February 4, 2012 at 9:20 AM | Posted in Koda Kumi | 3 Comments

The cover of the CD only edition

JAPONESQUE is Koda Kumi’s 10th studio album and it was released on January 25, 2012. The album reached #1 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 93,835 copies. It was preceded by 3 singles: 4 TIMES, Ai wo Tomenaide, and Love Me Back.

♦ ♦ ♦

This is gonna be a lengthy review. I got a lot of tracks to cover! However, I will let you know beforehand that this album is good. It’s probably the closest thing to perfect that we will ever get from Koda Kumi and I say that as a long-time fan.

After the album opens with an interesting and ethnically charged intro track, we go right into So Nice which features rapper Mr.Blistah. Much like their previous collaboration Candy, this song has a strong Arabian inspired arrangement that is laced with heavy beats and guitar chords. It’s a short song but instantly sets the mood for the album.

An aggressive electric guitar kicks off Boom Boom Boys, which has become one of my favorite tracks. Kumi has always been on and off when it comes to rock songs but this is on point. Actually, all the rock songs on this album are great. For me, the chorus was the best part because the music is so in your face and Kumi packs an extra punch in her vocals.

I have to admit that V.I.P. was a guilty pleasure of mine. When I first heard it on the 4 TIMES single, I thought it was such a hot mess but at the same time I began to like it more and more with each listen. The song is slightly different on the album thanks to an atrocious rap by rapper T-Pain. It’s a short 20 second rap but still…”arigatou I’m out HOLLA”. *dead*

Kumi collaborates with American artist Omarion for the next track Slow. It has a catchy chorus but I wasn’t too fond of all the auto-tune, especially during the verses. As for Omarion’s contributions, he has a solo rap during the bridge which was tolerable and he sings the English lines with Kumi.

After all of those high-octane tracks the album begins to simmer down a little at this point. Starting with Brave, this is a decent mid-tempo ballad but with no outstanding qualities. You can just brush it off to be honest.

Everyday is better though. It’s more on the cute side which I was afraid of at first (because of the disaster that was Melting) but this turned out to be not half bad.

I like to describe IN THE AIR as a prime example of an ideal pop song. It’s very upbeat, extremely catchy, and the music production is top notch. Initially the charming pop number of the 4 TIMES single, it has grown to become one of my favorites on the album.

I was on the fence when I saw You are not alone was included on the album but this new acoustic version was a total surprise. The original was the B-side on the Ai wo Tomenaide single and I thought it was generic. I loved the acoustic revamp though! The heavy clapping beat mixed with the uplifting guitar chords made this song feel a lot more genuine, giving it a “campfire” feel.

It’s interlude time! I didn’t think this was as cool as the intro track because the sounds were random but get ready for a slew of skanky songs. ESCALATE has that heavy dance club feel that I love from Kumi and she kills it here. A very hot track indeed.

As for Love Me Back…I guess the similarities to Cherry Girl are there but not really. This song is pretty different even for Kumi. I got more of a retro TV feel from the music but it has a modern twist thanks to the synth. Still a cool song nonetheless!

No Man’s Land was another surprise. This has to be her best rock song in ages. The reason I say this is because her vocals finally match the dark tone of the music. Alongside the sinister electric guitar riffs, Kumi sings in a lower pitch for a majority of the song. The chorus is definitely the best part since she isn’t yelling or straining her voice. She sounds cool and collected.

Umm…this is a weird spot to place Ai wo Tomenaide on the album. The second single of the era, this is a refined acoustic based ballad that has grown on me. It’s just that it has no business being wedged between No Man’s Land and the next track!

Because the transition into the sexy and seductive KO-SO-KO-SO is awkwaaaard. This was my favorite track on the 4 TIMES single because it’s just plain hot. Even though it’s not a total club banger like some of the previous upbeat tracks on the album, it has an infectious melody with a chorus that is very memorable.

The next track starts with Kumi saying “You’re gonna love it~” followed by heavy synth. Lay Down continues the sensual vibe of KO-SO-KO-SO but this song is much more aggressive. The English lyrics were probably the most notable thing as well, especially that “popping bottles” line. lol

Honestly, Love Technique is the only song on the album that I don’t like. It’s another cute song and I was turned off by Kumi’s childish vocals. I thought the verses were really annoying because of that “talk-singing” thing she was doing. The chorus was okay though.

At least once Love Technique ends, it goes right into Poppin’ love cocktail in a snap. This was the lead track of the 4 TIMES single and it was my least favorite of the four back in August 2011. The song has grown on me though since it’s catchy and has a fun, summer atmosphere. I thought the rapping by TEEDA (the MC of the rock band BACK-ON) was more amusing than anything so I didn’t mind it, even though that “You looks like horny!” line still cracks me up.

The final track of the album is the thoughtful and heartwarming All for you. A simple acoustic guitar ballad, what makes this song stand out is the fact that it was recorded in one take and without any fancy studio magic. The vocals are very raw but Kumi sounds good, singing simple lyrics that were compiled from fan letters.

Koda Kumi has officially outdone herself! In terms of overall presentation and quality, JAPONESQUE is her strongest release from beginning to end. Like I said at the beginning of the review, this album is nearly perfect. It’s going to be tough to see Kumi top JAPONESQUE because it has the best combination of music genres that she’s known for and then some. For example, even though the only song that I didn’t like was Love Technique it’s still leagues ahead of other cute songs she has done from the last 3 albums. For having 19 tracks, you’re really getting the best of everything she has to offer. My main gripes go to T-Pain’s unwelcome presence in V.I.P. and the so-so mid-tempo tracks like Brave. They couldn’t find a better place to put Ai wo Tomenaide either?

