Sowelu – Naked

May 5, 2008 at 8:26 PM | Posted in Sowelu | 1 Comment
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Naked is Sowelu’s 4th album and it was released on April 9, 2008. The album reached #11 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 27,391 copies.

♦ ♦ ♦

I’m glad that Hikari is the opening track because it’s an aggressive song that indicates a more prominent R&B style that the album has. The combination of strong beats, quick strings, and electric guitar with Sowelu’s lower pitched vocals sound great.

The uplifting pop ballad Wish is next and it’s one of my favorite tracks on the album. The music has an overall relaxing atmosphere thanks to the strings and piano, but the beats were a nice addition too. The lovely chorus is also a highlight of the song.

The first of only 5 new tracks on the album is the R&B flavored pop song I’ll be with you. The uptempo strings and beats have a good arrangement and short brass sections give the music some variety. The chorus is catchy and I liked Sowelu’s ad libbing near the end.

Without a doubt one of my least favorite Sowelu songs EVER is her cover of Earth, Wind, & Fire’s SEPTEMBER. Th song originally appeared as the B-side on the special collaboration single 24karats -type S-. I like the music and all, but her vocals don’t do any justice to the 1978 disco classic. I honestly don’t think she should be covering these kinds of songs because they do nothing for her voice and she ends up sounding really bland in the process. Stick to covering classic 80s pop like you did in your previous albums, Sowelu.

Two ballads in a row are up next and the first one is Shiawase no Chikara, the encouraging ballad. A gentle song in nature, it utilizes mainly piano and strings with some beats later on. Sowelu’s vocals sound really good here and she sings gracefully.

I think I was too harsh on Dare Yori Suki na no ni, Sowelu’s cover of the 1996 Toko Furuuchi song, when I first reviewed it as a single because I kind of like it now. I thought the song was extremely boring at first and I didn’t like the somewhat strained vocals either. When I now think about it, the song isn’t that bad and the lyrics are pretty bittersweet despite the title (it translates to “I like you more than anybody else”). I also find Sowelu’s cover to be better than the 1996 original.

Ah, here’s another new track and it’s in English! I thought All My Life was performed well and the music had a soulful vibe to it because of the background bass chords. Sowelu’s English sounded better than ever and I was impressed with how well she sang the chorus. Since she’s fluent in the language, I expected nothing less but great from her.

I was quite critical of Lie, the B-side from the Dare Yori Suki na no ni single, before as well. Similar to Hikari, it’s one of the more aggressive songs on the album. The looping electric guitar in the background was interesting and the most memorable thing about the music. The lyrics are pretty angry just from listening to the English parts: I don’t wanna hear it so please disappear and You don’t know how I feel.

The album enters a slower phase with the next couple of songs. Hatsuyuki is sung at a brisk pace, but it has a more laid back arrangement that uses the acoustic guitar infused with gentle beats. Sowelu’s vocals plus the various background voices give the song its upbeat sound.

Similar to the previous track, but with a larger R&B influence is Still lovin’ you, the B-side on the Hikari single. I still really like this song and I think it’s one of the best slow jams that Sowelu has performed in recent memory.

Now we are presented with another B-side and it’s I Wonder from the Shiawase no Chikara single. This song has a more “feel good” pop sound with the acoustics and piano while having minimal beats. It’s a really bright and cheery track so it’s a nice addition to the album.

 Another slower paced song approaches but I got a jazzy feel from bass. What I liked the most about Sayonara was the chorus because Sowelu sings with emotion which makes it quite catchy. I could have done without harmonica solo during the bridge though.

Ending the album is a song that’s short and sweet. Taisetsu na Hito is about 2 and a half minutes long and it has a very simple arrangement consisting of cutesy chimes. The song mainly focuses on the sincere lyrics instead.

Sowelu’s collaboration with EXILE and DOBERMAN INC appears as a bonus track. I’m glad about that since 24karats -type S- wouldn’t have into this album at all. Right now, the rapping sections provided by DOBERMAN INC are what only bother me since I don’t mind EXILE’s parts. It would have better without DOBERMAN INC in my opinion.

I see Naked as a step in the right direction for Sowelu since it marks a return to the semi R&B sound that made me a fan of her’s in the first place. The album is definitely an improvement over her last one 24 -twenty four-which was a full blown pop record that I didn’t really enjoy. Similar to Ken Hirai’s latest album FAKIN’ POP, this album is dependent on previously released tracks and it includes only 5 new songs. I would have liked more new tracks, but since I actually liked MOST of the singles and B-sides she released this time around, I guess it’s okay. The five new songs, especially I’ll be with you and All My Life, are pretty good in their own respect as well.

Overall Rating 

3½ stars

Tracklisting

1. Hikari (光)
2. Wish
3. I’ll be with you
4. SEPTEMBER
5. Shiawase no Chikara (幸せのちから)
6. Dare Yori Suki na no ni (誰より好きなのに)
7. All My Life
8. Lie
9. Hatsuyuki (初雪)
10. Still lovin’ you
11. I Wonder
12. Sayonara (サヨナラ)
13. Taisetsu na Hito (大切な人)
14. 24karats -type S- / Sowelu, EXILE, DOBERMAN INC

Note: My favorite tracks are highlighted in blue!

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1 Comment »

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  1. Yay! I was afraid you’d give it a 2 star rating because you seemed to really hate the “Dare Yori Suki na no ni” single alot +the lack of new songs. Well, I’ve only been a fan since “Hikari” so I’d only previously heard 3 songs. :D


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