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Archive for October, 2007

SINGLE REVIEW: Kobukuro’s ‘Aoku Yasashiku’

Kobukuro- Aoku Yasashiku

I haven’t reviewed a Kobukuro single since I started Highway-Chance, so it’s been a long time coming since they are one of my favorite duos. I laugh every time I see them in person because of the dramatic height difference, but I don’t let it taint my opinion of their music, which is undeniably amazing. They have quite possibly the best harmonization and partnering skills of any of the two person groups I review here, and their voices are so pleasant to litsen to. I can’t wait to review this latest addition to their discography ‘Aoku Yasashiku’.

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Oh wow. Aoku Yasashiku starts off in possibly the greatest way ever. Theres sort of an ambient build up which suddenly cuts off just before they begin singing, and I absolutely loved it. It really set the dramatic mood for the rest of the song. I was equally impressed with the fantastic crisp quality of Kobukuro’s vocals not just in the beginning, but throughout the whole song. The guitar chords were wonderful, and I’m just finding myself very happy with this song. Kobukuro doesn’t deliver a lot of variety in their music, but somehow every song manages to sound different, and is distinct and well done enough that it will remain in my mind. As I assumed, Kobukuro’s harmonization is top notch and really just raises the bar for groups like WaT and KinKi Kids. If any other group came out with a song this sweepingly dramatic and powerful, I would be very, very impressed.

Vocal Grade: A+ — Musical Grade: A — Harmonization Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A+

The second song on the single, Kimi iro, picks up pace with some fairly gentle guitar riffs. Generally, it wasn’t as good as Aoku Yasashiku, which is to be expected since it is a B-Side. Kobukuro’s vocals are okay, and the song is technically pretty good, but the overall feeling is simply not as good as the A-Side. What little actual harmonization there is in this song is well done, but I’m reasonably certain that if the two are singing together, it will sound harmonous. Their voices just blend together so perfectly, which is ironic considering how different they are when you actually see them. The music in this song was a bit awkward, which I think may have contributed to my lack of strong interest in it. Kimi Iro is by no means a bad song, but simply less interesting than the previous track.

Vocal Grade: A- — Musical Grade: B+ — Harmonization Grade: A-

Overall Grade: B+

SINGLE GRADE: A

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SINGLE REVIEW: Yuna Ito’s ‘Urban Mermaid’

Yuna Ito- Urban Mermaid

Wooh, Yuna Ito! This Korean/Japanese Hawaii native is one of the prettiest Japapense singers I’ve seen, and I’ve always been a fan of her crisp and gorgeous voice. I hope this song doesn’t disappoint, although the title is… questionable. However, the cover is absolutely beautiful, and I really hope there’s a great song to match it somewhere in there. I’m excited to find out if Ito is going to impress me with some powerful vocals, and I really hope that she pulls it off. I’ve liked her recent work, so I’m hoping this single doesn’t change that.

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When I played Urban Mermaid, I wanted to shout “YES!”. The first verses feature amazing vocals that prove Ito’s worth as a singer. Everything blended together so well, from the vocals to the music to the composition. I couldn’t think of a more perfect way to start the song. Her soft vocals and beautiful tone really drew me in, and I was very impressed with the overall feeling. It was all so perfect… Until the chorus began. When the words “I’m a beautiful mermaid” came out of her lips, I stopped and my jaw dropped. I was so excited! But after hearing some of the cheesiest lyrics ever, I was kind of annoyed. The entire song is really great other than that one phrase, and Ito’s vocals are at their best. Technically speaking, the song is very well done, as both the vocals and music are entertaining and well performed. The song is nicely consistent, and other than some cheesy vocals, I’m impressed.

Vocal Grade: A+ — Musical Grade: A+ — Consistency Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A

The B-Side of the single is the fun and equally upbeat song Colorful. This song isn’t quite as well done as Urban Mermaid, but it is certainly pleasing. Ito’s vocals are pretty, and the overall feeling of the song is upbeat and I really enjoyed it. There is a bit of repetitiveness in the lyrics, but that is made up by the catchy beat. Musically the song is well done, but I didn’t like it when Ito stopped singing and you were just left with the instruments to carry it for a second. The instruments weren’t consistent enough to carry the song by itself when Ito’s vocals halted momentarily, and the atmosphere was just kind of awkward. This is what made the consistency a bit less than perfect, and definitely detracted from the quality a bit. Generally, this is a well done song, but a bit on the average side. Which I suppose is okay since it is, after all, the B-Side. The Mahaloha single definitely had a stronger B-Side than Urban Mermaid.

