[Album] MISIA – Ascension

~Tracklist~
01. Color of Life
02. FUTURU FUNK
03. Remember Lady
04. TYO
05. Taiyou ga Kureta PRESENT (太陽がくれたプレゼント) Present from the sun
06. Stay in my Heart
07. Tsuki (月)Moon
08. SHININ’~虹色のリズム~ (SHININ’ ~Niji Iro no Rhythm~) SHININ’~Rainbow-colored rhythm~
09. Sura no Shiro (砂の城)Sand Castle
10. Angel
11. LUV PARADE
12. We are the Music
13. SONG FOR YOU
14. Hoshi no Ginka (星の銀貨)Silver star coin
15. SEA OF DREAMS

~Album Review~
“Ascension” is MISIA’s seventh original album, and it was released about three years after her last studio effort on February 7, 2007. In total, it sold 127,768 copies which meant it was the 91st best selling album of 2007. That’s a far fall from the sales of her earlier albums, but considering her sporadic release schedule and how much time has elapsed since her earlier albums, R&B songstress MISIA is doing just fine with “Ascension.”

The album starts out with the mellow “Color of Life.” It’s a mellow mid-tempo pop track with an excellent ending and final bridge. The chorus can be annoying depending on your view, although the breathy “Color of Life” in the background accompanies MISIA’s powerful vocals quite well. Either it will be repetitive or catchy. There is also the stylistic use of of French, which is sleek way to enhance the song’s modern lounge feel. “Color of Life” is a good way to start the album.

We continue a mid-tempo run, but with a deeper R&B edge on the next track, “FUTURU FUNK.” The chorus is notably repetitive, but the production on the track is well done. The distortion of voices is top notch, and the instrumentals are a definite nod to MISIA’s past work. Although the flow of the song is worse than “Royal Chocolate Flush‘s”,hard R&B lovers will find this track both catchy and danceable. Once again, the ending is great at distinguishing this song.

The tempo of the album slows as “Remember Lady” flows onward; clapping accompanies the guitar as other instruments slowly come to the forefront of the song. This song is surprisingly good. Although it is a little on the slow side, it sounds very relaxed and lounge-esque, much like Color of Life. This means that song comes off extremely pleasant, sort of like a lullaby. The repetition of “remember lady” in the chorus contributes to that ambience quite well actually. Best described as a lullaby with a touch of R&B infused with MISIA, “Remember Lady” is a different type of ballad from MISIA.

“TYO” takes the tempo up another notch and the beat back into harder R&B territory. The distortion of MISIA’s vocals sound quite good, and the additional background vocals fit in well in the atmosphere of the song. The “la la la la” of the chorus and the “oh oh oh oh” are quite catchy alongside belting out “scream.” Over all, it’s all that MISIA should create on a strong R&B song. Although “TYO” is not as strong as some of MISIA’s singles, the track is great for an album track and quite distinct.

“Taiyou ga kureta” present is slightly slower tempo than the past track, and features much poppier (and maybe even tropical) instruments. Pretty much, the unobtrusive instruments give MISIA the opportunity to show off her voice on this track. I don’t think her voice really fits in here, but oh well. Most albums are bound to have a few duds. However, if you love MISIA’s voice (she can hit a whistle note quite well) or a smooth pop mood in a song, this may appeal to you. Considering the tempo an the mood, MISIA does fit into this song. This pacing is very her, as she can shine alongside it.

“Stay in my heart” is a bit slower and more traditional as a ballad. It starts out with some excellent English from MISIA. The lengthy piano introduction is drastically different from the rest of the song, as the poppier edge and fuller instrumentation come into play. Over all, it’s a fairly impressive track. It flows quite well throughout the song, the string section backing up MISIA sounds especally good. MISIA also ends it well on this song, getting some great emotion into her voice as this song winds down. This emotion is portrayed through a bit of a rasp in MISIA’s voice throughout the extro.

“Tsuki” is more of R&B ballad than anything we’ve yet seen on this album. MISIA does these quite well, and this song is no exception whatsoever. Of course, it would be nice to see MISIA travel to unseen territory on her seventh studio effort, but the notes MISIA hits are pretty impressive, the bridge and chorus are great, and the chorus is catchy to boot. Surprisingly, MISIA has more to show off as the song finished. The only complaint here is she’s done it before, and the climax is lacking, even if it is an R&B ballad.

