[Album] Kuraki Mai – If I Believe

If I Believe is the fourth album released by Kuraki Mai. Another success, the album peaked at #1 and sold over 440,000 copies. Four singles were released prior to the album, with all of them scoring within the top three on the Oricon charts.


Released: July 9, 2003
1. If I Believe
2. Time after Time ~Hana Mau Machi de~ (album version) (~花舞う街で~; In the Town of Dancing Flowers)
3. Kaze no Lalala (風のららら; Lalala of the Wind)
4. Kiss
5. mi corazón
6. I don’t wanna lose you
7. Make my day ~album version~
8. Same
9. Just A Little Bit
10. You are not the only one
11. Tonight, I feel close to you

Similarly to her previous albums, the title track opens the album. If I Believe is a pretty midtempo pop song that has similar vibes to her past albums. This is a bit disheartening, but the song does have some more contemporary sounds to it so it is better than the majority of the material on her last two albums. The verses are pretty nice, but the chorus just sort of springs out suddenly. It’s not particularly catchy, but it isn’t too bad. I do dislike the odd male background vocals that come in though as they just don’t fit. This isn’t the most exciting song, but it is still pretty decent.


The album’s second single comes in the form of Time after Time ~Hana Mau Machi de~ (album version), which is a pretty dramatic midtempo tune. This was one of the first songs I heard from Kuraki, so I have a bit of nostalgia listening to this one. It’s a pretty cool song with its more melancholic vibe. It is similar to her older ballads, but sped up a bit more, which really helps to propel the melody. It’s a pretty good song and it features one of Kuraki’s strongest vocal performances.


Kaze no Lalala starts off in the most cheesy way and I’m just not sure what to think of it. The verses are more ballad-like with there slower vibe and gentle build-up. However, the chorus has a bit of a blast of energy and turns into something more upbeat with its light dance-beat. I sort of wish it was a full-fledged ballad though. I do find the change interesting, but the chorus isn’t particularly catchy. Solid song, but the weakest of the four singles.


The third of the singles comes pounding in. Kiss is a great departure from Kuraki’s prior material in the sense that it feels much more contemporary and not chasing her previous albums’ sounds. It has a stronger acoustic focus at first, but soon focuses on a lighter dance/R&B sound. The verses have a lot of attitude are fun while the chorus’ brightness comes in with a strong melody. Definitely a highlight.

mi corazón is the first album track in a while and it is of course a Latin-inspired dance tune. I really love this change up and it’s nice to hear Kuraki finally experimenting with different sounds. I love the more sensual side of the song, especially during the verses. Her airy vocals fit perfectly here. The choruses are pretty empty and focus more on the arrangement and a few lines, but it’s still a pretty interesting change. A solid entry.

Originally released as a B-side to the album’s first single, I don’t wanna lose you is a hip-hop/R&B song. I’m not quite sure with this song because Kuraki sort of gets lost in the heavy beat, but her airy vocals do work nicely with R&B tunes. I just wish the song was stronger. The verses are a bit off and the chorus comes flying in with a brighter quality to it, but it just quite hit the spot. Not terrible, but a bit of a questionable entry.


Make my day ~album version~ was released as the album’s first single and it is a bit change for her as it has a little bit of heavy rock in its arrangement tied with dance and R&B. It has a lot of punch and it is probably the most aggressive song on the album, which is a nice change. I do like it’s energy and there are some pretty cool parts in the verses. The chorus’ melody isn’t as hard hitting and catchy as I want it to be, but it has its time.

I like that SAME changes things up again with its more experimental dance sound. It has a heavy beat and brings a bit of electropop and rock into it. It’s something I have never heard from Kuraki and that in itself is great. It sort of reminds me of something from Alanis Morisette, which I was not expecting. I don’t think it’s that catchy as the chorus is a bit repetitive, but the pre-chorus is really fun to hear and the change is welcomed.

Something more on the acoustic side of things is Just A Little Bit. This is a bit of a weird song because it has a more 90’s pop/rock arrangement to it. It’s not really my cup of tea though because it isn’t particularly memorable in its melody and focuses a lot more on the attitude it brings. It isn’t bad, but it sort of falls off in comparison to the last song.

