21. IS IT YOU?
Released: August 22, 2001
Charts: #4 / 191,000 copies sold
c/w: OPEN MIND / WHY?
The second single from hitomi’s huma-rhythm album continues the series of pop/rock tunes. I feel like IS IT YOU? would have fit a bit better right after the singles from her last album because it feels more in tune with the structure and style of “Kimi ni KISS”. It has an explosive chorus that combines strings, guitar and percussion with a soaring melody that is just as infectious as some of her other strongest tunes. I feel at this point, I’m not as enthralled with it as much as her other stuff, but it’s certainly a great tune. I like that there is a bit of experimentation with the B-sides. The first (OPEN MIND) is a weird pop/rock tune and feels unlike the other songs on her previous singles with its more free-spirited vibe. Can’t say it’s that catchy though. The second B-side (WHY?) sort of continues this light-hearted and free feeling, but is the stronger of the two. The chorus isn’t that catchy either, but I like its more inspirational spin.
22. I am / innocence
Released: October 24, 2001
Charts: #7 / 96,000 copies sold
I am is most famous for being a theme song to Inuyasha and it was my first exposure to hitomi. The arrangement is a bit more on the aggressive side, but it helps bring an interesting contrast to the sweeter melody. Despite the contrast, it all still blends in quite well. While I really loved this song before, it has started to pale a bit in comparison to her other pop/rock tunes. It’s a solid song though. I actually much prefer the second A-side though. innocence is more on the slower side of things and does a great job of building that power. The touch of piano and synths is also a welcomed change. While the chorus brings the usual pop/rock flair, there is something utterly sweet and inspiring about the melody. It feels like the arrangement is powering the melody and supporting it. It doesn’t overshadow things.
Rating: 7/10 (I am), 9/10 (innocence)
23. SAMURAI DRIVE
Released: January 9, 2002
Charts: #3 / 146,000 copies sold
c/w: 7 (SEVEN)
One of hitomi’s most famous singles comes in the form of SAMURAI DRIVE, an absolute ride of a song. We actually haven’t had a true upbeat tune since “LOVE 2000” and this is the perfect follow-up. The song does what that one did, which is blend a fun pop/rock sound with some brass to really give it some punch. The structure is also a bit weird as the verses are pretty dragged out and give way to an exhilarating and faster-paced chorus melody that just intensifies the energy. It’s just a really cool song. The B-side (7 (SEVEN)) has a similar delivery, but instead brings something more emotionally tinged than fun. It isn’t as catchy, but I think it still could have had potential as an A-side.
Released: February 14, 2002
Charts: #10 / 54,000 copies sold
c/w: My Planet
Album: SELF PORTRAIT
After a slew of great singles, I feel like Understanding is the first one in a while that I’m on the fence with. It does bring a bit of a change and sounds like it has more country influence in it with its “road trip” essence. It’s not a terrible song by any means and actually has a pretty stunning melody, I just feel like at this point, it doesn’t stand out compared to the other similar sounding tunes before it. Part of wishes that the B-side (My Planet) was made the A-side because it brings a totally different vibe. The sound is more reminiscent of her 90’s singles with its intense pop sound and it sort of combines that with an arrangement that brings in her current pop/rock elements. It’s pretty cool.
25. flow / BLADE RUNNER
Released: August 21, 2002
Charts: #9 / 39,000 copies sold
Album: SELF PORTRAIT
I can for sure say flow is an odd song. The biggest difference is how hitomi sings it. Here, she tries to go for an even more nasally and cuter quality to her voice and we don’t get as much of that raspy, harsh quality in her voice. I actually feel that would have been more beneficial for this tune. It’s a bit slower and while the melody is quite nice, the overall tune just feels more fitting for someone like YUKI. I do like that this is her first ballad in a while though and it does sound nice at times. At least it sounds better than BLADE RUNNER. While it fits its name with its more intense and upbeat pop/rock sound, it just doesn’t have any strong quality to it and comes across more like a B-side to me. The verses aren’t bad, but hitomi sings with a weirder voice that doesn’t quite fit. The chorus just doesn’t have the excitement like the music in “LOVE 2000” or the melody in “SAMURAI DRIVE” to really carry it. Average.
