Ken Hirai – Boku wa Kimi ni Koi wo Suru

October 27, 2009 at 7:19 PM | Posted in Ken Hirai | 2 Comments
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The cover of the CD+DVD edition

Boku wa Kimi ni Koi wo Suru (僕は君に恋をする) is Ken Hirai’s 31st single and it was released on October 21, 2009. The single reached #3 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 30,034 copies. The title track was used as the theme song for the movie Boku no Hatsukoi wo Kimi ni Sasagu.

Heeeey, Ken-chan got an upgrade. He looks kind of tired and drugged up but it’s still an upgrade!

♦ ♦ ♦

I didn’t care for Hirai’s last single CANDY so I’m glad that he quickly rebounded with Boku wa Kimi ni Koi wo Suru. This is a first rate ballad that definitely trumps his recent ones like Canvas and Itsuka Hanareru Hi ga Kite mo. Featuring a calm string and percussion based arrangement, I thought the music was very pristine. I like that it keeps a nice pace so it never gets boring. When it comes to the vocals, Hirai does a good job too.

Out of the 2 B-sides, I liked Catch you more. It reminds me of Do it!! from his last single because of the R&B and synth influences it has. However, this song is better because it has a much sharper sound. It doesn’t come off as clunky either. Hitori Janai is nice too but I could have done without the children chanting in the background. I guess it adds character to the song since it has this “cute” vibe to it.

Pros: The A-side is gorgeous.
Cons: Hitori Janai will take some more time to sink in.

BASICALLY…Ken’s music is better when he’s being serious. IJAF.

Overall Rating

4 stars

Tracklisting

1. Boku wa Kimi ni Koi wo Suru (僕は君に恋をする)
2. Hitori Janai (一人じゃない)
3. Catch you
4. Boku wa Kimi ni Koi wo Suru (less vocal)

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Ken Hirai – CANDY

September 30, 2009 at 8:40 PM | Posted in Ken Hirai | 8 Comments
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CANDY is Ken Hirai’s 30th single and it was released on September 23, 2009. The single reached #7 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 10,301 copies.

I don’t get the cover but Ken-chan sure loves his rainbows. ;D

♦ ♦ ♦

Blech…I don’t like CANDY. Well, it’s really the chorus that I don’t like. It’s so annoying! I suppose it’s catchy but I get distracted by Hirai’s falsetto at end. The song is just your typical cutesy R&B pop track too. It’s nothing special and I thought Hirai did it better with Bye My Melody, which also had the fluffy pop sound.

I thought the first B-side was the best track on this single. Fursa Saida (Arabic for “pleased to meet you”) has a really funky ethnic sound that includes synth and percussion (there’s a lot of drum beats, bells, and the like). The arrangement is chaotic but I liked what I was hearing.

I had no idea what was going on in Do it!!. This song is so messy and it sounds like it can’t decide what tempo to stay on. The chorus really threw me off because of Hirai’s sluggish vocals. They don’t match with the mid-tempo beats and synth.

Pros: Fursa Saida and that’s about it.
Cons: The other two songs are pretty disappointing.

BASICALLY…just forget about this single. He has another one out next month.

Overall Rating

3 stars

Tracklisting

1. CANDY
2. Fursa Saida (フルサ・サイーダ)
3. Do it!!
4. CANDY (less vocal)

Ken Hirai – Itsuka Hanareru Hi ga Kite mo

May 6, 2008 at 7:12 PM | Posted in Ken Hirai | 5 Comments
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Tracklisting
1. Itsuka Hanareru Hi ga Kite mo
    (いつか離れる日が来ても)
2. Itsuka Hanareru Hi ga Kite mo (less vocal)

This is Ken Hirai’s 29th single and it was released on April 23, 2008. The single reached #19 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 11,865 copies. The title track was used as the theme song for the movie Ano Sora wo Oboeteru.

Originally appearing as track 12 on Ken Hirai’s latest album FAKIN’ POP, Itsuka Hanareru Hi ga Kite mo got slated to be released as a single because of its movie tie-in. Unfortunately, this was the last song I expected to get the star treatment because it was definitely my least favorite of the 5 new songs off that album. Despite Hirai’s stellar vocal performance, this ballad is boring and not very interesting. It shouldn’t have been released as a single in the first place but it was for the sake of its tie-in and possibly more album promotion. Plus, the single itself only includes the instrumental too. A new B-side or remix would have been nice at least.

