[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.

yunaitokoiwagroovy

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] Ito Yuna – WISH

WISH is the second album released by Ito Yuna. It wasn’t as big of a success as her debut as it only sold 103,000 copies. There were four singles released prior to the album with three being top 10 hits.

wish.jpg
Released: February 20, 2008
1. Power of Love
2. alone again
3. Anata ga Iru Kagiri ~A WORLD TO BELIEVE IN~ (あなたがいる限り)
4. Urban Mermaid
5. HEARTBEAT
6. Colorful
7. Unite As One
8. Mahaloha
9. A Long Walk
10. Moon Rabbit
11. I’m Here
12. Wish
13. Tokyo Days
14. MY HEART WILL GO ON (Bonus Track)

Beginning the album on an upbeat note, Power of Love has a bit of a 90’s vibe going for it. The start of the song builds everything up to be a powerful tune. While it does have some energy, the chorus just falls flat. It transitions to a brighter pop sound, which is a weird contrast to the edgier verses and I don’t like it. I think this would have been better as two separate songs, but together the song is just disjointed.

Luckily alone again comes crawling in. Ito does best with ballads and this is another example of a stunning song. I do find the verses to be a bit dull, but it’s that chorus that really takes things to the next level. The opening chorus hook is just gorgeous and Ito sounds absolutely gorgeous singing this. Here sweeter tone definitely fits this song more than the power ballads she usually goes for. This is the best song on the album.

aworldtobelievein

Anata ga Iru Kagiri ~A WORLD TO BELIEVE IN~ is actually a duet with Celine Dion and brings a blend of English and Japanese. This totally sounds like the type of song Celine would do as it is a soaring power ballad. Both singers do well, although Celine does take the lead in the chorus. It’s a very inspiring song, although I do feel the verses are a bit dull. No surprise it was the album’s final single though.

urbanmermaid

Urban Mermaid was the album’s third single and is my least favourite of the singles. It has grown on me a bit, but it is still a weird pop song. The verses do a good job building things up, but then the explosive chorus comes in and it just sort of ruins everything. The transition is odd and the melody isn’t particularly catchy either. A bit disappointing.

HEARTBEAT has a bit of a jazzier vibe to it, which is a nice change from the last song. It actually reminds me of something from the early/mid-00’s in J-Pop, but just doesn’t quite hit the mark as well. The chorus isn’t as strong as I want it to be. The melody just floats on top but it isn’t that catchy. I think it could have been tweaked to be stronger as I do enjoy the music.

Colorful is a bit cheesy, but it’s a decent pop song. I do feel like the transition between the verses and chorus are much smoother here than in other songs, which is a nice change. It’s not particularly catchy, but it does have its charm. Ito also sounds really nice and her voice suits this kind of song really well. I am surprised they added this B-side to the album though.

Unite As One is a long ballad, almost clocking in at seven minutes long. I do like it when Ito does ballads, but there is something about this one that just drags on and on. The verses take forever to get through. The chorus is nice, but this would have been much better if it was cut down another two minutes.

mahaloha

Luckily, Mahaloha comes strolling in. This is easily one of the best songs on the album and was released as the album’s second single. It has a relaxing, summery vibe to it that shows a more restrained vocal performance from Ito. The song is also a duet with Micro from Def Tech. Both of their voices fit nicely with the tune and it’s a fun kind of song to sing along to.

A Long Walk is an upbeat pop tune with a more electronic take on things. The song also has some Spanish elements to it that helps it stand out. I quite like the music to this song and the melody itself isn’t too bad either. It’s drawn out and beautiful and I love the way that Ito sings this. It’s a surprisingly strong song and one of the better album tracks.

Moon Rabbit is a nice fusion of dance and Spanish sounds. It reminds me of something that Nakashima Mika would have done with its upbeat, but flushed out arrangement. The chorus is also surprisingly catchy and while the lyrics are a bit odd, everything still flows pretty well. It’s a great song.

imhere

I’m Here was the album’s first single and is definitely the most aggressive song on here as it has a fast-paced beat and striking synths. I do like how catchy the chorus is, but I do feel like Ito’s voice doesn’t quite hit the spot as her sweeter and airier tone can’t bring in the right amount of power that the song needs. It’s still a decent tune though and one of the album’s catchier songs.

The title track, Wish, is a nice pop ballad that is easily one of the album’s best tracks. While it is a bit long, it isn’t as drawn out and the verses don’t pull the song down. It reminds me of her other song, Precious as it gradually builds in power as the song goes on. The melody is gorgeous and while the music is a bit expected, everything works together so nicely.

I don’t know what is up with Tokyo Days though. It is an upbeat, bright pop tune but it has some 90’s J-Pop vibes with it due to the use of background vocals. It reminds me of Komuro Tetsuya’s music, which was popular in the 90’s. Unfortunately, I just don’t think this song does well as it attempts to bring that oldschool sound with contemporary music, but doesn’t blend them well enough.

MY HEART WILL GO ON was originally released on a tribute album for Celine Dion. Ito does a good job singing this classic tune. I do think she does strain a bit on the higher parts, but she is able to hold her ground throughout. The song does add a more contemporary twist to things, but it still keeps the original sound in tact. A nice ending.


