[Album] Kato Miliyah – TOKYO STAR

TOKYO STAR is the third album released by Kato Miliyah. It proved to be another success, peaking at number 4 and selling over 207,000 copies. There were three singles released prior to the album, with all scoring within the top 20. Two of the songs became some of her biggest hits and both went double platinum digitally.

tokyostar
Released: April 2, 2008
1. LALALA
2. 19 Memories
3. Better days -sweet love side-
4. You Go Your Way
5. Kiss
6. Love is…
7. Saigo no I LOVE YOU (最後のI Love You; The Last I Love You)
8. Just Wanna Have Fun
9. TOUGH
10. Young Lady
11. Sayonara (サヨナラ; Farewell)
12. U gatta understand
13. Ai wa Kawarazu (愛は変わらず; Love Is Unchanged)
14. FUTURECHECKA
15. Tokyo Star

lalala

The album starts off with its biggest hit and one half of its second single, LALALA, which features Shonannokaze’s Wakadanna. I actually wasn’t expecting a song like this as the verses are acoustic and a departure from the other singles that Kato has done before. I find the verses quite forgettable, but once the chorus comes in, things start to get better. The melody is much better and more memorable and is the type of song that can be easily sung to. I’m not a fan of Wakadanna’s rap though and I think it doesn’t fit the song. Besides that, it’s a decent opener.

19memories

The album’s next big hit comes rolling in after with 19 Memories. It samples Amuro Namie’s song, “SWEET 19 BLUES”, which is a favourite of mine. I really like how things were incorporated here as the rest of the song really takes its influence and updates the sound. It has a drawn out R&B/pop sound with some gospel elements in the vocal arrangement. I do find that the song really needs the sample for its hook, but there are some nice parts in the melody that do stand out. No surprise it was the final single.

Better days -sweet love side- brings back Kato’s usual light R&B sound and it works nicely here. I don’t think the melody is as impacting as I want it to be, but it still has a nice energy to it that works well` with the beat. I also think Kato makes one of her best vocal performances here and she doesn’t have too many weird runs or notes. It’s a sweet song.

You Go Your Way is an interesting change as we are given something more country/pop with an R&B beat. It’s not something I hear often, but it’s not a bad song. The melody is a bit flat and doesn’t quite hit the mark at first, but it is the type of song that gets better with every listen. I feel like I wasn’t quite liking it at first, but it has its charms.

Kiss starts off in a great way with its stomping beat and sensual R&B vibes. Unfortunately, that’s where the great things stop. The verses don’t really have much energy to them and while the chorus is a bit faster and better, the way the vocals were edited make it sound too quiet and it gets overpowered by the music. It feels like if the music matched the vocal arrangement more, this would have been a great song.

loveis

The album’s first single, Love is…, is the album’s first ballad. I’m not a big fan of Kato’s ballads because I’m not a huge fan of her voice on these songs as she tends to over exaggerate words. This also features that, which is unfortunate because the music is actually quite beautiful. It has a acoustic vibe to it that is supported by strings in the chorus. I do feel like it gets better as it progresses though and the ending is quite nice.

Saigo no I LOVE YOU is a great sadder sounding R&B tune and I love the acoustic touches here because it works wonderfully with the melody. Kato also sounds great in the verses. The chorus isn’t particularly catchy, but everything flows together really well and the harmonies really add a nice layer to the melody. This is my favourite song on the album and it is easy to see why it was used as a promo song for the album.

Just Wanna Have Fun is the album’s first dance song and it’s a needed addition as there hasn’t been anything as upbeat as this song yet. I love the touches of R&B in the vocal arrangement and it still feels like a Kato song. The chorus’ arrangement is simplified a bit and doesn’t feature too many instruments, but it surprisingly does what its supposed to do and is still quite catchy. Good tune!

TOUGH continues the upbeat attitude and brings another powerful tune. This one has an even heavier beat and a pretty cool synth-line that plays throughout the song. Unfortunately, I wish the chorus was a little less messy. The beat and other sounds all boggle together into one and it overpowers the melody, which is actually pretty catchy. It’s a bit of a hot mess.

Young Lady brings us back to R&B and we are given something more lighthearted. This is a total filler track, but not in a good way. The verses feel totally off and Kato’s voice comes off flat at times. Even when the chorus comes in, it feels like there is a huge disconnect between the music and vocals. It just doesn’t match up and it makes me unable to finish listening to the song.

Sayonara is another ballad but starts off in a way that focuses on the piano first. A beat doesn’t really come in until halfway through, although I do wish it left it out. It doesn’t ruin the song, and gets better in the final chorus, but I think it would have been better as a simple piano ballad. Still one of her better ballads.