Pros: An incredibly solid album. With 19 tracks, what is there not to like?
Cons: The minor things that I mentioned in the final paragraph. You can make your own minor adjustments to make this album the perfect package if you wanted to.

Overall Rating

4½ stars


1. Introduction ~JAPONESQUE~
2. So Nice feat. Mr.Blistah
3. Boom Boom Boys
4. V.I.P. feat. T-Pain
5. Slow feat. Omarion
6. Brave
7. Everyday
9. You are not alone (Acoustic Version)
10. Interlude ~JAPONESQUE~
12. Love Me Back
13. No Man’s Land
14. Ai wo Tomenaide (愛を止めないで)
16. Lay Down
17. Love Technique
18. Poppin’ love cocktail feat. TEEDA
19. All for you

Note: My favorite tracks are highlighted in blue!


Tohoshinki – TONE

January 24, 2012 at 7:27 PM | Posted in Tohoshinki | Leave a comment

The cover of the CD+DVD type B edition

TONE is Tohoshinki’s 5th Japanese studio album and it was released on September 28, 2011. The album reached #1 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 307,154 copies. It was preceded by 2 singles: Why? [Keep Your Head Down] and Superstar. This is also the group’s first Japanese album as a duo with just Yunho and Changmin.

♦ ♦ ♦

I always knew about Tohoshinki but never really paid attention to them. However, this was the album that made me a fan.

That being said, I never liked this group back when there when there was 5 of them. I honestly wasn’t. You could even say that I was a ~hater~ because I thought they ruined Koda Kumi’s LAST ANGEL back in the day (read the review LMAO). I also listened to BEST SELECTION 2010 to try them out and I only liked 2 or so songs. So why are things different now? I’m more open minded of course! ;DD It was probably curiosity more than anything but I do know that I really like Yunho and Changmin as a duo. Now onto the review!

The album begins with Introduction ~magenta~, a gorgeous opening ballad that is structured like a lullaby. It’s only a minute and a half long and it doesn’t really set the mood for what’s to come but it’s pretty so whatever. The lyrics are more fitting though.

B.U.T (BE-AU-TY) is my workout jam! I love the beats at the beginning and alongside the fast-paced singing by Yunho and Changmin. This an upbeat dance track and it’s chock-full of energy. Hell, I even like “dung dung dung” part in the chorus. XD This song served as one of the album’s promotional tracks.

The next track also has a slick dance vibe but with more electro-pop and house influences. I Think U Know is pretty catchy thanks to its chorus that is sung by Yunho (I think??). The instrumental sequences were actually my favorite part though since the synth and heavy beats come together.

Duet seems to be a fan favorite and I can see why. Yunho and Changmin certainly have the upbeat songs on point but what about when they try something a little slower? Thankfully, this song is very nice. It has a mellow R&B sound even though there’s a little too much going on during the chorus. I think I prefer the winter version.

I thought Thank you my girl was an interesting track. It samples a popular piece of classical music (I don’t know the name of it but I have certainly heard it before) and incorporates it into the synth-laden arrangement. You hear it in full effect during the chorus when Yunho and Changmin start singing alongside it and their voices bounce back and forth.

Out of all the new tracks, Telephone was the least memorable for me. The music has a calm acoustic sound and virtually stays pretty chill throughout the entire song. It’s not bad or anything but requires multiple listens to finally grab you.

Now that Telephone is out of the way, it’s time to bring in Back to Tomorrow. This was definitely a standout track and I like to think of it as a super dramatic version of Duet. The arrangement is a suspenseful mix of strings and piano and I really liked the buildup that leads into a strong chorus.

Here it is, my favorite track on the album! Why? [Keep Your Head Down] is the Japanese version of Wae (Keep Your Head Down), the duo’s comeback song in Korea, and it is so awesome. I mean, I can’t believe I missed out on this. The song is just relentless and full of intensity thanks to a constant beat and energetic vocals (especially near the end).

The next track is also a Japanese remake of a song off their latest Korean album and was originally the B-side on the Why? [Keep Your Head Down] single. MAXIMUM is extremely upbeat with an emphasis on faster paced vocals. I’m glad it’s on the album.

Unfortunately, I consider the next two tracks to be the album’s low point. The Superstar single makes its appearance starting with the B-side I Don’t Know. Besides the beat it’s nothing special but at least it’s not as bad as the upcoming A-side.

I mean seriously, how did Superstar get released as a single? LOL It’s arguably the worst song on the album. The autotune, the line about shouting like an eagle (or is it eel girl?), and bunch of other silly things make this song a dud.

It’s over, bbz! Now we can enjoy the rest of the album in peace because the next couple of tracks are good. The main gripe I’ve seen about Shiawaseiro no Hana was its length (it’s almost 7 minutes long) but I actually think it’s a really well-done ballad. The elegant arrangment has enough going on to keep you listening and the vocals are spot-on.

The tracklisting now branches off into different directions depending on the edition. The red CD+DVD type A edition ends with Easy Mind, a cheery and positive song. The whistling portions still kind of annoy me but the catchy chorus makes up for it.

The blue CD+DVD type B edition ends with Weep and I preferred this song over Easy Mind. Contrary to the title, this is not a sad song but actually quite the opposite. Once again, the chorus stands out and it’s pretty infectious. There’s also a nice adlibbing section near the end.

On the yellow CD only edition, Easy Mind and Weep are both included PLUS one more song! It’s a new version of the group’s 2nd Japanese single Somebody To Love. I vaguely remember this track when I listened to BEST SELECTION 2010 but I honestly can’t do a comparison with this new version that features only Yunho and Changmin. It definitely sounds a little outdated compared to the rest of the album but I thought it was still nice.

