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Archive for December, 2007

[Album] Kobukuro’s 5296

ALBUM REVIEW: Kobukuro- 5296

Kobukuro- 5296

I’ve been very excited for the release of this album since I heard of it, since both Aoku Yasashiku and Tsubomi were such gorgeous singles. Kobokuro, though not the most physically attractive of singers, have beautiful voices and I defnitely consider myself a fan. I love their style, and I can’t wait to hear this album. Everything leading up to it has put it on pedestal, and I really hope it turns out as good as it feels like it will. I can’t wait any longer, here we go– Kobukuro’s ‘5296’.

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We all know how much I loved Aoku Yasashiku. The fantastically simple and catchy guitar in the background flowed so perfectly with their flawlessly controlled vocals, I couldn’t help but enjoy it. The thing that I really loved about the song was the great dramatic quality that they kept up by adding a dash of power into their voices. I love how down to earth their music is, and I’m glad that they’re doing so well for themselves. The strong notes in this song really add the icing to the cake, as the build up is just amazing. Listening to this song always relaxes me, and I think that it’s a really great way to start off the album. From beginning to end the song will keep you engaged, which is really what makes it as good as it is.

Vocal Performance Grade: A+ — Musical Performance Grade: A — Composition Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A+

I was really confused when I first listened to the album because I didn’t know iTunes was on shuffle, and so when Aoku Yasashiku ended, Crystal Kay’s No More Blue Christmas’ came on, and I totally thought Kobukuro was going to start singing until the vocals actually started… I’m an idiot. Well, Koin (Coin?) takes a jump in tempo, and features classical feel-good music with a somewhat catchy beat. It made me laugh when they said kura kura for some reason. I guess Japanese onomatopoeia just makes me laugh (Ha, they just said wara wara too… I’m pathetic…). The music is basically harmonica and guitar, so it is very Kobukuro-esque. My only complaint is that the composition was kind of boring, so it made the song hard to listen to over and over again. Kobukuro performs it quite well, I’m just not that into the sound of everything. There isn’t anything stand out in the composition. I have to say that the music itself was very well done, and if it had been played up in a more powerful manner it could have been a fantastic song. Also, I’m really impressed by Kobukuro’s vocal range, which they show off quite well in this song. Another little thing that annoyed me, is that there was a section in the song were this telephone-ish sound was going, and I thought my cellphone was going off. It wasn’t until I found my cell phone that I realized it was the song. Kind of random.

Vocal Performance Grade: A+ — Musical Performance Grade: A+ — Composition Grade: B

Overall Grade: B+

Next is the first song I heard after getting back into Jpop around March of this year. Tsubomi is quite possibly Kobukuro’s best song to date, and if I had listened to any other song to start out, I might not be fluent in Japanese, I might not have this blog, I might not even like Japan as much as I do. It sounds dramatic, and it is, but I think it’s true. Everything about this song is beautiful. The epic music of the chorus, the powerful vocals of Kobukuro, the serenity of the verses, it all flows together into one gorgeous piece of heaven. This song is definitely on my list of favorite songs of all time, and I don’t think it will ever be removed. The piano and guitar of the music blend together in a way you don’t hear done so well very often, and the astounding composition is pure genius. The way the song finishes is just as attractive as how it begins, and every increase and decrease in volume works out. This emobides everything I like in a ballad. I don’t know what more to say. Just listen to it.

Vocal Performance Grade: A+ — Musical Performance Grade: A+ — Composition Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A+

The next song on this so far very well done album is Donna Sora de mo. I was really annoyed when the acapella part of the song which it opens with ended because it was so much better than the rest. The starts out in a beautiful acapella duet manner where both men perform fantastically. It soon moves on and the instruments kick in, which are classic Kobukuro strings, percussion, harmonica, cymbals, etc. I have to say that though I really loved the intro, the rest of the song is certainly good too. It’s classic Kobukuro sound, but performed so well that you can’t help but love it. Vocally impeccable and musically attractive, Kobukuro really did well here. I even liked the full chorus effect near the end where Kobukuro’s vocals were backed by a crowd of people singing along. It’s really a cute and uniquely inspirational song. It’s quite infectious over time. I really didn’t want to stop listening…