U gatta understand has a great mix of R&B and traditional-styled music. She did it on her last album with Cry no more and she is doing it again here. I love the beat with the sensuality of the vocals and Kato really pulls this kind of song off well. I only wish the melody was a bit more in the forefront of the chorus as it gets overpowered, but it still creates a nice blended kind of sound. One of the album’s best tracks.

Ai wa Kawarazu starts off sounding like it will be a pop/rock tune. Actually, the verses sort of bore me and I have a hard time getting through them as they take a while to get through. The chorus isn’t bad, but it’s a bit boring as well. I like there is a difference in the music, but the melody just sort of goes along. Not a bad song, just not for me.

The second half of the second single, FUTURECHECKA is an upbeat R&B and hip-hop tune. Once again there are some guest rappers, but they don’t really interest me, except the female rapper. She really brings the needed energy the song needs. My biggest problem is that the singing parts are just really uneventful and lack the punch that the raps give. That and the raps are so long that we are only given a bit of singing. The song is just too long and feels a bit empty.

The title track, Tokyo Star, finishes the album up and ends it with a bang. An R&B song with some rock elements, it definitely brings an interesting mix. With that said, the music just doesn’t quite feel as complete as I would like. It feels like the chorus is missing something to cover the parts between the heavy guitar and Kato’s voice just isn’t powerful enough to carry the song. It is a cool idea, but sort of lacks in the execution.


Overall: This is a pretty average album. It has some really great songs, but there are also a lot of mediocre and weak songs to offset that as well. I do like that it sounds as though Kato started to diverge from her usual R&B tunes, although I feel like she does those kinds of songs best. With that said, I do find there are some really great album tracks on here and the best song was actually a newer one.

B

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[Album] Kato Miliyah – Diamond Princess

Diamond Princess is the second album released by Kato Miliyah. It wasn’t as successful as her debut, but still charted in the top 5 and sold just over 100,000 copies. It was preceded by four singles, with two being top 20 hits.

diamondprincess.jpg
Released: March 7, 2007
1. Diamond
2. Eyes on you
3. Last Summer
4. Kono Mama Zutto Asa Made (このままずっと朝まで; Stay Like This Until the Morning)
5. LuvSong
6. FAMILY
7. Caught up
8. My Soul
9. Cry no more
10. I WILL
11. Sotsugyou (ソツギョウ; Graduation)
12. Wasurenai Kara (忘れないから; I Won’t Forget You)
13. So special
14. Paradise
15. Wonderful

Diamond opens the album and its a funky and powerful R&B/pop intro. It’s only a minute long, but has some vocal pieces and an exposive arrangement. I love the use of brass.

eyesonyou

Eyes on you was released as Kato’s eighth single (fourth from the album) and has an oldschool kind of vibe to it. It’s a light-disco/pop tune that features a bouncy guitar and splash of synths. The verses are a bit forgettable, but the pre-chorus and chorus are a lot of fun. It’s the type of song that is easy to sing along to. It does lose a bit of energy later on though as it nears five minutes in total length.

lastsummer

Probably my favourite song from the album, Last Summer is a summery upbeat pop/R&B tune and was released as the album’s second single (sixth overall). Unlike the last song, this one has a much stronger verse. Even in this part there are some catchy hooks. The chorus is a fun blend of background vocals and Kato and continues the funky arrangement that was heard in the last two songs, although with a stronger beat. It’s a refreshing tune.

Kono Mama Zutto Asa Made samples a 90’s Jamaican hit, but it feels like a weak attempt at trying to do reggae. It has a summery vibe like the last song, but the arrangement just lacks any strength. It feels like there should be a fuller arrangement, but it doesn’t push where its supposed to and the music sounds forgotten. The melody is okay, but it isn’t that catchy and relies a lot on the sample. It would be better with something a little different for the arrangement.

LuvSong slows things down with a midtempo pop/R&B tune. It has a bit of the reggae vibe with the beat, but the melody reminds me of something from Kato’s first album. Unfortunately, the song is really forgettable. It’s simple, but just doesn’t stand out in its melody or arrangement and it feels like the music doesn’t totally fit with the more dramatic vocals.

FAMILY is a bit better. It has some neo-soul elements to it, which is a nice change. I really like the arrangement and the brass-like synths that are added in to give the song a bit of punch. The melody is alright and it’s definitely more memorable than the last song. It works nicely with the music, which is a good change as well. A decent album filler.

Caught up is good just because it has a lot of energy to it. Up to this point, it has the most attitude to it, which is a change from the laid back vibe of the other songs. The chorus is really fast-paced and I love the explosion of brass here. I don’t think the melody is as effective just because it sounds too fast and would’ve been a bit better slowed down just a little. It’s still not bad though.

