TOKYO STAR is the third album released by Kato Miliyah. It proved to be another success, peaking at number 4 and selling over 207,000 copies. There were three singles released prior to the album, with all scoring within the top 20. Two of the songs became some of her biggest hits and both went double platinum digitally.
Released: April 2, 2008
2. 19 Memories
3. Better days -sweet love side-
4. You Go Your Way
6. Love is…
7. Saigo no I LOVE YOU (最後のI Love You; The Last I Love You)
8. Just Wanna Have Fun
10. Young Lady
11. Sayonara (サヨナラ; Farewell)
12. U gatta understand
13. Ai wa Kawarazu (愛は変わらず; Love Is Unchanged)
15. Tokyo Star
The album starts off with its biggest hit and one half of its second single, LALALA (#7 / 49,000), which features Shonannokaze’s Wakadanna. I actually wasn’t expecting a song like this as the verses are acoustic and a departure from the other singles that Kato has done before. I find the verses quite forgettable, but once the chorus comes in, things start to get better. The melody is much better and more memorable and is the type of song that can be easily sung to. I’m not a fan of Wakadanna’s rap though and I think it doesn’t fit the song. Besides that, it’s a decent opener.
The album’s next big hit comes rolling in after with 19 Memories (#16 / 23,000). It samples Amuro Namie’s song, “SWEET 19 BLUES”, which is a favourite of mine. I really like how things were incorporated here as the rest of the song really takes its influence and updates the sound. It has a drawn out R&B/pop sound with some gospel elements in the vocal arrangement. I do find that the song really needs the sample for its hook, but there are some nice parts in the melody that do stand out. No surprise it was the final single.
Better days -sweet love side- brings back Kato’s usual light R&B sound and it works nicely here. I don’t think the melody is as impacting as I want it to be, but it still has a nice energy to it that works well` with the beat. I also think Kato makes one of her best vocal performances here and she doesn’t have too many weird runs or notes. It’s a sweet song.
You Go Your Way is an interesting change as we are given something more country/pop with an R&B beat. It’s not something I hear often, but it’s not a bad song. The melody is a bit flat and doesn’t quite hit the mark at first, but it is the type of song that gets better with every listen. I feel like I wasn’t quite liking it at first, but it has its charms.
Kiss starts off in a great way with its stomping beat and sensual R&B vibes. Unfortunately, that’s where the great things stop. The verses don’t really have much energy to them and while the chorus is a bit faster and better, the way the vocals were edited make it sound too quiet and it gets overpowered by the music. It feels like if the music matched the vocal arrangement more, this would have been a great song.
The album’s first single, Love is… (#11 / 24,000), is the album’s first ballad. I’m not a big fan of Kato’s ballads because I’m not a huge fan of her voice on these songs as she tends to over exaggerate words. This also features that, which is unfortunate because the music is actually quite beautiful. It has a acoustic vibe to it that is supported by strings in the chorus. I do feel like it gets better as it progresses though and the ending is quite nice.
Saigo no I LOVE YOU is a great sadder sounding R&B tune and I love the acoustic touches here because it works wonderfully with the melody. Kato also sounds great in the verses. The chorus isn’t particularly catchy, but everything flows together really well and the harmonies really add a nice layer to the melody. This is my favourite song on the album and it is easy to see why it was used as a promo song for the album.
Just Wanna Have Fun is the album’s first dance song and it’s a needed addition as there hasn’t been anything as upbeat as this song yet. I love the touches of R&B in the vocal arrangement and it still feels like a Kato song. The chorus’ arrangement is simplified a bit and doesn’t feature too many instruments, but it surprisingly does what its supposed to do and is still quite catchy. Good tune!
TOUGH continues the upbeat attitude and brings another powerful tune. This one has an even heavier beat and a pretty cool synth-line that plays throughout the song. Unfortunately, I wish the chorus was a little less messy. The beat and other sounds all boggle together into one and it overpowers the melody, which is actually pretty catchy. It’s a bit of a hot mess.
Young Lady brings us back to R&B and we are given something more lighthearted. This is a total filler track, but not in a good way. The verses feel totally off and Kato’s voice comes off flat at times. Even when the chorus comes in, it feels like there is a huge disconnect between the music and vocals. It just doesn’t match up and it makes me unable to finish listening to the song.
Sayonara is another ballad but starts off in a way that focuses on the piano first. A beat doesn’t really come in until halfway through, although I do wish it left it out. It doesn’t ruin the song, and gets better in the final chorus, but I think it would have been better as a simple piano ballad. Still one of her better ballads.
U gatta understand has a great mix of R&B and traditional-styled music. She did it on her last album with “Cry no more” and she is doing it again here. I love the beat with the sensuality of the vocals and Kato really pulls this kind of song off well. I only wish the melody was a bit more in the forefront of the chorus as it gets overpowered, but it still creates a nice blended kind of sound. One of the album’s best tracks.
Ai wa Kawarazu starts off sounding like it will be a pop/rock tune. Actually, the verses sort of bore me and I have a hard time getting through them as they take a while to get through. The chorus isn’t bad, but it’s a bit boring as well. I like there is a difference in the music, but the melody just sort of goes along. Not a bad song, just not for me.
The second half of the second single, FUTURECHECKA is an upbeat R&B and hip-hop tune. Once again there are some guest rappers, but they don’t really interest me, except the female rapper. She really brings the needed energy the song needs. My biggest problem is that the singing parts are just really uneventful and lack the punch that the raps give. That and the raps are so long that we are only given a bit of singing. The song is just too long and feels a bit empty.
The title track, Tokyo Star, finishes the album up and ends it with a bang. An R&B song with some rock elements, it definitely brings an interesting mix. With that said, the music just doesn’t quite feel as complete as I would like. It feels like the chorus is missing something to cover the parts between the heavy guitar and Kato’s voice just isn’t powerful enough to carry the song. It is a cool idea, but sort of lacks in the execution.
Overall: This is a pretty average album. It has some really great songs, but there are also a lot of mediocre and weak songs to offset that as well. I do like that it sounds as though Kato started to diverge from her usual R&B tunes, although I feel like she does those kinds of songs best. With that said, I do find there are some really great album tracks on here and the best song was actually a newer one.