Vocal Performance Grade: A+ — Musical Performance Grade: A+ — Composition Grade: A

Overall Grade: A+

Kobukuro’s song naming never made any sense to me. This next song is called ‘Wings Called You’, or Kimi to iu na no tsubasa, which is composed of piano and a tamborine beat (guitar added later) that flows wonderfully with quick paced vocals from Kobukuro. I’m glad that Kentaro’s vocals were showed off in this track because he really does a great job with controlling his voice. He holds his notes beautifully and really gives a satisfying and engaging performance. He does the guitar for all the tracks, which is just an additonal area for me to respect him in. Kobukuro’s falsettos are really quite strong, and this song makes me glad that they use them frequently. I like the way that they seem to just take off at the end of their notes.

Vocal Performance Grade: A+ — Musical Performance Grade: A — Composition Grade: A

Overall Grade: A

WHITE DAYS is a soft ballad that begins with very simple vocals by Shunsuke, but progresses and gains power. The song remains relaxed, and really has a great atmosphere. Both members give an outstanding performance technically; great control and tone. The song is mostly piano during the verses, but guitar and percussion is added later on. The lyrics are sweet, and the song really turned out nicely. Among Kobukuro ballads, it isn’t really stand out, which is it’s only flaw. The good thing is that among ballads in general, it’s fantastic.

Vocal Performance Grade: A+ — Musical Performance Grade: A — Composition Grade: A

Overall Grade: A

After the quiet ballad WHITE DAYS, Kimi Iro makes a loud entrance in all of it’s unoriginal and boring glory. It’s really not a bad song, it’s just so boring and sounds like a bad rendition of classic Kobukuro style. The song opens with electric guitar and unorganized percussion, and it just seems to drag on without any interesting direction. The composition is pretty much one boring transition after another. I’m sure there are people that like this song, but to me it just doesn’t present anything of interest. Usually there’s something really special in each Kobukuro song, even if it’s like another, that makes me like it, but it’s just not here in Kimi Iro, which is yet again another wierd title. ‘You Color’? I don’t get it.

Vocal Performance Grade: A — Musical Performance : A — Composition Grade: C+

Overall Grade: B

Now that I’m done being bored, we can move on to Suimen no Chou. I don’t have any idea what Suimen means, I suppose I should go get my translator… Apparently it means ‘water’s surface’. Butterfly of the Water’s Surface? Umm… I guess that’s… poetic… Oh well. It’s better than a wierd english title that makes no sense. Despite the odd name, Suimen no Chou is actually quite the unique song. It starts out with cymbals and a really cool vocal composition which Kobukuro, obviously, performed well. The song is pretty loud for them with crashing percussion and electric guitar. At least they put out a loud performance to match. I run out of things to say about Kobukuro’s songs because they’re all good. There’s a nice electric guitar solo that adds some nice flavor to the song, and I guess this is pretty unique for Kobukuro. Well done. Not much to say about it.

Vocal Performance Grade: A — Musical Performance Grade: A+ — Composition Grade: A

Overall Grade: A

Moving on, Kaze no Naka wo really involkes a country-esque side of Kobukuro. I think I actually hear banjo playing in the background music. If not, I at least hear harmonica the whole time. It’s quite the interesting listen, but it does get boring after you listen to it enough. I can’t tell if there is synthetic strings in the background, or if I’m actually hearing accordian. Someone tell me what they think. I can’t be sure. If it is accordian, then I applaud them. This is quite the musically unique track. I like the guitar chords, and since Kobukuro gives another good vocal performance, I really once again am left with little to say. I liked the echo effects that appeared occasionally, it almost sounded like a chorus of Shunsukes singing in the background.

