Archive for the 'Crystal Kay' Category

[Album] Crystal Kay – ALL YOURS

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~Tracklist~
01. konna ni chikaku de… (こんなに近くで…; So Close…)
02. Dream World
03. Anytime
04. anata no soba de (あなたのそばで; Next to You)
05. Cherish
06. STILL
07. Butterfly’s Garden
08. kitto eien ni (きっと永遠に; Surely Forever)
09. ESCALATOR
10. Sugar Rain
11. I WANNA BE
12. Lonely girl
13. Midnight Highway
14. Last Kiss

~Album Review~
Crystal Kay followed up her trio of 2007 singles with her first number one album (first number one anything, really) on June 20, 2007. In total, the album sold 136,841 copies, which made it the 83rd best selling album of 2007.

The album starts out well with the poppy “konna ni chikaku de….” The song was the strongest out of the singles for “ALL YOURS,” and it’s the strongest song on the album quite easily. It’s funky pop mixed with sleek violins and Kuri’s smooth voice make for a great song, albeit unexpected. Such energy makes a great opening for an album, but only when it can be maintained.

“Dream World” is the strongest album track on “ALL YOURS.” See a trend already? Kuri impresses the listener with her smooth sound early on alongside excellent production, but the album begins to slip as it continues onward. What makes “Dream World” so good? It’s different from anything Crystal Kay’s done. It’s guitar based, but still feels R&B with an island beat. In the end, it sounds summery and fun with a bit of passion. The chorus is catchy, fun and easy to sing along to. The extro is also nice with a bit of ad-libing. Over all, an impressive new song from Kay.

The momentum carried by the first two tracks is utterly lost with “Anytime.” Crystal Kay drops the ball – she started out superbly but descends back into mediocrity here. “Anytime” is mid-tempo R&B with keyboards; it doesn’t sound particularly special even if it sounds nice. “Anytime” can then easily fade out of memory, especially when placed after two powerhouse tracks.

anata no sobe de” is much better than “Anytime.” Nevertheless, the song sounds liek it could have been so much greater had Crystal Kay been up to the task vocally. The song touches greatness but loses it; the bridge asks for a great chorus by increasing the tempo, and then the chorus does nothing, failing to answer the call for a fast-paced anthem. It’s not bad, but not great.

The next song starts out less R&B and more in the vein of a ballad before becoming hard R&B. “Cherish” starts out quite well, but fails to climax well, creating run of the mill pop R&B that falls into the background. Kuri is capable of creating better songs, but just falls short here.

“STILL” is the Japanese version of “As One,” which was the B-side featured on the “kitto eien ni” single. Compared to “Cherish” the song sounds much sweeter, and feels fine because Kay at least goes places vocally here. It may not be special, but here, Kay doesn’t have to be, she still sounds great.

The next song, “Butterfly’s Garden,” is built around the sampling of a raindrop. Is that enough to make a song special? Not really, it’s actually quite irksome, despite a solid ending vocally. That beat also obscures the melody, which makes “Butterfly’s Garden” hard to remember and even harder to listen to more than once.

The other ballads on the album don’t compare to “kitto eien ni,” because Kay does not perform as well on any of them. Her producers need to get their stuff in order and give Kuri the mature sound that she can now handle. Despite not being anything special in the vocal department, Kuri sings “kitto eien ni” well, giving it her style and her own type of power. If only the other slow songs on the album had the same feeling…

The production on this album is a bit spotty and different from Kuri’s usual. Exploration is definitely positive, especially considering how young Crystal Kay is. “ESCALATOR” is definitely the result of exploration, and it does some things very well, while utterly screwing up on others. Despite having a strange sample and hard to find melody, the chorus is really, really catchy and great sounding. It sounds much better than the verses, and Crystal Kay finally begins to push her tempo a bit. If Kuri polishes her music, “ESCALATOR” can easily be a strong song in the future. As it is, it’s a mixed bag.

“Sugar Rain” sounds okay, but okay isn’t good enough. It’s synth R&B with a sweet hook (how appropriate), but it doesn’t have power.

“I WANNA BE” is better than “Sugar Rain,” probably because of the vocal layering. It’s catchy, dancier and better. Again, it has to be stressed that Kuri’s music doesn’t climax well, and “I WANNA BE” is no exception.

“Lonely Girl” sounds decent, but the strange mix of instruments are a bit too funky and sound too disparate. The main culprit is the beat; sans that stray, awkward sound, the song is fine.

By this point, the album has long since lost its initial momentum. All the tracks try to do something new, which is commendable, but most of them fail at doing it well, mainly because they lack energy. “Midnight Highway” is definitely another example of this, but “Last Kiss” appears to be a jazzy step in the right direction. It may not be special, but the song at least has energy, especially for a ballad. The vocals are great. “Last Kiss” definitely is the type of album track Kuri should be aiming for.