The B-side to the third single comes sliding in with its fast-paced dance/pop sound. You are not the only one is another weird tune just because there are so many different sounds. I do like that the song is a bit on the faster side of things as it really brings some much needed punch. The chorus is this swirling mess with its flowing melody and tunnel-like synthed up arrangement. I do think it could be made stronger with a better arrangement, but it’s a good tune.

Tonight, I feel close to you is a song in English and a duet between Kuraki and Singaporean artist, Stefanie Sun. It’s a really interesting combination. Both of the girls have unique vocals and the arrangement really helps to bring something dreamy. I do feel like the girls get drowned out a bit though, as the music just seems so loud and their vocals are more on the thinner side. It’s a cool duet though and the chorus has some really nice points to it.

Overall: This her best album out of her first four. It isn’t an amazing album, but it is definitely a much needed entry. The first half of the album is much stronger, but the majority of the songs are pretty solid. The biggest problem I had with her last two albums was that she kept trying to replicate her first album, but she just couldn’t quite reach the same magic with some songs. Here, there are still traces of her older sound, but much more experimentation in the arrangements, which kept things exciting.


[Album] Kuraki Mai – FAIRY TALE

FAIRY TALE is the third album released by Kuraki Mai. Four singles were released before the album’s release, with one being a number one hit. The album was another success for her as it peaked at #1, although it only sold 730,000 copies (half of her second album).

Released: October 23, 2002
1. Fairy tale ~my last teenage wish~
2. Feel fine!
3. Ride on time
4. key to my heart
5. Winter Bells
6. Loving You…
7. Can’t forget your love
8. Trip in the dream
9. Not that kind a girl
10. Like a star in the night
11. Fushigi no Kuni (不思議の国; Strange Country)
12. fantasy

Kuraki Mai’s albums always start with a catchy pop tune and this one is no different. Fairy tale ~my last teenage wish~ is a powerful song although it does sound a bit outdated. I do like the melody and it is super catchy, but I feel like it fits more in the late 90’s than the early 00’s. Still, it is a fun tune and I think Kuraki’s voice sounds quite strong here.


Feel fine! is the album’s third single and its biggest hit. It’s a catchy, upbeat summer tune that sounds more updated than a lot of the other songs on the album. I do like the music a lot because it has a stronger pop/rock element to it. It sort of sounds like something the Beach Boys would have done. I do think Kuraki could be a little stronger in the chorus, but her sweet vocals are still pleasant enough.

Ride on time starts off in a cool way. It gives me some funky pop vibes and the guitar in the background is a nice inclusion. Unfortunately, the chorus is just not what I was hoping for. It sort of reverts to her usual style of song and at this point, it comes off a bit outdated compared to the more contemporary verses. The melody isn’t that memorable either and everything drags on to over five minutes.

key to my heart was used as the album’s promotional song as it was used as the theme song to the game, Tales of Destiny 2. This is the album’s first ballad and it is a nice change of pace. It sort of reminds me of something from her first album, but it just isn’t that strong. The whole song lacks a strong melody and Kuraki’s voice isn’t dynamic enough here to really bring some surprise. Not her worst ballad, but a bit of a snoozefest.


Fortunately, Winter Bells is a stronger tune. Like the title mentions, this song is a winter tune and has a Christmas vibe to it. Although these kinds of songs can often end up a bit bland, Winter Bells is one of the better songs on here. The album’s second single is a bright and catchy pop tune. The music has your typical sleigh bells, brass instruments and bouncy beat that are featured in many Xmas songs, the melody is quite a joy to listen to.

Loving You… is a little different from Kuraki’s usual sounding pop tunes. There are some similarities in terms of the beat and background vocals, but I like that there is a emptiness in the music that isn’t as apparent in a lot of her other songs. I quite like the melody as well and I think she sounds great singing during this part. One of the stronger album tracks, although it is a bit too long.


Can’t forget your love was the album’s first single and brings us back to the ballad zone. It starts off in a gentle way with the bells and sparkling synths. Soon, a nice beat comes in as well. It sounds a lot like her songs from her other two albums, especially ‘Secret of my heart’. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the energy nor the hooks of that song. It just sort of floats along and doesn’t really have anything that stands out.

Trip in the dream is a nice change of pace as we are given an upbeat R&B tune. It sort of reminds me of ‘What are you waiting for’ from her last album. Like that song as well, it has a really interesting verse but falters on the chorus. The hooks are weak and the impact of the song is just really low. It feels like it should build into something stronger, but doesn’t take things to the next level.