Overall Rating

2½ stars

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!

Ken Hirai – Canvas / Kimi wa Su・te・ki♡

March 5, 2008 at 8:49 PM | Posted in Ken Hirai | Leave a comment
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Tracklisting
1. Canvas (キャンバス)
2. Kimi wa Su・te・ki♡ (君はス・テ・キ♡)
3. Cry & Smile!!
4. Canvas (Piano ver.)
5. Canvas (less vocal)
6. Kimi wa Su・te・ki♡ (less vocal)

This is Ken Hirai’s 28th single and it was released on February 20, 2008. The single reached #6 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 31,988 copies. The first track was used as the ending theme song for the drama Hachimitsu to Clover.

Compared to his previous ballads, Canvas is very ordinary and quite uneventful. However, it’s still a very pleasant and nicely done song. The music features gentle piano and strings that carry the music along with some drums at an relaxing pace. Ken Hirai’s vocals are good as always too. He puts a little emphasis into his voice during certain parts of the song like the chorus, but he stays rather reserved most of the time.

The next track was a total shock though. Kimi wa Sute・ki♡ is so…OUT THERE, making it one of his most unique efforts. It’s very upbeat and filled with synth, guitar riffs, and rampant beats. Hirai’s vocal style is different than usual, singing most of the song in his higher register and at a faster rate. Despite all the craziness that’s going on this song, the melody is catchy and I found myself putting the track on repeat. Multiple listens might be required for this one.

The 3rd track has an old fashioned gospel vibe to it, opening with piano and fingersnap beats. Cry & Smile!! is a cheery song from beginning to end and it also has some jazz undertones. Once again, Hirai utilizes his upper register for the chorus and it sounds pretty nice. The gospel atmosphere as mentioned before becomes even more evident when the background choir vocals come in and start singing with Hirai starting at the bridge.

There is also a simple piano version of Canvas included and just like the original, it’s laid back and sounds nice. Aside from that, it doesn’t really have much to offer but I did like the arrangement of the piano.

Overall Rating

4 stars

Ken Hirai – fake star

September 28, 2007 at 8:46 PM | Posted in Ken Hirai | Leave a comment
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Tracklisting
1. fake star
2. fake star ~Ken’s swingin’ jazz~
3. POP STAR×fake star (MASH UP version)
4. fake star ~less vocal~

This is Ken Hirai’s 27th single and it was released on September 12, 2007. The single reached #6 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 32,009 copies.

Ken Hirai presents a different side of himself with fake star, a song that features a more sensual atmosphere with its light beats and jazzy undertones. The chorus is definitely the focal point of the song because of the lyrics. They make references and poke fun at the lyrics of POP STAR, the antithesis of this song. In POP STAR, Hirai sings “I wanna be a pop star“, but in the end of fake star, he closes the song with “Who is a fake star? That’s me”. It’s a very interesting concept and a clever one as well.

The next track is an awesome jazz version of fake star, complete with a different arrangement comprised of mostly brass and piano. Hirai’s vocals are the best thing about this version because his voice sounds a lot more stylish and his ad libbing is great.

The POP STAR×fake star mash up is so incredibly odd because the two songs are so different and contrasting of each other. The mash up version uses the verses of fake star and then transitions into the chorus of POP STAR. In the end, it was too weird for me because these two songs should not be put together AT ALL.

Overall Rating

4 stars

Ken Hirai – Kimi no Suki na Toko

May 20, 2007 at 8:43 PM | Posted in Ken Hirai | 1 Comment
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Tracklisting
1. Kimi no Suki na Toko (君の好きなとこ)
2. Utsukushii Hito (美しい人)
3. Bye My Melody
    -HALFBY’s music for momo REMIX-
    (バイマイメロディー)
4. Kimi no Suki na Toko ~less vocal~

This is Ken Hirai’s 26th single and it was released on February 28, 2007. The single reached #5 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 102,765 copies. The title track was used as the theme song for the drama Enka no Joou.