Overall: I do find this album to be a bit better than her debut. While there are some duds like her first album, I do find the album tracks to be stronger on here. The singles weren’t as good, but they didn’t detract too much from the album. Surprisingly, the second half of the album was stronger than the first half for me as the songs had stronger melodies and more interesting arrangements. This was a solid album though.

B+

[Album] Ito Yuna – HEART

Ito Yuna debuted in 2005 and made a huge splash in the J-Pop world with her hit single ENDLESS STORY. She continued releasing a slew of singles and scored another huge hit with Precious and some other moderate ones. HEART is her debut album and was a big success itself, scoring #1 and selling over 520,000 copies. It includes five singles that were released before it.

heart
Released: January 24, 2007
1. WORKAHOLIC
2. ENDLESS STORY
3. losin’
4. Know-how
5. Precious
6. Tender is the Night
7. Fragile
8. Nobody Knows
9. Faith
10. Stay for Love
11. Truth
12. Perfume
13. Precious -wedding extended ver.-

While she is best known for her ballads, HEART opens with WORKAHOLIC, a disco-influenced pop song. I really like the array of synths as they do emulate strings, which works really nicely with the funky beat. The melody is quite catchy, especially with the use of the background vocals. Ito’s sweet voice also works really nicely with the more lighthearted feel of the song. Good starter.

endlessstory

Next comes the hit of the album, ENDLESS STORY. Ito’s debut single is actually a cover of a Jody Watley song and is a pretty standard pop ballad with a bit of R&B flair. I wasn’t terribly impressed by the song before, but I do love it now. It’s just such a solid pop ballad. The chorus melody is powerful, memorable and is nicely pushed ahead with the strong percussion, guitar and strings. It’s not a power ballad, but this works in Ito’s favour as her smooth vocals just glide along it. Gorgeous.

losin

Fifth single, losin’, brings another change with a nice upbeat R&B tune. I love the guitar throughout the song and it works as a nice foundation with the fast beat and touches of synths. The melody is really catchy and the opening chorus hook is really intoxicating. Ito’s vocals also sound great as usual.

Know-how is more midtempo and has a bit of ska influence to it due to its brass inclusion. It’s more relaxing than the other songs and has a nice lighthearted feel to it. However, the song is pretty much forgettable. The beat just doesn’t match with the melody, which is slow and drags on a bit. Bit disappointing.

precious

Precious was released as the third single and was a huge hit as well. The song starts of pretty similar to that of ENDLESS STORY, with its more gentle pop ballad beginning, but the chorus is totally different. The percussion is much stronger and there soaring strings really help catapult the powerful melody up. It’s definitely her power ballad and one of the stronger songs on the album.

Tender is the Night continues the slower song run, but this time we have something a bit more oldschool. I think the inclusion of the saxophone really gives the song a bit of an 80’s vibe, especially tied with the beat. However, this midtempo pop/R&B tune just isn’t that strong. It’s just so average. I do think Ito sounds good, but there isn’t anything that stands out.

Fragile opens in a cool way with the use of the strings. Luckily, the song itself is better than the last one with its more upbeat R&B style. The verses aren’t too bad even though Ito does hit some odd runs here. However, the chorus is worse. I just don’t find it that memorable and I wish the melody had a bit more energy to it so it would fit with the music.

Nobody Knows starts off in an interesting way and I do like that it continues the upbeat trend with something a bit more disco-influenced. The verses are a bit boring, but I do think the chorus has some nice power to it and while it doesn’t have many hooks, it is still relatively catchy. It reminds me of something from Nakashima Mika.

faith

A lot of people weren’t impressed with Faith, but I think it’s a stunning R&B ballad. As the second single, it follows ENDLESS STORY nicely by bringing a bit of the same but adding a little difference. The verses are quite nice, but it’s the chorus where things shine. The sweeping strings really get the song going, especially with the touches of synth in the background. It has a darker sound to it, but it still glides nicely along.

Stay for Love was the B-side included on the losin’ single. It has an interesting dance sound to it, which helps it stand out from the other tracks. The chorus is nice, but I do feel like the melody is lacking a bit of energy. Part of it is that Ito’s vocals just remain so monotone throughout most of it. It’s not bad, but could bring more. Truth brings us back to the ballad zone with Ito’s sixth single.

truth

Used for the movie NANA 2 (ENDLESS STORY was for the first), Truth brings a more grandiose ballad. It’s like a more powerful version of ENDLESS STORY. However, while I do enjoy it, I don’t find it as sentimental. Ito sounds great and the melody is epic, but it also feels like it drags on just a bit too much. It’s still a great song and I love the percussion in the chorus.

Perfume continues the ballad sound, but definitely in a more relaxing way. It just doesn’t have the power of the other ballads and unfortunately, it also doesn’t have a memorable melody. It’s just quite boring and doesn’t really go anywhere. I do like the touch of R&B, but I wish the chorus was bigger.

Precious -wedding extended ver.- brings a nice change to the original with its focus on the strings. I do wish the final chorus included the percussion, but it’s still a nice version.


Overall: I was a bit worried going into this album because I’ve heard the album tracks were a bit weak. Unfortunately, this is quite true and the album pretty much keeps afloat due to the strength of the singles. While there were a few decent album tracks, this album could’ve definitely been cut down to about 10 songs. Definitely recommend 2, 3, 5, 9 and 11.

B