Vocal Performance Grade: A — Musical Performance Grade: A+ — Composition Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A+

The previous unique track is followed by a realitvely uneventful song called Gekkou. It sounds like a fast version of Kimi Iro, and it’s really nothing special. The song is once again electric guitar and percussion, and basically has nothing really unique or special to offer. I like towards the end when the guitar disappears and you get Kobukuro’s vocals backed by constant percussion. It sounded very interesting, but it was short and disappeared quickly. It was performed well, but just lacked anything powerful to put it up in the leauge of great Kobukuro songs. This is probably the weakest song on the album just for sheer repetetiveness and the fact that Kobukuro performed every other song better. They didn’t perform this song badly, they just performed better in the others.

Vocal Performance Grade: A- — Musical Performance Grade: A- — Composition Grade: B

Overall Grade: B

I had to look up the meaning of Kazamidori too, since I didn’t know the last kanji. I guess it means ‘Weather Vane’. Odd name. Again. However, even with a strange name Kobukuro manages to make attractive music. This song consists of beautiful piano and synthetic violins fronted by soft and compelling vocals courtesy of both members. I think that though the music to this song is really fantastically done, the vocals are what makes it memorable and repeatable. Kobukuro has a powerful presence, and I love the dramatic quality of this song, as well as the wondrous atmosphere it creates. A great listen if you’re going to sleep. It’s also their harmonization. They sing together in a great way. They’re obviously the perfect partner choice, and I can’t think of a duo with stronger vocals. Kentaro’s power note is executed gorgeously, which really pulls the song up into Kobukuro’s level. This song is right up there with Tsubomi, and is very impressive.

Vocal Performance Grade: A+ — Musical Performance Grade: A+ — Composition Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A+

The second to last song is Diary, which has an interesting musical aspect because it mixes electric guitar with twinkling piano that would alone give a very young and femenine feel to the song. However, Kobukuro throws a layer of manly over it and manages to make it their own (Umm… yeah…). This is one of the more pop-ish tracks on the album, but Kobukuro puts their own little twist on it. The percussion and cymbals in the background are very classic Kobukuro (since they’re in like every song…), and the vocals are, of course, executed in a way that stays true to their style. It’s a cute song, but I can’t say that it’s really that amazing. Nice, but not that memorable. There are some good notes, but the composition isn’t interesting enough to make it fantastic.

Vocal Performance Grade: A — Musical Performance Grade: A- — Composition Grade: B+

Overall Grade: A-

The final track is Fragile mind, which starts out slow but gains in power as it progresses. I like that this song has a very definite direction, and I like the uniqueness of the music. As usual, the percussion and cymbals are there, but the guitar score, especially in the beginning, throughout is quite impressive. I don’t know if Kentaro wrote it, but whoever did is quite good. I liked the mood of the song, and it’s a nice way to end the album. Kobukuro, as expected, executes everything very well and gives it their all. I loved the electric guitar solo, since it added some variety to the song.

Vocal Performance Grade: A+ — Musical Performance Grade: A+ — Composition Grade: A

Overall Grade: A+

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As I expected, this album ended up being fantasatic. I highly reccomend Tsubomi, Kazamidori, and Donna Sora de mo if you want to hear the best songs, though I suggest you listen to the whole thing. There were only a few tracks that I didn’t care for, and Kobukuro did what they do best and then some. If you like almost always perfect vocals and fairly varied music, Kobukuro may just be what you’re looking for. Wow, I could sell them.

ALBUM GRADE: A+

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ALBUM REVIEW: Ayumi Hamasaki- GUILTY

Ayumi Hamasaki- GUILTY

… Merry Christmas? YES I KNOW IT’S NOT OUT YET. I can’t help it!! I’ve been waiting for this thing to drop (code for LEAK), and I really just can’t wait any longer to listen to it. I MUST. Ayumi Hamasaki has been diving into the realm of pop-rock for a while, and judging by some of the previews I’ve heard, she threw an album together filled with it. Now comes the moment of truth. Did she do it successfully? Read on to find out. Entering stage left: Ayumi Hamasaki’s GUILTY.

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The first track is more if an introduction, and I have to say that I really like Mirror. It starts out with odd carnival-esque chime sounds and rough vocals. At first, I didn’t know what to think. But then the guitar kicked in, and the dynamics changed completely. Hamasaki’s vocals are shockingly suited to this song, and she really did a great job with it. It’s a great way to get you into the mood of the following songs, and a fantastic way to usher in the new album. Everything flows well together, and this really sets the standard for the rest of the album.

