Watashi no Okinawa is the third album released by hiro. It was her first solo album release in 11 years. It is a cover album that features songs by Okinawan artists and folk songs. It was a moderate success, peaking at #13 on the charts. One single was released prior to the album.
Released: August 14, 2013
1. Shima Uta (島唄; Island Song)
2. Nature Sound
3. Watashi no Okinawa (私のオキナワ; My Okinawa)
4. Kaigara (貝殻; Shell)
5. Tinsagunu Hana (album ver.) (てぃんさぐぬ花; A Sweet Flower)
6. Shimanchunu Takara (島人ぬ宝; Treasure of Our Island Home)
7. Mirukumunari (ミルクムナリ)
8. Stay With Me
9. Halo (delofamilia) (ハロ)
10. Kokoro no Uta ~Aisuruno ga Heta Dakara~ (心の詩 ～愛するのが下手だから～; Heart Song ~Love is Poor~)
11. Warabigami (piano ver.) (童神; Child Spirit)
12. Hana (花; Flower)
Shima Uta opens the album on a relaxing note. The song starts off as a gentle acoustic-focused tune, but soon starts to gain a bit of power. I wasn’t expecting much at first, but I do feel like the inclusion of the percussion really helps to liven the song up and it really gives it some strength in the chorus. The melody is quite beautiful as well. Compared to her first two albums, hiro sounds much more mature here and it fits wonderfully with the song. This is a great opener.
Nature Sound brings a bit more of a melancholic sound and is the album’s first cover. I do like that the song has a more pop/rock quality to it and keeps things more mainstream while still adding a few elements here and there of the Okinawan style. I wish the music had a bit more punch to it, but it’s still a pretty good song as the melody is pretty catchy and hiro sounds great. The only part that comes off is weird is the rap that comes up in the second half of the song as hiro can’t quite do this well.
Bringing back a more lighthearted sound, we get Watashi no Okinawa, the title track. I like that it has a summery brightness to it that works with its light pop/rock influence. I really like how the Okinawan elements start to come in during the chorus as it really brings an interesting switch. It’s not the catchiest tune, but it’s still solid and quite charming.
Kaigara brings us another cover, but this time in the form of a ballad. It’s a really sweet sounding song and I quite like how the instruments all work together. The Okinawan influence isn’t at the forefront this time, but tied nicely into the background. The chorus isn’t particularly memorable in melody, but the arrangement really helps give the song a bit of punch. It’s quite sweet.
Tinsagunu Hana (album ver.) is another slower song, but this time we get some children’s choir to help give the song some push. It’s not a song that I would normally go for, but there is a really touching quality about it from its gentle arrangement to its short vocal sections. It isn’t a long song, but it still feels quite beautiful. It was originally released as the B-side to the album’s single.
I think Shimanchunu Takara has been done numerous times by other Okinawan artists as well. It has a really bright and prominent Okinawa twist. It is a surprisingly long song but has a great vibe to it. The verses are fun, while the chorus has the kind of sound that is easy to sing along to. I do wish the music fit a bit better with the vocal arrangement because there does seem a bit of a disconnect, but it is a pretty nice tune.
We finally get a more upbeat song in the form of Mirukumunari, which has some strong traditional Okinawan and Japanese sounds. It starts off in a really cool way with its chanting. I don’t really know what to think. I wasn’t expecting it to be catchy, but the chants melody is actually really fun to listen to.
Stay With Me returns us to a more contemporary style with its gentle pop/rock sound. It actually reminds me of something that Hamasaki Ayumi might have done in the 2000’s due to the use of strings and light percussion. The chorus has quite a simple hook, but it actually works well here. hiro also sounds good and she shows a lot of control over her singing. Charming song.
Halo (delofamilia) opens in a weird way and has quite a strange sound. Not sure what to think really of its intro. However, things start to sound better once hiro starts to sing. The chorus is where things start to get a bit weirder as the song has a light R&B beat that comes popping in. Unfortunately, I feel like the melody doesn’t quite take advantage of this and it isn’t that memorable. The best part does come right after the chorus though as there is a more pop sounding section that brings a more melodic change. It is an interesting song, but the weakest at this point.
The next song has quite a long name, but it is quite beautiful. Kokoro no Uta ~Aisuruno ga Heta Dakara~ is a gentle ballad that brings in some sounds from nature and has a dreamier quality to it. It isn’t the most exciting song, but it has a really gorgeous quality to it with its subtle Okinawan elements and emotional melody. hiro does a great job as her voice fits the song really well. My only issue comes in the second half of the song where a light beat comes in and makes parts feel a bit offbeat.
Warabigami (piano ver.) comes rolling in and it is really beautiful. This song has also been covered numerous times by different artists. Even though this song focuses on the piano, I don’t find it to get boring. The melody is quite sweet and there is a tenderness to it that really fits the arrangement and makes everything even more emotional. I can understand why this was the album’s only single as it is a stand out piece.
Finishing the album is Hana, which was used as a promotional track for the album. It is another song that has a stronger Okinawan flair to it. The majority of the song has a light pop sound, but the music definitely brings in some of that much needed influence to give it a punch. The melody is a bit lacking unfortunately and while the arrangement is nice, the song is a bit forgettable. I enjoy hiro’s vocal performance though.
Overall: This is easily hiro’s best album to date. I was actually expecting it to be quite boring and while the album is on the slower side of things, many of the songs were of high quality even if they weren’t my cup of tea. I felt like hiro was really in her element here and while her piercing vocals were exciting in her first two albums, she has really showed her maturity here. I loved the Okinawan flavour that was brought into a lot of the songs as well.