Mai Kuraki – OVER THE RAINBOW

January 19, 2012 at 7:34 PM | Posted in Mai Kuraki | 2 Comments
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The cover of the CD+DVD edition

OVER THE RAINBOW is Mai Kuraki’s 10th studio album and it was released on January 11, 2012. The album reached #2 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 29,618 copies. It was preceded by 4 singles: 1000 Mankai no Kiss, Mou Ichido, Your Best Friend, and Strong Heart (a DVD single).

Gorgeous! Mai-K’s covers seem to keep getting better with each release. Maybe she fired her old GIZA graphic artists. XD

♦ ♦ ♦

Mai Kuraki is still going strong and her latest release OVER THE RAINBOW proves to be a winner. Honestly, this album has grown on me a lot and I really like it now. Alongside her usual songwriters and producers like Aika Ohno and Akihito Tokunaga, the album features songs written by Giorgio Cancemi. If you’re not familiar with his work he is most famous for creating some of Kana Nishino’s biggest hits like Best Friend and Aitakute Aitakute.

The album opens with Strong Heart which was the latest single as well as a DVD single. Written by Cancemi, the music has that light R&B / pop sound that he’s known for and it goes well with Kuraki’s voice. It’s a good way to start things off and it goes right into the cool and sleek synth of another day*another world. This song presents a new sound for Kuraki since it’s aggressive and relies more on the production value (much like the song FUTURE KISS off her previous album).

Then we have a new version of Sayonara wa Mada Iwanai de, the B-side from the 1000 Mankai no Kiss single. I thought it was decent when I heard it on the single but there are some notable tweaks on the album version. For example, the arrangement seems to have a fuller sound with stronger beats (the original sounded empty and dated to me in this regard) and the adlibbing vocals are a little more layered, too.

Stay the same is the first of the album’s two promotional tracks. This was honestly the only song on the album that I didn’t like because the music sounded childish and Kuraki’s vocals followed suit. She has never really pulled off “cute” before so this doesn’t work for her. Then again, the song does have a tie-in with Sanrio Company, the makers of Hello Kitty. XD

After that is Your Best Friend, the first song that Cancemi wrote for Kuraki as well as the 3rd single of the era. At this stage of the album, the music slows down and ballads start to come in so this song makes for a good transition. We’re not exactly in ballad territory yet but we’re getting there. Anyway, Your Best Friend is pretty and flows wonderfully.

Get ready for some ballads! Mou Ichido was the 2nd single of the era and banned in China for some reason. XD Out of the 3 consecutive ballads, this one is definitely the most dramatic. The stringwork and piano chords invoke a feel of sadness and Kuraki’s vocals radiate with the music.

Oh lordy this next track is sooooo nice. Brave your heart is an uplifting ballad and a collaboration with Chinese singer/actor Alex Ru. He sings in Japanese and has a nice voice, especially when he performs his solo lines. The chorus features them singing together and overall I thought this song was great. It was also the album’s other promotional track.

I was surprised that Sun will shine on u was written by Cancemi because of its simple arrangement. Compared to the other songs he wrote for the album, it’s a nice change since this song is mostly piano and strings without the added fluff he normally does. I must say that Kuraki sounds lovely as well with the chorus being my favorite part.

The album begins to pick up the pace again with the inspiring song Love one another. This was originally a digital release with the proceeds going to charities for victims of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. I think the earthy tribal sound going on in the music was unique for Kuraki and various vocal layering was a nice touch. Her long-time collaborator Michael Africk wrote this song and provides minimal background vocals.

Originally the B-side from the Your Best Friend single, step by step comes in with Mai-K shouting “Let’s go!” and upbeat strings. This was one of the better B-sides released during this era so it’s a good addition to the album.

The next track is perhaps my favorite on the album. I instantly liked 1000 Mankai no Kiss right after the first listen because of its dynamic arrangement. It disguises itself as a ballad at the beginning but progressively becomes more upbeat and the rhythm speeds up when the 2nd verse arrives.

It’s always been a tradition for most of Kuraki’s albums to end with a bright, upbeat track and we get that with La La La*La. The music has a slight Latino influence to it and features acoustic guitar with the familiar beats that the musical sytle is known for. Kuraki is no stranger to the genre either. The bridge stands out for its use of synth though.

This might not be a popular opinion amongst Mai-K fans but I preferred OVER THE RAINBOW over her last album FUTURE KISS. To me, FUTURE KISS only had a couple of memorable songs and was kind of disjointed at some parts because of the variety it had. OVER THE RAINBOW trumps it in terms of production value and presentation. All the songs are nicely done with the ones written by Giorgio Cancemi being a breath of fresh air. The only problem that I had with his songs was that Kuraki seemed to struggle to sing those high notes. Normally, she’s spot-on but in these songs she ends up sounding shrilly and almost piercing when she gets around to singing in those upper registers. I think it’s because of her naturally deep voice and she’s wearing it thin. Minor adjustments can fix stuff like that though.

Pros: The flow is great and the music doesn’t sound outdated. I think she’s finally gotten out of her rut!
Cons: Just those little vocal issues. Stay the same is my least favorite track, too.

Overall Rating

4½ stars

Tracklisting

1. Strong Heart
2. another day*another world
3. Sayonara wa Mada Iwanai de ~album ver.~ (さよならは まだ言わないで)
4. Stay the same
5. Your Best Friend
6. Mou Ichido (もう一度)
7. Brave your heart
8. Sun will shine on u
9. Love one another
10. step by step
11. 1000 Mankai no Kiss (1000万回のキス)
12. La La La*La (ラララ*ラ)

Note: My favorite tracks are highlighted in blue!

2 Comments »

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  1. great review lex ^3^ missed you!

  2. I love this album, too. Also really glad to have you back.


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