Mai Kuraki – ONE LIFE

January 31, 2008 at 11:17 PM | Posted in Mai Kuraki | Leave a comment
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ONE LIFE is Mai Kuraki’s 7th album and it was released on January 1, 2008. The album reached #14 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 89,017 copies.

♦ ♦ ♦

Many of the album’s new tracks are a throwback to the music of when Mai Kuraki first debuted: pop with a R&B tinge. One Life, being the album’s promotional track, is a great introduction for what’s to come. It’s a stylish and assertive song with fast beats and simple guitar chords. The use of synth is pretty strong too. The chorus is pretty catchy and Kuraki sings it very well.

Track 2 opens with ethnic acoustics and light beats. I Like it Like that is another song full of style and the music has an “attitude” to it. The chorus is spunky and the background vocals singing I like it, I like it go along very well next to Kuraki’s voice.

The R&B themed ballad one for me is up next, and the mix of beats and piano open the song with a strong presence. Kuraki’s lower pitched voice is perfect for this kind of song and they go flow very smoothly. She always puts emotion into her music, especially her ballads since her voice seems more soulful.

Musically, Born to be Free is the most aggressive song the album. There’s a lot of stuff going on this song like tribal themed drums, funky synth, whistles, and elongated notes followed by Ole ole!.  It’s also an inspirational song that features liberating lyrics and upbeat vocals backed with thumping percussion. It’s definitely a song that’s supposed to get you up on your feet.

This is the album’s “winter ballad” phase, I like to call it. Starting with Shiroi Yuki, which is more of an unconventional ballad because of the synthed up instruments. It’s still a pretty song that’s gentle to the ears.

I thought it was the best choice to place Silent love ~open my heart~ right after Shiroi Yuki since it’s a similar type of song, but it’s a much more traditional ballad. It’s beautifully sung and I loved the heartwarming, yet calming feeling that the music presented. Like I said when I reviewed the single, it left me with a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.

The tempo suddenly changes to upbeat for the next track, everything. With a recognizable synth line and fast, rhythmic beats, I thought this song simply acted as a precursor for Season of love, which is exactly what it does. However, it’s one of the strongest and more memorable tracks on the album too.

I thought the transition from everything into Season of love was flawless, as it goes right into the Hispanic flavored guitar and lashing beats of the intro. I like this song a little bit more as a track on the album, despite those boy band vocals.

Here’s another slow jam, but it’s incredibly smooth to the ears. secret roses has a complex guitar arrangement and it has an interesting use of strings that add a somewhat dramatic effect to the music. I thought it was one of the most unique songs on the album because of Kuraki’s sensual vocal style and the abstract use of different instruments.

I loved the intro to Wonderland. It’s so calming and it sets the jazzy, laid back tone of the song. Kuraki’s vocals are full of life and soul and she really knows how to make it compliment the music. I felt like this was a modern take on one of her older tracks since it has that R&B like atmosphere.

Even though album is drawing to a close, BE WITH U comes in and makes things exciting again. I thought it was genius to place it near the end because it’s like a sudden burst of happiness and it shows that Kuraki isn’t exactly done yet.

The final track is a fantastic cover of Over The Rainbow, the iconic song from the movie The Wizard of Oz. This is a blues and jazz take on the song and it uses the piano, organ, and a gentle electric guitar. Kuraki’s English is better than most other J-pop artists and she performs the song extremely well. There’s a few pronunciation problems here and there, but aside from that, she’s got the song down.

ONE LIFE is a departure from the dominant pop sound of her previous albums FUSE OF LOVE and DIAMOND WAVE. She’s incorporating more classic R&B elements into the songs, with the exception of Shiroi Yuki and Silent love ~open my heart~ of course. It’s an enjoyable album and fans of her older works will most likely find it to be a pleasing listen. I personally think FUSE OF LOVE is her best album, but that’s me. It did take me a couple of listens to fully appreciate ONE LIFE too. This album is also a classic example of how the new tracks completely overshadow the previously released singles in terms of overall presentation. They’re all very well done.

Overall Rating

4 stars

Tracklisting

1. One Life
2. I Like it Like that
3. one for me
4. Born to be Free
5. Shiroi Yuki (白い雪)
6. Silent love ~open my heart~
7. everything
8. Season of love
9. secret roses
10. Wonderland
11. BE WITH U
12. Over The Rainbow

Note: My favorite tracks are highlighted in blue!

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