My Soul brings the R&B sound back with probably the strongest song since Last Summer. It has a very heavy beat that really demands attention and the melody is really smooth and sexy. It works great with Kato’s voice and the song takes its time to really deliver the hooks. It’s a fun and powerful tune.

Cry no more is awesome just because we have that R&B/pop vibe but with some traditional Japanese elements thrown in. The music is really beautiful and fits surprisingly nice with the beat. This is especially nice in the chorus where things really blend together. My only gripe would be that I wish the song was a bit on the darker side of things, but it’s a great song anyways.

iwill

I WILL is the first full-fledged pop ballad and was the album’s third single (seventh overall). Unfortunately, this is my least favourite of her singles. It’s a nice change of pace because she hasn’t had a ballad single, but it’s just a forgettable song. The melody is nice, but isn’t particularly catchy nor help to showcase Kato’s vocals in a nice way. The arrangement is actually quite nice, but just needs a stronger singer to take it to the next level.

sotsugyou

Luckily, the first single of the album comes up next. Sotsugyou is one of the album’s stronger songs. It has a great midtempo R&B/neo-soul sound to it and I love it. The melody isn’t the catchiest on the album, but I do like the emotion in the song and Kato sounds great. I actually quite enjoy the music and how the vocals are laid out. The steady beat, touches of synths and piano tied with the lyrics really gives the song a touching tune without bringing something slow.

Wasurenai Kara is the second of the ballads, although this one has a stronger R&B vibe to it. With that, it is infinitely better than the last ballad. It really reminds me of some great late 00’s R&B tunes. The chorus is a bit dragged out, but it’s still pretty catchy and the funky guitar in the background really brings a great bounce to the song. Unfortunately, I do find the verses stronger than the choruses as the beat really works well in the former.

So special has a strange opening that makes me think it is sampling another R&B tune. I do find the beat of the song to be really odd cause it always seems to be a bit off with the vocals. It’s sort of unfortunate because the melody is actually really great and I think if things matched up a bit better, the song would’ve been way better. It really reminds me of something from her first album.

Paradise is another R&B tune, but brings that summery vibe. I really love the music to this song as the beat is really strong and has a gorgeous guitar that floats above it. The song is really catchy and I was quite surprised at how the chorus played out. The vocal arrangement was really nicely done and worked greatly with the music while still being an earworm. It’s definitely a strong album track.

Wonderful is a nice midtempo pop/R&B tune with some neo-soul elements. I am quite surprised with the upbeat feel of this song and it reminds me of some stuff from the late 90’s. It’s not particularly catchy, but it’s not a forgettable song as it does have some decent hooks. I just wish it really pushed things further.


Overall: I was worried that this album would be really weak because I didn’t like the singles as much as those from Kato’s first album. However, the album tracks were much stronger on this album and there were some nice tunes. There were a few weaker songs, but they weren’t terrible and had potential and the album started to get some stronger songs coming around the end. I just wish the album was cut down a little more because the album’s length is quite long and there were some unnecessary songs. Would recommend tracks 2, 3, 9, 11 and 14.

B+

[Album] Kato Miliyah – Rose

Kato Miliyah debuted in 2004 and didn’t start off as an overnight sensation. She has certainly been successful and has had her fair share of hits, but she’s kept a consistent amount of popularity throughout her career. Starting off with a pretty strong R&B feel, her music has definitely transformed itself and she often does numerous genres. Her debut album, Rose, featured four singles (three being moderate hits) and scored #2 on the charts.

rose
Released: October 26, 2005
1. Yozora (夜空; Night Sky)
2. Dear Lonely Girl (ディア・ロンリーガール)
3. Don’t stop!
4. Beautiful
5. My life
6. Love me, I love you
7. RIDE wit u
8. Eien no Koe (永遠の声; Voice of Eternity)
9. Never let go
10. I Cry
11. Jounetsu (ジョウネツ; Passion)
12. Rose
13. STAR
14. ONE DAY ~Yozora Mix~ / Rose

The funny thing with this album is that it opens with my favourite song. Yozora is a sparkly and slinky R&B midtempo tune. The music is fun and the melody is super catchy and charming. The beat is bouncy and I love the touches of synths in the background that help bring character to the music. The choruses are fun as they do a good job with introducing laidback background vocals that help provide a basis for Kato to sing over. Her vocals are also pretty decent throughout the song. Just a fun song.

dearlonelygirl

Dear Lonely Girl was released as the album’s third single. It continues the R&B sound, although not as upbeat as the last song. It really reminds me of 2000’s US R&B with its light beat. I like how the verses are more like sing-rapping, as it provides a bit of variety. I actually really enjoy the chorus because it utilizes background vocals in an interesting fashion. A catchy tune.