Not that kind of girl is a really weird change and it has an eerie-ness about it that helps to bring something different. It reminds me of a late 90’s pop tune but like a weaker version. It’s too slow and the melody just drags on slowly when it should be more powerful. I think the song has potential, but just falls flat.


Like a star in the night is the album’s last single and starts off quite nicely. It opens in a gentle way that highlights Kuraki’s sweet vocals. Unfortunately, the chorus is boring. It tries to change things into a brighter setting, but it comes off really flat instead. I can barely get through it because it just doesn’t sound good.

Fushigi no Kuni is on the lighter side of things but is still a bright pop song. It has a bouncy beat that keeps the energy up with a funky synthline. Sometimes Kuraki’s choruses come off a bit heavy with background vocals, but it works nicely here. It feels like the song is fuller and there are different parts that help make everything feel as though the chorus is intertwining within itself.

fantasy ends the album on a slower note and it is the simplest ballad with the piano, guitar and Kuraki’s. It’s not a bad song and I feel like it doesn’t have Kuraki’s usual heavy background vocals or R&B beat. The melody is also memorable, which is a nice change from the other ballads on here.  It’s a sweet finisher.

Overall: This is yet another album I am not that into. There are a few decent tunes, but I would say this one is even weaker than her last one because there are less songs I would repeat. I feel like this album tries to continue what her last album did, which was attempt to replicate her first album. Many of the songs either had weak melodies or they ended up sounding really outdated (or both), which made the majority of the album just forgettable. It didn’t really try to expand Mai’s sound and so it comes off lackluster.


[Album] Kuraki Mai – PERFECT CRIME

PERFECT CRIME is Kuraki Mai’s second album. Like her debut album, it was a hit, peaking at #1 and selling over 1.3 million copies. Four singles were released before its release.

Released: July 4, 2001
2. Start in my life
3. Reach for the sky [MV]
4. Brand New Day
5. Stand Up [MV]
6. Come on! Come on!
7. always [MV]
8. What are you waiting for
9. think about
10. Tsumetai Umi (冷たい海; “Cold Sea”) [MV]
11. Reach for the sky GOMI REMIX (Radio Edit)
12. Itsuka wa Ano Sora ni (いつかは あの空に; “Someday in that Sky”)
13. The ROSE ~melody in the sky~

PERFECT CRIME starts off in such a wicked way with some awesome guitar riffs. It definitely sounds like it is straight from the 80s. The verses are pretty cool with the inclusion of the string-like synths. The chorus is definitely much more aggressive and while the melody isn’t very catchy, it’s still pretty sweet sounding. A cool way to start off the album.

Start in my life was released as one part of the second single from the album and wow is it ever boring. It’s a pretty gentle pop song, with a large focus on percussion and the keyboard, but there is nothing particularly interesting. The melody isn’t catchy nor is it exciting, while the music is too generic and laid back. It does have a bit of an R&B feel, but that doesn’t even save it.


Reach for the sky is pretty much a continuation of the last song, although this one is still a bit better. The music literally sounds exactly as the last song except it has a heavier R&B beat. I do like the melody in the verses as Kuraki sounds very sweet singing them, but that’s it. For the first single, it is dull.

Brand New Day finally brings something interesting with its slight rock sound. I do think the music is a lot stronger than the last two songs and I quite like the beat mixed with the guitar riffs. The chorus melody isn’t so bad either, although I do find Kuraki’s vocals a bit thin to really match the power of the music. It’s not bad though.


Stand Up continues the upbeat sound, but it is one of the strongest songs on the album. The music is really awesome with its beach vibe and mix of guitar, keyboard and percussion. I quite enjoy the cool guitar riffs. The chorus is really strong as well and the melody is really catchy, while also not highlighting too much of Kuraki’s thin vocals. I love how the background vocals were utilized here.

Come on! Come on! isn’t so bad. I really like that it has a disco element to it, which helps it stand out from the other songs and it works with Kuraki’s airy vocals very well. The beat is fun and works really well with the funky synths. The chorus is a bit simple and relies heavily on the “come on come on” hook, but it works.


always was the fourth single and while it has similar qualities to those two weak songs at the start of the album, there is something much more charming about this one. I do feel the beat is more exciting and works effortlessly with Kuraki’s vocals and the background vocals. I especially love the part “always give my love to you”, where the music works wonders with this hook. I do find the chorus melody a bit weak and not particularly catchy, but there are other aspects of the song that make up for it.

