Posts Tagged 'Single Review'

[Single] Acid Black Cherry – Fuyu no Maboroshi

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~Track Listing~
01. Fuyu no Maboroshi
02. Koi Ichiya

~Single Review~
Acid Black Cherry released their single, “Fuyu no Maboroshi” on January 16, 2008. Most likely, the song will snatch the group the envious number one ranking on the Oricon chart. Although the single’s sales were strong, they were quite low for a number one single; if the single had been released another week, it may not have gotten number one. That does not mean “Fuyu no Maboroshi” is not good, however.

Quite the opposite, actually: “Fuyu no Maboroshi” is hard rock expertly mixed with orchestrated strings. Although it starts slow, once the rock hits, the song does not let up. Once the rock enteres in, the result is an epic sounding piece that sounds reflective, dramatic, and emotional all at once. Despite the song being dominated by rock after the first verse and bridge, the melody shines through in the strings. The over all vocal effects and layering are quite excellent as well, fitting quite well in the discordant yet organized atmosphere. Although the production sounds older, it works well mainly because of the rock. The song may be hard rock, but it has unity, organization, vocal power, and a memorable melody. “Fuyu no Maboroshi” is exactly what J-rock should be: well-done rock that is accessible for the general public because of its pure musical strength.

“Koi Ichiya” begins with a futuristic intro that paradoxically, sounds like it has dated production. The use of keyboard and synthetic effects continue throughout the song, even when rock flows in, front and center. “Koi Ichiya” has a lot more energy than “Fuyu no Maboroshi” and while it a solid melody and decent production, the song does not have the same coherence as “Fuyu no Maboroshi.” Still, “Koi Ichiya” is quite impressive for a B-side because Acid Black Cherry mixes a variety of elements together to create good music.

As I reviewer, I must put a warning on this single; even if “Fuyu no Maboroshi” is great music, the fact remains it’s rock. If you can’t stand the thought of J-rock, you might as well pass it by. However, if you don’t mind rock, you’ll probably like “Fuyu no Maboroshi:” there’s enough to the single to make endearing besides the just plain rock.

93% A

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[Single] WaT – Yume no Tochuu / Tokimeki☆doobeedoo

「夢の途中」/e2「TOKIMEKI☆DooBeeDoo」- WaT
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~Track Listing~
01. Yume no Tochuu (夢の途中)
02. Tokimeki☆doobeedoo by e2
03. Yume no Tochuu (夢の途中) (Instrument)
04 Tokimeki☆doobeedoo (Instrument)

~Single Review~
After releasing their own solo singles, the boys of WaT have gotten back together to release the rather unremarkable single, “Yume no Tochuu / Tokimeki☆doobeedoo.” The single has peaked at number two on the daily charts and should be able to make a top three position. But charting well doesn’t mean WaT’s latest is amazing.

“Yume no Tochuu” features violins, piano, guitar and a mild beat. WaT’s voices are high and sweet as ever in this mid-tempo song, but that only makes the verses drag. Their voices, along with the background music of the verses, is very insubstantial. The choruses easily solve this problem, using a wider variety of instruments besides piano and guitar, as well as through the accompaniment by background vocals. The song also features a good, endearing crescendo, but that doesn’t hide the fact that “Yume no Tochuu” sounds like mid-tempo pop all the way through that lacks real feeling.

“TOKIMEKI☆DooBeeDoo” starts out with a distinct 90s J-pop sound because of the questionable use of synthetic beat. This feeling persists through the verses, but is eliminated in the bridges and in the choruses, which add-in better effects to improve the song’s sound. “TOKIMEKI☆DooBeeDoo” is catchy, but over the top at times with its cute hooks and the use of “I love you.” Even poppier than “Yume no Tochuu,” “TOKIMEKI☆DooBeeDoo” is fast, juvenile pop with decent hooks, nothing else; considering WaT has done this style better in “Ready Go!,” “TOKIMEKI☆DooBeeDoo” cannot be recommended.

