Mika Nakashima – ALWAYS

January 24, 2010 at 8:50 PM | Posted in Mika Nakashima | 5 Comments
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ALWAYS is Mika Nakashima’s 31st single and it was released on January 20, 2010. The single reached #3 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 21,175 copies.

She looks like a real doll. LOL!

♦ ♦ ♦

A ballad that isn’t about stars!? Get out.
Joking aside, ALWAYS is very nice. As I would expect from Nakashima, the song has a flowing, pristine quality surrounding it. While the arrangement is pretty basic with its pretty strings, piano, and drums, Nakashima gives a stellar vocal performance which gives the music life and radiance.

The A-side was lovely but I thought what made this single were the B-sides. Starting with BABY BABY BABY, a jazzy song with an intimate setting. I always love it when Nakashima releases her smoky jazz side because she does it so well. Next to the vivid acoustics that make up most of the song, there’s also a cool electric guitar solo near the end.

SPIRAL was a pleasant surprise with its various electronic elements. I would say that it took some notes from FOCUS, but even then it’s still quite different. The song is filled with light beats and buzzing synth but there were awesome piano sequences as well. This was my favorite track on the single.

Pros: An incredibly solid single. It’s even better than Nagareboshi.
Cons: The B-sides EASILY overshadow the A-side. Is that even a con though? XD

BASICALLY…this is definitely the strongest single of Mika’s new era!

Overall Rating

4½ stars

Tracklisting

1. ALWAYS
2. BABY BABY BABY
3. SPIRAL
4. ALWAYS (Instrumental)
5. BABY BABY BABY (Instrumental)
6. SPIRAL (Instrumental)

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Mika Nakashima – Nagareboshi

November 16, 2009 at 10:11 PM | Posted in Mika Nakashima | 5 Comments
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Nagareboshi (流れ星) is Mika Nakashima’s 30th single and it was released on November 4, 2009. The single reached #10 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 10,539 copies.

I love it when Mika keeps it simple. This cover is classy and elegant!

♦ ♦ ♦

Mika Nakashima loves stars. It doesn’t matter what kind they are: wandering stars, invisible stars, winter stars, etc. SHE LOVES THEM! Ignore the fact that Nagareboshi is her 5th song about stars because it is gorgeous. Then again, so were those past songs (STARS, WILL, Mienai Hoshi, ORION). To me, this song sounded most similar to Mienai Hoshi because it has a minimal sound consisting of pretty piano and strings. The additional guitar riffs and percussion are a teensy bit reminiscent of ORION as well. Anyway, it’s an extremely pleasant song.

I was also quite pleased with the B-side. Nakashima and DAISHI DANCE were a match made in heaven when he remixed SAKURA ~Hanagasumi~ so it was great to see them working together again in Memory. You get more of that fantastic crossover sound here but with Nakashima singing in English. Her vocals are a little iffy at times due to her pronunciation but the music makes up for it. Even then, this is the best English singing I have heard from her.

Pros: What a lovely single!
Cons: Stars are neat and all but enough songs about them, OK? *side eye*

Overall Rating

4 stars

Tracklisting

1. Nagareboshi (流れ星)
2. Memory (feat. DAISHI DANCE)
3. Nagareboshi (Instrumental)
4. Memory (feat. DAISHI DANCE) (Instrumental)

Mika Nakashima – CANDY GIRL

October 6, 2009 at 3:30 PM | Posted in Mika Nakashima | 7 Comments
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The cover of the limited edtion (type C)

CANDY GIRL is Mika Nakashima’s 29th single and it was released on September 30, 2009. The single reached #4 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 19,052 copies.

Mika is a unique and precious little snowflake! *eye roll* I guess if you want to complete the totally overdone and cliché ~circus theme~, you gotta look like a damn clown. First the Over Load cover and now this…way too much make up.

♦ ♦ ♦

To put it bluntly, CANDY GIRL has a cool and sleek jazzy sound that I think is pretty cool. The upbeat big band brass is great and gives the music a theatrical feel. While I did like the music, I was really put off by the constant and extremely repetitve background vocals. I know it’s common to hear them in her songs but this is just overkill. It doesn’t help that nearly half the song is performed by just background vocals. I’m not kidding when I say that. And YES, I’m sure the whole damn universe knows that it’s like a circus” already.

As for the B-side, I liked it back when it was called Rocking Horse (a song from the MUSIC album lol). Seriously, SMILEY sounds like a pale imitation of that song, right down to the laugh at the very beginning. Nakashima’s vocals are off as well. Her voice is more shrilly than usual and it just bugged me. Once again, the music is good and is the best thing about the song.

Pros: The production value of both songs is commendable.
Cons: Everything else is ANNOYING. I have never disliked a Mika Nakashima single this much before.

BASICALLY…you’re better off just listening to the instrumentals.