Vocal Grade: A — Musical Grade: A — Composition Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A

Up next is (don’t) Leave me alone, which, for the most part, follows the same vein as Mirror. The guitar is the best part of the song because of how fantastic the composition is, and once again everything just meshes together with perfection. Other than a kind of off-beat way of holding notes, Hamasaki’s vocal performance is quite good. She does this wierd thing where when she sings a note she does a quick dip like she had a seizure right when she did it. I guess it fits the song, but it’s still a bit strange sounding. I liked the dark rock sound of the song, and I’m shocked at how well she’s pulling it off with that nasally voice of hers. For a mainstream japaense artist, this is pretty out there.

Vocal Grade: A — Musical Grade: A+ — Composition Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A+

Talkin’ 2 myself is the song that really brought my attention to Hamasaki’s ability to sing pop-rock. The song has a really dramatic, sweeping quality that just seems to keep it really entertaining throghout the entire thing. She holds her notes really well, and manages to keep control over her somewhat odd tones that pop up occasoinally. Whoever did the editing on this track is a genius; the manipulations to her voice were top notch, and without them the song would lose a lot of what makes it so interesting. Composition is also amazing. Hamasaki has some talent backing her up. I’m really liking the direction this album is taking. It’s not quite true rock, but it’s really catchy in its own way. I think I’ve gotten used to Hamasaki’s vocals, because it seems that when I look back on songs I didn’t like, I find them more tolerable. When I first heard this song, her vocals always bugged me a bit. But I think they sound better now. I must be crazy.

Vocal Grade: A- — Musical Grade: A — Composition Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A

Next up is the B-Side of her latest single, Decision. I always loved the contrast between the verses and chorus in this song, though her power note is a bit off. Now that I listen to it again, I have to say it does sound better. There are artists that I’ve become accustomed to, such as Hamasaki and Ai Otsuka. Still working on misono, but her latest single was just awful. Sorry, back to the song. Hamasaki does a good job matching her vocals with the power of the background music, and I love the dramatic air of the song. It flows quite well and the composition creates a great direction.

Vocal Grade: A- — Musical Grade: A — Composition Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A

If I could summarize GUILTY in one word it would be… lacking. The song had an interesting feeling, but she sang it like she was staring at a blank wall. Even when the music grew in power, her vocals didn’t give way to any Hamasaki seizures. I just don’t get it. This song could have been so amazing. The church bells and ethereal background music make for a unique vocal track, but it ended up just being lackluster. Even the background whispers weren’t enough to save it from horrible vocal composition. Since it is the title track from the album, I really expected it to blow me out of the water. It simply doesn’t. It’s not dreadful, but it just leaves you saying “That was it?”. It reminds me of Glitter/Fated, which should have been amazing given the build up and fact that it’s her comeback single: it just leaves you out in the cold.

Vocal Grade: C+ — Musical Grade: B+ — Composition Grade: B-

Overall Grade: B-

Wait… is this the same fated that was on Glitter/Fated? Sure her vocals are sub-par, but it’s really not quite as bad as I made it out to sound. Maybe this is just a product of my becoming accustomed to Hamasaki’s voice, but I actually… like this song. Maybe it’s just that it fits in better in this atmosphere as opposed to going from Glitter to this somewhat depressing song. I still think that she sounds a little bit bored while she’s singing, but I guess it’s better than her sleep-singing in GUILTY. The music for the song is interesting; based mostly on percussion and an interesting synthetic sound sequence that plays in the background. There’s also a wierd electric guitar sound that appears in the beginning and sporadically throughout the rest of the song, which I suppose gives it an interesting feel. She hits her notes pretty well, but it’s still just so bored-sounding. I don’t know. Maybe I’m crazy. Again.

