[Album] BoA – OUTGROW

OUTGROW is the fourth album Japanese album released by BoA. It was her first after her hit best album released the year before. The album was yet another success, peaking at #1 and selling over 430,000 copies. The singles were all over the place. While the first one was BoA’s first number one, the subsequent ones were unable to replicate its success until the fourth, “Everlasting”.

outgrow

Released: February 15, 2006
1. Silent Screamerz
2. DO THE MOTION
3. Kimi no Tonari de (キミのとなりで; By Your Side)
4. OUTGROW ~Ready butterfly~
5. make a secret
6. Everlasting
7. LONG TIME NO SEE
8. cosmic eyes
9. Dakishimeru (抱きしめる; Holding You)
10. Love is just what you can’t see
11. Stay My Gold
12. soundscape
13. With U
14. First snow (Bonus Track)

Things open on an explosive note with Silent Screamerz. While this is funky dance/pop tune, I like that it tries to play around with its sound. It sounds like BoA’s usual style, but brings in some groovier synths and vocal distortion. The music is pretty fun and the melody is catchy as well. This is a pretty solid starter and BoA sounds great as well. This is her element. I actually was a bit worried going into this song after so many years, but it still holds up.

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One of BoA’s biggest hits, DO THE MOTION is the album’s first single and was its biggest success. It continues the upbeat sound, but totally changes things up by bringing a jazzier sound. The verses are calmer, but help to bring a fun contrast to the seductive chorus. The chorus is especially catchy and I love the introduction of brass and a smooth guitar. It sort of reminds me of something Santana might do. This is easily one of the highlights and shows some variety in BoA’s sound.

Kimi no Tonari de was originally released on the first single as a B-side. It’s the first midtempo tune, but can get a bit on the slower side with its lighter strings-like arrangement. BoA has some quality B-sides and this is a great example. The verses are a bit empty, but the chorus is where things shine. The synths, floating piano and airy vocals all work together in harmony. It isn’t as impressive as the A-side, but I feel like it’s much needed and is quite beautiful.

If there is one really experimental song on here, it would have to be the title track, OUTGROW ~Ready butterfly~. It brings us back to the upbeat dance sound, but has an eeriness to it that is heightened by the dramatic synths and heavy beat. I’m not really sure what to think of this song. I like it tries to do more things, but it doesn’t quite hit the spot for me. The melody is a little lacking and gets overpowered by the music. It doesn’t feel complete. With that said, there are some really cool ideas here.

boamakeasecret

make a secret is one of BoA’s singles that was not recieved as well as others. As the second single, it was seen as a bit of a flop considering it failed to replicate the success of “DO THE MOTION”. I’ve always been on the fence with this one. Sometimes, I like it and sometimes I feel like it is a bit lackluster. It has a really funky beat and I love the sassiness of the vocals. The chorus is catchy, but it doesn’t quite push anything and it gets a bit drowned out by the heaviness of the music. It’s solid, but more B-side material.

boaeverlasting

It’s a bit weird to swing right into Everlasting. The album’s final single is its first full-fledged ballad. What I find interesting with this song is that it has a really full and complete arrangement but it can be a bit harder to take in. The melody isn’t particularly catchy, but I feel like it works wonderfully with the orchestral arrangement that helps it soar. It’s really beautiful and one of BoA’s most powerful ballads.

LONG TIME NO SEE was featured as the B-side to the album’s second single. It goes the midtempo route with a light pop song. I like that it has a bit of an acoustic vibe going on, but this song is just boring. The melody isn’t really catchy and the music doesn’t stand out that much either. Cute, but boring.

Finally getting to another album track, we get the spunky cosmic eyes. This one brings a brighter pop sound and I like the punch of the beat. Unfortunately, while the music is fun, the melody isn’t really my cup of tea. I feel like it isn’t as focused and the transition into the chorus is a bit jarring. I’m not really fond of how the vocals are edited either and I feel like things would’ve been much better without the distortion. It’s not bad, but could’ve been better.

boadakishimeru

Dakishimeru was the album’s third single and one of the album’s most exhilarating upbeat tunes. It feels like a continuation of “Silent Screamerz” with its funky beat and powerful punch of a chorus. The chorus is catchy, but the hooks quite aren’t as intoxicating. Instead, the song just seems to live on pure force and it’s so fun to hear that explosive opening. That and the verses are just so fun as well.

I like the bright energy of Love is just what you can’t see. It tries to bring a funkier groove to things and brings a few subtle R&B elements into the music and melody. The beat is fun and I like that it tries to bring calmer vibes to the album. I wish the chorus was just a bit more interesting though as I don’t think it quite takes advantage of the grooviness.

Bringing on the second ballad, Stay My Gold goes the R&B route. It has a bit more energy to it thanks to the beat, but I just find it somewhat unremarkable. There are some really nice parts to it like the pre-chorus where the melody swirls around a bit and really showcases BoA’s voice. However, the chorus is flat and I feel like it goes the cheesy route with the title.