So there you have it. I have become a Tohoshinki fan…I’m still not sure how it happened but I totally love these two now. Tohoshinki as a 5 member group did nothing for me so I was quite surprised by how much I enjoyed this album. It’s very solid and shows what Yunho and Changmin are capable as a duo. TONE brings it all to the table in my opinion. Most of the upbeat songs are incredible, the mid-tempo tracks and ballads are nicely done, plus they can even pull off a pleasant pop song or two as heard in those final tracks. On the downside, I Don’t Know and Superstar are pretty bad and Telephone is just there. lol I also think Yunho and Changmin just need to perfect their craft as a duo because TONE is already a good indication of their talent. They did say that they wanted more male fans, too. ;D

Pros: An addicting album. I’ve been jamming to it for the past couple of weeks. I know I’m super late! XD
Cons: Those flop tracks that I already pointed out and I can already hear the old school fans telling me that “I’ve missed out”.

Overall Rating

4 stars

Tracklisting (CD only edition)

1. Introduction ~magenta~
2. B.U.T (BE-AU-TY)
3. I Think U Know
4. Duet
5. Thank you my girl
6. Telephone
7. Back to Tomorrow
8. Why? [Keep Your Head Down]
10. I Don’t Know
11. Superstar
12. Shiawaseiro no Hana (シアワセ色の花)
13. Easy Mind
14. Weep
15. Somebody To Love -2011 Version-

Note: My favorite tracks are highlighted in blue!


January 19, 2012 at 7:34 PM | Posted in Mai Kuraki | 2 Comments

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


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!


September 6, 2011 at 5:42 PM | Posted in JUJU | 1 Comment

YOU is JUJU’s 4th studio album and it was released on July 13, 2011. The album reached #1 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 272,454 copies. It features songs from the singles Trust In You, Kono Yoru wo Tomete yo, Sayonara no Kawari ni / Negai, and Mata Ashita….

I swear she has some of the best single and album covers ever. So simple and classy~

♦ ♦ ♦

The people who think this album is boring need to be punched in the face, tbh. It is true that YOU is packed with ballads but so what? When an album is so well produced and arranged such as this one, you’ll want to keep listening. Sure, some of the material that JUJU covers (like jazz for instance) might not be for everyone but you can build a bridge and get over it, right? ;D

The album starts with Kono Yoru wo Tomete yo, which has become one of her biggest hits peaking at #10 on Oricon as well as dominating the digital charts. It’s a sorrowful mid-tempo song with an extremely pretty arrangement. I really like this song now and it makes a for a good opening since it sets up the overall mature tone of the album.

Sayonara no Kawari ni has become one of my favorite songs from her EVER because it really stands out in her discography. The music is an amazing mish-mash of electronic synth and R&B blended with stronger than usual vocals from JUJU. She’s really belting it on this track, especially when the powerful chorus comes around. I highly recommend this track because it is tremendous.

The first new track is Tsuyogari, a dynamic ballad with a beautiful band arrangement. JUJU once again displays strong vocals in the chorus to really make this track shine. It’s probably my favorite out of the new tracks as well.

Here’s a jazzy song for you! Jazz is one of my guilty pleasures and JUJU does it so well. If is also one of the sporadic upbeat tracks on this album and it’s nicely done thanks to upbeat piano, drums, and electric guitar.

Negai is another ballad and like Tsuyogari, it has a big band arrangement. I didn’t really care for this song back when it was coupled with Sayonara no Kawari ni on its respective double A-side single because it got overshadowed by that track. It does stand better on its own here though.

JUJU mixes it up a little bit with Voice, a bright song with a prominent string arrangement. There’s a gradual buildup featuring a simple dance beat before the first chorus shows up and that’s when the music begins to shine by combining these elements. You don’t get a lot of upbeat material on this album but when you do, it’s good. This is a prime example. 

This next track verges on being upbeat but mostly maintains a mid-tempo rhythm. Love again also has a light jazz sound with some R&B beats mixed in. Overall, it’s a pleasant song and was originally the B-side on the Mata Ashita… single.

Memories is probably the most R&B inspired track on the album. The beats are rather strong and constant together with JUJU’s stern vocals. There’s also some English phrases in the chorus like I can’t get you off my mind and How can I forget the love with you?.

At this point, the album enters into full blown mid-tempo and ballad territory, but I’m not complaning yet. lol Anyway, I love Piece Of Our Days! This song is so pretty and serene. It utilizes light electric guitar and piano to create a calming and romantic atmosphere. The bridge is also wonderful. This song was originally a B-side on the Kono Yoru wo Tomete yo single.

Trust In You was the first single of the era and it was released after her 3rd album (the self-titled JUJU) but before Request. A prime example of the mid-tempo R&B pop craze that is still sweeping Japan, this song is fortunately not about cellphones. XD

The beginning of the next track is gorgeous. Mata Ashita… was the final single of the era and also proved to be a big digital hit. A progressive ballad like some of the tracks at the start of the album, this song is really nice and keeps you interested. I wish I could say the same thing about the last two tracks…

This is where things begin to slow down and almost to a screeching halt! I’m just exaggerating but a lot of fans have expressed their dislike of ANTIQUE simply because it’s too long. Being over 7 minutes long and with such a laid back acoustic arrangement, I have to somewhat agree. The main reason is because the music doesn’t change and stays relatively quiet for most of that 7 minutes.

Sharing the namesake of the album, the final track YOU provides for a nice ending. When I first heard it, I was afraid that it was going to be like ANTIQUE but fortunately the music does pick up and more instruments come in. JUJU’s vocals are a lot better here as well. Recently, this song was released as a recut single with a new arrangement and coupled with a cover of rock band GLAY’s 90s hit BELOVED. Yay?

