Sowelu – MATERIAL WORLD

March 12, 2009 at 7:31 PM | Posted in Sowelu | 6 Comments
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Tracklisting
1. MATERIAL WORLD
2. Time After Time
3. MATERIAL WORLD -WTF EDIT-
4. MATERIAL WORLD -instrumental-

This is Sowelu’s 18th single and it was released on February 25, 2009. The single reached #106 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 909 copies.

Showing off a new look and musical style, Sowelu is back with MATERIAL WORLD. It looks like she has gone the electropop route with this song and I must admit that it is HOT. It was written by Emi Hinouchi and produced by Taku Takahashi of m-flo but it ditches the R&B pop sound of Sowelu’s past works in favor of something more electronic. I thought it was pretty cool that the music features prominent electric guitar riffs for the song’s most exciting parts like the chorus and its buildup while the quieter parts contain more synth. Anyway, it all works out for Sowelu in the end because she sounds great and it’s a fresh new sound from her.

The B-side is a cover of Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time that originally appeared on a tribute album. Sowelu’s version is a modern rendition of the song but it ends up sounding really sloppy. There’s too much random stuff going on like the beats, the ticking, the random guy talking, etc. Plus, that random guy has an AWFUL “rapping” section too. I was really disappointed in this cover. If you want a good version of this song, listen to BENI’s instead!

The 3rd track is the WTF EDIT of MATERIAL WORLD. (WTF indeed lol) The WTF EDIT is pretty strange because it’s basically a rock version of the song that is rampant with aggressive electric guitars and percussion. I don’t know if I exactly like it yet because of the rockish sound but it IS different to say the least.

Overall Rating

4 stars

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!

Sowelu – Wish

April 3, 2008 at 10:39 AM | Posted in Sowelu | 2 Comments
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Tracklisting
1. Wish
2. Baby I want you
3. Wish (Instrumental)

This is Sowelu’s 17th single and it was released on March 12, 2008. The single reached #36 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 3,483 copies. The title track was used as the 6th ending theme song for the anime D.Gray-man.

With a little dash of R&B, Wish really reminded me of Sowelu’s older music. This upbeat ballad is really sweet and I liked the gentle air surrounding the music. The piano and strings are vibrant and they are backed by a calm, yet assertive beat. I did notice that Sowelu’s vocals sound a little “huskier” than usual, but that’s okay. She sounds good nonetheless.

The B-side is pretty much the complete opposite. Baby I want you is aggressive with the synthesizers that appear throughout the entire track. It sounds cool, but it can get a little overboard at times though. The arrangement and overall melody felt a little messy too, especially during the chorus. Anyways, this song is pure B-side material because I didn’t find it memorable compared to the ones on past singles…which is funny since it’s the only original B-side to NOT be featured on her upcoming album Naked

Overall Rating 

3½ stars

Sowelu – Hikari

December 30, 2007 at 2:56 PM | Posted in Sowelu | 1 Comment

Tracklisting
1. Hikari (光)
2. Still lovin’ you
3. Hikari (Instrumental)

This is Sowelu’s 16th single and it was released on December 19, 2007. The single reached #28 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 3,757 copies. The title track was used as the theme song for the movie Chacha -Tengai no Onna-.

Sowelu totally redeems herself with her most agressive and strongest single in quite awhile. Hikari is a fusion of quick strings, sudden bursts of electric guitar, and dance like beats. The chorus is a highlight of the song because of the surge in tempo and dynamics which create a more serious tone in the music. This can also be heard in Sowelu’s edgy, lower pitched vocals.

The B-side is another well done track as well. Still lovin’ you is a slow jam but it had an upbeat, cheery pace. The beats are pretty frequent and they went along well with the underlying strings and acoustics.  Sowelu’s vocals are gentle and her voice sounds very smooth and silky. This track is definitely an improvement when it comes to her previous slower paced songs like Dare Yori Suki na no ni and Shiawase no Chikara.

