[Album] BoA – LOVE & HONESTY

LOVE & HONESTY is the third album released by BoA. The album was another hit for the young singer as it peaked at #1. It only sold half of what her last album sold though with 650,000 copies. The four singles were moderately successful this time around with all, except the re-cut single, reaching the top five, although the sales were considerably lower.

love&honesty
Released: January 15, 2004
1. Rock With You
2. Shine We Are!
3. SOME DAY ONE DAY
4. LOVE & HONESTY
5. Midnight Parade
6. Be the one
7. EXPECT
8. OVER ~across the time~
9. Kokoro no Tegami (心の手紙; My Heart’s Letter)
10. DOUBLE
11. Easy to be Hard
12. Song With No Name ~Namae no Nai Uta~ (~名前のない歌~; Song With No Name)
13. Milky Way ~Kimi no Uta~ (Bonus Track) (~君の歌~; Your Song)

Opening on a strong note, the album starts with Rock With You. The album’s third single, it does what its name says, which is add some rock flair into a dance/pop tune. There are some times where I do feel the music could be flushed out a bit more, but it does have punch and the melody works really well here. My favourite part of the song is actually the pre-chorus as it goes a bit more pop before swinging right into the heavy percussion and guitars of the chorus. A fun start! Back in the day, I never liked Shine We Are! Despite being the album’s first single, it was such a departure from BoA’s usual harder hitting dance/pop style with its bubbly sound and sweeter vocal delivery. Nowadays, I really love it. It’s a catchy song and BoA still makes it work. I do wish the music wasn’t so programmed sounding at times, but everything else seems to go nicely with the bright melody. It’s a good predecessor to some similar sounding songs later on. SOME DAY ONE DAY is the album’s first album track and its a change with its more midtempo R&B execution. It also features VERBAL from m-flo. I love that she doesn’t really make it that sexy, but there is some sensuality in the vocal delivery of the verses and her nasally voice really does well here. It’s not the most exciting song, but it has a cooler vibe to it that works nicely with the simple hooks. I like the atmosphere the whole song brings. The title track, LOVE & HONESTY, is one of my favourite songs on the album. It is a midtempo pop song that has a really bright and almost bubblegum arrangement, although the vocal arrangement is definitely more straightforward. It’s not a very flashy song, but I really enjoy how well put-together it seems. The simple beat with the fullness of the synths really work beautifully with the catchy and charming melody of the chorus. It’s great. Midnight Parade sounds like SOME DAY ONE DAY’s upbeat sister. It has a lot more energy and has a funky beat to go along with it. It starts off with a lot of promise and the verses are attitude-filled. The pre-chorus is nice, but it does sort of break the flow of the song and by the chorus, there music just goes a weird route where it doesn’t push hard enough to elevate the song. I think it might have to do with how continuous the arrangement feels. Decent tune, just something missing. I used to LOVE Be the one and though I still do love it, it has sort of lost a bit of its spunk since the old days. It’s probably the most aggressive song on the album since Rock With You, but it does things in a more streamlined dance/pop way. I do enjoy the attitude it brings and I think that’s what really carries the song. The hooks aren’t as strong as some of the other songs and I do feel like the music doesn’t quite fit with the vocal arrangement as it feels a bit messy. With that said, it is still a really solid song and it is no surprise why it was a re-cut single. EXPECT comes rolling in and sort of feels like a continuation of the last song, although it has less attitude and catchier hooks. With that said, I do love this song and it is one of my favourites on the album. The music different and the use of synths really give it a dreamier quality that helps it stand out. It’s a bit more pop, but it still delivers. OVER ~across the time~ heightens with dreamy quality and delivers the strongest song on the album. There is something absolutely stunning about this song with its touches of Spanish guitar and splashes of synths. Each part of the song is so strong, from the gentle verses, to the passionate chorus and memorable hooks. It is like VALENTI’s dreamier sister and it just blows everything else out of the water. Kokoro no Tegami is one of the weaker album tracks on the album track just because it doesn’t push anything and comes off a bit bland. I do like the song and it does have a catchy chorus, but it feels like the kind of song that BoA did before, but weaker. I do wish the arrangement had a bigger punch to it and the melody had some stronger hooks because it sort of comes off a bit forgettable when compared to the last song. The album’s second single, DOUBLE, is an intense dance/pop tune that is sort of in-line with Be the one. I would say this one is even more aggressive and darker. Unfortunately, I think I have the same sort of feeling for this one that I have of that one. It’s catchy and it has some great attitude, but it just lacks the thing that has hooked me on other songs over 14 years later. It feels like the music has a weird disconnect with its consistent beat and flying synths. That’s not to say it is a bad song though but it just needs a little more to push it to the next level for me. Easy To Be Hard is a bright pop song, similar to Shine We Are! This one feels like it takes some inspiration from 90’s pop/R&B and I do like that quality about the music. With that said, there is something off with the melody. I feel like it goes all over the place. It starts off promising, but then adds these weird notes that cut the flow of its catchiness. It’s not terrible, just my least favourite on the album. Song With No Name ~Namae no Nai Uta~ is the album’s only full-fledged ballad tune. I’m actually quite surprised there aren’t more, but I’m glad if it had to be one, it was this one. It’s an absolutely stunning and simple song that relies largely on the guitar and some synths. It’s simplicity and gorgeous melody really make the song and BoA sounds great singing. Her restrained performance really matches the song well. Milky Way ~Kimi no Uta~ surprisingly finds it way on here. Originally showing up on the singer’s third Korean album, this one is a bright and catchy pop song and I love it. It works perfectly on this album. However, for some reason, I feel like the production isn’t as strong as the original version and it loses a bit of the punch the original has. It’s still a solid tune and a great ending tune that leaves the album off on an inspiring note.