Overall Rating

3 stars

Tracklisting

1. CANDY GIRL
2. SMILEY
3. CANDY GIRL (Instrumental)
4. SMILEY (Instrumental)

Mika Nakashima – Over Load

May 30, 2009 at 12:22 PM | Posted in Mika Nakashima | 5 Comments
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Tracklisting
1. Over Load
2. No Answer
3. Over Load (Kenmochi Hidefumi Remix)
4. Over Load (Instrumental)
5. No Answer (Instrumental)

This is Mika Nakashima’s 28th single and it was released on May 13, 2009. The single reached #8 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 25,343 copies.

Mika Nakashima is back doing some high quality pop music with Over Load. This song reminds me of LIFE, but it leaves a more lasting impression. The music is a pleasant mix of upbeat strings and synthetic elements, the programmed acoustics being a prominent example. Overall, from the arrangement to the vocals, this is a strong track. Well done, Mika!

The B-side sounds pretty similar, but also little more laid back. No Answer incorporates beats next to the acoustics and flowing strings, but aside from that, I really don’t think much of this song since it’s quite uneventful. It’s not as good as Over Load and it just felt like a watered down version.

The Kenmochi Hidefumi Remix of Over Load is a slower take on the song and features an Hispanic twist within the original arrangement. Aside from the added beats, the instruments sound less programmed as well, especially the guitar. It’s a good remix but feels more like an acoustic version if anything.

Overall Rating

3½ stars

Mika Nakashima – VOICE

December 10, 2008 at 10:44 PM | Posted in Mika Nakashima | 7 Comments
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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.

Overall Rating

4½ stars

Tracklisting

1. LIFE
2. SAKURA ~Hanagasumi~ (DAISHI DANCE) (SAKURA~花霞~)
3. FOCUS
4. Eien no Uta (永遠の詩)
5. ORION
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
12. conFusiOn
13. FLOWER OF TIME
14. Koe (声)

Note: My favorite tracks are highlighted in blue!

Mika Nakashima – ORION

November 15, 2008 at 11:25 AM | Posted in Mika Nakashima | 2 Comments
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Tracklisting
1. ORION
2. FOCUS
3. ORION (Instrumental)
4. FOCUS (Instrumental)

This is Mika Nakashima’s 27th single and it was released on November 12, 2008. The single reached #6 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 49,958 copies. The title track was used as the theme song for the drama Ryuusei no Kizuna.

I’m really glad to see Mika Nakashima slowly drift back to the soft jazz sound that she does so well and ORION is definitely a step in the right direction. This is a calm, melodic song with great vocals and a rich arrangement. For me, the best thing about the song were the ambient electric guitars. They’re laid back and perfectly characterize the jazzy atmosphere, giving the music some flavor.

The B-side is something I haven’t heard in a while from Nakashima. FOCUS reminded me of the upbeat pop songs of her early career, but better! The arrangement is kind of offbeat with its use of synth but when the brass comes in, it’s very nice. Nakashima displays fast, lower pitched vocals for the verses but she adds a good amount of emphasis and power into her voice for the excellent chorus. I love how she ends the chorus by singing “My focus is on you” too. It’s easily one of her best B-sides and I’m ecstatic that it’s also on her latest album VOICE.

Overall Rating

4½ stars

MICA 3 CHU – I DON’T KNOW

August 14, 2008 at 8:18 AM | Posted in Mika Nakashima | 4 Comments
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Tracklisting
1. I DON’T KNOW
2. SHUT UP
3. I DON’T KNOW (Instrumental)
4. SHUT UP (Instrumental)

This is Mika Nakashima’s 26th single and it was released on July 23, 2008. The single reached #11 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 17,708 copies.

Mika Nakashima is back in the realm of rock! This time she has collaborated with the female comedy group Morisanchuu to create a new unit called MICA 3 CHU. Both of the songs on this single are entirely in English and they were written by Nakashima and Lori Fine.

So we all know that Nakashima is no stranger to rock music since she released some singles and even an album as “NANA starring MIKA NAKASHIMA”. I DON’T KNOW is a different kind of rock song and it has been labeled as ‘girls angry rock’ according to her official website. Compared to Nakashima’s NANA works, the music is more punk inspired and there is a lot of attitude in the lyrics. Let’s just say that she is tired of all the crap that the media expects from her and she gives a simple answer in response: “I don’t know!”. Her English hasn’t improved or anything but you can understand what she says most of the time. The 3 members of Morisanchuu actually play the instruments as well as provide background vocals. They also add some comic relief to the song with the random English they blurt out at the end. In the end, I think of I DON’T KNOW as something that’s not to be taken all that seriously.

The B-side follows the same style of I DON’T KNOW but features a more aggressive arrangement with the additional sounds of screeching tires appearing every now and then. These chicks are pissed and they just want you to SHUT UP! This song has even angrier lyrics but I also found them to be quite funny. Hearing Nakashima say “F off!” was just golden.