In the end, I was very satisfied with this album. I don’t think a majority of it is boring but I’ll never get into ANTIQUE because it has nothing going for it but that’s the only blaring exception. If you want sophisticated and extremely polished music then JUJU is for you. Like I said at the beginning of this review, this album is full of top notch material and it’s put together well. If you compare it to her last studio album, YOU is not as varied but at the same time it doesn’t have a monotonous feel.

Pros: The first half of the album is perfect to me. Sayonara no Kawari ni is definitely one of the best songs of 2011.
Cons: Those last 2 tracks… *shakes fist* 

 BASICALLY…YOU stands out compared to other mainstream releases this year.

Overall Rating

4½ stars


1. Kono Yoru wo Tomete yo (この夜を止めてよ)
2. Sayonara no Kawari ni (さよならの代わりに)
3. Tsuyogari (つよがり)
4. If
5. Negai (願い)
6. Voice
7. Love again
8. Memories
9. Piece Of Our Days
10. Trust In You
11. Mata Ashita… (また明日…)
13. YOU

Note: My favorite tracks are highlighted in blue!

Utada Hikaru – Utada Hikaru SINGLE COLLECTION VOL.2 (Disc 2)

August 21, 2011 at 1:49 PM | Posted in Utada Hikaru | 2 Comments
Tags: ,

Utada Hikaru SINGLE COLLECTION VOL.2 is Utada Hikaru’s 2nd compilation album and it was released on November 24, 2010. The album reached #1 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 441,267 copies.

I know the cover is just a bunch of stars but I’ve grown to like it. Did Utada ever mention the meaning behind it?

♦ ♦ ♦

Reminder: This is primarily a review of the album’s 2nd disc which contains the 5 new songs. I will briefly cover the 1st disc though.

Now you’re probably asking, “Lex, why are you reviewing this?” Well…I always wanted to do a review of the 2nd disc and and I love her. XD What else can I say?

Utada sure likes to make us fans wait. During the end of 2010, she finally starts doing music activities again but only to announce that she will go on indefinite hiatus. *dead* Oh well, onto the review!

The 1st disc of the album is the actual single collection. It features every A-side starting from 2004’s Dareka no Negai ga Kanau Koro all the way up to 2008’s Prisoner Of Love with the tracklisting in reverse order (so Prisoner Of Love is the first track). As a nice bonus, the really cool PLANiTb Acoustica Mix of Beautiful World is included as well.

If I was Utada, I would have released the 2nd disc as its own mini-album or something. lol It starts of with Arashi no Megami, a song dedicated to her mother. I was really surprised by this song when I first heard it. It’s quite the opposite of most of the music that comprises the 1st disc. An organic pop ballad, the music is mainly piano and percussion and it sounds really pretty. I also have to mention that Utada’s vocals sound a lot better than before, too. Contrary to popular opinion, this is actually my personal favorite of the 5 new songs (the next two tracks seem to be fan favorites from what I’ve observed).

You can’t blame them though. Show Me Love (Not A Dream) is pretty awesome. It starts off quietly but quickly gains momentum as electric guitars come in and Utada’s vocals become a lot stronger. I get major Passion vibes from this song since it has a similar sweeping, ethereal quality. Even though I love Arashi no Megami, this song would’ve made for a better single release in my opinion.

I’m sure everybody remembers Goodbye Happiness! The quirky PV is what sold me because it’s really cute but alone as a song it’s still quite good. The music is reminiscent of the light electronic sounds of both the ULTRA BLUE and HEART STATION albums. I also liked the bouncy dance atmosphere.

The next track is the only one that I don’t care for. Hymne à l’amour ~Ai no Anthem~ was the first song to be released and it has been met with mixed reception. It’s a cover of a French song and Utada actually sings in French in the beginning but later switches to Japanese. As for the music…I can give points to Utada for trying the jazz lounge sound because it sort of works for her. The arrangement is kind of monotonous minus that cool breakdown sequence (you know the one ;D). She has a tendency to draw out the endings of her songs but she overdoes it this time. The ending instrumental is so long that it makes the track clock in at 6 and a half minutes.

Ending this short collection of new songs is Can’t Wait ‘Til Christmas. A simple piano ballad, Utada’s vocals really radiate on this track. Besides sounding gorgeous, I think the chorus is catchy! I’m already ah loving you. ♥

So there you have it! The 2nd disc of Utada Hikaru SINGLE COLLECTION VOL.2 is a nice little assortment of songs and compliments the A-sides of the 1st disc quite well. Utada presents some new sounds as well as some nostalgia so you get the best of both worlds. Hopefully her hiatus won’t last too long and she’ll be back in full form. Wishful thinking, I know…

Pros: Pretty much FLAWLESS. Utada never disappoints when she delivers the goods!
Cons: Being only 5 songs, it leaves you wanting more. With some crucial tweaks, Hymne à l’amour ~Ai no Anthem~ could have been better as well.

BASICALLY…wahhh I miss Utada! *crying rivers of tears* lmao

Overall Rating

4½ stars

Tracklisting (Disc 2)

1. Arashi no Megami (嵐の女神)
2. Show Me Love (Not A Dream)
3. Goodbye Happiness
4. Hymne à l’amour ~Ai no Anthem~ (Hymne à l’amour ~愛のアンセム~)
5. Can’t Wait ‘Til Christmas

Kana Nishino – Thank you, Love

August 18, 2011 at 7:00 PM | Posted in Kana Nishino | 1 Comment

The cover of the regular edition

Thank you, Love is Kana Nishino’s 3rd album and it was released on June 22, 2011. The album reached #1 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 307,183 copies. It was preceded by 4 singles: if, Kimitte, Distance, and Esperanza.

