Ken Hirai – FAKIN’ POP

April 12, 2008 at 8:22 PM | Posted in Ken Hirai | 6 Comments
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FAKIN’ POP is Ken Hirai’s 7th album and it was released on March 12, 2008. The album reached #2 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 287,385 copies.

♦ ♦ ♦

I thought that POP STAR was a proper opening for the album, considering that it’s the oldest single that Ken Hirai released back in 2005. It almost acts a like a reminder, asking people “Hey, do you remember this song?”. I still love it, but if this song was placed anywhere else in the tracklisting it would have been kind of awkward.

We go from the oldest song on the album to the most recent with Kimi wa Su・te・ki♡. I still find this song to be incredibly spacy and far out with its chaotic arrangement and odd vocal style from Hirai. The synth beats are abundant and the song just whizzes on by because of how fast it’s performed. I do give credit to Hirai for making a unique song because it’s one of the more memorable tracks off the album.

Another single is next and it’s the overly sweet Kimi no Suki na Toko. Perhaps the most pop oriented single on the album, it benefits from a nicely done arrangement consisting of upbeat strings and percussion. It’s typical, but still nice.

Speaking of typical, the next track is Canvas! I’m only saying this within the context of the album, but it’s probably the most underwhelming single track on here. This simple ballad is still a pleasant listen and I actually like it a lot because for its use of acoustic guitar and woodwinds.

The first of the album’s FIVE new tracks is Pain, a seemingly bright song with an upbeat arrangement. The highlight of the song is definitely the powerful chorus. Hirai’s vocals are fantastic and the song takes a jazzy turn during these segments. The lyrics are sort of bittersweet but it comes very clear at the end with its final line: I can never escape from this pain.

Here we are with the album’s pivotal track: fake star. It’s by far one of Hirai’s most stylish songs to date and it just emits a sense sophistication and coolness. The music also has this underlying sensual sound that I really liked.

The next track is similar to fake star because it has a familiar sound, but it’s a lot more heavy on the brass and jazz influences. What makes UPSET interesting is the English chorus, which I found REALLY funny at first. The verses are in Japanese and then he transitions into the chorus by singing Tell you in English. The lyrics are on the angry side, stating that he’s upset because this girl “set him up”. However, the way he expresses his frustration…it’s kind of humorous to say the least.

Now it’s time for 2 more previously released songs and they’re both ballads. The first one is Utsukushii Hito, the B-side from the Kimi no Suki na Toko single. This touching piano based song is performed really well and it excels with its simplicity.

After that is the absolutely chilling Elegy, a power ballad that just gives me goosebumps. This haunting song is full of emotion and dynamic sounds from beginning to end. From blaring guitar riffs to unsettling piano and strings, the music plays a very important role. Hirai’s vocals have never sounded so expressive and he really packs a lot of power into the chorus.

The single piano chord that brilliantly ends Elegy makes for a sloppy transition into the next song. Twenty! Twenty! Twenty! is upbeat with the strings, brass, and thumping drum beats, but I found this song to be only average at best. This was filler material in my eyes.

One of the earlier singles that Hirai released appears near the end of the album. Bye My Melody has a cheery pop sound with a simple, yet really catchy hook. I have always like the overall positive mood of this song.

The final 2 tracks on the album are both ballads, starting with Itsuka Hanareru Hi ga Kite mo. Being over 6 minutes long, this song is on the boring side. Hirai’s vocals are excellent, but the music is so overwrought and stretched out, mostly due to the song’s length and overall lazy arrangement. On a negative note, this song will be released as a single later this month because of its movie tie-in.

Ending the album is a simple, but expressive song. Shashin is about Hirai’s deceased father and he gives a really emotional performance. I could definitely sense the feeling of sadness from his voice. The music just further compliments this, despite its somewhat uplifting nature coming from the strings. The album ends with a somber tone as the song reaches its conclusion.

FAKIN’ POP is literally a mixed bag with its different songs of various styles, but also as a full length album. Because ALL of the singles and a B-side were included, the transitions between them and the new tracks were kind of choppy. The new tracks weren’t all that memorable and none of them really stood out so this album very much relied on the singles to keep it afloat since they were the best songs too. The lack of new tracks was a problem because the singles totally overshadowed what was new…with the exception of Pain and Shashin. In the end, FAKIN’ POP isn’t a bad album but the things that I mentioned above could’ve been improved upon.

Overall Rating 

3½ stars

Tracklisting

1. POP STAR
2. Kimi wa Su・te・ki♡ (君はス・テ・キ♡)
3. Kimi no Suki na Toko (君の好きなとこ)
4. Canvas (キャンバス)
5. Pain
6. fake star
7. UPSET
8. Utsukushii Hito (美しい人)
9. Elegy (哀歌 (エレジー))
10. Twenty! Twenty! Twenty!
11. Bye My Melody (バイマイメロディー)
12. Itsuka Hanareru Hi ga Kite mo (いつか離れる日が来ても)
13. Shashin (写真)

Note: My favorite tracks are highlighted in blue!

6 Comments »

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  1. I enjoyed your review Lex. I realised that when songs that Ken doesn’t produce or composed his own works in the form of Twenty ! Twenty ! Twenty ! , it doesn’t seem to sound nice as those that he personally write & composed . I don’t know about your case but that’s just me .

  2. Wow! This must have JUST happened! :D (although it says Apr 12 lol)

    I first met Ken Hirai with “POP STAR” over 2 years ago. At the time, I never game him much thought though. Fast forward to the release of “fake star”. I tried that b/c of your review and a close friend’s recommendation. Loved it and the mash up!

    Now, this album is the first I’ve listened to Ken since that single and I’m really glad I did. The album is full of lovely songs. In my mind, Ken is one of the best solo male vocalists around.

    I’ll be keeping my eye on his future releases. ^_^

  3. Ty , I recommend you listen to his other albums especially SENTIMENTALovers . It was released prior to the release of FAKIN’ POP . SENTIMENTALovers to me is excellent . No wonder it’s his highest selling album in Japan , excluding his Utabaka best collection ie.

  4. Ah thanks for the review!
    ^^
    Maybe I’ll try him out later.
    I really liked Kimi wa suteki and I’ve been looking for a male jpop singer to listen to.

  5. Great review Lex, I enjoyed it so much.
    I totally agree with u about “Shashin”. This song surely touch my heart, especially at the end part of it. He must be really love his father…

  6. yaha yah your review is very good, too bad i dun understand japanese so i can’t review bout the lyricss


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