Overall: This was the first BoA album I bought and so it is special for me. Maybe because I’ve listened to this album in its entirety for the last 14 year, I’ve found the quirks of many of the songs, but I still believe this is one of BoA’s strongest, if not her strongest Japanese albums. It feels like the whole album has a theme and while it does try different avenues, it has some connection. Every song is solid and there aren’t any terrible songs, just a few weaker ones at the end. It is also one of the few albums where none of the singles rank in my top three songs on the album. The only thing I would change would be to add some more ballads to replace the more forgettable pop songs.

A

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[Album] BoA – VALENTI

VALENTI was released as BoA’s second Japanese studio album. The album had three singles released prior to it and churned out some of her biggest hits. That led to this album hitting #1 and selling over 1.2 million copies. It’s still her highest selling album.

valenti
Released: January 29, 2003
1. VALENTI
2. JEWEL SONG
3. B.I.O
4. Sekai no Katasumi de (世界の片隅で; In a Corner of the World)
5. Kiseki (奇蹟; Miracle)
6. WINDING ROAD
7. Searching for truth
8. Moon & Sunrise
9. Discovery
10. flower
11. BESIDE YOU -Boku wo Yobu Koe- (-僕を呼ぶ声-; The Voice that Calls Me)
12. Feel the Same
13. No. 1