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

Overall Grade: B+

As we all know, I’m a fan of Together When… I’m typically opposed to Hamasaki ballads because they rely too much on her weak vocals, but she gives a surprisingly well-wrought performance in this song. I love the simplicity of the music, and since I loved JEWEL from her secret album, the fact that this song has some similarities to it really made me happy. Her wierd vabratta (<– Yeah, I’m not going to pretend to know how to spell that) thing actually works well for her in this song because of how dramatic the violin-guitar combination make the music. It almost adds flavor and feeling to her voice. I like when it slows down in the end, because even though it relys on her vocals, she can sing much better when she’s using a breathy and quiet voice. Definitely one of my favorite songs from her. I think I like it even better now than I did when I first heard it.

Vocal Grade: A — Musical Grade: A+ — Composition Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A+

The next song is Marionette -prelude-, which I don’t really get. I guess it’s  a prelude to the next song, but I have no idea why it was included. Regardless, I have to say that I like the creepy haunted carnival effect that it has. The flute was a nice touch towards the end, and I thought it was an effective instrumental break in the album. It is pretty cool to listen to. It sounds like one of those baby pianos with some synthetic sounds in the background.

Vocal Grade: N/A — Musical Grade: A — Composition Grade: A

Overall Grade: A

I guess next up is the ‘real’ Marionette. The quiet background music does bear resemblence to a toned down version of the prelude, for which I’m glad. This has actually ended up being one of my favorite songs of the album. I love the piano combined with the electric guitar, and it is musically very well done. What I am most grateful for is that Hamasaki’s vocals are absolutely fantastic. Her performance matches the dramatic song, and Im really geniuinely impressed. This should have been the title track for the album, because it is a million times better than GUILTY, and so much more powerful. Hamasaki sheds that odd boredom she seemed to have and really pulls out all the stops for this song. I don’t have any complaints. I guess if you were awarding a prelude based on how good the song was, this would be the one to win. Great job. Fantastic song. My first Hamasaki vocal A+.

Vocal Grade: A+ — Musical Grade: A+ — Composition Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A+

Great, now I’m really confused. Her is another ‘interlude’ type song in the form of The Judgement Day. I can’t say the track is bad, just random. I don’t know why she put another non-full length song track onto the album. Oh well, I guess I’ll just review it. I liked the organ music playing in the background, though I was annoyed when the tempo started increasing. It was wierd because it was hard to follow. I now kind of see that this is a necessary part of the album because the sudden explosion of happiness about to the become needs some sort of introduction. The Judgement Day does it’s job in getting my mind off the dark pop-rock, and on to Hamasaki’s pure sugar pop. I guess this is the only way that I would be able to accept Glitter as a logical track on this album.

Vocal Grade: A- — Musical Grade: A+ — Composition Grade: A

Overall Grade: A

Well next up is Hamasaki’s lackluster/lackeverything comeback single Glitter. I will admit that the song sounds better to me now, but I still have a few key problems with it. Her vocals sound very nasally compared to normal, though I’m kind of getting used to that. I don’t like the wierd crowd chanting that you can hear in the beginning, and I really don’t like the short break where all you can hear is a beat because it doesn’t sound like the rest of the music to the song. It’s like the guitar stops for a moment just so that Hamasaki can stop singing. I don’t know, it just bugs me. Although this song isn’t as horrible as I once thought, I still don’t care for it all that much. There’s just so much that this song should have been that it isn’t. It was a mediocre single, and it should have been better.

Vocal Grade: C+ — Musical Grade: B — Composition Grade: B-

Overall Grade: B-

Continuing the happiness train is the next song MY ALL. This song does incorperate more of the album’s feeling, but keeps up with Glitter tempo and feeling wise. It’s not that bad, but really not stand out on the album. Pretty boring, though I have to say it is better than GUILTY. Her vocal performance is okay, but it seems like she could have added some more diversity into the song. I don’t care for the music because of how generic it sounds, though I did like the guitar during the instrumental sections. If only it was there through the whole song. The percussion is pretty lackluster, and I think this song really could have been more. Not that bad, but overall a very forgettable track.