WaT is a capable duo, and perhaps both Eiji Wentz and Teppei Koike and are capable soloists as well. Here, however, they have not done well as they have creating a single that lacks their usual flair. Of course, the usual WaT sound and vocals are there, but “Yume no Tochuu / Tokimeki☆doobeedoo” lacks WaT’s usual polish. If this single is meant to foreshadow their next few singles, I’m quite afraid.

74% C

[Single] Kana Nishino – I Don’t Wanna Know

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~Track List~
01. I Don’t Wanna Know

~Single Review~
Kana Nishino, a new Sony artist will be releasing her debut single, “I” on February 20, 2008. However, preceding that release, Kana Nishino released “I Don’t Wanna Know,” an English download exclusive to iTunes US. The song is essentially the English version to “I.”

“I Don’t Wanna Know” is an interesting song that borders on discordant at times. The vocals and lyrics aren’t especially strong; Kana Nishino is hard to understand as her pronunciation is Engrish at best. This means that you can’t understand much other than the chorus and the bridge. And her vocals don’t exactly soar above the rest of the rock track, letting the words mix into the music too much at times. Those problems are not present in the Japanese version of the song, so it is the superior version. Still, the hook “I don’t wanna know” is catchy and memorable, and the instrumental’s rock guitar riff base is great. The track is synthetic, rock, and dark all at once. Over all, “I Don’t Wanna Know” is probably regular J-pop single filler, but displays a nice new sound from a debut artist.

82% B

[Single] GReeeeN – BE FREE / Namidazora

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~Track Listing~
01. BE FREE
02. Namidazora

~Single Review~
GReeeeN released their fifth single on January 16, 2007. The lead A-side, “BE FREE” experienced great download success before the physical release of the single, topping Chaku-Uta downloads easily. Building off of the success of their hit, “Ai Uta,” and their previous song, “Hito,” “BE FREE / Namidazora” focused on GReeeeN’s unique sound.

“BE FREE” is the stronger of the two tracks on the single. Even though the vocals aren’t strong (GReeeeN is not a vocal powerhouse, so if you are looking for an amazing vocal performance look elsewhere) the production and composition on the song is topnotch. The combination of keyboards with the melody during the intro that persist throughout the whole song create a memorable tune. And despite weak vocals, the hook, “BE FREE” is suprisingly strong because of synthetic editing of voices. Because of these factors, “BE FREE” has amazing moments that allow it to become a great ringtone, but as a full song, some moments weigh done the brilliant ones. The vocals are stylistic at best. The good thing is, that’s all that I can say is bad about “BE FREE.” It’s well-done, it’s just a pity to see the weakness be the group itself.

While “BE FREE” was mid-tempo, “Namidazora” is a slow ballad. The chorus sounds much more strained because of the poor vocals, and the verses deteriorate to rapping. Despite excellent composition, the production on this track isn’t as good as “BE FREE’s;” without vocal editing and with rapping, “Namidazora” isn’t a memorable, emotive ballad even if it has great composition and keyboards. The extro is nice, but not enough to make “Namidazora” sound great or better than “BE FREE.”

With GReeeeN, the only glaring flaw to find is their vocals. They aren’t as strong as say FUNKY MONKEY BABYS’, but GReeeeN’s composition is better. What can GReeeeN do to resolve that problem? They’ve done about all they can here on this single: rapping and vocal editing. Because of the way the music industry works, GReeeeN makes more money singing their own songs than hiring other people to sing them, so they’ve done all they can. If they can continue with vocal editing and hip vocals, they should be able to maintain popularity. “BE FREE” should atone to that, as it is a solid pop song that doesn’t rely on its vocals.


91% A-

[Single] Yuna Ito X Celine Dion – Anata ga Iru Kagiri ~A WORLD TO BELIEVE IN~

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~Track Listing~
01. Anata ga Iru Kagiri ~A WORLD TO BELIEVE IN~
02. Anata ga Iru Kagiri ~A WORLD TO BELIEVE IN~ (USA Mix)
03. Anata ga Iru Kagiri ~A WORLD TO BELIEVE IN~ (Ito Yuna Solo Version)
04. Anata ga Iru Kagiri ~A WORLD TO BELIEVE IN~ (Instrumental)

~Single Review~
Every once in a while, there comes a release that makes it a joy to be a reviewer, letting me look forward to reviewing the song. Well, believe it or not, “Anata ga Iru Kagiri ~A WORLD TO BELIEVE IN~” is one of those songs. The single, featuring the amazing combination of J-pop starlet Yuna Ito and experienced American (Canadian by birth) pop songstress Celine Dion, was released on January 16, 2008. The single had larger than life expectations to fit, and it is my joy to confess that yes, the two met them. They have done splendidly.