The duck lips are back! I’m not digging the hippie look either. It doesn’t suit her.

♦ ♦ ♦

I got to hand it to Kana Nishino for staying consistent after the release of to LOVE. This album era featured some of her best singles so far so I was looking forward to what she would bring to the table with her 3rd album titled Thank you, Love. Much like the last album, Thank you, Love has a pleasant summer vibe but it’s even more evident here since there is noticeably less “aitakute”. LOL

The album begins with the extremely pretty introduction track *Prologue* ~Sunrise~ which goes into the leading single Esperanza. As much as I enjoy this song and appreciate Nishino for trying out a Latino acoustic sound, the similarities to Motto… are above obvious. The structure of the song almost mirrors that of Motto… from beginning to end but maybe that’s why I like it so much. XD Still, you can’t hide this from me, Kana!

Then we have the bouncy party song Clap Clap!!. The big thing about this album is that it’s mostly comprised of upbeat songs which is a nice change from all the mid-tempo stuff she’s been doing. After that is Together, a feel-good song with a happy-go-lucky atmosphere. It sounds like a parade during the chorus when that brass kicks in.

Distance, the 3rd single off the album, still remains as the standout track here. It has a ambient dance sound but it’s not like one of her aggressive club-banger B-sides. That’s okay though since the song is unique in its own right. The B-side I’ll be there (from the if single) follows and even though it’s not the B-side that I would have personally put on this album, I still like it. It’s a pretty song but I would have put Beautiful or beloved to shake things up.

The first full-blown ballad on the album is Flower. I don’t really remember it though since it gets quickly overshadowed by Every Boy Every Girl. I have to admit that this song is full of character and energy. It’s bound to get you moving.

I don’t really remember Where are you? since it’s clumped in-between better tracks. It’s still nice to hear somewhat upbeat material though. Anyway, I wanna talk about if instead. XD It’s a GREAT song and being the first single of the era, it set the standard for the rest of the singles that followed. Compared to the to LOVE singles, this song has a different vibe to it. The music is more uplifting and progressive with strong vocals from Nishino as well.

Hmmm…what should I say about Alright? I’m pretty sure you’re trying to read my mind but I’m not going to say that it’s just alright! lol To me, this song sounds a lot like if but more upbeat. The music is vibrant for sure and the chorus stands out. It’s more than alright, to be honest!

We’re getting close to the end of the album and here we are with 2 really nice ballads. First is Kimitte, a lovely song that proved to be the most popular A-side of the era sales-wise. It’s really pretty and the next track Wishing compliments it really well. Remember back on to LOVE she was all “cellphones and aitakute” at this point? None of that is here. In terms of the lyrics, these songs feel more genuine, especially when you listen to the chorus of Wishing.

Closing the album is *Epilogue* ~Thank you, Love~ which is a reprise of the prologue. The pleasant island sound comes back along with the looping “Thank you, Love” vocals that I love. It also features Nishino talking in English thanking her friends and family for their support and LOVE (of course!) Haha. It’s cute though.

I have to give props to Nishino for showing some growth and maturity in Thank you, Love. In an interview for the album, she said that the album reflects a different mindset compared to the likes of LOVE one. and to LOVE and if you care about lyrics, you can notice it here. On the down side, the music isn’t that much different with the exception of Esperanza and maybe Distance so you don’t really see any development in that department unfortunately. All in all, I enjoyed the album for what it was worth and pretty much every song is likable in some way. I hope Nishino continues to explore that untapped potential she has because it’s definitely there.

Pros: This is a fun album and her most colorful work to date.
Cons: Like to LOVE, some of the new tracks don’t stand out until you really give them a good listen.

BASICALLY…noooo, thank you, Kana. Thank you. ;D

Overall Rating

4 stars


1. *Prologue* ~Sunrise~
2. Esperanza
3. Clap Clap!!
4. Together
5. Distance
6. I’ll be there
7. Flower
8. Every Boy Every Girl
9. Where are you?
10. if
11. Alright
12. Kimitte (君って)
13. Wishing
14. *Epilogue* ~Thank you, Love~

Note: My favorite tracks are highlighted in blue!

Koda Kumi – Dejavu

July 3, 2011 at 11:54 AM | Posted in Koda Kumi | 3 Comments

The cover of the CD+2DVD edition

Dejavu is Koda Kumi’s 9th studio album and it was released on March 2, 2011. The album (barely) reached #1 on the Oricon Weekly Chart and sold 204,227 copies. It was preceded by 3 singles: Gossip Candy, Suki de, Suki de, Suki de. / Anata Dake ga, and POP DIVA.

Seriously what is going on in this cover? Look at all that crap! Books, cakes, a trumpet…the only thing that it’s telling me is that Kumi is a hoarder and needs an intervention.

♦ ♦ ♦

In the Prologue to Dejavu, Kumi asks a simple question: “Why won’t you come with me to my Dejavu?” Sure, why not! The music is rather strange and seems to have a foreboding atmosphere so I think it works well as the opening number.

I used to haaaaate POP DIVA because I thought it had the most obnoxious chorus ever but I guess you could say that I’ve grown accustomed to it (well the rest of the song at least XD). If you do ignore the chorus, you have a pretty sleek and thumping track.

Fortunately, only one song from the Gossip Candy single is on here. Lollipop is silly goodness and I think the chorus is pretty catchy despite the funny lyrics about dodging bullets and such. At least neither of the “fishbowl songs” were included!