“SHININ’~Nijiiro no rhythm~” is poppy and repetitive. Probably moreso than any of the other tracks. It sounds a bit like Color of Life, although MISIA’s voice is a lot more pronounced in this song, which is a great thing. It really propels this song to whole other level compared to Color of Life. When the background vocals support MISIA, she is able to really shine. Vocal layering is this song’s major component, and it really gives it its power.

“Suna no Shiro” is not very memorable, despite being a frenetically paced ballad. Perhaps the difference in between the speed of MISIA’s vocals and the instrumentals is the problem. The instrumentation sounds like it leaves her behind as she slowly sings. Nevertheless, the song sounds quite pleasant and urgent for a ballad. Again, great ending on this track.

“Angel” is a soft-spoken piano-based ballad. Here again we see MISIA playing to her strength, her ballads. The absence of Engrish in the song is a breath of fresh air, and the chorus is nice. Near the ending the real emotion enters into MISIA’s voice and she belts it out, hitting those high notes all the while. It’s pretty touching by that point of the song. Slow, but not lacking power, “Angel” is a great MISIA album track.

“LUV PARADE” is probably the best song on the album, alongside “SEA OF DREAMS.” It’s an upbeat pop/R&B track with orchestrated elements. It’s catchy, it’s fun, and just wonderful over all. Originally released in the summer, “LUV PARADE” is feels summery and upbeat; it has the pop combination of synth and more traditional violins typcal of MISIA, and a great catchy chorus. The only really negative aspect of the song is it sometimes feels as though it lacks a bit of polish. Still, the chorus is just so good with MISIA and the back-up vocals, and the keyboard… This song is a great summer track and the perfect opportunity to show off MISIA’s voice. If you were to choose any song to listen to on “Ascension,” this track would be the best choice. It has a distinct begginning, middle, and end, as well as vocal and instrumental strength. Plus “LUV PARADE” is good, fun J-pop.

“We are the Music” continues the same type of pop that “LUV PARADE” started, although this song sounds much more generic. Let’s take a second to examine the lyrics; yes, “life is a music” may fit the music motif of the song, but it should be “life is a musical.” Small flaws like this lyrically error cripple the song somewhat, although MISIA does a godly job covering it up with the violin supported pop instrumentation and background vocals. Besides a mismatch in MISIA and the music near the end, this song is a solid addition to the album that is sure to have some people loving it.

“SONG FOR YOU” is the last of the acoustic ballads on this album, a definite forte that MISIA plays to her benefit. Honestly, these ballads MISIA sings begin to meld into one and another, and “SONG FOR YOU” doesn’t feel very special in any way. Again, it just acts as the perfect opportunity for MISIA to show off her voice. At least the music in this song is different from all else we’ve seen on this album, but still, the track leaves something to be desired.

“Hoshi no ginka” is a funky mid-tempo R&B track with some brass action going on alongside the prominent beats and the keyboard. This song isn’t particularly catchy, although the ending is pretty strong, thankfully.

This album has to be evaluated with the bonus track, “SEA OF DREAMS” included, because frankly, it’s an excellent end to the album. It’s one of her strongest ballads on here, which is no surprise since it was the only one released as a single. That said, the song is probably worth a listen, especially if you like choral back-up. MISIA’s voice really shines here, although her English pronunciation does not. The background voices on “SEA OF DREAMS” sound different than usual too, which really make this song stand out. Add in a larger than life finale combining MISIA’s powerhouse vocals and a choir of voices, and you have an inspirational ballad that will have you “sailing free on a sea of dreams.”

Over all, there are a few duds on this album, but most of the album tracks are at least solid, if not great additions to the album. This album has wide variety of musical stylings, plays well, has excellent vocals, and expresses so many different emotions in a plethora of ways. Compared to contemporary J-pop star releases of early 2007, MISIA did well at surpassing her other J-pop peers in music quality on her album. Although her singles do not always live up to the pop powerhouses, her album has. With that in mind, this album is above average and worth a listen. If you have never heard MISIA before, this may not be the place for you to start.. It may not be her best, or the best J-pop has to offer, but it’s a great new release for 2007. If you’re looking for the best songs on the album, those would be “LUV PARADE” and “SEA OF DREAMS.”

85% B

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