LOVE COOK is the third album released by Otsuka Ai. The album ended up being her most successful, peaking at number one and selling over 835,000 copies. All three of the singles were successful, with two peaking at number one and selling over 300,000 copies each.
Released: December 14, 2005
2. Haneari Tamago (羽ありたまご; Winged Egg)
3. Biidama (ビー玉; Marble)
5. U-Boat (U-ボート)
6. Neko ni Fuusen (ネコに風船; A Cat And A Balloon)
8. Ramen 3-bun Cooking (ラーメン3分クッキング, Cooking 3-min. Ramen)
9. Tokyo Midnight (東京ミッドナイト)
10. Planetarium (プラネタリウム)
11. Birthday Song
12. LOVE MUSIC
5:09am opens the album and it does so in a really interesting way. It starts off really soft with some light synths and Otsuka’s voice before slowly getting some percussion. It’s quite gorgeous. Then halfway through it explodes and turns into a blaring pop/rock tune that has a flailing guitar, blasting synths and more emotional vocals before returning into its quiet self only thirty seconds after. It’s such an interesting track and it is phenomenal.
In my opinion, Otsuka Ai’s best songs are ballads. Haneari Tamago is just that and it really pulls in a lot of other styles she’s done before. This one has a bit of a country vibe to it with its light guitar and strings, but there is something absolutely touching about it all. The melody is so beautiful and Otsuka’s voice just resonates here. I would say this is my favourite of all her songs.
Biidama was released as the second A-side to the album’s first single and its a bright pop tune with some rock elements. It’s not as intense as some of her other pop tunes, but I feel like it doesn’t quite have the same energy. I do like the music and there’s a charm to it, but I feel like the melody isn’t as memorable, even though it is quite cute. Not bad, although it is my least favourite of the A-sides.
SMILY was paired with Biidama in the first single and is the more exciting of the two. This kind of song calls back the sounds of Happy Days and Sakuranbo with its over-the-top pop/rock style. I don’t think it has the same charms as those two songs, but it’s still a fun song and I quite enjoy the main cuteness factor. It’s the perfect song for the summer season with its bright and carefree sound.
U-Boat is another fun and upbeat pop/rock song that is very similar to the last song. I don’t think Otsuka’s vocals are as grating, which is a plus, but the chorus just isn’t as catchy as the last song. It’s still a cute song and I love how it doesn’t really take itself seriously. The rocking guitars and bouncing percussion really creates an exciting sound.
I feel like out of all the singles, Neko ni Fuusen usually got the most flack, which I’m surprised about. Maybe it was because it was stuck between the massive successes of the first and third singles, but it is my favourite of the A-sides. It slows the album down a bit and we get an acoustically driven pop/rock tune. It’s absolutely charming and I love the chorus. Otsuka’s voice is really nice even if she goes a bit more on the “cute” scale and she pulls this song off really well.
Cherish was originally released on a tribute album for the manga, NANA. If you know anything about that film and anime series, then you know this song will have some powerful rock influences and it totally does. The chorus goes full on rock. It’s a pretty dark sounding song, but the verses are gentle and then everything just gets pumped up for the chorus where the heavy electric guitar and percussion come flying in. I wish the melody was a little stronger, but the overall song is great.
Ramen 3-bun Cooking is that one song on every Otsuka album…It’s a crazy tune and I’m not quite sure what to think about it. It’s a really fun song and has some really catchy parts to it, but I don’t think I can really revisit this song that much because it is just too messy and all over the place.
Tokyo Midnight is probably my least favourite song on the album up to this point. It is a fun pop tune with ska influences, which is usually something I enjoy. However, I just don’t find it particularly catchy and it just comes off as a bit forgettable in this album. It isn’t horrible and has a decent chorus, but it doesn’t stand out.
Planetarium was released as the album’s final single and it was a huge hit due to its tie-in. Even without its tie-in, it’s a juggernaut of a song and is one of Otsuka’s best ballads. It reminds me a bit of Kingyo Hanabi with its slow build-up for the verses, but unlike that song, the chorus is definitely more powerful with its strong percussion, touches of guitar and flute. It’s really stunning and this is one of her best vocal performances as well.
I don’t quite know what to think of Birthday Song. It has some country-vibes to it, but it just doesn’t hit the mark. It’s not a bad song, just not that strong. The chorus is basically made up of “Happy Birthday to you”, which gets a bit jarring after a while and it isn’t particularly catchy. I feel like this song would have worked better if the chorus was changed up as the verses aren’t bad.
LOVE MUSIC ends the album on a slower note, but I think it’s the weakest of the ballads. It has a nice arrangement, but it sort of lacks a strong melody and the music just remains at this decent pace but doesn’t quite push anything. Of course, Otsuka’s voice is really charming, so she does work with what she’s got. The song does get a bit better as it goes on.
Overall: This album keeps up the quality that her other albums had, although I do find this one to be the weakest of the lot. There are some really amazing songs on here and they help carry the album, but there are some weaker ones as well. I feel like she tried to play around more with her sound, but it only worked in some areas. It’s still a pretty solid album.