Archive for the 'MISIA' Category

[Album] MISIA – EIGHTH WORLD

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~Track Listing~
01. Ishindenshin
02. ANY LOVE
03. Royal Chocolate Flush
04. November -Interlude-
05. MISSING AUTUMN
06. To Be In Love
07. Hadashi no Kisetsu
08. Chandelier
09. Hybrid Breaks -Interlude-
10. Dance Dance
11. Taiyou no Chizu
12. Soba ni Ite…
13. Kimi wa Sougen ni Nekoronde
14. Taiyou no Malaika

~BONUS Second Disk Track Listing~
01. MEGA MISIA MIX 10 10th Anniversary EDITION

~Album Review~
MISIA released her eighth original studio album, “EIGHTH WORLD” on January 9, 2007, and the album debuted at number on on the Oricon daily chart, although it most likely won’t hold that lead for the whole week.

The first track, “Ishindenshin” leads the album well as it is a mid-tempo R&B track with a great instrumental backing. The synthetic introduction to the song is great and memorable. With synthetic vocal-like recordings inserted in, as well, the intro sounds dark, something that continues to come into play throughout the song. Although the verses pretty much use only a beat, the still maintain that dark feeling that the choruses and extros only strengthen. Over all, vocals aren’t amazing, but the song is quite good, especially for a MISIA album track.

The next song, “ANY LOVE” is a slower song that feels somewhat faster paced than a pure ballad. “ANY LOVE” features R&B sounds, a catchy chorus, and a bridge which features some of MISIA’s higher notes. That combination makes “ANY LOVE” both catchy as an R&B track and pretty as a slower one. The PV for ANY LOVE, shot in Africa with children, probably best represents that duality of the mid-tempo R&B track, “ANY LOVE.” “ANY LOVE” sounded like one of her better single tracks, and it is one of the best songs on the album.

The next song, “Royal Chocolate Flush” raises the energy on the album another notch. “Royal Chocolate Flush” is pretty much a pure dance song that abandons cohesion and melody at times in favor of getting the listener into the beat and dancing. As a dance song, that’s no necessarily a bad thing, but it makes “Royal Chocolate Flush” a bit of a tough listen, especially in the verses and bridges. Even with the cohesive energy of the song, “Royal Chocolate Flush” feels a bit disparate at times without an easy to find melody throughout. For dance lovers, “Royal Chocolate Flush” should be an easy favorite, but it might baffle some others.

The next song is an interlude to ease the change in pace the album takes, which is an excellent decision considering the hard beat nature of the songs preceding “November -Interlude-.” The best way to describe “November -Interlude-” is as an low quality recording of MISIA in the studio with a live band. The effect is very interesting, but the important part is there is a beat here, but it’s not as large as “Royal Chocolate Flush”‘s was. As a transition “November -Interlude-” works well.

With the pace change introduced by the interlude, “MISSING AUTUMN” fits in well. The song has a softer beat, but edges closer towards a ballad with soft guitar rifts in the background coupled with piano and violins. Adding in the repetition of “missing” helps make the song sounds nice, however MISIA doesn’t fully live up to her huge vocals here and instead only makes it halfway there. Even if “MISSING AUTUMN” sounds nice, it doesn’t distinguish itself enough.

To follow up “MISSING AUTUMN,” MISIA introduces another soft ballad that contains verses based off of piano: “To be in Love.” The bridge of the song is especially poignant, where the violins momentarily stop. The first chorus, however, is not as good as the final few; closer to the end, MISIA gives up her vocals to put on a great display. Because of this, “To be in Love” isn’t perfect, but by the end, it shows what MISIA’s ballads are all about. She can sing, and “To be in Love” shows that.

“Hadashi no Kisetsu” is another slower song hat doesn’t really distinguish itself as well as “To be in Love.” The keyboards are a nice touch to the song that give the song a very new age lounge feeling, but the song isn’t relaxing with control of the listener’s attention. MISIA sings well, but she doesn’t captivate, which makes “Hadashi no Kisetsu” one of the albums worst songs despite somewhat pleasant instrumentals.