The first new full-length track is Okay, a cool R&B song with prominent synth. There’s also some Western influences in the music like the dudes in the background going “Ayyyy!” (like in BoA’s Eien) and that distorted English voice.

Next up is a mellow R&B track. Aitakute is very nice and trumps her previous attempts at songs of this nature (Tsuki to Taiyou and Your Love come into mind). It maintains a relatively calm vibe but manages to keep you interested.

We have another R&B inspired mid-tempo track but a male singer joins Kumi this time. In Passing By, I’ve never heard of this B. Howard person but his role in the song is undeniable. I don’t mind his vocals and he sounds alright for the most part. The chorus is where the song shines and his and Kumi’s voices come together, mixing English and Japanese.

Out of all the new upbeat tracks on the album, AT THE WEEKEND was my favorite. It has a lot of energy, a great beat, and Kumi sounds great. The chorus is a highlight as well.

Now we have the Interlude to Dejavu, which features the same music as the prologue. The main difference is that it has some more English lyrics like “This Dejavu drives me crazy” and Kumi going “Woo!”. XD As an interlude, it only prepares you for the upcoming ~kawaii song~. D:

And it’s a doozy (and it mean that in a bad way)! Melting just comes in and attacks you with disgusting cuteness. I honestly don’t like this song at all and I hate Kumi for getting that “La la la melting chocolate” line stuck in my head.

At least it smoothly transitions into a much better song. Hey baby! was released digitally in an edited version prior to the album and here we are with the full version…all 2 and a half minutes of it. The cute vibe is there but at least it’s masked behind heavy beats and synth on top of an aggressive chorus unlike the complete bubblegum pop heard in Melting.

Here’s some more fluffy pop for you! Choi Tashi Life isn’t bad and probably the most laid back of the pop songs on this album. I don’t have much to say on this one.

Two back-to-back ballads are up next, the first one being Anata Dake ga. This song is seriously beautiful and I now think it’s one of her best ballads. Kumi also gives one of her strongest vocal performances as well.

After that is Suki de, Suki de, Suki de., which has grown on me a little bit. Compared to the R&B and piano blend heard in Anata Dake ga, this song is more of an acoustic pop ballad.

One notable thing about this album is that it ends with upbeat songs. I was worried that Bambi was going to be like Melting (yeah I’m going to keep bashing that song) because it follows the same cute pop formula but at least we get a nice rockish sound in the music. This song is a lot more tolerable as well.

I thought I Don’t Love You !?? (why is it being presented as a question? lol) was a great ending track because it breaks the mold of her albums always ending with ballads. The pop synth arrangement is nice and the chorus is great. I also get a “classic Kuu” feel from this song since it reminds me of material from past albums like grow into one and secret.

With a title like Dejavu, I was wondering what direction Koda Kumi would take with this album. Luckily, there wasn’t a case of de ja vu because I thought a majority of the album sounded pretty fresh. Like past Kuu albums, Dejavu has a mixture of hot dance songs, upbeat pop tunes, and ballads but it’s presented in a cohesive format. The same can be said about her last album UNIVERSE but I thought the songs on here were better executed this time around. Honestly, the only song that I skip is Melting since it’s garbage but everything else is good.

Pros: This was a solid release. I could listen to the entire album except…
Cons: Melting! Kill it with fire! Give me Black Candy or even the fishbowl songs…just make it go away. *cries*

BASICALLY…if I didn’t like this album, I would call it “DejaBOO”! LOLOLOL /lame

Overall Rating

4 stars


1. Prologue to Dejavu
3. Lollipop
4. Okay
5. Aitakute (逢いたくて)
6. Passing By
8. Interlude to Dejavu
9. Melting
10. Hey baby!
11. Choi Tashi Life (ちょい足しLife)
12. Anata Dake ga (あなただけが)
13. Suki de, Suki de, Suki de. (好きで、好きで、好きで。)
14. Bambi
15. I Don’t Love You !??

Note: My favorite tracks are highlighted in blue!

Ayumi Hamasaki – Love songs

July 2, 2011 at 1:22 PM | Posted in Ayumi Hamasaki | 4 Comments

The cover of the CD only edition

Love songs is Ayumi Hamasaki’s 12th studio album and it was released on December 22, 2010. The album reached #1 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 272,653 copies. It was preceded by 3 singles: MOON / blossom, crossroad, and the triple A-side single L.

This cover is a lot better than the other two. I don’t know…it seems more genuine and she’s not doing the duck lips.

♦ ♦ ♦

The album begins with Love song which has a gorgeous opening sequence. There are electric guitars but they’re mainly in the background since strings, piano, and acoustic guitar are the main instruments during the vocal segments. While I think the music is wonderful, Hamasaki’s vocals really keep me from enjoying the song. She sounds so…rough. I guess it was supposed to show off the “raw emotion” of her voice but I didn’t like it.

Then we have crossroad, the first A-side of this era to be produced by Tetsuya Komuro. This is probably my least favorite of all the A-sides but that’s simply because I didn’t think it was very memorable. At least the music, along with Ayu’s vocals, were nice.

I didn’t like MOON at first back when it was released as a single but it sounds more fitting on the album. The instrumental sections with the electric guitars were my favorite parts of the song, especially when those haunting riffs appear during the bridge.

When I first heard sending mail, I was blown away. Ayu has never done a song quite as brazen as this. It features an awesome buildup into a powerful chorus that never lets up. I liked the orchestral setting of the music as well, especially when it all comes crashing down at the end (in a good way, of course). As of now, it’s my favorite song on the album.

