[Album] Sowelu – 24 -twenty four-

24 -twenty four- is the third album released by Sowelu. The album became her highest charting, peaking at #3, however, it also saw lower sales than her past two albums as it only sold 84,000 copies. The singles were more successful as a whole as three of the four were top 20 hits. Surprisingly, one of the singles was not featured on the here.

24twentyfour
Released: July 12, 2006
1. Dear friend
2. Crazy for you
3. Mamoru Beki Mono (守るべきもの; Shall Be Protected)
4. tomorrow
5. smile again
6. DANCE
7. Flyer
8. cry
9. Let’s go faraway
10. Kimi no Kehai (君の気配; Your Sign)
11. without you
12. Pride
13. to YOU

The album opens with its last and most popular single, Dear friend. This is a bit different from her other A-sides as it doesn’t have any R&B influences and is an upbeat pop song with rock elements. To me, it’s not my cup of tea. I do like the energy that it gives, but the fact that Sowelu has done some stronger pop tunes that were much catchier, this just comes off a bit lackluster. It doesn’t really take me into the album like her ‘Do You Remember That?’ did. Crazy for you is definitely cooler as it has a really funky guitar going on. The pop/rock sound is still present here, which I’m not too happy about as I think Sowelu works best with R&B. The verses are decent, but nothing particularly interesting, while the chorus isn’t much better. It’s just a lackluster pop/rock tune that comes off really generic but average. Mamoru Beki Mono was used as a theme to a Pokemon movie and it is the album’s first ballad. It’s a full-fledged piano ballad and I really like how it starts off. It has a really sentimental feel to it. The chorus isn’t as strong as I feel like the English parts sort of ruin things a bit. It is better than the other two songs, but it does drag on a bit by the end. tomorrow brings things back to the pop/rock sound but this one comes off like an album filler from Avril Lavigne’s first album. I do like qualities of it, but it just lacks a punch. The songs keeps a consistent feeling throughout and I feel like it really needs something to elevate it. Sowelu does sound nice here though and it is one of the stronger pop/rock songs. smile again has some folk qualities to it and I do like that it stands out. The pop/rock influences are there, but it isn’t as strong as there is a nice violin to help offset the guitars. I feel like this song wouldn’t be bad for someone like YUI, but it needs to elevated. The chorus just doesn’t push things hard enough and plays too much on soft and sweet. When I saw the title for DANCE, I was expecting something more…well…dance. Unfortunately, this is yet another lackluster pop/rock song. I think Sowelu’s vocals can actually fit this style really well and the melodies are decent, but the songs just don’t push it far enough. The music doesn’t have any impact and this song just comes off as forgettable. Flyer is more relaxed and focuses on the acoustic guitar. It’s more on the midtempo side, which is a nice change, but it is another tune that doesn’t particularly impress me. The music doesn’t really go anywhere and Sowelu’s vocals don’t give me any kind of emotion. cry is another acoustically focused track, but this one actually has something going for it with its gentle vibe and R&B beat. It might not be the best song, but at least it brings something different. Sowelu’s sweet vocals really work nicely here. Finally, we come to Let’s go faraway, the album’s first single. This is literally the album’s saving grace because we get a sparkling summer pop tune that is insanely catchy and has a lot of fun energy to it. It’s one of my favourite Sowelu songs and it is easy to get sucked into it. It has such a positive feel to it that the hooks really work wonderfully here. The music is bright and explosive and help to push this feeling. Kimi no Kehai is a pop ballad that finally brings something different as well. The verses aren’t bad as they featured a variety of instruments that come flying in. The chorus is a bit generic and doesn’t quite hit the spot. I really wish the music had some punch to it as the music stays so quiet that I wonder what its doing. Not her strongest ballad. without you is another slow song, but this time we have a nice return of R&B Sowelu. This song sounds like something that would have been featured on her last album and I’m quite happy because it is a decent song. I just wish the chorus had a stronger hook as I don’t think I’ll come back to this song that much, but it is nice to hear something that has a bit of punch in its music. Not quite sure what to think of Pride. It definitely has that pop/rock sound, but it has a more aggressive side to it that isn’t present in the other pop/rock songs on this album. It definitely reminds me of something from Avril Lavigne, which I’m happy about. That is, until the chorus hits, where things turn a bit more pop. I wish it kept being aggressive and darker because it helped it stand out. It’s not bad though. to YOU was the album’s second single (as Get Over was not included) and is a full-fledged pop ballad. I didn’t like this song that much at first because I thought it was boring, but it has grown on me a lot. The melody is something that would have been heard on her second album and the hooks are much stronger here than on any other ballad on this album. The chorus also has a lot of punch thanks to the music, which is what I was looking for.