What are you waiting for is a bit surprise with its R&B/Hip-Hop sound. It starts off quite contemporary sounding, but once it comes into the verse, the song has this outdated synth music that is present in so many of Kuraki’s songs. It sort of ruins it. The chorus is pretty good though. An interesting twist.

think about keeps up the R&B sound, but in a slower form. I’m actually really surprised by this one because I love the heavy beat and it really sounds like 90’s American R&B. However, I much prefer the verses to the chorus because the melody just isn’t as catchy in the chorus. I do enjoy the second half where the title is repeated though. A nice find anyway.


I love Tsumetai Umi and one of the strongest from this album. It has a stronger pop sound, but still retains some R&B elements. This time though, everything seems much more haunting. I think the mix of the keyboard, background vocals and the melody really help to create an interesting fusion. It still has a similar sound to her other songs, but it comes off much more contemporary and doesn’t give off that “outdated” feel that some of her other songs do.

I don’t know who included Reach for the sky GOMI REMIX (Radio Edit), but I do not like it at all. First of all, the original song just wasn’t that strong and it is basically a heavy dance beat placed under the original song. The melody is still as slow as ever. I mean, the beat does give the song some energy, but it just doesn’t fit together.

Itsuka wa Ano Sora ni is a slower ballad with a relaxing R&B beat. This is probably one of the most boring songs on the album. It’s just too slow and the mixing is quite odd. There is also this really weird beat added on top that sounds a bit like a clock, but it just sticks out too much. I’m not a fan.

THE ROSE ~melody in the sky~ is actually fully in English. It’s a piano ballad reaching around the two minute mark and it is a nice ending to the album. It’s not particularly impressive, but it does its job and Kuraki sounds good.

Overall: I think the most unfortunate thing is that this album had lots of potential and featured some great songs. However, it also featured some of Kuraki’s most boring ballads, which just brought it down. The upbeat songs were generally strong and there were a few decent ballads, but three of them were generic and I just forget how three of them sounded. That and an unfitting remix was placed in the middle of the album. I do recommend tracks 1, 5, 7 and 10.


[Album] Kuraki Mai – delicious way

Kuraki Mai debuted in 1999 and was a huge success right from the start. Her first single was a top 3 hit and it sold over one million copies in total.Everything was set up for her debut and it didn’t disappoint. delicious way sold over three million copies and was her first of several chart topping albums. Prior to the release of the album, Kuraki released four singles. The album was released on the same day as her debut English album.

Released: June 28, 2000
1. Delicious Way
2. Love, Day After Tomorrow [MV]
3. Secret of my heart [MV]
4. Stepping ∞ Out
5. Baby Tonight ~You & Me~
6. Can’t Get Enough ~gimme your love~
8. Stay by my side [MV]
9. Everything’s All Right
10. happy days
11. Kimi to no Jikan (君との時間; Time with You)

The album opens with the title track, Delicious Way. Surprisingly, this song is among the strongest on the album. It’s a charming upbeat pop tune with slight R&B influences. Oh right, by the way, this album is super influenced by American R&B, so the majority of the songs will have some sort of R&B element to them. Delicious Way is a bit funkier though and stays in the pop territory quite often. I love the beat of the song and it works well with the song, especially with the chorus where the background vocals help to give the song a pretty interesting twist. Mai-K sounds quite good here and her sweet voice fits the sweeter quality of the song. A fun listen.


I like that the song swings right into Love, Day After Tomorrow, too. Her debut single, this one is definitely one of the highlights of the album. The R&B influence is much stronger here, especially during the verses. I do like the contrast of the more subtle verses and the poppier choruses. The transition between the two is a little odd, but it’s a welcomed change. The best part is definitely the middle 8 as the melody is quite nice and is a cool break from the rest of the song. I think this song totally works with her voice as well. She really sounds stellar here.