Vocal Grade: A- — Musical Grade: B — Consistency Grade: B-

Overall Grade: B

SINGLE GRADE: A-

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SINGLE REVIEW: Koda Kumi’s ‘LAST ANGEL’ featuring Tohoshinki

Koda Kumi- LAST ANGEL feat. Tohoshinki

Ahh Koda Kumi… I have been waiting for this single for a while now, and I’m so glad I managed to find it so early! I’m hoping for the best from this single, and I’m so glad that she has come out with something upbeat finally. I’ve been waiting through all of her post-black cherry singles for her to come out with something that she can dance to in the PV, and this might just be it. I’ve always liked Koda Kumi’s songs, even when they’re sometimes lackluster. However, I have high hopes for this resident evil theme song, and I’m excited to give it a go~! Without further ado, here’s Koda Kumi’s ‘LAST ANGEL’ feat. Tohoshinki.

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Ahhh, LAST ANGEL is so much better than any of her post Black Cherry singles. Both Kumi’s and Tohoshinki’s vocals are really pleasing, and the overall effect of the song was fun. Tohoshinki’s vocals were good as well, and the musical aspect of the song was well done, as well as entertaining. The only two problems that I have with the song is the fact that the composition was kind of strange, and it kind of gave the song a strange flow and made it oddly inconsistent. The second issue, which was probably caused by the wierd composition, is that the song, both lyrically and musically, is slightly repetetive. Despite that, the song is really enjoyable, and the dance-ish aspect of the song made it really fun to listen to. On a side note, I’d like to mention that the music video for this song is really cool… Kumi looks hot, and so does Tohoshinki, which makes for one of my favorite PVs of late… Have fun!

Vocal Grade: A+ — Musical Grade: A — Consistency Grade: B+

Overall Grade: A

I had an initial problem with Dear Family, which was that the music made me think that Kumi was going to start singing before she actually did. However, besides that odd musical flaw, I thought that this song was almost, if not equally, as good as the cover track. When I first listened to it the music was slightly grating, but I’ve decided that it actually works really well with Kumi’s vocals. My favorite part of this song is Kumi’s vocals, and the way that they were done is absolutely fantastic. This is the best slow and heartfelt vocal performance I have heard from Kumi in a long time. Certainly better than Yume no Uta and Ai no Uta, though I liked both. I am in love with the echo that they use at the end of the verses, as it really just adds to the atmosphere of the song as a whole. This song probably would have even made a good A-Side, and I really hope that it’s included on the album because it is by far my favorite B-Side of her recent singles.

Vocal Grade: A+ — Musical Grade: A — Consistency Grade: A

Overall Grade: A

SINGLE GRADE: A

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B’z ‘SUPER LOVE SONG’

SINGLE REVIEW: B’z ‘SUPER LOVE SONG’

B'z- SUPER LOVE SONG

As wierd as it may be, I’m a fan of B’z. I don’t know why, because it’s not like my personality, but I have a soft spot for this kind of music. I don’t think that B’z always has the most impressive vocals, but their music is amazing, and the overall songs are usually really cool to listen to, despite the fact that they put out a lot of similar music. My Japanese teacher is the one who got me into B’z some time last year, and I’ve liked them ever since. Back when I listened to American music, I listened to a few bands similar to B’z, so I guess they kind of fall within my comfort zone. Here’s the review for B’z ‘SUPER LOVE SONG’.

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Don’t let the admittedly cheesy title SUPER LOVE SONG deter you from listening to the song, because it’s really not a cheesy song. SUPER LOVE SONG features great vocals and amazing, furious guitar like you would find in any B’z song. Though the song could be a bit more unique, I love it because I love B’z, and they’re doing what they do best. I liked when it slowed down and you could really get a feel for the idea of the song. What I loved even more was right after that when there was a really cool guitar solo which made my smile. I had wanted to hear one really bad, so I was excited when it finally came.

