Archive for the 'Single Review' Category

[Single] ZARD – Glorious Mind

~Single Tracklist~
01. Glorious Mind
02. Sagashi ni Ikou yo (2007 Version)
03. Ai wo Shinjiteitai (2007 Version)
04. Glorious Mind (Instrumental)

~Single Review~
“Glorious Mind” is a posthumous single by the popular J-pop singer, ZARD, that was released December 12, 2007. The song received a high NINKI poll rating and should do well on the Oricon chart.

“Glorious Mind” is a very good ZARD track, mainly because it succeeds at capturing the pop-rock musical essence of ZARD at the same time as it gives the music an updated feel, something ZARD’s music has been in desperate need of. ZARD often feels dated, but here, the production doesn’t feel as terribly dated, which makes the track listenable. Add in a decent hook, a building bridge, an excellent chorus backed by a haunting melody, and an emotive ending, mix them together, and you have a respectable track that feels quite appropriate as a release after ZARD’s death.

“Sagashi ni Ikou yo (2007 version)” also succeeds as leaving behind that dated feeling to a certain extent. I assume the production team must have changed, as this single sounds very updated, which is especially relevant in new versions of songs. No complaints here – the song grows from a soft melody to a huge song with strong backing until everything fades in the extro.

“Ai wo Shinjiteitai (2007 Version)” probably feels the most angry / dark out of the three songs on the single, with raging drums, strong vocals, and great instrumentation. Again, the ubiquitous dated feel of ZARD tracks is gone, there’s even a synth effect on “Ai wo Shinjiteitai (2007 Version)” that feels very recent.

Over all, this single is a nice way to mark ZARD’s contribution to J-pop. Here we see her with a modern sound and with some great emotive music. Of course, ZARD was never a perfect musician, and her popularity lies with a generation before mine own, but she has certainly bridged that gap on this release, even it was after her death. A good single and look back at her music.

90% A-
I don’t think I skewed the grade high, but I’m just happy I didn’t have to give her a bad grade a I’ve never really been impressed by any of her music before… It isn’t right to criticize the dead, is it?

[Single] Keisuke Kuwata – Darling


1. Darling (ダーリン)
2. gendai toukyou ki tan (現代東京奇譚)
3. THE COMMON BLUES ~ tsukinami na buruusu (月並みなブルース)〜

~Single Review~
“Darling” was released on December 5, 2007 and debuted at number 1 on the Oricon daily chart, where it stayed the week.

“Darling” is a jazzy number with snapping backing up a bongo like percussion, with lounge-like instrumentation by keyboards backed by strings at times. The song starts well and Keisuke Kuwata’s voice comes in, fitting in well with the ambiance. The song is relaxed and cool, nothing too stressed. The bridge picks the song’s pace up a bit going into the emotional chorus which features a memorable melody. Despite Keisuke’s voice being fairly weak, it has a lot of character, which works well in this particular atmosphere. It is a superb lead track.

“gendai toukyou ki tan” is a ballad, which is another one of Keisuke’s strengths. His voice really shines through during the chorus of the song, backed by haunting violins and a happy flute. The tune during the chorus is memorable and as you reach the crescendo, the song powers up, featuring a beautiful harp. The power isn’t taken in by Keisuke (he does for one moment let his voice build before a big finale), but the instrumentation is top notch. This B-side could easily be the second A-side on the single. It’s well produced.

“THE COMMON BLUES ~ tsukinami na buruusu ~” is jazzy, perhaps overly so at times. A whole bridge is dedicated to a saxophone solo, whereas Keisuke’s voice is very gritty and low. This song is far from flattering despite being different. It provides the single with diversity alongside a solid instrumental, but besides that, the vocal performance leaves much to be desired.

Over all, Keisuke Kuwata did well with this single. His tracks are well produced, and his voice shines through on the songs with emotion. Compared to his past singles this year, however, this is not his best work. Still, you can’t ignore the first two tracks on this single, they’re nice and passionated, both in their own way.

87% B

[Single] MISIA – Royal Chocolate Flush

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


1. Kagayaku Yoru (輝く夜)
2. This Night (EQUIP Remix)
3. Kagayaku Yoru (輝く夜) (Less Vocal)

~Single Review~
CHEMISTRY peaked years ago. That’s the simple fact; musically, they haven’t been up to par since “TWO AS ONE” ft. Crystal Kay, and their sales have reflected that. It would appear that the R&B duo is ready to try new strategies to rediscover their demographic. Using a song produced by MONKEY MAJIK, CHEMISTRY sings a decent track on on this single, that debuted at number eight on the Oricon daily charts and has since risen to number six. It looks like this single will give them their best single sales in a while, but I feel like they are simply riding MONKEY MAJIK’s coattails.