“Chandelier” is a jazzy track that leads in with the drums and keyboard. As more and more instrumentation comes in, the song becomes more MISIA-esque with its violins. After the bridge, the song hits its first chorus a bit anticlimactically. If “Chandelier” is anything, it’s pleasant and does well at continuing the different lounge feeling of “Hadashi no Kisetsu.” This exploration in MISIA’s music is welcome; considering the length of her discography, she needs to innovate in order to keep her listener purchasing her music. Although “Chandelier” is far from innovation, it does take MISIA a step in the right direction. The end of the song is more emotive than the rest of the of the song, and probably a lot stronger because of it. But the extro just drags out as MISIA ad-libs weakly.

Because the album changes its tone again, “Hybrid Breaks -Interlude-” was placed next. It works well at building up from the slower, softer feeling of the past tracks to the powerful, up-tempo upcoming tracks. Starting with guitar riffs, and adding in synth and keyboards, the song is excellent preparation for “Dance Dance.”

The intro of “Dance Dance” sounds like the 80s with its synthetic nature. That intro is a motif throughout the song, that spices up what may prove to be a fairly ordinary song. Without that feeling, “Dance Dance” feels too mid-tempo and too powerless for its own good. “Dance Dance” relies on the recurring intro sample throughout the song to inspire dancing, which sucks because had the song been fully tweaked, “Dance Dance” could easily be a powerful dance track.

“Taiyou no Chizu (太陽の地図)” is a soft upbeat song with a present guitar and string melody that works well with MISIA and her background vocals. The only really problem with the song? It feels a little laid back in some respects, which doesn’t really make the track stand out. The more glaring problem, then, is the Engrish throughout the song, and then when the English isn’t Engrish, it’s still not the best hook MISIA could have used. It’s a decent pop track and a decent B-side that will find its way into some listeners’ hearts.

“Soba Niite…” was originally used as the B-side for the “ANY LOVE” single. Surprisingly, the song stands up very well on its own. With power, “Soba Niite…” is one of the more memorable ballads on the song, despite being one of the barest. A pure ballad, “Soba Niite…” is a nice rest from the R&B of “EIGHTH WORLD.”

If “Soba Niite…” was a rest from R&B, then “Kimi wa Sougen ni Nekoronde” reintroduces R&B to the album (but not too harshly). The song features a soft beat that sounds like it could have bongo based, as well as piano and keyboard. Although the verses and the bridges feel very run of the mill, the choruses of “Kimi wa Sougen ni Nekoronde” are splendid because MISIA uses her light, airy high notes to give off a relaxing feel. With background vocals that help embellish the rest of the song, “Kimi wa Sougen ni Nekoronde” is able to make itself fun and catchy.

“Taiyou no Malaika” begins with a piano intro, which transitions fairly well from the past track. As MISIA’s vocals emerge, so does an organ and eventually drums and past the first chorus, strings. “Taiyou no Malaika” uses the same sounding violins as the rest of MISIA’s recent music, which really undermines the most touching points in the song. That, and the hook of the song, “Endless love” is hard to make out because of MISIA’s pronunciation. Despite those detriments, “Taiyou no Malaika” is the best ending track to the album as it sounds pretty.

The megamix of MISIA’s career could be more expertly remixed (it doesn’t begin until over a minute in) and does not feature music from all of MISIA’s career (it’s heavily weighted towards recently). Easy to dance to because it features songs in the vein of “BACK BLOCKS” and “Royal Chocolate Flush,” the megamix does have cohesion. The ending is also thematically and temporally appropriate, stating “she’s discovered a new world.” Well MISIA, since your musical debut, you have been evolving as an artist, so yes, you’ve discovered a new world of music.