I’m so thankful we have soundscape right after. The fourth single’s B-side is a quality light-R&B tune. It’s a bit more restrained and follows a similar sound to the last song, however, the chorus is much catchier. The verses are quite nice and show off BoA’s voice a bit more, but it’s that smooth melody that slides right in and hits the spot. It’s a style that BoA has done before, but it works.

With U was the second B-side off of “DO THE MOTION” and it goes the brighter pop route. I wasn’t particularly interested in this one as much as the other two songs from that single, but it’s still a solid track. The song has some a really nice arrangement and I love the sweeping strings tied with the fluffy beat and synths. It has a jazzier touch to it, but still has a lighter and more surgary focus.

first snow was added as a bonus track and was originally released on a special digital Christmas album. It’s a pretty generic R&B ballad, but it is surprisingly nice. I wasn’t expecting to really like this, but I like the melody and the song works nicely with BoA’s voice. It actually sounds more like a Korean ballad than a Japanese one to me. Anyways, it is a nice way to end things.


Overall: This album is sort of all over the place as it will go from amazing to flat right after. It doesn’t quite have the same consistent quality that LOVE & HONESTY has, but there are still some pretty stellar songs on here. At the same time, I feel like there are some album tracks that are just lacking and it has some of BoA’s most forgettable songs since her first album. Luckily, there are some gems that help to even things out.

B+

[Album] Every Little Thing – eternity

eternity is the third album released by Every Little Thing. This was the last album to feature Igarashi Mitsuru, who was the producer for much of the group’s earlier music. Although not as successful as the group’s first two albums, it was yet another success, peaking at #1 and selling over 960,000 copies. The three singles were all fairly successful, with each peaking at #2 on the charts.

eternity

Released: March 15, 2000
1. Pray
2. Reason
3. switch (Album Mix)
4. Just be you
5. The One Thing
6. Get Into A Groove
7. Rescue me
8. Smile Again
9. sure (Orchestra Version)
10. Who cries for me? (Pray Reprise)
11. sure (Are you sure? Mix)

everylittlethingpray

The album opens with its biggest success, pray. Although it opens as a ballad, it soon gets a blast of power before launching into the group’s usual synth-pop. I wouldn’t really categorize it with the group’s high energy tunes, but it doesn’t quite fit the slower and more emotional tone of their ballads and it ends up around the middle. It’s still a really great song and has a lot of power to its sound with that heavy percussion and synth structure. Not an all time favourite, but definitely one of their most gorgeous tunes.

Reason flies in as the first album track and is exactly what I was looking for. This song feels like it would fit on the group’s first two albums easily. It has the same powerful music structure, but a more aggressive melody. My only issue is just how overpowering the music is compared to the vocal parts. I feel like more balance would have really brought the song to the next level. That and you can hear Mochida’s voice starting to change at this point.

Originally released as a B-side track to the album’s second single, switch (Album Mix), continues the group’s classic synth pop sound, but does change things up. I feel like this one goes for a bit more of a pop/rock vibe as it features a heavier display of electric guitar. It’s pretty cool, but doesn’t quite have the same soaring energy as the last song and it falters a bit in the chorus with its weaker melody. A solid tune, but a bit forgettable compared to the first two.

I was not expecting Just be you to be yet another upbeat tune. There is a bit of variation between the songs, so things don’t get spoiled, but this one definitely returns with stronger synth elements. I do enjoy this one more than the last song as the melody is actually pretty catchy. Mochida’s voice also isn’t completely overpowered here as well. Another great tune.

The One Thing finally brings us a change in pace. Later released as the B-side to the album’s re-cut single, we get a ballad. I’m a bit on the fence with this one though. I really enjoy the chorus and while it does bring back that synthed up sound, we get something more in the line of a winter ballad instead. My biggest gripe comes with the fact that Mochida’s voice sounds weaker here and it feels like she is struggling to hang on at times.

Get Into A Groove was released as the second A-side of the album’s first single. It brings us back to that high energy pop sound. The song is pretty catchy and has one of the most digestible melodies on the album. Also, Mochida’s voice sounds stronger here than in other songs. It’s a pretty solid delivery in general.

everylittlethingrescueme

The next song was released as the first A-side to the album’s re-cut single. Rescue Me is pretty much a continuation of the last song. I love how the song builds up into the chorus and it actually sounds like something replicated by later groups such as GIRL NEXT DOOR. It has a swirling quality about the synthwork here and I love how it works fun and bouncy melody.

