better than the original just because hiro isn’t screeching her lungs out. It’s groovy and catchy, although I wish it had a bit more energy.

Shiawase no Michi (Album Version) was originally released as the B-side to her third single. It’s a gentle, acoustic pop tune and it does have its charm. hiro’s voice sounds great and she shows her control here. The song isn’t as interesting as I would have liked, but it’s a nice show of vocals.

ON MY WAY brings something fuller with its striking synths and steady beat. It stays in the mid-tempo mode for a long time and feels like it will build into something bigger, but it never does. It’s a decent tune, but feels a little lackluster compared to the other pop tunes.

Hana ~Subete no Hito no Kokoro ni Hana o~ is a bonus track and is very different from the other songs on the album because it has a stronger traditional Okinawan sound. It’s quite beautiful and I think hiro’s vocals match this song beautifully. While it isn’t that catchy, I love the atmosphere it makes as it brings a more ethereal vibe. I think this is a great ending.

Overall: This album is very similar to her first, but it is definitely stronger as the melodies are all much stronger. It keeps that pure pop sound that was prominent in her first album, but it pushes it to the next level. My only problem was that this album was just too long and needed to be cut down by a good 5 songs. I feel like once it hits track 10, things just start to go downhill. With that said, there are some great pop tunes on here and some of the best “J-Pop” songs I’ve heard.


[Single] LABOUM – Sugar Sugar

Sugar Sugar is the second single released by LABOUM. The title track was used as the promo song.

Released: March 27, 2015
1. Sugar Sugar
2. Happy Joke (장난햅)
3. Fantasy
4. Sugar Sugar (INST.)
5. Happy Joke (INST.)
6. Fantasy (INST.)

Sugar Sugar keeps up the bright pop sound that the group had with their debut, but it brings something on the retro side of things. That bouncy piano and clap-like beat keeps the song’s energy up and the music reminds me of something that Secret would have done before. It’s a catchy tune, although I wish the chorus was a bit more infectious. The hooks don’t particularly stand out and the song goes a bit too slow. It’s better than their last two promo tracks though.

Happy Joke keeps up the retro sound by bringing some 50’s rock. It’s a really fun kind of song with its fast-paced guitar, playful piano and steady beat. Unfortunately, I think the song would be better if the chorus was more memorable. The melody is just really forgetful and has few hooks that stick. It’s an interesting change, but not one that hits the spot.

Fantasy doesn’t continue that retro sound, but is instead something that would have been found on the group’s debut release with its electropop sound. This is a surprisingly interesting tune and I quite like the music with its powerful beat and flying synths. The melody is definitely more memorable than the last song, although I wish there were some stronger parts to it. The rap intertwined with the song is a nice surprise though. Easily the best song on the single.

Overall: This single was stronger than the group’s debut as the songs were definitely better. My main problem with it though was that the melodies just were not that strong. While Fantasy wasn’t too bad, it also suffered from a lack of infectious melody that would make me want to come back and listen more.


[Digital Single] Davichi & T-ara – We Were in Love

Although Davichi and T-ara collaborated prior to this single release, We Were in Love is the first collaboration single that only featured these two groups. Only Soyeon, Jiyeon, Hyomin and Hwayoung participated in this release as “T-ara”.

Released: December 23, 2011
1. We Were in Love (우리 사랑했잖아)

We Were in Love is a dramatic pop ballad that is more up Davichi’s alley than T-ara’s. It opens with a more “oldschool” take on things before coming right in with the chorus. The subtle beat, piano and violin really help to create a haunting quality. All the girls sound great here, especially the vocalists. While I do like the melody of the chorus because it is memorable, I feel like it could be taken to an even higher level and I’m not sure if that’s just the music because the vocals are on point, especially at the end. It’s still a nice ballad though and I like how the rapping is wrapped into the song.

Overall: This is a pretty solid collaboration between the two groups and shows the strengths of both groups. I don’t quite get the inclusion of Jiyeon as while her voice fits the calmer parts of the verse, she only has one short part. My only problem though is that I wish the music was tweak a bit because it remains the same level throughout.


[Album] Elva Hsiao – Red Rose

Red Rose is the second album released by Elva Hsiao. The album continued Elva’s success as it included two of Elva’s big hits of 2000.