I’ve always liked Last angel and I thought it was the standout track back on the L single. To me, the music is very “old school” Ayu because of its trance and eurobeat influences. The LOVEppears album really comes into mind when I listen to this song.

insomnia is the first interlude and it’s just kind of there. I didn’t really care for it but it does give you an idea of what the next track sounds like.

I thought Like a doll was another unique offering from Hamasaki. Like sending mail, she hasn’t done anything quite like it. It starts off pretty normal with piano then transitions into a strange mix of beats, rhythmic synth, and background vocals chanting “like a doll”. Mix in the piano with all of that and you got yourself a pretty good song.

And another interlude! But we should be used to that, am I right? Aria is actually kind of pretty, well half of it is. The single violin at the beginning is nice but then it gets all chaotic at the end which ruins it.

The transition into blossom is kind of sloppy, too. I can’t really say much about this song except it’s like a much calmer version of MOON. I just remember Ayu fanboys being angry over the PV because it features Jejung from Tohoshinki and not her. XD

Ugh…Thank U could have been good except for one big problem. “LA LA LA LAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA~~~~” The adlibbing that pretty much takes up half of the the song is TERRIBLE! The music is nice and has a pleasant dance vibe but the vocals are just so bad. Can I just have an instrumental version instead?

I loooove Sweet Season. It’s such a heartwarming song. I really liked the organic band arrangement and you can thank legendary singer/songwriter Noriyuki Makihara for that. The chorus is really catchy, too.

The final interlude is titled overture and it’s probably the most appropriate out of the three. I say that because it takes the album into a completely different direction. I like to call it the ~epic ballad phase~.

The next three tracks are indeed grandiose and feature sweeping orchestral arrangements. do it again is notable for its English phrases that she repeats and repeats and repeats. The dramatic buildup that appears inbetween these English segments are pretty good though.

November isn’t as orchestral but features strong percussion and light electric guitar riffs. There are some random instruments too that I can’t quite put my finger on but they don’t detract from anything.

To me, Virgin Road is the official album closer and it does a good job in doing that. The arrangement is very well done and I really liked the strings. Now let’s cover the bonus tracks!

Depending on the version, you get either get the studio version or a live version of SEVEN DAYS WAR (originally the B-side on the crossroad single) as a bonus track. It’s a cover of the TK NETWORK song but in a calmer, ballad format. The studio version is nice but the live…I’ll just say it’s rough. However, it is indeed LIVE and Hamasaki sounds all emotional and stuff since it was one of the final performances of that concert…I think. You can’t blame her for that I guess.

All right! I’m not the huge Ayu fan that I used to be but honestly, this album has given me a little more faith in her. In terms of music, Love songs is great and features some of the best arrangements I have heard from her. It was an even bigger shock to me when I discovered that Tetsuya Komuro was behind most of the material (minus the interludes, the only songs that he didn’t compose were MOON, blossom, and Sweet Season). I know I’m super late on that fact. XD It’s just that when I think of Tetsuya Komuro, I imagine outdated 90s Jpop and cheap sounding dance tunes. The big thing that I noticed about the album is that it mainly focuses on pop songs and ballads instead of the overwrought rock material she’s been churning out in the past couple of years.

Pros: Musically, it’s one of her best albums. You can’t go wrong there.
Cons: The vocals on certain songs could have been better. She either sounds good or she doesn’t. Trust me on that, bbz.

BASICALLY…put in a love song, Ayu! A step up over Rock’n’Roll Circus.

Overall Rating

4 stars


1. Love song
2. crossroad
4. sending mail
5. Last angel
6. insomnia
7. Like a doll
8. Aria
9. blossom
10. Thank U
11. Sweet Season
12. overture
13. do it again
14. November
15. Virgin Road
16. SEVEN DAYS WAR [CD only & regular press CD+DVD bonus track] 
      SEVEN DAYS WAR (Live at Yoyogi on Oct.11.2010)
      [CD+DVD/micro SD+USB first press bonus track]

Note: My favorite tracks are highlighted in blue!

misono – Me

July 16, 2010 at 10:29 AM | Posted in misono | 7 Comments

The cover of the CD+DVD edition

Me is misono’s 3rd studio album and it was released on June 30, 2010. The album reached #20 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 5,944 copies.

Ahhhh! No more scrapbooking!

♦ ♦ ♦

6 double A-side singles, a collaboration with her big sister, and 2 cover albums later, misono FINALLY releases her 3rd original album. Me only features 3 brand new tracks and a bunch of rearranged A-sides. Even after listening to the album a couple of times, I still really can’t comprehend it. Maybe I’m still a little baffled by the tracklisting. XD

I thought her first 2 albums were frontloaded by older material but this is kind of ridiculous. At least most of these songs are rearranged into new “Me versions” and some sound better while others aren’t that much different. For example, the new version of Tales… that starts the album has a heavier rock sound compared to the original and I was glad to hear 0ji Mae no Tsunderella in its full glory (the single only included a piano version). As for the others, “Me” and music letter only have slight tweaks in their arrangements while ? cm‘s “partner version” features additional vocals (by her fans allegedly ;D).

I’ve grown to like the other A-sides but there are still some songs that I can’t stand (Tenbin will always remain god awful). “…Suki×××” is by far my favorite track on the album but end=START (which is combined with 11 eleven from the Pochi single for some strange reason), Watashi Iro, and Shuuten are pretty good, too.