The lead version of “Anata ga Iru Kagiri ~A WORLD TO BELIEVE IN~” is the version featured in the PV. The song features a great instrumental and vocal combination. Compared to the USA version, the instrumentals are fuller here and Celine Dion is more on the back burner. That’s not a bad thing; Celine Dion still sings the English parts of the chorus with soaring vocals, and Yuna Ito takes over for the Japanese parts. The song is split quite evenly; even though the song may be Celine Dion (it feels like a lot of her discography) the two share the spotlight here. Celine Dion even sings phonetically in Japanese, backing Yuna Ito up. That only strengthens a catchy chorus that is both memorable and emotional. Although at times over the top with full violin, guitar, drums and synthetic instrumentation, Dion’s and Ito’s vocals are over the top as well; they feel at home on this power ballad, and that comes off across. Over all, “Anata ga Iru Kagiri ~A WORLD TO BELIEVE IN~” is catchy, despite not sounding extraordinarily special.

“Anata ga Iru Kagiri ~A WORLD TO BELIEVE IN~ (USA Mix)” features less full instrumentation that is much more guitar based, leaving the vocals in the spotlight. Although the violins do make an entrance during the bridge, the song never attains to that J-pop feeling the original version did. That’s probably because the chorus just feels much barer without those elegant string sections at the end. That’s not to say this mix isn’t good, at moments, this mix is better than the other one; but the background vocals don’t meld as well and the chorus just isn’t as strong. The weak link in the chorus turns out to be Dion, who vocals still soar, but lack the depth they had with Ito’s full background vocals. They try to harmonize here and a gospel even enters the fray near the end, but “Anata ga Iru Kagiri ~A WORLD TO BELIEVE IN~ (USA Mix)” just isn’t as good and as big.

The Yuna Ito solo version of “Anata ga Iru Kagiri ~A WORLD TO BELIEVE IN~” features a new verse and bridge, all in Japanese. Ito does a good job taking up the helm of the song here without Celine to lean on. However, Ito’s voice was clearly not meant to sing the powerful notes that Celine’s does, and her voice sounds out of place when she sings Dion’s “you gave me a world to believe in.” Even though clear and pretty, Ito’s voice does have that melisma. For that reason, “Anata ga Iru Kagiri ~A WORLD TO BELIEVE IN~ (Ito Yuna Solo Version)” sounds inferior to both other versions.

In the end, “Anata ga Iru Kagiri ~A WORLD TO BELIEVE IN~” sounds incredible. Celine Dion heard an artist who is usually hit or miss and guided her towards a big hit.

94% A

[Single] AAA – MIRAGE

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~Track Listing~
01. MIRAGE
02. Love Candle
03. SUNSHINE (Live in Budokan 2007.09.22)
04. MIRAGE (Instrumental)
05. Love Candle (Instrumental)

~Single Review~
AAA released their 17th single “Mirage” on January 9, 2008. The single debuted at number one on the Oricon charts and sold around 25,000 copies its first week on sale. That makes “MIRAGE” AAA’s highest charting single, but it also makes it one of the lowest number one debuts ever.

I’ll start this review on a personal note, because I think it’ll help give my review better context. I’ve followed AAA since 2006 right after their debut, and I’ve been impressed with their music many times over. Then 2007 hit, and I became disenchanted with their songs. Although their earlier songs were catchy, poppy, and dancy, I’ve felt their more recent releases have failed to capture that magic. Blame it on their rushed release schedule (17 singles since 2006? That’s obscene). However, that said, “MIRAGE” does remind me why I still like AAA, even if it isn’t as superb as the energetic “BLOOD ON FIRE” or the powerful “Let It Beat!”