Released: August 15, 2000
1. In the Rainy Season (雨季中)
2. One Person’s Excellence (一個人的精彩)
3. The Weather Outside the Window (窗外的天氣)
4. Not Ready (準備好了沒有)
5. Hooked (上鉤了)
6. Night (夜)
7. Rose (薔薇)
8. Movie Trailer (電影預告)
9. Give Me an Opportunity to Love You (給我重新愛你的機會)
10. First Ask Yourself (先問你自己)
11. Memory Letter (回憶信箋)

Elva’s second album starts with the best song on the album, In the Rainy Season. It isn’t an in-your-face, get your attention kind of opening, but it is definitely a grower. It continues that R&B sound from her first album, but everything is more polished. The music, the melody and Elva’s voice all seem more mature. The melody isn’t particularly catchy, but I do like how it works with the music and Elva’s voice fits this sound way better. Great!

One Person’s Excellence is more upbeat than the last song as it has a steady dance beat going on throughout the song. At first, it doesn’t sound too interesting, but I actually enjoy how the song builds up on a feeling. It makes the song dramatic. The chorus is catchy and it’s the kind of song that is easy to sing along to. It does sound a bit outdated now, but it’s still a solid tune.

The Weather Outside the Window is a slow moving R&B ballad. It starts off like it will have a bit of energy, but then everything just drops and we get something that drags on for a bit. The chorus is better because the melody starts to speed up a bit and it gains a bit of power to it. I do like this song though because the melody is quite nice. If the verses were cut a bit shorter, it would’ve been better though.

Back to the pop side of things, Not Ready is a bit of an odd song. It is incredibly generic and just not my cup of tea. It relies a lot on repetition, but it isn’t catchy and the music isn’t particularly interesting either to give the song some power. Unfortunately, one of the weaker album tracks.

Luckily, Hooked is much better than the last song. While it brings back that R&B sound, it is more on the midtempo side of things and easily the catchiest song on the album. I feel like this kind of song was very popular around this time and I love it. Elva’s deeper tone really suits the song and works nicely with the light funk sound it has.

Night brings something a bit more on the slower side and I’m on the fence with it. The song has some clever hooks and I do enjoy it as I think it samples (or covers) an older tune. My main problem is that it is just a bit too slow and the music sounds really oldschool. Elva does sound really nice here and she doesn’t overdo it.

The title track, Rose, starts off in an interesting way. I have actually grown to really enjoy this song. I feel like it does need to be tweaked in some areas, but I do like it’s slight pop/rock take on things even though it’s more of a ballad. The song has a nice melody and it features one of Elva’s stronger vocal performances. It all really blends well together.

Movie Trailer brings back to the uptempo pace. This song isn’t the strongest upbeat offering, but it is a decent tune. I quite like its slight disco influence and the song is quite catchy even though its a bit repetitive. While there are some odd adlibs around the end, I do think Elva’s voice sounds better compared to her first album.

Give Me the Opportunity to Love You is the next ballad and is an 80’s slow jam. At first, this song sounds incredibly dull. The verses are really forgettable. The only thing that makes it stand out is the chorus. The melody here is really quite beautiful and I love how Elva sings it. It is sort of intoxicating.  Also, Elva’s belting at the end sounds great too. It’s not a bad song, but the verses could be worked on.

First Ask Yourself is the most aggressive song on the album as it has some stronger hip-hop elements to it. It’s an interesting change compared to the more pop/R&B take the rest of the album goes. It’s a bit outdated sounding at this point and I find that the melody is a bit “heavy” sounding, especially over this music. It does have some catchy hooks, but it’s a bit on the average side.

Memory Letter ends the album on a weird note as it introduces some sounds that aren’t heard throughout the rest of the album. It has a more eerie quality to it, especially with how Elva sings it. Surprisingly, it is a good tune. I do think it does get a bit dull at first because it is difficult to differentiate the different parts of the song, but it does get better around the end.

Overall: I enjoy this album just slightly more than her debut just because I like the darker mood of the album. With that said, it’s still another decent release. There are some solid songs on here and I like that she did try a few different things. My main problem is that some of the songs sound really outdated (expected in a way) and that the music is sometimes lacking compared to the melodies. Also, sometimes the songs would just drag on for a while. A few could have been cut shorter.


[Digital Single] PRISTIN – Black Widow (Remix Ver.)

Black Widow (Remix Ver.) is the second digital single released by PRISTIN.

Released: May 19, 2017
1. Black Widow (Remix)

The remix version of Black Widow is like a more dramatic take on the original. It has a few more elements in the music that include different synths, beats and also a more “Chinese” feel to it. The song was already really catchy and this only pushes it up to the next level. There are still some odd parts with the vocal arrangement, but it is generally a solid tune that also has some pretty clever aspects to it.

Overall: This is a nice follow-up and I like that the song was actually remixed extensively as there are some where it is so subtle and a bit boring. It worked out here as the song has more elements to it that really make the music sound more interesting.