Moving onto the 3 new tracks, I thought Usotsuki Tane was the best one. It’s a standard rock track for misono but it’s executed pretty well. Joker makes interesting use of vocoders during the verses and the final track Last Time ~Romejuli~ is a pure acapella track. There’s no music and all you get is misono singing. Let’s just say that I didn’t really like it. The fanclub edition comes with a different version which I haven’t heard yet. If anyone has, does it have any MUSIC? LOL

In conclusion, I thought Me wasn’t bad. It’s not better or worse than her last album but I wish it had more new material. Sei -say- had great new tracks to balance the lackluster A-sides but in this case it’s kind of half and half. This era had good songs but also TERRIBLE ones as well. The flow of the album is a little clunky because I thought the placement of certain songs was questionable (and some shouldn’t be on here in the first place). Lastly, I wish misono would clean up her vocals a little bit. Remember her vocals in VS? She should go back to that.

Pros: The aggressive rock tracks stand out as the best on the album.
Cons: Not enough new tracks (a common problem with her albums) and Tenbin and music letter need to be DESTROYED.

BASICALLY…stop being so selfish, misono! ME this ME that blah blah blah.

Overall Rating 

3½ stars


1. Tales… ~Me Ver.~
2. Kyuukon ~Yaruki Genki Sono Ki no Nekko~ (球魂 ~やる気・元気・その木の根っこ~)
3. “…Suki×××” (「・・・好き×××」)
4. Usotsuki Tane (ウソツキ種)
5. 0ji Mae no Tsunderella (0時前のツンデレラ)
6. Joker
7. Tenbin ~Tsuyogari na Watashi×Yowagari na Kimi~ (天秤 ~強がりな私×弱がりな君~)
8. 11 eleven end=START
9. Shuuten ~Kimi no Ude no Naka~ (終点 ~君の腕の中~)
10. Watashi Iro (私色)
11. ? cm ~misono to Ninin Sankyaku! Partner Ver.~
      (?cm ~misonoと二人三脚! パートナーVer.~)
12. music letter ~Me Ver.~
13. Kazoku no Hi (家族の日)
14. “Me” ~Me Ver.~ (「ミィ」)
15. Last Time ~Romejuli~ (ラストタイム ~ロミジュリ~) [CD+DVD & CD only]
      Last Time ~Romejuli~ (Daishi Ver.) (ラストタイム ~ロミジュリ~ (台詞Ver.))
      [Fanclub edition]

Note: My favorite tracks are highlighted in blue!

Kana Nishino – to LOVE

July 6, 2010 at 1:18 PM | Posted in Kana Nishino | 5 Comments

The cover of the CD+DVD edition

to LOVE is Kana Nishino’s 2nd album and it was released on June 23, 2010. The album reached #1 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 402,772 copies.

Stop inflating your lips, girl! It’s distracting. >_>

♦ ♦ ♦

Make way for the new queen of Jpop, bitches. Just kidding. ;D At the moment Kana Nishino is more like the queen of cellphone love songs, something that the teenage girls of Japan just eat up. After her debut album LOVE one., she went on a string of releasing bittersweet mid-tempo R&B songs and just kept getting more popular. For the people who were bitching about how Nishino should go back to her “old style” with girly pop songs like glowly days and Style. should be quiet because you DO get some of that on this album.

On the plus side, I am glad that to LOVE isn’t chock full of songs like Motto… and Aitakute Aitakute because let’s be honest; things would get boring pretty fast. At its core, this is a summer album and the new tracks prove that. After a short intro track (what a nice surprise lol) and Best Friend, Summer Girl feat. MINMI and Hey Boy come in as bright and upbeat songs that are quite different than most of the A-sides. Hey Boy stands out with its electric guitars which is something I haven’t heard since her debut single.

Nishino whips out her sad cellphone in Motto… but then goes back to a cute summer sound with love & smile and Kono Mama de (the first ballad of the album). The next two songs are a little more electronic. MAYBE is good but WRONG is just plain amazing. It is by far the best new track. Come On Yes Yes Oh Yeah!! is the obligatory party song and it has the most random intro sequence ever. The intro reminds me of Grab Bag but the rest of it is like Konya wa PARTY UP. I was hoping for another song like candy though. =(

The album goes into full cellphone romance mode with the A-sides Dear… and Aitakute Aitakute. Dear… is a lovey-dovey ballad while Aitakute Aitakute is a post breakup song. This all wraps up with You are the one, a ballad that ends the album on a lighter note. The epilogue is pretty much a reiteration of the prologue since the music is the same and she sings the same lines.

It’s a good thing that the album mixed things up a bit but still maintained a good flow. As much as I loved the A-sides, they all sound similar to each other and nobody wants a monotonous album. The new tracks like Summer Girl, Hey Boy, WRONG, and even Come On Yes Yes Oh Yeah!! provided some much needed variety. The structure of to LOVE is similar to that of her debut album but I thought it flowed even smoother because the songs were better executed. There’s no mediocre pop songs like I, glowly days, or Girlfriend but that’s mostly because her vocals were baaaad back then. Since her debut album, her vocals have improved a lot. Seriously, listen to I and you’ll hear a big difference. Finishing up this review, Kana Nishino is definitely not a victim of the sophomore slump and to LOVE is a great album.

Pros: Overall, this album is better and more cohesive than her debut. The A-sides remain awesome as well.
Cons: I was a little let down with some of the new tracks. Only WRONG really impressed me.

BASICALLY…what a nice surprise, indeed. ♥

Overall Rating

4½ stars


1. *Prologue* ~What a nice~
2. Best Friend
3. Summer Girl feat. MINMI
4. Hey Boy
5. Motto… (もっと・・・)
6. love & smile
7. Kono Mama de (このままで)
10. Come On Yes Yes Oh Yeah!!
11. Dear…
12. Aitakute Aitakute (会いたくて 会いたくて)
13. You are the one
14. *Epilogue* ~to LOVE~

Note: My favorite tracks are highlighted in blue!

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