Vocal Grade: A — Musical Grade: A+ — Consistency Grade: A

Overall Grade: A

The second song on the single is the more ballad-ish Koko Kara. This song features really well-done, heartfelt vocals that carry the song well. The musical aspect is still really cool, and though this song is slower than SUPER LOVE SONG, it is still well crafted. The composition is attractive, and the overall feel of the song, though slower, is still fun to listen to. I don’t think this song is as good as the previous track, but it does make a nice B-Side. In some ways, the song bored me, but I think that it may have just been slightly repetetive. The song didn’t really have a lot to offer, but generally it’s okay.

┬áVocal Grade: B — Musical Grade: B+ — Consistency Grade: B

Overall Grade: B

The last song on the single is a completely English track entitled FRICTION. I like this song a lot better than the previous, though it’s not as impressive as SUPER LOVE SONG. I had no idea that they could speak English, but I guess it’s always a plus in the Japanese music world. This song is more upbeat like the title track, and features a great chorus, which is by far my favorite part. The vocals are a little iffy, but I think that they are acceptable. There’s another guitar solo, which made me happy, and the entire musical aspect as a whole is much nicer than Koko Kara. Again, it’s not quite as good as the A-Side, but that’s okay since it is, after all, the B-Side. I think B’z gives a really great English performance, and I can barely detect an accent at all. I’m rather impressed.

Vocal Grade: B+ — Musical Grade: A — Consistency Grade: A-

Overall Grade: A-

SINGLE GRADE: B+

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SINGLE REVIEW: SE7EN’s ‘Ari no Mama’

SE7EN- Ari no Mama

I basically know nothing about SE7EN, but I see his name all over the JPOP world, so I decided I’d finally check him out. I’m kind of expecting a typical manufactured pop song with some possible R&B or rap elements thrown in. From the look of him, he probably is an actual SINGER, so I’m hoping that I can trust looks this time. I’m hoping that it turns out to be a bit better than my expectations, because I always like it when I find something that I like, rather than something that I am okay with. I’ve heard good things about SE7EN, but then again, I hear good things about everyone reccomended to me. So… Here’s SE7EN’s latest single ‘Ari no Mama’

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I was really excited when the song started because it was something that my current cache of artists was lacking. I don’t have a lot of dance-ish, upbeat singers that I can enjoy without feeling like the song is just overly and needlessly sexual. The first song on the single, Ari no Mama, is a really cool upbeat song featuring surprisingly well done vocals by SE7EN, or whatever his real name is… I even liked the rap-ish part around the middle, because it wasn’t ridiculous sounding, and it actually sound musical. Overall, I felt that the song was really well done, and I hope he puts out more music like this. I like the dance aspect of the song, and the electronic beats are really nice. His vocals are shockingly good, and I think I might look back at his other work.

Vocal Grade: A — Musical Grade: A+ — Consistency Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A+

The B-Side on the Ari no Mama single is the ballad-ish song Believe. I don’t know what else to say besides I love it. SE7EN’s vocals are amazingly done, and he seems to be able to mold his voice to both styles of music very well. I didn’t feel like he had much of a range, or much power, but I felt like his delivery within his limits was really impressive. He has a very nice haunting tone when he holds notes, which made for a very heart felt performance. The musical aspect of this song was simple, but very effective. I liked the way that the music changed with each part of the song and complimented his vocals very well, because it really made the song sound professional and well done in general. This would have easily made a wonderful A-Side, and I hope he keeps up this kind of music.

Vocal Grade: A+ — Musical Grade: A — Consistency Grade: A

Overall Grade: A

SINGLE GRADE: A+

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SINGLE REVIEW: Mika Nakashima’s ‘Eien no Uta’

Mika Nakashima- Eien no Uta

To be honest, I’ve never really been that big of a Mika Nakashima fan. I only discovered her because I was looking through a list of singers and I happened to be able to read her name easily, so I clicked on it… Hehe, I guess I got lucky. Mika is a great singer, but I find her voice grating at times, and I’m not always fond of the way she sings. However, I do like some of her stuff, and the cover of this single really drew me in. So, I decided I’d put her up and review the latest of her discography ‘Eien no Uta’.

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I thought that the introduction speech to Eien no Uta was kind of random, but I didn’t really mind it– I thought it was a good way to set the tone of the song. The overall song was pleasant to listen to, and I felt like Nakashima gave a fair vocal performance, and I enjoyed it. I think that the composition of the song, as well as the lyrics, are very pretty, and that this is a very unique song compared to everything else I listen to. The song is a kind of jazzy, laid back in composition, and it makes a for a nice, relaxing listen. I find it calming, but it’s not really amazing. As I said before, Nakashima’s vocals are only fair, though I do think she performed this song better than many of her others. Maybe I just have to get used to her vocals. I guess we’ll find out. Eien no Uta is by no means a bad song. I rather enjoy it, though it is a bit lackluster. I hope this is a sign of Nakashima going in a new, more creative direction.