I totally needed Smile Again. While I love the group’s synthpop sound, Smile Again brings some much needed variety with this bouncy and bright pop number. It still has the synths, but the vibe is totally different and instead we get something almost wintery again. The chorus’ melody sort of reverts back to what would be expected from the group, but I like it’s more toned down energy. Unsurprisingly that it was the second A-side to the re-cut.

everylittlethingsure

The album’s second single comes in the form of a ballad. sure (Orchestra Version) isn’t particularly what I was expecting. It doesn’t quite follow the sadder and more emotional delivery of “Time goes by” and instead implores on heavy percussion to bring a stronger punch. It’s still a pretty nice song and while the melody isn’t as charmingly beautiful, it is works nicely with the music.

Who cries for me? (Pray Reprise) is a beautiful minute section that goes the more emotional route. I feel like this would’ve been a great way to end the album.

Because instead of something beautiful, we get a six minute remix of sure. The Are you sure? Mix features an obnoxious thumping beat and tries to change the sparkling ballad into a dance song. It just does not fit on this album and pretty much ruins the original, which is upsetting.


Overall: The saddest part is that this album would have been another stellar album from the group if that horrible remix was just not included. It just brings the whole album down another level. Besides that, this is actually a really good album from the group. While it doesn’t quite hit the same highs as their first two, the first nine songs are really consistent and I found no weakness individually. I do feel like the album could have benefited from some variety in the synth pop sound though as there was a time where it got a bit harder to get through.

B+

[Album] Morning Musume – 3rd -Love Paradise-

3rd -Love Paradise- is the third album released by Morning Musume. It is their first release to include member, Goto Maki, who helped propel the group into stardom with their juggernaut hit, “LOVE Machine”. The album proved to be a great success, peaking at #2 and selling over 863,000 copies. The album includes two singles, both of which were incredibly successful with each selling well over one million copies.

3rdloveparadise

Released: March 29, 2000
1. ~Ohayou~ (~おはよう~; ~Good Morning~)
2. LOVE Machine (LOVEマシーン)
3. Aisha Loan de (愛車 ローンで; A Beloved Car on Loan)
4. Kuchizuke no Sono Ato (くちづけのその後; Right After the Kiss)
5. Koi no Dance Site (恋のダンスサイト; Love’s Dance Site)
6. Lunchtime ~Rebanira Itame~ (ランチタイム ~レバニラ炒め~; Lunchtime ~Liver Leek Stir-Fry~)
7. DANCE Suru no da! (DANCEするのだ!; Dance!)
8. Omoide (おもいで; Memories)
9. Harajuku 6:00 Shuugou (原宿6:00集合; Meeting at Harajuku at 6:00)
10. WHY
11. “…Suki da yo!” (「、、、好きだよ!」; “…I Love You!”)
12. ~Oyasumi~ (~おやすみ~; ~Good Night~)

~Ohayou~ is an interesting way to start things off. It is like an intro/short song, with it only clocking in at around two minutes. It starts off really nicely with the light strings and almost orchestral quality. It doesn’t feature any singing, but just has the girls talking.

morningmusumelovemachine

It oddly transitions into LOVE Machine, the groups most well-known hit. LOVE Machine is a contrast to the more serious tone that the group’s earlier music was known for. I love how the song is just a lot of fun. The funky music with the crazy synths and over-the-top vocals just work together so nicely and it brings a catchy breath of fresh air. There are still some great melodic parts, like the pre-chorus, which is still my favourite part of the song. The song is just full of hooks.

I’m not sure about Aisha Loan de. It goes to the lighter pop/rock and I just find it totally lacking compared to the last song. This feels like it would fit better on the group’s first album. It’s not a bad song, but the verses are just poorly produced. The chorus is definitely stronger, but it’s just not that memorable. A bit of a disappointment.

Kuchizuke no Sono Ato continues that pop/rock vibe and I just don’t know what’s going on. I was expecting some more catchy and fun pop songs, but instead we get these serious and rather forgettable songs. This one is definitely better than the last song and I find it has a certain charm to it, but it’s not particularly impressive either. I like that it feels more focused and the production is stronger. This version is also way better than Goto’s solo one.

morningmusumekoinodancesite

I’m so thankful we get into the next single. Koi no Dance Site pretty much doubles down on the over-the-top silliness that was found in “LOVE Machine”. I feel like this is the clear point where the group really took on this role for better or worse. It has a stronger influence that seems almost ancient Egyptian. It’s a bit weird to be honest. I feel like the chorus is a bit lacking and doesn’t quite hit the same energy of the powerful music. Likewise, I feel some of the backing vocals were just a bit too much. It’s still pretty catchy though.

Lunchtime ~Rebanira Itame~ is so weird. This isn’t really a song itself either, but is just a long sounding commentary. It’s actually a bit disappointing because the sexier R&B sound that plays is actually pretty wicked and would’ve been a welcomed entry. Instead, we get another unnecessary track.

At least with DANCE Suru no da! we get back into the fun pop sound. Here, we go with a lighter pop song that brings some funk and disco into it. I quite like the energy of the music and while the melody isn’t particularly strong, it’s still a pretty solid tune overall. I feel like this is the kind of music I was expecting to hear more of from the album tracks. It’s just a bit too long for my liking.