Overall Rating 

3½ stars

Mika Nakashima – SAKURA ~Hanagasumi~

March 31, 2008 at 12:36 PM | Posted in Mika Nakashima | 5 Comments
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Tracklisting
1. SAKURA ~Hanagasumi~ (SAKURA~花霞~)
2. SAKURA ~Hanagasumi~ (DAISHI DANCE)
3. conFusiOn
4. SAKURA ~Hanagasumi~ (Instrumental)
5. conFusiOn (Instrumental)

This is Mika Nakashima’s 25th single and it was released on March 12, 2008. The single reached #12 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 24,297 copies.

SAKURA ~Hanagasumi~ is a pretty straightforward song, but I did find it to be extremely pretty and reminiscent of past traditional styled ballads like Sakurairo Mau Koro. The lavish string ensemble and piano of the beginning set an relaxing and calm tone for the music. Mika Nakashima’s vocals are vibrant throughout the song and she sings beautifully.

While the original version is nice, I absolutely loved the DAISHI DANCE version of SAKURA ~Hanagasumi~ and it’s a lot better. For starters, it’s a lot more upbeat and features gorgeous strings and uplifting piano alongside a nice dance beat. Musically, there’s definitely a lot more going on in this version compared to the original, but it’s actually for the better because everything sounds absolutely stunning. The original, slower paced arrangement has been drastically changed and I loved it. If only this was the actual version of the song since it is leagues better than the original.

The B-side certainly lives up to its title. conFusiOn is well…confusing and it just kind of zooms on by. It’s a strange song that comprises mostly of electric guitar and drums set to an upbeat and poppish pace. You know, like one of her reggae songs, but on steroids because the riffs were so constant. The music sounds pretty unique (for Nakashima’s standards) but disorganized at the same time when it comes to the melody. Despite how rushed the overall package felt, it’s an oddly fun song with a quirky style that could take some time getting used to.

Overall Rating

4 stars

Mika Nakashima – Eien no Uta

October 15, 2007 at 9:17 PM | Posted in Mika Nakashima | Leave a comment
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Tracklisting
1. Eien no Uta (永遠の詩)
2. You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To
3. Eien no Uta (Instrumental)

This is Mika Nakashima’s 24th single and it was released on October 3, 2007. The single reached #5 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 13,628 copies. The title track was used as the theme song for the movie Southbound.

I was really put off by the opening English dialogue in Eien no Uta because it was kind of unnecessary. Some people thought that a man speaking with a thick Jamaican accent added flavor and style to the song, while others thought the exact opposite. I’m kind of stuck in the middle on this issue so I won’t go any further into it. Now onto the actual song, which is nice addition to the “reggae themed” work she has done in the past. Even though I didn’t find this song as good as MY SUGAR CAT or Seppun, I am still impressed by Mika Nakashima’s gorgeous vocals and the use of high pitched saxophone combined with calming electric guitar chords.

The next track is collaboration with the band Katteni-Shiyagare and it’s a cover of Cole Porter’s You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To. Nakashima definitely gives her best English singing performance in this song and she sings the track with surprising ease. The music is very jazzy and contains a very strong brass arrangement with thumping drums. This track originally appeared on Katteni Shiyagare’s latest album LET’S GET LOST which was released on July 18th.

Overall Rating

4 stars

Mika Nakashima – LIFE

August 31, 2007 at 9:10 PM | Posted in Mika Nakashima | Leave a comment
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Tracklisting
1. LIFE
2. LIFE (ballad)
3. IT’S TOO LATE
4. LIFE (Instrumental)
5. IT’S TOO LATE (Instrumental)

This is Mika Nakashima’s 23rd single and it was released on August 22, 2007. The single reached #3 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 138,987 copies. The title track was used as the theme song for the drama Life.

It looks like Mika Nakashima has returned to a more ‘mainstream’ sound with LIFE. At the same time, the song has a distinct early 90s pop feel to it. I thought the song’s piano intro was gorgeous and it flows into the first verse backed up by bass beats. This is a pleasant song but I’ve heard better from Nakashima. I also noticed how this song sounded similar to the works featured on her MUSIC album.

The next track is the ballad version of LIFE. To be honest, the song doesn’t sound good as a ballad at all. It’s clunky and the fast paced vocals of the chorus sound very bland because everything is slowed down. I do admit that the ballad version’s use of the piano and strings was fantastic, but that was the only thing I really liked.

Track 3, IT’S TOO LATE, is definitely a song that could have been featured on her last album YES. The music is very jazzy and combines quick electric guitar riffs with light percussion. The bridge was the highlight of this track because it’s exciting and full of style. The song is almost like a cross between BLACK & BLUE and SEVEN, combining ragtime blues and jazz.

Overall Rating 

3½ stars

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