Overall: This is so weird because I do not know what happened. Sowelu’s last album was very strong and had some amazing tracks. This has maybe two. Instead of going her usual pop/R&B route, she switched to pop/rock, which was an odd change. I think it is great when a singer experiments with their sound, but this just didn’t sound like a Sowelu album and the songs were just much weaker. They weren’t terrible, just average and didn’t have anything particular interesting about them. I can’t remember what most of the songs sounded like.

C+

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[Album] Sowelu – SWEET BRIDGE

SWEET BRIDGE is Sowelu’s second album and is her second best selling album to date with over 130,000 copies sold. It features five singles (one was a re-cut) and includes her biggest hit, I Will.

sweetbridge
Released: January 7, 2005
1. Do You Remember That?
2. I Will
3. No Limit
4. Last Forever
5. He is not for me
6. Shower
7. Glisten
8. cloudy
9. Joy
10. secret candle light
11. The Rose
12. Akatsuki ni Omou (暁ニ想フ)
13. You are my everything

Do You Remember That? is such a great starter. It has that R&B flavour that was found on her first album, but elevates it with its heavy beats and sensual vibe. The song is really catchy, especially the chorus where the background vocals help to give an airy feel while Sowelu does some runs over it. Her voice sounds much better and she sounds much fuller compared to her first album. It is no surprise that it was eventually released as a single. I Will was released as the third single and is the album’s biggest hit. It has the R&B elements like the last song, but definitely has a stronger pop sound. The chorus is especially evident of this with its poppier melody over a thumping R&B beat. The song is catchy, but I don’t think the chorus is as hard hitting as I want it to be. It’s still a solid tune and has a really bright feel to it. The second single, No Limit, continues that pop/R&B fusion and is definitely another stand out track. I think it reminds me of material from her first album, but the melodies are just much stronger and the song is more memorable. The chorus is especially great as the hooks are subtle, but effective. I actually find it stronger than I Will because the bright quality of the song just doesn’t seem as overbearing at times. Sowelu sounds great here as well. Last Forever is the first ballad and was released as the fourth single. It was the first song I heard from Sowelu and it still remains my favourite of hers. It’s a bit generic in the sense that these kind of R&B-inspired pop ballads are pretty evident throughout J-Pop. However, I really love the feeling of the song. The harmonies in the chorus are really nicely done and help to give the chorus a bit more punch. The music isn’t the most exciting, but it does work well with the charming melody. He is not for me is the first album track and brings up to a fun hip-hop/R&B tune. I was a bit worried when I first heard this song, but it has a great 90’s vibe to it. The chorus is especially evident of this with its cool harmonies and smooth melody lines. It’s a strong tune and keeps up the quality. Shower is an interesting change, but also has that R&B flair to it. I quite like it being it slows things down and brings a nice midtempo tune. The beat is especially nice and I love how it works with Sowelu’s voice. It sounds really good in the chorus when a few more synths are brought in as well. I do feel like the melody does get a bit overpowered by the music at times, but it has its charmpoints. Glisten was released as the first single from the album is definitely the most “pop” song at this point. I do find that it doesn’t stick out too much compared to the rest of the album, which is a nice thing. With that said, it’s an excellent tune. The song has a pulsating dance beat that really drives it forward and it works really well in the chorus where the hooks and synths fit well with its energy. It’s just a fun tune. cloudy brings the tempo down and it’s a nice relaxing midtempo R&B/pop tune. Unfortunately, I think this is the weakest song up to this point. I do like the pop elements in the chorus with the melody, but the music is rather weak and a large part of the song just remains rather forgettable. It’s not a bad song, just very average compared to the other songs prior to this. Joy changes things up by bringing something acoustic and gentle. It’s a sweet tune, but it just has very little impact. The “joy” hook in the chorus is a bit weak and doesn’t really have much impact, while I’m on the fence with the verses. I like the guitar, but I think the melody is not memorable. It’s a bit boring. Returning to the R&B sound, secret candle light is a darker midtempo ballad. I absolutely love the music for it as it has a slight Latin element to it that really gives it a lot of character. My main issue with the song is the verse is a bit messy and the transition into the chorus is a bit abrupt and awkward. With that said, I love the melody in the chorus and the hook, “Rain after sunshine in my heart”, is actually really clever and catchy. I wish there were more harmonies to level the song out a bit though. The Rose is the only B-side included on the album and is a cover of the Bette Midler song of the same name. I don’t know what makes this song so popular to cover in Asia, but they really love this piano ballad. Sowelu has great pronunciation in English, so she sounds quite good in the song. Her sweet voice actually works nicely with this type of song, although I do wish it had a bit more energy around the end. The song stays pretty consistent throughout and doesn’t really have a climax despite feeling like it builds to something. Akatsuki ni Omou is actually a Miss Monday song that features Sowelu. It’s a grooving R&B tune and it’s actually really smooth sounding. I think Miss Monday is a decent rapper and she works great in this song. Sowelu really only does the choruses, which is really catchy. I think her timbre really fits this song and she does an excellent job on her part. I do wish the song did push it a little more in the end, but I do love the overall arrangement. The bridge is a highlight as well. You are my everything ends things on a slower note. It’s the first full-fledged ballad since Last Forever. I don’t quite think it’s as interesting as that song though. The beat is nice, but the chorus is just really gentle and a bit boring. It’s sweet and fits as an “ending”, but I just wish it wasn’t so lackluster. Sowelu also holds things in so the song doesn’t really bring much energy.