I really like Omoide. It has a more dramatic pop sound that brings in some late 90’s R&B elements and it takes a sexier swing. It’s a cool follow-up to the last song because it brings some contrast as it is a darker tune, but still brings some of that wicked bass into it. I do wish the chorus pushed things a little harder as the vocals come off a tad light, but this is a pretty nice tune.

I was worried Harajuku 6:00 Shuugou was going to be another interlude type of song, but instead we get something more interesting. It starts off with a talking section, but soon switches things up to bring an almost explosive latin spin. It doesn’t seem as fluid as most latin songs, but the influence is clearly there in the brass and beat. However, this excitement all dies once the chorus comes in. It’s horribly boring, flat and kills all the momentum the music and the verses help to build.

WHY opens in a weird way with rapping. It’s a weird change, but the music is really great. The guitar is the focus here and brings a more organic feel. The verses are pretty lackluster though and sound more like a demo than the actual completed song. Things only start getting better for the pre-chorus. The chorus is pretty interesting and I do like that the song tries to change things up by having each member sing only a syllable instead of a line. It’s like a puzzle.

I like that “…Suki da yo!” brings a more positive sound. However, there is one horrible problem with the production. The music is great, the singing is pretty nice, but there is a huge disconnect between the two. It sounds like the music is far in the distance and the girls are singing really close. It really ruined things for me because this song has so much potential.

We end things with ~Oyasumi~, which is another spoken track. As the outro, it’s a bit odd and I’m just not fond of the guy’s voice.


Overall: This album was a bit of a disappointment for me. I was really expecting some great songs considering the singles were pretty fun and exciting, but most of the album tracks just ended up pretty flat sounding. I did like the experimentation in sound and there were many interesting aspects included in the songs, however, they just weren’t executed that well and there were some editing ideas that were just glaringly bad ideas.

B-

[Album] aiko – Chiisa na Marui Koujitsu

Chiisa na Marui Koujitsu is the first album released by aiko. The album wasn’t a major success at first, but it has been continuously re-released and has done moderately well in the long run, peaking at #31 and selling over 138,000 copies. Two singles were released prior to the album. The first did poorly, but the second was a top 30 hit.

chiisanamaruikoujitsu

Released: April 21, 1999
1. Orange na Mangetsu (オレンジな満月; Orange Full Moon)
2. Jet (ジェット)
3. Shiseikatsu (私生活; Privacy)
4. Utahime (歌姫; Songstress)
5. Akai Kutsu (赤い靴; Red Shoes)
6. Ijiwaru na Tenshi yo Sekai wo Warae! (イジワルな天使よ 世界を笑え!; Mischievous Angels Laugh at the World!)
7. Koi Ochiru Toki (恋墜ちる時; When Falling in Love)
8. Natsu ni Muffler (夏にマフラー; Muffler in Summer)
9. Bob (ボブ)
10. Naki Mushi (ナキ・ムシ; Cry Baby)
11. Ashita (あした; Tomorrow)

I love how the album starts off. Orange na Mangetsu is a catchy pop tune that it very classic early aiko. The song has a bouncy piano that ties nicely with the funky bass, percussion and touches of guitar. The song isn’t particularly catchy, but there is a great energy to the music and aiko’s singing that makes things start off in a fun way. This is what I was hoping to hear. My only issue with it is that it clocks in at over five and a half minutes.

Jet is a nice follow-up to the last song. It still retains that brighter quality to the music that was heard in the last song, but changes things around a bit. The music isn’t as explosive as the last song and while the melody is fun as well, aiko really hits some straining notes that don’t sound as pleasing. While I like the rock elements in the music, I don’t feel it is really elevates the melody that much. Still a solid tune.

The next song we finally get is something on the slower side of things. Shiseikatsu is a midtempo pop tune, but it is a pretty classic sounding aiko song. I could see this one as a single because the melody really pops and it is quite catchy. The music is also a nice change with its emphasis on the acoustic guitar and light beat. The thing that I really enjoy most about it is there are some darker tones at times.

The first ballad comes in the form of Utahime. This song starts off really nicely with the piano before the percussion and bass come rolling in. aiko’s vocals are quite sweet sounding for the verses, but I like the power she brings in the chorus. It’s not her most instant melody, but it is still pretty easy to take down and I like its more dramatic take on things.

Akai Kutsu was released as a B-side to the album’s second single. It is a bit different from the other songs because it of the cool guitar riff that starts things off is carried throughout the entire song. Even though it is there, the song still retains the usual brightness of aiko’s music. Unfortunately, at this point it is probably my least favourite of the songs. It’s not bad, but the music is sort of a blur in the background and I’m not as fond of the melody.

