Mika Nakashima – VOICEDecember 10, 2008 at 10:44 PM | Posted in Mika Nakashima | 7 Comments
VOICE is Mika Nakashima’s 6th album and it was released on November 26, 2008. The album reached #1 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 337,710 copies.
♦ ♦ ♦
The album opens with Nakashima’s biggest hit in recent memory. LIFE is actually a good way to start things off because it has a great intro sequence that includes flowing piano chords. This is definitely more of a pop track from Nakashima since it doesn’t display any type of distinct musical influence. I will admit that this is a catchy song and I like it a lot more than I used to.
I was so glad to see the DAISHI DANCE version of SAKURA ~Hanagasumi~ appear on the album instead of the original. For instance, the original is only a standard ballad that’s kind of boring but the DAISHI DANCE version completely transforms it into an upbeat and neoclassical type of song. The gorgeous strings and piano fuse with a nice dance beat and it sort of reminded me of Hitomi Shimatani’s crossover styled songs. Actually, it has now grown to become my favorite song on the album.
Now we have the funky jazz pop hybrid FOCUS. However, the way it opens is a little different compared to what you heard when it was the B-side on the ORION single. On the single, the song fades in but on the album it quickly starts with speedy synth riffs that blend into the rest of the song’s intro. Only the beginning has changed and the rest of the song remains intact. I love this song but the tweaked intro made me love it even more since it seems more fitting.
It’s the obligatory reggae song! Eien no Uta is very pretty even though I still could have done without the guy talking in a Jamaican accent at the very beginning. The music flows extremely well and I liked how it incorporates gentle strings with great instrumental sections featuring the saxophone and electric guitar. Nakashima’s vocals are great as well and I especially liked her performance during the bridge.
After SAKURA ~Hanagasumi~ (DAISHI DANCE), my next favorite A-side would definitely be ORION. This is such a tranquil song and I loved its strong acoustic arrangement. The light electric guitars are great and Nakashima’s vocals are excellent, showcasing that soft jazz sound she does so well.
We finally get a new song…okay, not really. Anata ga Iru Kara was released digitally back in June but I’m glad it’s on the album because this song is BEAUTIFUL. What I find so spectacular about this ballad are Nakashima’s pristine vocals. She sounds absolutely angelic from beginning to end. The music is quite nice too, especially when the short bursts of electric guitar appear later on.
The next track is the soft acoustic ballad MY GENTLEMAN. Since the music is nothing but simple acoustic guitar, the song heavily relies on Nakashima’s vocals but that’s a good thing. Just like in Anata ga Iru Kara, she gives a stellar and emotional performance.
A more upbeat phase appears in the album and it starts with TRUST YOUR VOICE. This song reminded me a lot of the tracks from her debut album TRUE because of its poppier sound and heavy use of English background vocals. The mix of jazzy piano, thumping beats, and bass guitar riffs is cool and I like how Nakashima opens the chorus by singing “MY VOICE!”.
The blues and ragtime inspired IT’S TOO LATE is next and it was originally the B-side on the LIFE single. Like I said before, this song could have easily been a track on her previous album YES because it features a dominant Southern jazz and rock sound. It’s another great track by Nakashima and that bridge is still very catchy.
I thought it was so random to include both of the MICA 3 CHU songs on the album because they stick out horribly compared to the rest of the tracks. Being aggressive rock songs and all, they’re quite a change from everything else. I DON’T KNOW has sort of become a guilty pleasure of mine and I think it’s a fun song. The lyrics are humorous and I like the comical yelling by the members of Morisanchuu too. Nakashima still needs to work on her English though because those verses are hard to understand.
That single’s B-side is next and it’s the unintentionally funny SHUT UP. The song is just like I DON’T KNOW but features more aggressive electric guitar riffs and lyrics (with the additional sounds of screeching tires in the background). Along with shutting up, Nakashima also wants you to fuck off and get out of her face because that’s how pissed she is!
Yep, conFusiOn is still confusing. I have to be honest and say that this song is a hot mess with no direction. I think it’s one of her strangest songs as well because there’s no flow and the arrangement is chaotic with all the random sounds it incorporates. Its placement on the album on the album was smart though since it’s a good follow up to the MICA 3 CHU songs. It originally appeared as the B-side on the SAKURA ~Hanagasumi~ single.
After another consecutive chain of older songs, there’s more new tracks to close the album! FLOWER OF TIME has a relaxing jazz club sound that includes a light beat with additional brass. There are also English background vocals too. This is a pleasant and romantic song even though it tends to drag sometimes.
Ending the album is an old fashioned string based ballad. Koe really does have a vintage or classical sound to it thanks to the beautiful low key strings and piano. The arrangement becomes even greater near the end when the instruments begin to pick up in pace. Nakashima gives another heartfelt vocal performance as well and this song was a great way to close the album.
After listening to VOICE for the first time, the album is quite similar to her 3rd studio album MUSIC in terms of musical variety and structure. VOICE has a little bit of everything but ends up having cohesive problems. Individually, each track is done very well, especially the singles, but most of them seem quite dissonant from each other. The MICA 3 CHU songs are the biggest offenders because they literally break the album’s structure in half. Even though all of her albums have been dependent on singles and B-sides, it’s very easy to point that out in VOICE. Anyway, I was going way too deep into that stuff because it’s the only real criticism that I have for this album. The bottom line is that VOICE is awesome and if you like seeing Mika Nakashima being the versatile diva that she is, then here you go! She can do just about anything and execute it with style and grace.
2. SAKURA ~Hanagasumi~ (DAISHI DANCE) (SAKURA～花霞～)
4. Eien no Uta (永遠の詩)
6. Anata ga Iru Kara (あなたがいるから)
7. MY GENTLEMAN
8. TRUST YOUR VOICE
9. IT’S TOO LATE
10. I DON’T KNOW / MICA 3 CHU
11. SHUT UP / MICA 3 CHU
13. FLOWER OF TIME
14. Koe (声)
Note: My favorite tracks are highlighted in blue!