Vocal Grade: B+ — Musical Grade: B — Composition Grade: B-

Overall Grade: B

reBIRTH is infinitely better and more interesting than the previous two tracks, as the music is ethereal and unique. Unfortunately, it’s another freaking interlude. Checking in at 1:40, it’s one second shorter than The Judgement Day. I don’t really get the point, but I do have to say that out of all the songs of it’s nature on the album, it is the best for sheer originality. I loved the overall ambience and how it built back down to the dramatic core of the album. Everything worked well, and I liked the way it went out in one echo-y beat. Very well done compared to other instrumental tracks I’ve heard.

Vocal Grade: N/A — Musical Grade: A+ — Composition Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A+

The final track on the album is untitled~for her~, which wraps the album up on the beautiful note. Hamasaki’s vocals are very mature and powerful compared to her usual performance, and I have to say that this is one of the most inspirational songs I’ve heard from her, particularly on this album. This is a great way the end the album, as it’s really a top notch song. Probably my second favorite on the album behind Marionette, and a fantastic listen. The music is what gives the song said inspirational quality, as the sweeping quality of the violin and piano chords really build up an air of happiness within a sweet song. Very well done.

Vocal Grade: A — Musical Grade: A+ — Composition Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A+

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On a final note, Ayumi Hamasaki’s latest album, was surprisingly well done. I was given three singles (two physical and one digital) to go off of, and I was guessing it was going to be okay judging by the fact that only two of the three singles met my musical standards. However, this album ended up being much better than I thought it would. I think that Hamasaki is a bit of an acquired taste if you haven’t followed her for a length of time, because I certainly found myself getting used to her voice and style. Most of the songs are of good quality, and I really ended up liking the album. I strongly reccomend Marionette and untitled~for her~, as they are the best songs on the album in my opinion. Good job Hamasaki. I hope you can keep it up.

ALBUM GRADE: A

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SINGLE REVIEW: JYONGRI- Kissing Me

JYONGRI- Kissing Me

I’ve been waiting for a long time to get JYONGRI’s new single, as she seems to have taken a break. She hasn’t released anything since school began for me, and I’ve been really down about it. I love JYONGRI as much as her American fans complain about her music. But hey, there are people in this world who just likes to say negative things about as many people as they can… I’m really looking forward to this single, so here we go, JYONGRI’s ‘Kissing Me’.

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The first song on this single is Kissing Me, a Possession-esque dance number with a bit more diversity in it. I love the way that the verses are slower, but still upbeat, and how the chorus picks up so that the vocals are right on with the beat. This is musically JYONGRI’s best single since Possession, and I’m really glad that she’s brought back the upbeat piano and her attractive harmonies. I assume that since she composes her own music, part of her problem is that she isn’t that fantastic when it comes to creating new harmonies, so people feel that her music sounds recycled. I really haven’t gotten tired of her yet, so I don’t feel the same way. JYONGRI does well in this song when it comes to background vocals, and I’m impressed with her ability to create them at her age. The song really stands out among her singles, and it’s definitely at least second best. I’m glad that she managed to put out something upbeat again. I was afraid I would start getting tired of her if she kept up the boring pop and ballads, however beautiful they are. The end of the song is definitely my favorite. Two vocal tracks run together, and JYONGRI does a great job blending them. Her vocal performance throughout the song is top-notch, so I really have no complaints with this song.

Vocal Grade: A+ — Musical Grade: A+ — Composition Grade: A 

Overall Grade: A+

The B-Side of the single, You’re the One, was actually revelead before Kissing Me because of a tie in it had with a drama or movie… I can’t remember which. It even has it’s own music video, which I guess is cute in its own respect. Filled with balloons and children. Anyway, the song itself starts off with some pretty, layered vocals that work really well. The music is mostly just percussion like a normal pop song, so it’s definitely JYONGRI’s vocals that make it so wonderful. I’ve always loved the way she sings, and she’s back with a beautiful performance in this song. There are so many different segments of singing style in this song, and it’s really impressive. There’s slow layered parts, and upbeat verses, all matched up with a really gorgeous chorus and bridge. There’s a part towards the end where she shows her vocal power, and I just really like this song. I like this better than both the B-Sides on her previous single, and one of my favorite songs at the moment.