“ALL YOURS” makes it very evident that Crystal Kay still has a great deal of growing to do. Of course, the variety here is good, especially considering how well the album transitions amongst this diversity. Nevertheless, transitions aren’t enough to cover up the fact that a lot of the album doesn’t feel complete. Crystal Kay either needs superior production or to grow vocally; right now, she’s not where she needs to be. Some of her tracks are definite gems, such as “konna ni chikaku de…” and “Dream World,” while others feel just mediocre. The album probably should have spread the good tracks more evenly, but it’s not the end of the world nor is it the album’s foremost flaw. Crystal Kay needs to continue to mature in her music, and maybe then she gain greater success than she’s currently seeing. Right now, she’s putting out good R&B, but so often, she sounds capable of putting out so much more.

79% C+

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[Single] Crystal Kay – anata no soba de

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~Tracklist~
01. anata no soba de (あなたのそばで; Next to You)

~Single Review~
Crystal Kay released “anata no soba de” on May 16, 2007, and the single charted at 30 on the Oricon charts. This low position compared to her previous singles could be explained by the fact that this single is a stand alone single, a la Utada Hikaru’s “Be My Last.”

“anata no soba de” is mid-tempo R&B based off of a clapping rythym and keyboards coupled with vocal layering. Kuri’s vocals are smooth throughout the song, but the problem with the song is that it is capable of so much more. The chorus is capable of being so much more powerful than it is, especially considering how the bridge builds into the chorus. Instead, the chorus is slighter faster paced, poppier, and lighter. It’s well done R&B from Kay, but she could have easily made the song into an anthem by speeding it up instead of leaving it as mid-tempo.

80% B-

[Single] Crystal Kay – konna ni chikaku de…

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~Tracklist~
01. konna ni chikaku de… (こんなに近くで…; So Close…)
02. FEEL
03. konna ni chikaku de… -KZ Future Disko Remix- (こんなに近くで…; So Close…)
04. FEEL -Singo.S Remix-
05. konna ni chikaku de… -Instrumental- (こんなに近くで…; So Close…)

~Single Review~
After the mild top twenty success of her last ballad oriented single, “kitto eien ni,” Kuri took a turn back towards the pop territory inhabited by “koi ni ochitara” (by and far her most successful single). “konna ni chikaku de…” sounds familiar and new all at once as it tries to play towards “koi ni ochitara’s” sound while being upbeat in order to capitalize upon its success. “konna ni chikaku de…” did not come close to recreating the karaoke magic of “koi ni ochitara” however, and only reached number fourteen its debut week, selling about 9,000 copies.

“konna ni chikaku de…” sounds most like “koi ni ochitara;” its keyboard based and supported by strings at times, which is a really odd combination. In the end though, despite not sounding quite normal, “konna ni chikaku de…” defies explanation and is good. It’s so funky with its synth and so smooth with Crystal Kay and the violins that the song becomes great, catchy pop that doesn’t sound quite like anything else out. Add in a catchy hook and strong choral vocals and “konna ni chikaku de…” is easily a fun tune a J-pop fan can jam to any day.

“FEEL” is a mid-tempo R&B song that seems to cater to Kuri’s R&B song as “konna ni chikaku de…” is not really the R&B she usually puts out. It’s smooth, sleek, but also sometimes cumbersome sounding. The choruses sound great, but the high notes sound a bit strained which is a problem, hurting this B-side.

The remixes are filler. “Konna ni Chikaku de”‘s is on speed, and “FEEL”‘s doesn’t sound good.

In the end, this is a single carried by a stellar A-side. Kuri sometimes falls into a rut of releasing mediocre crud, but here, she succeeds at releasing one of the pop gems she’s known for.

89% B+

[Single] Crystal Kay – kitto eien ni

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~Tracklist~
1. kitto eien ni (きっと永遠に; Surely Forever)
2. As One
3. kitto eien ni -STUDIO APARTMENT REMIX-
4. As One -REMIX-
5. kitto eien ni -INSTRUMENTAL-

~Single Review~
“kitto eien ni” was released on January 17, 2007, and debuted at number 12 on the weekly charts, higher than the number 27 position of her last single, “Kirakuni / Together.” The song “kitto eien ni” was used as the ending theme to Boku wa Imouto ni Koi wo Suru (My Sister, My Love), a movie surrounding incestuous love that never should have been.

“kitto eien ni” is a strong song, the sort of ballad that Kuri’s been due to sing. It’s very smooth with the piano and soft beat backing Kay’s voice. The chorus is especially good, with powerful vocals, strings, and a stronger beat.. I especially like the ending. Perhaps the best part of this song is the growth that Crystal Kay emits; her earlier teen songs cannot compare to this song in the slightest. It’s a beautiful ballad, although in the end it feels like it lacks a little something.

“As One” is a true blue R&B ballad compared to the poppier “kitto eien ni.” It’s completely in English, as well, which suits Crystal Kay just fine. The only really negative thing to say about the mellow song is the lack of fullness in the chorus; it’s clearly not an A-side. It just feels like they could have put some background vocals in, or something. Otherwise, a strong B-side. It is not as good as the Japanese version, “STILL,” however, which was a digital release in Japan.

The remix of “AS ONE” may be worth a listen, but the remix of “kitto eien ni” is long, boring and does not fit the tone of song at all. In the end, the originals are definitely better than their remixes.

84% B