The next song really matches its title. Ijiwaru na Tenshi yo Sekai wo Warae! is an explosive pop song that brings some brass into it to give it a bit of punch and fun. The melody is also surprisingly catchy and works wonderfully with the music to really give it some great energy. I’m pleasantly surprised with this one and even aiko sounds like she was having a blast singing it.

Koi Ochiru Toki makes me think of music that she released in the mid-part of her career in terms of melody, but it still has the arrangements that are a bit older. This is another upbeat song, but it doesn’t quite have the same energy as the last song. The verses are a bit boring and are rather monotonous, while the pre-chorus just lacks a smooth melody. The chorus is definitely better and it’s quite catchy. Pretty solid overall.

I like the name of Natsu ni Muffler and it’s a pretty cool song. I like that tries to do something a little different with the focus on the electric guitar. The verses are quite nice and I like the feeling that it brings. However, the chorus is a bit lackluster and the notes are a bit grating here. It’s a cute song and it does get more charming as it goes on.

Bob is a short and sweet piano ballad. It’s quite cute and I like the focus on aiko’s vocals. However, the song gets a bit boring later on and I feel like it relies too much on the atmosphere it brings than the strength of the melody. It’s still a sweet song.

aikonakimushi

Finally getting into the singles, we start off with Naki Mushi, the album’s second single. This song is on the slower side of things, but it really works on bringing a dramatic sound. The music is pretty classic aiko, but it’s the melody where things shine, although both work together really nicely. The chorus is especially interesting with the sections that are sung in different ways. This isn’t one of my favourite singles from her, but it’s a solid song on here.

aikoashita

aiko’s first single, Ashita, just does not fit on this album. I really love this song because it is straight pop with its focus on synths and dance beat. The rest of the album focuses on a more organic sound that mixes pop and rock, but here we get a darker, dance-filled number. It’s still surprisingly catchy. While it can get a bit odd at times with the vocal performance or how weird the background vocals sound, it is just something completely different from aiko’s usual material.


Overall: This is a good first album. I feel like it was lacking a bit on the ballads, but I like that the album was quite cohesive until the last track. It’s really interesting to hear this album as aiko’s later music still plays on a lot of the same elements and sounds but changes things up. It’s a little bit rough, but the whole album has an innocent charm to it. I wish the melodies were a little stronger though as the majority of the songs didn’t really stand out in that area.

B+

[Album] Koda Kumi – secret

secret is the fourth album released by Koda Kumi. While she had already had hit songs in the past, this was her first album to really showcase her breakthrough success, much of it due to the more erotic image that she was portraying. The album charted at #3 on the charts, but sold well over 520,000 copies, which was more than her first three albums combined. Four singles were released before the album, while one was released later. All except one single charted within the top ten.

secretkodakumi

Released: February 9, 2005
1. Intro ~Get Down~
2. Cutie Honey (キューティーハニー)
3. Hot Stuff
4. Selfish
5. hands
6. Hearty
7. SHAKE IT
8. Kiseki (奇跡; Miracle)
9. Trust you
10. Chase
11. LOVE HOLIC
12. 24
13. Let’s party
14. Believe
15. Through the sky
(P.S. Not including the special bonus tracks)

secret opens with an intro. Intro ~Get Down~ a bit of an odd intro with its sexier R&B sound, rapping and moaning. It definitely represents Koda Kumi’s image at the time, although I find it a tad annoying with the “Get down, get down” hook.

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Luckily, the oldest single comes flying in right away. Cutie Honey was the album’s biggest hit and one of Koda’s most recognizable hits. It’s a disco-inspired pop tune that makes use of flashing synths and bouncy beat. It definitely fits its name as it has some cuter aspects to the vocal performance. The chorus sort of zooms by, but it is still insanely catchy. There are a few odd parts, especially in the instrumental break near the end, but it makes it up with pure bliss and fun.

kodakumihotstuff

Hot Stuff changes the sound up with its heavy hip-hop/R&B influences. The song features a rapper as well, but those parts don’t really interest me that much and I find KM MARKIT to be the weaker parts of the song. The parts that Koda sings are pretty catchy and I like the attitude she brings. The chorus is definitely the highlight, but I think it would have been better without the rapper breaking up the singing parts. Not sure why it was picked as the re-cut single though.

While it wasn’t originally on a standard single, Selfish was already released on a special DVD single prior to the album’s release. This song does an interesting blend of R&B and rock. The music is definitely much stronger with its heavy guitar riffs and percussion, but this is a prime example of my usual problem with Koda’s rock songs. There always feels like a disconnect between the music and the melody. The song is catchy, but I feel like the chorus would be better if the rock elements were toned down a bit and something else replaced it. It’s still another solid song though as that melody is great.

kodakumihands

hands is the album’s fourth single and my favourite Koda Kumi song. It’s a light pop/R&B ballad and it’s one of Koda more emotional deliveries. The song reminds me a bit of “1000 no Kotoba”, but with an R&B beat. The verses are pretty, but it’s when that beat really kicks in for the chorus does the song start to get moving. The melody is really catchy and I like that Koda changes up her voice a bit with some falsetto. She does a great job of getting the right emotion here and her raspy voice powers the song.