Kimi no Suki na Toko is quite different from past singles because it follows a pure, upbeat pop style. Upon further inspection, I have noticed that his more recent A-sides have been less R&B, especially his last single Elegy (which was amazing). Anyway, back to THIS song. I thought it was nice but nothing extremely special. The string and piano arrangement is gorgeous though.

I did like the B-side on this single a lot more. Utsukushii Hito is a calm piano ballad with excellent vocals. Even though Hirai doesn’t have that many piano based songs, LIFE is… ~another story~ being his most notable, they are all nicely done.

The 3rd track is an obnoxious remix of Bye My Melody. There’s just way too much stuff going on and the background voices really annoyed me. The only thing that the remix truly adds to the original is a fast dance beat.

Overall Rating 

3½ stars

Ken Hirai – Elegy

March 4, 2007 at 8:41 PM | Posted in Ken Hirai | Leave a comment
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Tracklisting
1. Elegy (哀歌 (エレジー))
2. Kiss
3. POP STAR ~winter lover version~
4. Elegy ~less vocal~

This is Ken Hirai’s 25th single and it was released on January 17, 2007. The single reached #5 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 118,749 copies. The title track was used as the theme song for the movie Ai no Ryuukeichi.

After a string of pop singles, Ken Hirai gets down and serious with Elegy, one of the best songs I have ever heard from him. The haunting melody is incredible and Hirai really showcases his vocal range. The beginning of the song opens quietly with piano and strings and gradually builds up to the chorus, where there is an explosion of percussion. I love the climactic ending because some great electric guitar riffs come in and the song abrubtly ends with a single, but really effective piano chord. 

I love his B-sides and Kiss was no exception. The mix of gentle electric guitar and light R&B beats are fantastic and his vocals are very well done too. Even though I thought it wasn’t as good as hug from the By My Melody single, that’s not really saying much.

POP STAR is another personal favorite of mine because it was very upbeat and catchy and there is new version of it on this single. The winter lover version is significantly slower and features no synth at all. It actually adds some R&B beats so I thought it was great in the fact that it was extremely different from the original and it only kept the main melody.

Overall Rating

5 stars

Ken Hirai – Bye My Melody

January 28, 2007 at 8:37 PM | Posted in Ken Hirai | 1 Comment
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Tracklisting
1. Bye My Melody (バイマイメロディー)
2. hug
3. Bye My Melody ~less vocal~

This is Ken Hirai’s 24th single and it was released on June 14, 2006. The single reached #2 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 81,898 copies.

Ignore the cover; it doesn’t mean anything, really! XD

Bye My Melody is a damn good pop song with a nice beat and an overall positive mood. I really liked this song because it is very upbeat and it followed the same style of his last single POP STAR, but without so much synth.

The B-side is hug, a relatively calmer, but still upbeat acoustic guitar based song. The music is full of uplifting ”feel-good” vibes and cheery vocals that put a smile on my face. The song is the perfect contrast to Bye My Melody and an excellent B-side as well.

Overall Rating

4½ stars

Ken Hirai – POP STAR

January 12, 2007 at 8:35 PM | Posted in Ken Hirai | Leave a comment
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Tracklisting
1. POP STAR
2. Tameiki Kippu (ため息キップ)
3. POP STAR ~less vocal~

This is Ken Hirai’s 23rd single and it was released on October 26, 2005. The single reached #1 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold around 244,000 copies. The title track was used as the theme song for the drama Kiken na Aneki.

I remember when I first heard POP STAR over 2 years ago and being really surprised right from the beginning when Hirai sings that I wanna be a pop star! line. The song is a really cheery track with lots of upbeat synth and it’s very lively. The lyrics aren’t about being a pop star like I first thought, but they’re actually a declaration of love, the “pop star” phrase being a metaphor for falling in love.

The B-side is the gorgeous ballad Tameiki Kippu. The strings that open the song are lovely and flow into Hirai’s calm vocals. I loved the accumulation of the music as it slowly builds up to the chorus, where all the strings and additional instruments suddenly surge. It all sounded really beautiful in the end, especially with Hirai giving an excellent vocal performance.

Overall Rating

5 stars

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