“EIGHTH WORLD” is not a step up from “Ascension,” MISIA’s last album, but it doesn’t feel like a step down, either. Over all, this album is consistent, with few songs really missing the concept but also with no tracks that are pure ecstasy. The biggest source of this consistency would probably be the violins MISIA use, which oddly always sound too similar considering how often they’re used. She could easily differentiate by exploring different orchestrated sounds, different instruments, and different genres. Although part of “EIGHTH WOLRD” retreated to MISIA’s dance era of her music, she does experiment with lounge-like sounds on part of her album. Because of that, “EIGHTH WORLD” feels different from many of MISIA’s other works. It is also worth mentioning there are less new tracks than usual on “EIGHTH WORLD,” with “Royal Chocolate Flush” acting as the main problem, releasing four of this album’s songs on a single. Still, “EIGHTH WORLD” feels new and R&B. MISIA does well, but not quite well enough. If she improve her production and gives her sound a new style with an her own feeling, she should be fine.

81% B-

[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

[Single] MISIA – Royal Chocolate Flush

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~Tracklist~
1. Royal Chocolate Flush
2. Taiyou no Chizu (太陽の地図)
3. Chandelier
4. Kiss And Hug!

~Single Review~
“Royal Chocolate Flush” was initially released as a standalone digital track single on digital stores such as iTunes Japan, where it peaked within the top ten. Now that it’s physical release has come around, it is accompanied by three B-sides, which probably helped it achieve the number four daily ranking it has held the past few days on the Oricon daily chart. Released on December 5, 2007, this single will MISIA’s last single before her next album, “EIGHTH WORLD.”

“Royal Chocolate Flush” starts out with an short, interesting intro, then the beat picks up, and MISIA counts down to the beginning of the song. Besides a beat, most of the song only features a few synthetic elements and MISIA singing, so you better hope you like her voice. She is backed up by background vocals and some more music during the chorus, but this song is a dance track. The verses aren’t very special, and the lead-in to the chorus, “Dancing in the moonlight” is one of the only hooks of the song. The final bridge is very fast-paced and winds back down with MISIA going “brrrr…” Thankfully, the ending is a step above the rest of the song. However, the lack of music for most of the song means the melody is hard to find at times, despite clear care with the production. It’s a great dance track, but I don’t know often I’ll find myself just listening to it. Still, MISIA hasn’t done anything this powerful in a while, so “Royal Chocolate Flush” is a nice change of pace. (The PV is also worth a watch)

“Taiyou no Chizu (太陽の地図)” is a soft up-beat song with a present guitar and string melody that works well with MISIA and her background vocals. The only really problem with the song? It feels a little laid back in some respects, which doesn’t really make the track stand out. The more glaring problem, then, is the Engrish throughout the song, and then when the English isn’t Engrish, it’s still not the best hook MISIA could have used. It’s a decent pop track and a decent B-side that will find its way into some listeners’ hearts.

“Chandelier” is a jazzy track that leads in with what sounds like a xylophone backing up the drums and keyboard. As more and more instrumentation comes in, the song hits its first chorus a bit anticlimactically, but still strongly. This B-side is soft but pleasant sounding. And let’s face it, it’s nice to hear MISIA expand her music a bit. The end of the song is more emotive than the rest of the of the song, and probably a lot stronger because of it. But the extro just drags out as MISIA ad-libs weakly. An interesting addition to the single.

“KISS & HUG!” is noticeably shorter than all the other tracks on “Royal Chocolate Flush.” But despite that, it features one of the best hooks on the single. How odd that the last and smallest song on the single has potential to be the catchiest. What stands in the way of it being the best on the single? It’s repetitive at times and the instrumentation sounds a bit like a watered down version of Chandelier + a small wind section. Over all, the track is exactly the way one should finish out a single.

No track on “Royal Chocolate Flush” is singularly amazing. However, each of the tracks on the single have a specific trait that make them a great listen; “Royal Chocolate Flush” is a powerful dance track, “Taiyou no Chizu (太陽の地図)” is a softer, well-produced pop track, “Chandelier” is a jazzy track with emotion, and “KISS & HUG!” is energetic and catchy. With such variety, it’s hard to mark down the single for not being perfect on any track. True, the lead A-side has errors, but because of the variety of music, I feel like there’s a lot of music to be found on this single. In the end, you’ll probably end up liking one of the songs on the single if you dare to listen, just don’t expect that song to be the lead A-side.

85% B