Overall Rating

4½ stars

Sowelu, EXILE, DOBERMAN INC – 24karats -type S-

October 24, 2007 at 2:53 PM | Posted in Sowelu | Leave a comment
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Tracklisting
1. 24karats -type S-
2. SEPTEMBER
3. 24karats -type S- (Instrumental)

This is a special collaboration single between Sowelu, EXILE, and DOBERMAN INC and it was released on August 29, 2007. The single reached #12 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 16,604 copies.

24karats -type S- is one of the better collaborations I have heard, but it still has its problems. The song has a heavy R&B industrial arrangement that uses brass and clapping beats. The vocals of Sowelu and the lead vocalists of EXILE are pretty good together during the chorus and their solo performances in the verses are well done. However, the “rapping section” by DOBERMAN INC is out of place and annoying. It was the only part of the song that I really disliked because some of the rappers sounded good while others were pretty bad. EXILE’s version of this track appears on their Toki no Kakera / 24karats -type EX- single.

The B-side is a cover of Earth, Wind & Fire’s disco classic SEPTEMBER, and it is performed by Sowelu. Unfortunately, this cover is pretty horrendous because Sowelu’s vocals sound awkward and heavily layered. It’s obvious that this song isn’t for her and it’s definitely her worst cover to date. Her covers of Bette Midler’s The Rose and Billy Joel’s Piano Man are far more superior.

Overall Rating

1½ stars

Sowelu – Dare Yori Suki na no ni

July 19, 2007 at 2:50 PM | Posted in Sowelu | Leave a comment
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Tracklisting
1. Dare Yori Suki na no ni (誰より好きなのに)
2. Lie
3. Dare Yori Suki na no ni (less vocal)
4. Lie (less vocal)

This is Sowelu’s 15th single and it was released June 20, 2007. The single reached #22 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 4,686 copies.

Even though Sowelu is slowly drifting back into R&B territory, Dare Yori Suki na no ni is a total bore. It’s also a cover of the 1996 Toko Fuuruchi song of the same name. What I disliked the most about the song were Sowelu’s vocals. Normally, her vocals are smooth and well done like in her previous single Shiawase no Chikara, but her voice is raspy and strained this time around. They really turned me off from the song and the music is a lazy mix of brass and strings which wasn’t helping either.

The B-side is better, but it’s still not a considerable improvement. Lie has its moments music-wise but I just don’t like it when Sowelu sings at a lower pitch. Even though this is an aggressive, upbeat song, the tone of her voice still sounds dead.

Overall Rating

2½ stars

Sowelu – Shiawase no Chikara

June 6, 2007 at 2:46 PM | Posted in Sowelu | Leave a comment
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Tracklisting
1. Shiawase no Chikara (幸せのちから)
2. I Wonder
3. Piano Man
4. Shiawase no Chikara (Instrumental)

This is Sowelu’s 14th single and it was released on January 24, 2007. The single reached #20 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 8,224 copies. The title track was used as the theme song for the Japanese release of the movie The Pursuit of Happyness.

Sowelu was one of the first artists I listened to when I first got into J-pop a couple of years ago. Her brand of catchy pop with a noticable tinge of R&B in such songs as Rainbow, No Limit, and Last Forever made me a fan. Even though I thought her last album 24 -twenty four- was pretty disappointing, I still really like her.

Shiawase no Chikara is an uplifting ballad but at the same time it’s rather plain. The song has a simple piano and string arrangement that doesn’t really shine until the chorus. The thing I liked most about the song was Sowelu’s vocals. Even though she is mostly a pop singer, she sings ballads wonderfully well.

The first B-side is I Wonder, another pop influenced track that is reminiscent of many of the tracks from her last album 24 -twenty four-. It’s more upbeat than Shiawase no Chikara and has a nice, laid back sound, but I still wished that Sowelu would return to the pop and R&B style that made me a fan of her in the past.

I honestly thought that Sowelu’s cover of Billy Joel’s Piano Man was the best track on the single. She has also covered other famous American songs including Bette Midler’s The Rose and Frankie Valli’s Can’t Take My Eyes Off You. For those who didn’t know, she is English fluent and her pronunciation is pretty top notch. Anyway, I really liked the arrangement of this cover and she does an exceptionally good job during the catchy chorus.

Overall Rating

4 stars

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