Overall: This album was infinitely better than her first album. It continued that R&B/pop fusion, but the arrangements and the melodies were just so much stronger here. Even the vocals were much stronger and Sowelu sounded much more confident in herself. I do think the first half of the album is much stronger than the second half, so it’s a bit disappointing that everything fell off once Glisten ended. I think it could have be arranged in a better way.

B+

[Album] Sowelu – Geofu

Sowelu debuted in 2002 and scored a few a few moderate hits before releasing her top 5 album first album in 2003. The album proved to be a success and moved over 200,000 copies. Unfortunately, this album also turned out to be her best selling. Four singles were released prior to Geofu.

geofu
Released: June 25, 2003
1. shine
2. Fortune [MV]
3. Rainbow (original mix) [MV]
4. across my heart [MV]
5. I Wanna Know
6. beautiful dreamer (album version) [MV]
7. Part of me [MV]
8. CC
9. Can’t take my eyes off of you
10. call my name
11. my dear
12. breath ~Omoi no Youryou~ (想いの容量; The Capacity of Thoughts) [MV]

Geofu opens with shine, a pretty laidback midtempo R&B tune. The one thing I really liked about Sowelu was the fact she always released a few R&B tunes. Unfortunately, shine is pretty cheesy sounding. There are some nice aspects about it such as the twinkling in the background and the pretty chill beat. However, the melody is quite boring and I got pretty bored of this soon as it is rather generic. I do like how the verses open with “Hello good day”, but the majority of the English sounds rather cheesy. It’s not a bad song, but highly forgettable. Fortune was released as the fourth single and is easily my favourite song off the album. Like the last song, this one has a chill R&B sound to it, but the delivery is much better. The melody is much catchier and I really like the use of the background vocals in the chorus, which helps the song as Sowelu is able to add a few adlibs every once in a while to keep it from getting too monotone. I actually really enjoy how full the musical arrangement is and the acoustic guitar really gives the song a bit of edge considering the majority of it sounds especially programmed. But the melody really makes this song. It’s so catchy. Rainbow is a nice change. Released as the one part of her third single, it is a more upbeat change. It’s definitely more straightforward pop than the last two songs, although there are still some little R&B elements in the verses. It’s not a bad song in general, but it is a little odd. There is a strange transition from the verses to the chorus as it goes from something a little more midtempo to something very bright and upbeat. At times, the transition is quite jarring. I like both parts of the song (although the chorus is incredibly cheesy), but it doesn’t fit well together as one part sounds more contemporary and the other is more 90s J-Pop with its awkward background vocals. The first ballad on the album, across my heart is a nice R&B jam and was actually Sowelu’s first released song. It definitely gives me some nice 90s R&B feelings. I love how it is so slow and one of those “rainy day” kind of songs. The musical arrangement and melody is somewhat sad sounding, but the lyrics are really nice and seem to have a slightly more hopeful feel to them. What is really nice though is that it is the first song where I really get to hear Sowelu’s vocal ability. She hits some nice notes and while she isn’t the strongest vocalist, she does do a decent job of working with this kind of song. A nice surprise. I Wanna Know brings us back to the more midtempo feel. I really like this one cause it’s catchier than some of the other songs on here. I think it has a slightly sexier feel to it as well, which is a nice change to the cheerful feel of the rest of the album (although this one