Hearty… continues the light R&B sound but changes things up with something a bit brighter. Unfortunately, this is probably my least favourite of the songs up to this point. The melody is just lacking and it feels all over the place. It’s quite cute and I do like the energy that it is trying to emit, but I feel like a more streamlined melody would have been much better.

The next song was also included on the special DVD release and is a bit controversial for its overtly sexual music video. I mean, it’s a bit unfortunate because SHAKE IT is a total jam. The song goes the sexy R&B sound but tries to bring some Middle Eastern elements into the music by the way of synths. It’s subtle, but it does help bring some character to the song. The chorus is especially catchy and it’s one of the most entertaining songs on the album with its silly lyrics. The only thing that is quite weird is the breakdown before the final chorus.

kodakumikiseki

It’s a bit odd to transition into the album’s third single, another light R&B/pop song. Kiseki is one of my favourites from Koda. The verses are really soothing and Koda’s voice is quite beautiful here. It’s a bit more generic in its music with the bright synths, but I feel like the chorus is catchy and the melody works wonderfully with the songs lighter sound. It’s also one of Koda’s best vocal performances.

Bringing us back to the upbeat R&B/hip-hop sound, we have Trust you. These kind of songs can be a hit or miss with Koda, but I do like this one a lot. The melody is really catchy and I feel like its more streamlined approach helps it despite the fact the music is lacking a bit. Still a pretty solid album tracks.

kodakumichase

Chase hasn’t really been one of the songs I’ve listened to that often, but it is a pretty catchy pop song. It has some some funky elements to it that help it to stand out and it is a fun song. I feel like it gets a bit forgotten because it’s more on generic side of things with its straightforward pop sound. Still, it’s another really solid song and it is no surprise it was a single as well.

Right after comes the B-side from “Kiseki”. LOVE HOLIC is another straightlaced pop song, although this time we trade the funky elements for a touch of rock. I feel like it’s a good follow-up to the last song and it’s one of the transitions that work well on here. However, this song just doesn’t do it for me. The energy is great and I like its summery vibe, but the melody is just forgettable.

24 was the last song included on the DVD single. Yet another light R&B ballad, this one has some neo-soul elements to it that I really love. The verses are especially charming and I love its slower, lazy-Sunday kind of vibe. Unfortunately, the chorus isn’t quite as soothing. I like what its trying to do, but the execution is a bit lacking as the mix of background vocals and Koda’s riffs and runs are quite messy. It’s cute, but not quite there.

I would say Let’s Party is one of my favourite of the upbeat songs. I’m actually really surprised that I like it that much. The song is R&B, but on the brighter side of things and has a similar sound to songs from her first album. It’s like an updated version of that funky pop/R&B style and I’m totally living for it. It’s just plain catchy.

This album has quite a few ballads, but Believe doesn’t bring another R&B tune and instead brings a beautiful acoustic pop ballad. The chorus is a bit messy in terms of vocal performance, but there’s something charming to how emotional Koda sounds. I would say this is the most emotional song on the album and she really brings it here.

Through the sky was released as the B-side to the “hands” single and it’s another ballad, although this time we have a pretty straightforward piano one. It’s a pretty nice song, but I think it takes some time to sink in. It’s a bit generic in sound for Koda as she’s done many like these, however, this is one of the better ones since the melody is quite nice. It can get a little messy vocally at times, but Koda Kumi still works it.


Overall: This was a great album and easily one of Koda Kumi’s strongest. The songs were much stronger this time and while the singles were once again the highlight, there was still a good number of solid album tracks. I do wish the album had a little more cohesion to it because it bounces around a lot, but the individual songs were good. I think there were a few duds that could have been left out, but they don’t detract from the album too much.

A-

[Album] Ito Yuna – DREAM

DREAM is the third album released by Ito Yuna. Although less successful than her previous two albums, it was a moderate success, peaking at #7 and selling over 35,000 copies. The album featured three singles, all of which released with varying success. The album’s biggest hit, “trust you”, was a top five hit, while the other two reached #20 and #44 on the charts.

dream

Released: May 27, 2009
1. love you
2. Ima Demo Aitai yo… (今でも 会いたいよ…; Right Now, I’m Missing You)
3. Brand New World
4. Koi wa groovy×2 (恋はgroovy×2; Love is groovy groovy)
5. trust you
6. BAILA BAILA
7. BREEEEEZIN!!!!!!!
8. miss you
9. LOVE MACHINE GUN
10. No one else
11. Body
12. groovy×2 (hidden track)

Starting the album off, love you wasn’t what I was expecting. I was thinking this would be a ballad, but instead we get an upbeat song that has a blasting blend of brass and percussion. The music can get a little over powering at times, but the melody is actually pretty catchy. I just wish it was more in the forefront instead of the percussion. Still, this is a great way to start things off and it is one of her better upbeat songs.

yunaitoimademoaitaiyo

Ima Demo Aitai yo… features the hip-hop duo, Spontania and is an answer song to their other collaboration, “Ima Demo Zutto”. This is a change in sound for Ito as it goes more towards the light R&B route, which was popular around the time of the album’s release. It’s a stunning song that focuses on a piano line and touches of synths and strings. I don’t think Spontania’s inclusion really does much for the song, but Ito sounds great in that emotionally charged chorus.

