LØVE is the second album released by Nakashima Mika. While her first solidified her status as a rising star, this album’s success was on an even bigger scale. It positioned her as one of the top artists of the early 00’s as it peaked at number one and sold well over 1.4 million copies. The singles were also very successful with all five scoring in the top five and one becoming her signature song. The album also includes all the new songs from her first mini-album, RESISTANCE.
Released: November 6, 2003
1. Venus in the Dark
2. Love Addict
4. Yuki no Hana (雪の華; Snow Flower)
5. RESISTANCE (album version)
6. FIND THE WAY
8. Seppun (接吻; Kiss)
9. You send me love
10. Be in silence
11. LOVE NO CRY
12. Aishiteru (愛してる; I Love You)
13. LAST WALTZ
What a great way to blast off the album. Unlike her debut which opened with a cover of Amazing Grace, this one really showcases Nakashima’s subtle change in style with the jazz-infused pop tune, Venus in the Dark. This is one of my favourite songs from her because it has so many interesting sounds that pop up. I love how it has so much energy and really goes all out in its music with the funky bass and blaring brass. Her husky vocals also work gorgeously here. Love Addict is a great follow-up to because it continues that jazz-infused pop sound. Released as the album’s second single, this song is over seven minutes in length, but the whole song is such a trip and it never feels like it drags on too long. It really feels like something heard in a jazz club with it mix of strings, trumpets and light percussion. The best part of the song is that fast-paced chorus where things take a powerful turn. aroma was originally put on her first mini album and it is a great calmer jazz tune. I love how it really ties with the other songs, but brings a different style that includes a bit of blues as well. The chorus isn’t as catchy, but I do like the use of falsetto to bring an airier quality to the song. It’s a solid listen. Yuki no Hana is the juggernaut in Nakashima’s discography. The song has been covered numerous times throughout Asia and it is easily her most recognizable track. Instead of something jazzy, we are given the first ballad and its fifth single. Its focus is mostly on the piano, strings and her voice and it is absolutely gorgeous song. Although the lyrics are rather sweet, there is a sense of sadness that the music brings and Nakashima brings the right emotion into it especially with that final stretch from the bridge to the end. It’s one of her best. RESISTANCE was my favourite song from her first mini and I love how it is one of the more “pop” songs on the album with its sparkly synths. Although I’m not a big fan of songs that open with the chorus, it is really catchy and easy to get sucked into it again. That and the music has some great touches to it that help keep the energy up and interesting. It has grown on me a lot and I think it’s a stellar tune. FIND THE WAY was released as the album’s fourth single and used as an ending theme to the anime show, Gundam Seed. It’s a stunning ballad that focuses more on the slower and sweeter quality it brings. Musically, the song’s use of strings is quite heavy and really helps bring a sweeping quality into the song. There are times where the song comes off a bit dull or slow, but I do love the feeling it tries to build on. It’s a sweet ballad and fits Nakashima’s vocals wonderfully. marionette was actually released on the first single as a B-side. It’s one of the more “pop” songs on the album and features some R&B elements as well. I don’t find the verses to be that interesting especially as Nakashima’s vocals seem rather monotone. However, I love the chorus as the music really pushes the song forward. The funky synths work really nicely with the easy-going melody. A decent tune. The third single, Seppun is actually a cover of an ORIGINAL LOVE song from 1993 of the same name. It’s actually my favourite song on the album and it has been the song that has grown on me the most. I use to skip this song a lot, but the relaxing reggae sound really got to me and I love how the music is still infused with some other elements to keep it cohesive with the rest of the album. It’s not the most powerful song, but the melody just slowly seeps into you and I love the vibe it gives. You send me love is the first new song since Venus in the dark and is one of the weaker songs on the album. It’s not bad, just forgettable as the melody isn’t as impactful and the music has been done better in other songs. I do like the funky vibe that the song has with the underlying bass though. Be in silence was released as the B-side from the album’s second single. It’s a bit different because it has a heavier guitar influence and a sultry beat that really gives some neo-soul vibes. I really love the music as it works great with the inclusion of strings. The chorus really brings everything together in a nice way while having a pretty catchy melody. I don’t think it’s A-side material, but it is definitely a great filler. LOVE NO CRY is a new song and is the first upbeat tune in a while. I love the blast of energy it has right from the start and the song has a great pop sound with some oldschool R&B elements. The song isn’t the catchiest for me, but it is nice to hear some more fun, uplifting tunes on here. Aishiteru was the album’s first single and it is a pretty pop ballad. I love how sweet the melody is and Nakashima’s voice sounds especially beautiful here. The album version changes things up a bit bringing some more musical elements into the arrangement. It has a bit more brass and a bass that gives the song a bit more energy. I like the changes as it works well on the album, but it misses that simple sweetness the original had. LAST WALTZ finishes things off on a slower note. Originally released on her first mini, this was probably my least favourite of the new songs. However, I do still like this song. It has a great vibe to it and I enjoy the airiness of the chorus. It’s not the type to bring a lot of impact, but I love how the melody melds into the music. It’s a nice way to end things off.
Overall: This is a stellar album and one of J-Pop’s finest. I love that there is a clear sound that the album wants to show off and that even though there is a variety of genres, they are all tied in through the similar elements in the instruments and atmosphere. I do believe the first half is much stronger, but the second half does have a few strong songs as well. This is a long album and it could have been cut down a few songs, but its overall delivery is fantastic. One of my favourite J-Pop albums.