The title track, VALENTI, opens the album. One of BoA’s most popular tracks and the first single from the album, this song is a definitely an energizer. A hard-hitting dance/pop tune with some latin elements to it, the song is like a successor to Listen to My Heart. It opens in such an exhilarating way with the heavy beat and touches of synth and Spanish guitar. The verses are very cool because they done in a way that makes it sound a bit like a tango. The chorus is a bit more melodic in its delivery, which is a really nice thing to hear (as music nowadays is full of repetition). Despite not having the most obvious hooks, the song manages to remain insanely catchy throughout its entirety. This is a stellar opener. There was a time when JEWEL SONG was my favourite BoA ballad. However, there are quite a few flaws I find with this song. First, that opener where she goes “Voah” instead of “Woah” is a bit cringey. Also the song is pretty generic in its delivery. With that said, it’s still a gorgeous piece. The chorus is definitely the highlight with its powerful start and sweeping strings. It’s not her best ballad, but it’s still a moving song. B.I.O brings us back to the fun dance/pop sound. I’m not entirely sure I like this song, but there are a lot of fun ideas with the melody. It’s definitely unpredictable and has some clever hooks. The heavy beat isn’t something I’m a fan of though as it tends to overpower the rest of the arrangement. It’s solid, just not stellar. Sekai no Katasumi de brings something completely different. It’s a midtempo R&B tune with a wicked guitar. There’s something really dark about it, especially the verses. The transition into the chorus is a bit weird since the chorus is more upbeat, but it is a grower. My favourite part is definitely the prechorus as the harmonies sound great. I don’t really like how the harmonies sound in the chorus though as it comes off a bit flat. A good tune though. Kiseki was released as the second single prior to the album. This is one of BoA’s best tunes. It has a similar feel to Kimochi wa Tsutawaru, but everything is definitely darker and the R&B elements are definitely better utilized. I absolutely love the gentle verses, which help to create a nice contrast to the beat-heavy chorus. The melody in the chorus is great and definitely one that gets stuck in your head. Excellent. WINDING ROAD is an ethereal pop/R&B tune. I’m not a fan of this song. I really like the ideas to it, but there are some really weird aspects to it. First, there is an awkward rap that just does not fit with this song. I think it would’ve been fine if he just didn’t go “Yeah” in the background all the time. The arrangement of the song is really interesting, especially the chorus, but I feel like it could have been tweaked to really get the full effect. The vocals are a bit odd and the melody is a bit awkward to really get into it. Searching for truth reminds me of something from her first Japanese album. It just feels like the pace of the song is super fast and it comes off a bit tiring. The chorus melody is actually quite nice, but I think if the music was a bit different, it would’ve been better. Maybe something that really showed off that opening hook would have been nice. That and there are some awkward background vocals that keep popping up that sort of ruin parts of the song. They just don’t fit. Moon & Sunrise is one of my favourite BoA songs. I wasn’t a huge fan of this song at first, but that gorgeous piano line really gets to me. It’s definitely one of BoA’s calmer songs with it’s midtempo pop/R&B sound, but it’s that stunning melody that really gets me into the song. Everything just seems to work together here. The nice R&B beat tied with the piano line and the touches of synths. BoA also sounds great, although I do find the song to be even better live. Discovery is another wonderful album track. It starts off quite gentle, but eventually comes in with a nice beat. The verses are pretty calm and it is quite nice hearing BoA’s lower register. The chorus is insanely. I really didn’t expect it to go the way it did as the melody just builds upon itself to really bring a nice intense emotion. I do find the part after the second chorus to be a bit of an odd break, but the overall delivery of the song is intense. flower was a B-side from the Kiseki single. flower is quite interesting with its odd synths and relaxing R&B beat. The melody is a bit straightforward and I don’t think I’m in love with it as much as some of her other B-sides, but this is definitely a solid tune. It can get a bit lost considering there are some solid album tracks on the album, but it definitely has some charm. BESIDE YOU -Boku wo Yobu Koe- was released as the second A-side to BoA’s third single with JEWEL SONG. A stark contrast, this song is a heavy-hitting dance/pop tune. It’s very similar to Searching for truth with its fast-paced melody over the pounding beat. It has some good ideas and I do like the melody. However, I feel like if the song was placed over something a bit softer, it would’ve actually sounded nicer. That beat really detracts from the hooks in the melody. It’s a decent tune, but a bit forgettable. Feel the same is probably the most light-hearted song on the album. It is a nice midtempo pop song, although it’s overall delivery is a bit forgettable. The melody isn’t particularly memorable and the music is a bit dull after a while. Not a terrible song, but just something that will get lost. There are some nice elements to the song such as the verses and BoA’s voice. To finish the album, we have BoA’s biggest Korean hit sung in Japanese, No. 1. The thing with this song is while I like it, I’ve never been able to love it. It has such an edgy verse and then it transitions into one of the poppiest choruses in BoA’s discography. I sort of wish it just went harder during the chorus because it always makes me a bit disappointed. The song is still really catchy though and it is no wonder it is so popular.

Overall: I remember reviewing this album like ten years ago and I just thought it was average. However, going through it again, I do feel like there are some pretty solid tracks on here. This doesn’t just include the singles, but there are some great album tracks. I do like the fact that the album seemed a bit darker than some of her other material and there were very few “happy” pop songs. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it helped to create a more cohesive sound on the album and everything did seem to tie together in some way (although VALENTI to JEWEL SONG was a bit odd). Definitely recommend tracks 1, 5, 8 and 9.

B+

[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

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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

C+