Keeping up the momentum is Brand New World, a pounding dance/pop song. This is a pretty generic sounding song, but it still has a pretty nice melody and I like the happy energy that it emits. I would say that I enjoy the verses more because Ito sounds much more confident here and her voice fits this song perfectly. Another solid tune.

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The album’s first single comes in the form of the latin-inspired Koi wa groovy×2. I love how much attitude there is in the verses and Ito is really bringing her A-game here. The chorus is a bit repetitive, but I love how powerful and full it sounds. The music is exciting and the melody is still pretty catchy. The hook is a bit odd sound at times, but it still works in the overall delivery. It’s a really fun tune.

yunaitotrustyou

The switch into trust you is so odd because we go from an explosive pop song into a gentle ballad. trust you is my favourite song on the album and one of my favourites from Ito. It starts off as a calming pop ballad with some R&B elements to it before building into a more powerful song. The chorus is really beautiful with the sweeping strings and soaring melody. Ito has always been able to pull of a great ballad and it’s no surprise this was the most successful single.

BAILA BAILA goes the more Hawaiian route, which is a great return to the roots for Ito. It is pretty upbeat but still has a relaxing quality due to its summery vibe. The music is especially fun with the mixture of xylophones, drums and bass. It’s probably the weakest song up to this point, but it’s still a pretty fun song.

Another summery tune comes with BREEEEEZIN!!!!!!!, which tries to go for a cooler route with its surf-rock style. With that said, I don’t really like this song that much because the chorus melody is completely overpowered by the music. It’s really disappointing because the verses sound so great, but I just feel like all I hear in the chorus is a blur.

yunaitomissyou

miss you brings us the last single in the form of another ballad. I like how the song is a bit of a contrast to “trust you” as Ito doesn’t go full on belting for the chorus. Instead, we get something a bit softer that works beautifully with the melody. With that said, I don’t find the chorus to be as memorable. It’s still a stunning song that brings a bit of variety to the slower songs.

LOVE MACHINE GUN goes the rock route and its an exciting change. The verses are really cool as Ito’s voice is distorted, but everything still helps build up the energy. My only problem is when things go into the pre-chorus and chorus. It decides to leave a lot of that hard-hitting attitude behind and go for a bit of a brighter sound. I just find it a little disappointing.

I’m glad there is another ballad. No one else is a mix of “trust you” and “miss you” because it blends the softer side of things with a gentle R&B beat. Unfortunately, it is the weakest of the slower songs because the melody is just forgettable. It’s a bit too slow and drags on without having any stand out points to it, although it does get better as more instruments start coming in.

Body starts off in a really interesting way and sets things up for a cooler dance tune. This one doesn’t explode with energy, but keeps things a bit slower. It’s a change from the usual soaring dance tunes that Ito has done in the past, but it’s a welcomed addition. I don’t think it’s particularly catchy, but it’s a really cool song.

groovy×2 comes as the hidden track after Body, which is the English version of “Koi wa groovy×2” sung by Ito’s alter ego, Christine Ito. It’s still as good as the original, but I think I might like this version a little more. The attitude just reminds me of a stomping 70’s disco song.


Overall: This is easily Ito Yuna’s best album and it’s no surprise why. There was still a lack of a strong cohesion, but most of the songs were really good. They had great music and great melodies. The upbeat songs were exciting and fun and there was a mixture of genres, while the ballads were pretty sweet. I think some songs could still be tweaked, but this is a pretty solid album.

A-

[Album] YUKI – joy

joy is the third album released by YUKI. It showed a change in YUKI’s sound by incorporating more electropop into her usual pop/rock music. This album was quite successful, peaking at #1 and selling over 343,000 copies. The singles did much better than the ones from her last album as well with all three peaking within the top ten on the charts.

joy

Released: February 23, 2005
1. Maiagare (舞い上がれ; Soar)
2. JOY
3. Hello, Goodbye (ハローグッバイ)
4. Walking on the skyline
5. Sweet Seventeen (スウィートセブンティーン)
6. Cider (サイダー)
7. AIR WAVE
8. WAGON
9. Brake wa No (ブレーキはノー; No Brakes)
10. Kiss wo Shiyou yo (キスをしようよ; We Will Kiss)
11. Tinkerbell (ティンカーベル)
12. Ai Shiaeba (愛しあえば; It is Dear, If it Meets)
13. Home Sweet Home

Maiagare is a great introduction to the album’s sound with its blend of electronic and pop/rock. While I wasn’t a big fan of her more rock focused previous album, I feel like this kind of sound is much easier to digest for me. The music is interesting and I love the stronger pop/rock vibe but with a synthed-up beat. The chorus is also really catchy and works nicely with YUKI’s wackier vocals. Happy that this B-side made the album.