Secret of my heart is a pop/R&B ballad and a nice addition. Released as the third single, I don’t think it’s as strong as the first two songs, but it’s a solid song. I think the musical arrangement is quite interesting since it tries to go for something a little more mysterious and flowing. While the verses are pretty grounded in sound, the choruses are different largely due to the use of the background vocals, which are utilized in a way that makes everything blend together during the choruses. While Mai-K does sound good, I think this song definitely highlights her vocal weaknesses unlike the last two songs. She does have a hard time really standing above the music. Her sweet tone is great during the verses and middle 8, but she does lack a bit in the chorus.

Stepping ∞ Out brings us to a more midtempo setting. The R&B influence is especially evident here. The beat is quite heavy and is very reminiscent of early 90s American R&B. I quite like this song. It’s not the most polished piece though. The vocals seem rather off at times and the overall production is a bit fuzzy at times. With that said, it’s a good listen. At times, it does get a bit slow, but the melody is quite catchy. Mai.K also sounds good here and she brings a little more power to her voice.

Baby Tonight ~You & Me~ would be a great song for a singer with a strong soulful voice. However, Mai.K’s voice is just too weak for this to work. It’s not a bad song though, just rather forgettable and not really the one for her. This R&B ballad is just too slow and doesn’t have any stand out points to it. A pass for me.

Can’t Get Enough ~gimme your love~ is definitely better. It reminds me of something from an early Mary J. Blige album. With that said, it suffers from the same problem as the last song. Mai.K just isn’t able to take this song to the next level and it ends up in a zone where it floats along. I really like the beat and I like the effects used for the song to give it a mystical and sensual feel. With that said, it is missing something.


Luckily, NEVER GONNA GIVE YOU UP comes in. A little different from some of the other tunes, this is probably the most upbeat song with its dance elements. I really like how Mai.K sings this song as her voice gives the song an innocence that makes it a bit more believable. The arrangement is also quite good. I enjoy how she plays off the background vocalist and it makes it sound a little more like a duet. The music has some interesting aspects like the beat and funky synths that pop up. I do wish it was a little fuller at times though. Catchy tune.


Stay by my side slows things down. Not as R&B as the rest of the album, this one is more straightforward pop. I do like some aspects of the musical arrangement, but I do find it extremely outdated at times. Also, I have a problem with the chorus. The verses are rather dull, but at least they have a cool keyboard riff behind it. The choruses are a letdown as the decent buildup it gets from the verses just ends up going flat. The music is boring, the melody is alright but nothing to rave for and Mai.K’s voice just doesn’t give the song any life. Probably one of my least favourite.

Fortunately, the best song on the album pops up right after. Everything’s All Right is an upbeat pop tune with R&B elements, similar to the first two songs. It’s joyful and has a lot of positivity to it. The verses aren’t particularly stellar, but Mai.K does sound good during these parts. The highlight is the chorus though as the vocals blended together are just so well done and the melody is probably the catchiest on the album. I really love how it intertwines with the beat and whistle-like synth. Everything just seems to hit jackpot with this song and even if it sounds a bit outdated, the atmosphere of the song is refreshing. My favourite Mai.K song.

I really like how happy days starts, but it definitely loses its steam as the song goes on. The music is probably the most interesting part of the song with its more awkward feel to it. Mai.K also sounds pretty good here. However, there are definitely a few issues. There are times when the song switches the sound for a section or two and while it adds a nice twist, it also causes some jarring transitions. Also, the chorus has some a very beautiful melody, but the music is just flat and doesn’t really give much life to it. A song with potential, but it falls flat.

Kimi to no Jikan ends the album on a slow note. I’m really not a huge fan of the ballads on this album since the majority of the are dull (semi-sans Secret of my heart) and while this one has a few surprises, it is pretty boring, too. It just doesn’t go anywhere. It might’ve been nice if the ending of the song had a little more energy to it, but it pretty much stays at the same level the whole song through. Not the best ending and probably my least favourite.

Overall: delicious way was such an explosive release of the early 2000s for female divas. With that said, it is a mixed bag. While there are some stellar songs (mostly the upbeat tunes), there were also a few that were just so boring. In particular, the ballads were among the most forgettable songs I’ve listened to. I’m all for albums with R&B influences, but Mai.K doesn’t have the voice to really give simpler sounding songs the right amount of soul and emotion. She really shines on the upbeat tunes that match her sweeter tone. It’s a decent album, but not among my favourite. Recommended tracks include 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, and 9.