Rating: 6/10 (flow), 5/10 (BLADE RUNNER)
26. Hikari (ヒカリ)
Released: February 11, 2004
Charts: #16 / 21,000 copies sold
While we got a ballad with “flow”, it pales in comparison to this stunning ballad. Hikari is one of my favourite slow songs from hitomi. We get a return of her usual pop/rock style and we also get a return of her harsher vocals. The great thing with Hikari is that it opens quite beautifully and gains steam and power. The chorus is especially gorgeous with the sweeping strings come in to really allow that melody to soar. It’s not a song I return to often, but it’s still great. For the B-side (Steady), we get a nice contrast with this more upbeat number. I wasn’t really expecting to enjoy this song for some reason, but it isn’t too bad. I wish the arrangement wasn’t as bland and was more fitting with the melody though as I feel like it has potential to be great.
27. Kokoro no Tabibito (心の旅人) / SPEED☆STAR
Released: April 28, 2004
Charts: #27 / 11,000 copies sold
We get another slower tune in the form of Kokoro no Tabibito. I feel the general mood and execution of the song follows similarly to her older 00’s material, but updates it a bit to fit a lot of other songs from the 2004-2005 era. It’s a pretty strong ballad that follows the blend of guitar, percussion and strings, but it is a bit more on the generic side of things. Feels like a slightly stronger version of “Understanding”. I much prefer the excitement of SPEED☆STAR which utilizes strings in a way to really propel the arrangement. While we get something more upbeat and still following her usual rock-backed energy, it’s just an overall stellar tune. The verses aren’t as memorable, but once we get into that flying chorus, things just zoom right by. It’s catchy, intense and the music does a great job of matching the energy of the melody.
Rating: 7/10 (Kokoro no Tabibito), 10/10 (SPEED☆STAR)
28. Japanese girl
Released: June 1, 2005
Charts: #19 / 17,000 copies sold
Album: LOVE CONCENT
Considering hitomi pretty much left behind the dance sound in 1996, it’s a bit weird to here Japanese girl right after her pop/rock ventures. With that said, this is a fun blend of poppier elements tied with some rock elements to make a fun and exciting 80’s-inspired pop tune. I love how it doesn’t take itself as seriously and we have fun lines like “I’m Japanese!” that really work great with the powerful arrangement. It’s an infectious tune that is easy to sing along to. I also love that the B-side (Venus) is the cover of the famous Shocking Blue tune but with a changed up arrangement. It’s a fun tune that fits perfectly with the 80’s dance/rock edge of the A-side.
29. Love Angel
Released: August 24, 2005
Charts: #34 / 4,000 copies sold
Album: LOVE CONCENT
This is the point where things started to get rocky for hitomi chart-wise. But, that doesn’t stop the quality. Actually, Love Angel is always a song that I forget about. We still get the 80’s inspired pop vibes with its heavy blend of synths and I really like the inspirational feeling that the song comes with. The chorus isn’t as catchy as “Japanese girl”, but there are subtle points that help me get into the song more like the light background vocals that flow throughout the instrumental pieces. It’s a slower and more euphoric piece, but a nice change to hear. The B-side (“Escape”) is a weird tune and a total experimental piece with its weird repetitive portions and different arrangement. I love that it uses a xylophone and gets some odder percussion points.
Released: November 23, 2005
Charts: #46 / 4,000 copies sold
c/w: Time Over (タイムオーバー)
Album: LOVE CONCENT
I love this continuation of the 80’s sounds, although this time we hear it blended with something more along the lines of a Bond theme. The arrangement of CRA”G”Y☆MAMA changes things up by adding the brass instruments in a subtler way, especially in the verses. The chorus goes a bit heavier with the pop/rock attitude, but still lets in enough room to bring some more interesting synths. It’s a swirling and intense tune that is a bit more reminiscent of something like “Agent J” by Jolin or Britney’s “Toxic” and I love it. The B-side (Time Over) is an interesting blend of dance, pop/rock and latin elements. I love the more sensual vibes of the verses, whereas the choruses are more full on and powerful. It’s a cool contrast and stands out in her discography.