The intro to “MIRAGE” is prolonged, but works well preparing the listener for the instrumental stylings of the song that border on trance. Sadly, the intro isn’t anything amazing after the first few seconds of Middle Eastern sounds. The verses aren’t that special either, featuring bare solos from the members. The bridges do up the temp noticeably, which carries over to a fuller, catchy chorus. The song may have a good chorus, but even that doesn’t sound as good as many of AAA’s past releases. The song is pop, but AAA’s done better.

“Love Candle” is a ballad that works off of the voices of the guys of AAA juxtaposed against the girls in the background. AAA specializes in dance music, and when they release songs like “Chewing Gum” and “Love Candle” they mystify me. They definitely don’t have depth to their voices, or believable emotion, which really undercuts the ballad. The nice element of the song that does make it sound nice and sweet is the depth achieved through use of background vocals. Because of those background vocals, courtesy of AAA’s girls, the bridges and the chorus sound surprisingly good.

This particular Budokan live of “SUNSHINE” is good; AAA can sing live. Of course, the studio track is superior, but the live recording has energy and a responsive crowd. As such, the live of “SUNSHINE” is a must have for the die-hard AAA fans, but passable for everyone else.

Over all, “MIRAGE” feels like just another single from AAA. I sincerely wish they’d slow their release pace down and take time on production. If this single was further polished and practiced, I believe it could have been better. And yes, had it been better, it may have been able to sell even more, making it more than the lowest number one debut in Oricon’s history. One can only hop they’ll slow their release rate after the release of their best album, “ATTACK ALL AROUND.”

78% C

[Single] Akikawa Masafumi – sen no kaze ni natte

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~Tracklist~
01. sen no kaze ni natte (千の風になって)
02. sen no kaze ni natte ~Karaoke~ (千の風になって~カラオケ~)
03. ringo oiwake (リンゴ追分)

~Single Review~
“sen no kaze ni natte” is a song that gained popularity because of the moment. In a case of lucky exposure, “sen no kaze ni natte” was performed on the year end show, Kouhaku, and began to sell. Before this year end performance, “sen no kaze ni natte” sold only around 5,000 copies. Afterwards, it became the best selling single of 2007 (despite being released May 24, 2006), and went on to sell 1,122,618 copies. Akikawa Masafumi also performed “sen no kaze ni natte” at the year end shows in 2007, which is really The stretching the power of a song released in 2006. The effects of even more year-end performances have yet to be seen.

“sen no kaze ni natte” is a ballad with piano and violins. It’s very plain and spartan, so the focus is on Akikawa Masafumi’s tenor voice. The best way to describe the song to people who don’t normally listen to tenors is that he sings like a man in opera. This translates into overemphasizes, deep vocals that make the song is very hard to get into as a casual listener. The success of the song then, is probably the touching lyrics. Below is a translated excerpt:

I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn’s rain.

The lyrics are bittersweet, and describe a love that can’t be felt tangibly. Perhaps that explains this song’s appeal; along with a powerful voice, this song speaks sadness while reassuring, all at once emotional. The cover also makes sense in hindsight as your love never leaves that environment. An interesting idea that has caught on with the current Japanese populace, “sen no kaze ni natte” is based off an emotion and an idea. Musically, it’s not amazing, but for the lyrics and the idea, the opera-like vocals and simple instrumentation work.

“Ringo Oiwake” is probably Akikawa Masafumi’s element; it sounds a bit over the top with his deep voice throughout the song. Nonetheless, the song is an interesting way to round out the single. Lyrically, I don’t know what he’s singing about, but from a musical stand point, there is more variety. This track is another interesting listen, if you’re willing to venture out of your safety zone for J-pop listening.

Over all, Akikawa Masafumi represents a trip of pop off the beaten path; such a non-mainstream song has captivated the Japanese public, so you know it has to have something to it. Of course, it’s not well done pop. But it is well done music, and that’s what matters. If you’re willing to try it, “sen no kaze ni natte” is worth a listen, at least to understand its widespread popularity.

90% A-