“Yagayaku Yoru” is not a CHEMISTRY song at all; it’s not their style, it’s the style of MONKEY MAJIK. The acoustic sounding guitar, beat, and string section do not sound like CHEMISTRY’s normal R&B. And for most of the song, it’s quite a new experience hearing CHEMISTRY sing to this instrumentation. MONKEY MAJIK appears through the production, with an “Around the World”-like segment near the end. Over all, the climax and ending two choruses are the best part of the song, but otherwise, the song lacks something. CHEMISTRY has better songs in their discography, as does MONKEY MAJIK. Maybe that’s it; this single’s only real blessing is being different.

“This Night (EQUIP Remix)” is a very nice remix. It features a very smooth, modern atmosphere sponsored by synth and distorted vocals. I didn’t think the song would work this well as a remix, but it did. It’s a great addition to the single, and probably worth a listen for J-R&B fans.

The instrumental of “Kagayaku Yoru” basically just tells you how much MONKEY MAJIK this song is. Passable.

Over all, this single is better than CHEMISTRY’s recent efforts, but it will estrange some of their core fans because of the different sound. It might also sound better if MONKEY MAJIK sung the song…

80% B-

[Single] Ongaku Gata – yattaro u ze!


1. yattaro u ze! (やったろうぜ!)
2. sakaero habatake gattasu burirya nchisu H.P. (栄えろ羽ばたけ ガッタス ブリリャンチス H.P.)
3. yattaro u ze! (やったろうぜ!) (Instrumental)

~Single Review~
This single debuted at number six on the Oricon daily chart on its release date, December 5, 2007. A day later, it fell twelve positions, probably due to the idol nature of the song (see AKB48, among others).

This song is a bit on the juvenile side a times, due to the mixture of vocals, background vocals, and instrumentation. The song doesn’t take itself too seriously, but the frenetic beat and high pitched vocals are grating at times. With synth, piano, and guitar, the instrumentation is well produced, but over all, the song lacks some sort of polish. It sounds alright, but it’s not catchy beyond a childish manner. Those are really my only qualms with the song. If you like what Morning Musume. has recently put out, this song should tickle your fancy.

How to describe “sakaero habatake gattasu burirya nchisu”… well, let’s start with the juvenile nature of the song. It’s slow, but somehow manages to sound really childish through addition of sketchy background vocals. My assumption is that this single probably had a tie-in with a children’s program, but I have no way of knowing. I would say pass this light hearted ballad / inspirational sounding track. It sounds like a song a kid would sing.

The instrumental is nice, but I actually like the vocals accompanying it better. Oddly enough… Over all, I’d say for idol group adorers only.

82% B

[Single] AIDS Charity Project – RED RIBBON Spiritual Song ~mare kuru kodomo tachi no tame ni~

1. RED RIBBON Spiritual Song ~mare kuru kodomo tachi no tame ni~
2. RED RIBBON Spiritual Song ~mare kuru kodomo tachi no tame ni~ (Instrumental)

~Single Review~
This single was released November 28, 2007 and debuted at number four on the Oricon Chart with sales of 34,628. This single was written for charity, so that all proceeds would go to the AIDS Prevention Foundation. The song was written and composed by Kazumasa Oda and produced by Yanagiman. The song also features a vareity of artists, including Takuro and Teru from GLAY, ayaka, Ryo from Ketsumeishi, and Hitoto Yo. The song is a reggae inspired track that has recently gained popularity in Japan.

It’s worth noting that despite this song starting out slow, the song is not completely bad. True, the song drags with simple instrumentation and average vocals for most of the song (despite variety at all levels). It’s not until after the rap (which despite fitting splendidly with reggae, really drags) that the song picks up. By far the best part of the song is the ending, where you hear all of these voices come together. You hear ayaka’s voice soaring above a choir of voices, creating this emotive atmosphere, perfect for the topic of the single (considering it’s a minute, it really is a sizable part of the song). The ending saves the song from mediocrity, but unless you’re a fan of J-reggae or one of the artists listed above, you might pass this single. The song is quite interesting, but there are better songs out at the moment that you can find / listen to.