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The album’s final single and certainly one of the more electropop songs on the album, I would say JOY is the song that got me into YUKI. The light beat and happy vibe is contagious. Even if the song is largely electronic, there are traces of YUKI’s usual pop/rock sound that underlies the music. While YUKI’s vocals are a bit too crazy at times in the verses, her child-ish delivery is perfectly suited to this style. It’s a hypnotizing song and true to its name.

yukihellogoodbye

Another single comes in the form of Hello, Goodbye, which goes the opposite direction with its heavy guitar riffs. It still has that light pop sound due to the inclusion of the softer synths and the chorus hook that is a bit brighter in its delivery compared to the edgier verses. The melody isn’t particularly catchy, but there is a charm to it that makes it sound better with each listen. It feels like a predecessor to some of her latest pop songs.

Walking on the skyline has a funky beat tied with a bouncy piano. It definitely follows well with the sound of the first three songs, although this one definitely goes towards a lighter, acoustic sound. Unfortunately, at this point, it is the most forgettable song. The music is fun, but the melody just doesn’t stand out.

Sweet Seventeen follows similarly to the last song with its bouncy piano. I do find this one to be a little better, partially because the chorus is actually somewhat catchy. The pre-chorus is definitely the highlight of the song though, but it just happens to be incredibly short, which is unfortunate. I do have to say that I really like YUKI’s voice here.

The next album track to come in is the harder Cider. The song opens with a pretty cool guitar riff before it goes into a bit more of an experimental side. I feel like this is one song that would fit on her previous album, but that is probably the reason why it isn’t my cup of tea. There are some really interesting parts to it, but it’s a bit too out of there for me.

It’s a bit odd to switch to this much lighter country-pop kind of song. AIR WAVE was the B-side to the album’s first single and it is another song that is somewhat reminiscent of the sounds from her previous album. It’s a cute tune with its country-like tinge that is especially heard in the guitar. It’s not quite my style, but there are some great parts like the chorus.

Setting into country/rock, we get the harder hitting WAGON. I’m not quite sure what to think of this song. The verses and pre-chorus are especially odd and that chorus is a bit out of it as well despite me liking its more explosive attitude. At this point, this is probably my least favourite of the songs.

Brake wa No comes flying in and we get something a bit more focused. This one is the short song, clocking in at just two minutes and thirty seconds, but it is a fast-paced and funky tune that takes influence from earlier psychedelic rock. It’s not that catchy, but there is something really strange and interesting about it and I love how wicked that bass sounds. The weirdest part comes in just before the two minute mark where things go slow-mo.

Bringing back the brighter pop sound, we get Kiss wo Shiyou yo, which is one of my favourite of the album tracks. It still keeps that rock sound, but ties in a few synths and a beat that help give it a really happy and cute vibe. The verses are fun, but it’s that powerful chorus that brings the life. The melody is a bit crazy, but YUKI is able to work it and there is a bit of an emotional quality to the vocal performance.

Tinkerbell starts off like a chant, which unfortunately isn’t featured later on in the song. I feel like this quality would have helped the song stand out more. This light pop/rock song gets a bit overshadowed by the other songs. It’s cute, but its only highlighting point is the second half of the chorus.

I am a bit sad it took so long to get another heavily electronic influenced pop song. Ai Shiaeba is reminiscent of the album’s title track, but doesn’t quite have the same charming melody. Instead, the focus is definitely on its swirling synth refrain that plays in the background. While the melody is quite nice, the music is the winner here and it helps to create a dreamy and fun atmosphere.

yukihomesweethome

Finally finishing the album off is its first single, Home Sweet Home. This is more on the ballad side of things, but is probably YUKI’s most serious vocal performance with her changing up her wacky voice into one that is heavier in tone. I’m actually glad we have this tune as it is quite beautiful when you take the time to listen. The melody is a bit unpredictable, but there are some really gorgeous points to it, especially when tied with the string-focused music. It’s not her best ballad, but definitely a touching way to end things.


Overall: This album is definitely stronger than her last one. I know a lot of that was due to my own genre bias, but I felt like this one was stronger in melodies and did a decent job on some songs with mixing YUKI’s usual pop/rock style with some more electronic elements. My biggest criticism would be that there was just not enough of this blending. “JOY” and “Kiss wo Shiyou yo” were my favourites on the album and are two examples where this combination is heard wonderfully and I wanted more of it.

B