Vocal Grade: B — Musical Grade: A — Consistency Grade: A-

Overall Grade: A-

The second song on the single is a cover of the old Cole Porter song YOU’D BE SO NICE TO COME HOME TO. The name of the song is obnoxiously long, and I kind of have to say the same for the song. I usually don’t mind songs of this length, since they are typically about this long, but this song just was not interesting enough. I did like the jazzy music, and I felt that the overall composition was impressive. And although Nakashima’s English was thankfully understandable, I didn’t feel like she was connecting with the song. It doesn’t feel like she really put her all into it, if you know what I mean. It could have been performed much better, but it’s not bad. Basically this song is generally uninteresting, with some redeeming qualities. Not bad, but I definitely think Nakashima could have brought more to the song.

Vocal Grade: B- — Musical Grade: A — Consistency Grade: B-

Overall Grade: B-

SINGLE GRADE: B

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SINGLE REVIEW: K x ET-KING’s ‘Kono Uta wo………’

K x ET-KING- Kono Uta wo........

To be completely honest, I am very afraid for poor K. I happen to know who ET-KING are, and I can just look at the coupling and know that there is very little likelyhood that this is going to work out to K’s advantage… I’ve established that I hate rap in all forms, and I’m really not excited to review this single. I can just see the bad grades floating around in the air… Well I’ve always been a fan of K’s voice [though that may be about to change…], and I really hope that he does well on this single, though the chances are pretty dismal… Here’s K’s and ET-KING’s latest single ‘Kono Uta Wo……..’.

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Oh my god. I knew this would happen…. Well I’ll start with the parts that I like. In the cover track Kono Uta Wo…….. I thought that K did a very good job when he was singing by himself and there was no trace of ET-KING. The beat was okay, and I think it would make a nice instrumental maybe… Now I’ll move to what I didn’t like: ET-KING. There was not anything about their vocal performance that didn’t repell me, and it kind of ruined the song. Every time that their strange sort of rapping came up, I wanted to turn the song off. Actually, I don’t mind their singing. But for a lot of the song they were just talking/rapping and it sounded horrible. Since this isn’t just a featuring ET-KING song, the vocal grade will have to include both of their performances. Anyway, when they actually SANG the chorus I thought it was nice, except for when they sang la la la la la la/ra ra ra ra ra ra. Oh, and the introduction was really stupid… They were speaking english, but because of their accents it sounded like they had a lisp and it was really disappointing. This song was a pretty dismal failure.

Vocal Grade: D — Musical Grade: C — Consistency Grade: C

Overall Grade: D+

The second track, NO WOMAN,NO CRY, started out sort of promising until it began for real. And then I realized that it was just as bad if not worse than the title track. The only sort of okay part was the chorus, but even that was disappointing because of some kind of boring vocals and an extreme level of repetetiveness. The vocals in this song are absolutely horrendous. It would probably sound a lot better if it were in Japanese, but it’s not… The members of ET-KING tried to speak in English, which made their voices come out horrible. Even K’s vocal performance was mediocre, but the real problem was ET-KING. I cannot see how anyone with any sense let this song be created. ET-KING sound disgusting and this is one of the worst songs I’ve heard in a long time.

Vocal Grade: F — Musical Grade: C- — Consistency Grade: C-

Overall Grade: D-

The introduction music to Ki.Zu.Na -Wasurenai yo- was actually really beautiful, and I was incredibly glad that the song featured only K’s vocals. I was afraid that all three would be with ET-KING, but thankfully not. This is really a pretty song, and the only decent song off the single. I wish this had been the A-Side so that I could put more wieght on it, but it’s unfortunately not. The music to this song is well composed, and K’s vocals are finally back to their normal state of greatness. I don’t like his english songs lately because he sings like he has a lisp and it’s really strange. The overall feeling of this song is nice, and although it is the best song on the single, it is kind of average. I wish they had all been at least this good, but unfortunately that’s not the case.

Vocal Grade: A- — Musical Grade: A — Consistency Grade: A-

Overall Grade: A-

SINGLE GRADE: D+

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