The instrumental is nothing all that special. Over all, it’s not a bad single, but it’s not the best I’ve heard this year either. I’d also considering youtubing or dailymotioning the video, it’s worth seeing the story that goes along with the song, watching a couple grow up. The PV is one of the better ones I have seen this year because of the seriousness of the matter and the skill with which it’s handled.

84% B

[Single] KOH+ – Kiss Shite

1. Kiss Shite
2. Kiss Shite (Original Karaoke)

~Single Review~
Shibasaki Kou teams up with Masaharu Fukuyama to make one of her best singles since “invitation.” The digital AND physical sales are markedly higher for this single, as well, as they single debuted with sales of 55K at number 4 on the Oricon chart, some of Kou’s best numbers. Most likely, this is due to the song’s tie-in: the ending theme of the popular dorama, Galileo (also highly recommended).

Kiss Shite is a love song with synth, guitar, and a great beat. I can’t really complain; the instrumentals are top notch throughout the song. The beginning and post chorus parts of the song are also great: the “chu-chu-chu…” is really catchy and features a great beat and background. However, Kou’s vocals are edited through the computer here, something that comes painfully evident as she moves into the first verse. Still – as the synth returns and she heads into the chorus – the song quickly wins me back. “Kissu Shite” makes an excellent hook for this light-hearted song. The final bridge gives us great instrumentation, and the extro of the song is just plain fun. For a light-hearted, witty drama, this song works perfectly. I simply think it features great music, with vocals that are artistically vulnerable / human at time. These vocals, however, may be grating to some.

The original karoake version of the track exemplifies the excellent production on the song. You really realize how well layered the track is when you finally hear it. Really, this instrumentation is the reason for this song’s strength.

Take a few listens to this track before you stop listening to it; it’s a grower, but once it’s grown on you, it won’t wear out for a while.

91% A-

[Single] Ayumi Hamasaki – Together When…

~Single Tracklist~
1. Together When…
2. Together When… (Instrumental)

~Single Review~
Ayumi Hamasaki has had quite a rough year. Post “BLUE BIRD” and post “Secret”, her sales have certainly taken a hit. Initial estimates for the combined sales of “A BEST 2” were high – around 2 million – but sales fell short by a whopping .5 million, setting her sales tone for the rest of her year. “glitter / fated”, Hamasaki’s summer single, sold about 100K less than her previous summer single effort, and what’s worse, her next single “Talkin’ to myself” was her worst selling single in years. It’s no wonder that Avex, whose stock is currently plummeting, took this opportunity to release Ayu’s first full produced digital single, a ballad titled “Together When…” Was the choice a good one on Avex’s part?

It’s hard to tell. You see, “Together When…” is by far Ayu’s best single this year. Time and time again, Ayu has shown us what an incredible ballad artist she is (see: Voyage, Rainbow, Jewel, Moments, SEASONS… the list goes on). “Together When…” is no different. Ayu pulled out all the stops on this rocky ballad. The song starts out slow, with only a piano and strings until Ayu’s voice enters the song. By the chorus, however, the instrumentation has built, to the point where the song breaks out into an emotive chorus that is both catchy and incredibly endearing all at once.

“arigatoutte iitakatta
arigatoutte ienakatta
datte sore ja maru de eien no
sayonara mitai de kanashi sugiru kara”

I wanted to say thank you
I couldn’t say thank you
Because if I said it, it would be like
Saying good bye forever

The second chorus, and rocky bridge all peak in one moment where the guitarist ends the energy, leading us back into the soft ballad. But this moment is short-lived, soon enough, Ayu gives the audience her all, putting her heart into the music. And you can feel her emotion then. She’s done an excellent job with this ballad. The only bad thing I can think of is that it drags a bit in places, but then again, it’s meant to do so as a ballad, isn’t it? And those spots make the ending all the sweeter. If you haven’t gotten this song already, I suggest you do. It’s one of this year’s best.

The instrumental version just gives insight into the care taken in production of this song; I’d take a listen to just understand the ambience of the song. But if it comes down to purchasing it, it’s probably not worth your money unless you are head over heels for the single.

There… this single is one of the stronges Ayu’s put out since 2006. Japan is reacting to the song quite well, too, with the song quickly topping all the biggest download stores in Japan. Although Together When… probably would have been a physical success, it would have cost more money to go through the creation of the single, and let’s face it, digital revenue for this single will be very, very high – it might get to the point where it’s one of the biggest digital sellers we’ve seen since Utada Hikaru’s “Flavor of Life.”

Over all, this digital single is wonderful.

94% A

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August 2020