Don’t Stop is definitely the most upbeat tune at this point with its thumping beat and disco influences. I really enjoy the refrain used during the verses and it works well with the slower paced vocal arrangement. However, it is the chorus which really brings the energy. I love the explosion of brass instruments and sparkling synths. The melody is also insanely catchy. Great album track.

beautiful

Beautiful was the second single released before the album. It continues the R&B sound, but this time with a more acoustic sound. It really reminds me of Janet Jackson’s Someone to Call My Lover with its upbeat acoustic elements that make me think of summer. The chorus is a little more generic, as the acoustic sound isn’t as prevalent, but it’s still quite catchy. I think my only problem was how off Kato’s vocals were at times.

Slowing things down, My Life brings a nice smoother groove to it. I do find the beat a little odd because it sounds like static. This sort of clashes with the sparkly synths used in the song. The melody is quite nice, but I actually don’t think it blends as well as it could with the music. It feels a bit overshadowed by the generic musical arrangement. Not the strongest song, but not a bad listen.

Love me, i love you is the first full-fledged ballad. It still has that R&B sound that keeps it flowing with the rest of the album. The overall sound of the song is rather generic when it comes to J-R&B songs. I do like the the more light-hearted feel of the song, but I really wish there was something that helped the song stand out. The melody is nice, but its a bit forgettable.

RIDE wit u brings that slight hip-hop edge to it. I do like it’s cooler vibe, but the song is definitely one of the weaker ones. The verses are pretty laid back and smooth, but it’s the chorus where things get a bit messy. I don’t particularly think the melody is strong and the vocals sound quite strained. I do love how everything blends together well.

I was expecting Eien no Koe to be a ballad, but we have another midtempo R&B tune. To be honest, I feel like this is one of the more forgettable songs on the album. There are some nice parts like the background vocals and the use of string-like synths, but the melody isn’t particularly catchy. It’s not bad, but something we’ve heard better on the album.

neverletgoyozora

After three pretty average songs, we finally get to the edgy Never let go. This was the song that made me fall in love with Kato Miliyah. It has that strong R&B beat and is a bit more uptempo. At the same time, it has so much attitude to it and works really well with Kato’s voice. Everything about the song is great. The verses are cool, while the chorus is really catchy and has a bit of funk to it. Perfect.

I Cry finally brings us a ballad and this time we have a R&B with a bit of Spanish tinge. I do love the music arrangement and I especially love the guitar. However, it just doesn’t work with that well with the melody. The verses are sung so sloppily and Kato should not use riffs too often because she can’t pull them off too well. The chorus is better, but it’s a bit too overdramatic for my taste. Luckily, the last of the four singles pops up.

jounetsu

Jounetsu is is midtempo R&B ballad and actually samples a song by UA by the same name. The sample is heard in the first part of the chorus as the background vocals. I really like the original, so it works really well with Kato’s added parts and helps to build the song into the second part of the chorus. The great part of this song is that everything is catchy. Even the verses are very strong and it gives a good base that helps the strings sweep in to bring us to the chorus. Great great great.

I was hoping Rose would be a ballad, but this time we get an R&B/rock fusion. I like the musical aspect of the song as it is really edgy and a cool combination, but the melody just doesn’t work well with the music. The chorus is a bit too slow to really have much impact and the music tends to overpower everything. The verses and the bridge help save the song. It’s not bad, but could be executed much better.

STAR brings the ballad that I wanted, but it’s not as strong as I was hoping. This is probably the most straightforward pop ballad on the album and while it does blend in, it just doesn’t stand out in a good way. The verses are boring and the chorus is a bit of a mess. I don’t like the English used and it sort of causes the chorus to sound like it is dragging on. Kato’s vocals are meant to really belt the song out, so she struggles throughout the high notes.

ONE DAY ~Yozora Remix~ / Rose was released on one of the singles and features m-flo. I love how they used the strongest song to make a remix of and everything actually works together well. VERBAL’s rap works really well with the funky beats and Kato’s parts are also quite well-done. My only gripe is that the song does sound like it drags on for quite a bit. I think VERBAL’s rap is a bit too long. This was a fun way to end the album though.


Overall: I love the singles to this album. Every single A-side was strong and so I had high expectations for this album. To be honest, I was a bit let down. There were some good album tracks, but then there were also many forgettable ones. I do like how the whole album was cohesive, but some of the tracks were really generic and just blended together too much. Definitely recommend all the A-sides and Don’t Stop (1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 11).

B-