is still quite cheerful). I love the funky beat with the simplicity of the synths and rest of the music. It isn’t overpowering, but is a  just sweet. It’s a nice song. beautiful dreamer was Sowelu’s debut single. I’m not entirely sure what the difference between the album and single version are, but it’s a pretty twinkly sounding pop tune with strong R&B inspiration. I really love the verses. We hear a nice taste of Sowelu’s lower register and the melody is quite charming. At first, I thought this song was a bit boring and odd, but I’ve grown to like it. The chorus isn’t anything that stands out that much, but it is quite cute. It’s quite poppish and I really love the beat of the song, with the slight R&B influence heard in the vocal arrangement. It’s a good song to hear Sowelu’s vocals as well. Part of me was released as Sowelu’s second single. It’s probably the most straightforward pop ballad on the album. I like the music because it has an eerie mystical feel to it. With that said, that’s all the song has going for it. The vocal arrangement is rather dull and just doesn’t go very far. It would’ve been nice if there was a little more contrast in the song since it just stays pretty flat throughout. It’s nice, but dull. CC is an interesting change. Here we have a funky disco inspired dance tune. I like the change, but there’s something about this song that just doesn’t really hit the right chords. I love the beat and the music, but it doesn’t work well with Sowelu’s vocals. Also, there is an odd transition from the verses to the chorus. The choruses are much better than the verses though. I just wish there was a little something more. Can’t take my eyes off of you is a cover of a Frankie Valli song. They pretty much remodeled the song into a midtempo pop song with some dance elements in the music. It’s a nice listen and I do like that they updated it a bit. However, I do find Sowelu’s vocals to be a bit awkward during the verses since her voice just stands out so much above the simple beat. The chorus is a nice switch though and it’s a welcome surprise. The overall song is quite decent, but it’s a bit forgettable. call my name switches us back to the R&B sound. This one is a bit more bossa nova inspired, which is a good switch and brings us a slightly different sound. I actually like this one because the background vocals are a nice touch during the choruses and it works well with the relaxed but groovy beat. Sowelu also sounds really nice here and her vocals match this style well since she has a sweeter tone to her voice. my dear reminds me of an 80s soul song, but without the power vocals. I do like Sowelu’s voice, but she can’t pull a song of this magnitude off as cleanly as it should be done. Especially by the end, she gets a bit lost in the music. It’s a nice song because the lyrics are quite sweet, but it would’ve been nice if the music was changed a bit to suit her vocals more. breath ~Omoi no Youryou~ ends the album on an midtempo R&B ballad. I don’t think the overall song is particularly stellar, but I do like some small surprises about it. Like the little talking parts in the background and the nice use of background vocals on top of the nice beat. The vocal arrangement is quite nice though and I do like the charming feel of it. It’s really sweet and this is especially heard in the slight nip of a note it gives. A nice ending.

Overall: Geofu had some nice things going for it. I love R&B and it was nice to hear a lot of R&B influences in this album. Also, Sowelu does have a nice voice that lends itself well to sweeter songs. Unfortunately, the majority of the material was lackluster and just blends into each other. I think the album would’ve been better if most of the songs had stronger melodies. The majority are nice and quite relaxing and calm, but they aren’t particularly catchy or memorable.

C