Vocal Grade: A+ — Musical Grade: A — Composition Grade: A-

Overall Grade: A

OVERALL GRADE: A+

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SINGLE REVIEW: Tohoshinki- Together

Tohoshinki- Together

Tohoshinki’s last single Forever Love was absolutely amazing, and I have no doubt that it contributed to their rising popularity in the Japanese industry (Along with the Koda Kumi collab). The cover of the single has an interesting concept, though I don’t really get it. I’m wondering if they can possibly top their previous single. Chances are no, and I can’t say I expect them to. They set the bar pretty high for themselves, and Together would have to be a pretty amazing track to overshadow it. This is only a one-song single (Other than a couple extra versions), and I’m really interested to see what they pull out of their hats this time. Without further ado, Tohoshinki’s ‘Together’.

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Have I lost all of my ability to determine good music from bad? Are all the kanji floating around in my mind slowling reaking havoc on my poor brain cells? Have I reached the point of no return? Together is definitely very childish and geared towards a younger audience… and I like it. Even though it’s quite possibly the shallowest song I’ve heard in a few months (since I first listened to Wentz’s Lucky de Happy), I keep listening to it. Musically the song is very unique and reminds me of a circus. I could just picture them dressed up as assorted Circus people (clowns? God forbid) dancing around at a child’s birthday party and singing this. They all sing it so well though, and make it so entertaining! I hate the world. The lyrics are really dumb (Kimi wa boku no Friend, I love you, you’re my friend), but adorable in their own way. Like, I would play this song for my six year old cousin and he’d like it. But sadly, I like it to. Am I crazy? Someone comment and tell me that I’m not. The Japanese is really basic, so I’m wondering if they happened to write it themselves… If not, I guess it’s REALLY geared towards children. The percussion in the background sounds like someone banging on an upside down plastic garbage can, but it’s actually pretty interesting. The overall intent of the song sounds like it was done justice, and I have to say that though this song is assuredly not as good as Forever Love it is a good way to follow up in order to completely distract everyone so that they don’t have to dish out a flawless performance. Good scheme, and good job.

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

Overall Grade: A

SINGLE GRADE: A

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SINGLE REVIEW: Morning Musume- Mikan

Morning Musume- Mikan

Morning Musume’s music and I have had very rocky past. I have always disliked the entire concept of the group simply because of how inconsistent it is. If you’re going to do this kind of a constantly shifting group, the artists you allow in should be incredible so that people will have a reason to pay attention to them. I can honestly say that I don’t know the name of a single present or past Morning Musume member, despite that I’ve listened to their music off and on. I guess the group can be decent for getting girls noticed, but I really don’t think that it can make semi-talented girls famous. I will admit that Morning Musume can have talented girls, and I’m sure that they have come, I just find the idea so strange… Anyway, I do not have any bias against their music, and the fact that the composition of the group is fluctuating will not influence by opinion of their music. Don’t get any ideas.

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I actually thought that Mikan was a really cute song, though it isn’t really my style. I perfer pop with more instruments and depth, but it serves its purpose quite well. In all, I think that the performance is quite good, and the current lead singer (whoever she is…) does well leading the group. The musical composition is mostly synthetic with some mixed in (maybe?) brass. It’s definitely intended to be cute, and it is. The vocals are very sugary and popish, which I think actually works out quite well. All of them work pretty well together when it comes to harmony, although they mostly just sing in unison at the same time. I think Morning Musume could do some pretty interesting harmony-related things if they gave it a shot. There is certainly enough of them.

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

Overall Grade: B+

Next up is the very strange BONKYU!BONKYU!BOMB GIRL. If I had attach it to a genere, I guess I’d have to say jazz. The song is overflowing with brass and very fast-upbeat vocals. This song was kind of strange to me, and I didn’t like that they mostly said the same thing over and over again. However, technically the song is well done, I suppose. It has a very odd composition, but I guess that was the intention. Musically the song is brass and percussion, which fit well with the vocals. I think all of the different vocals I heard had their own redeeming qualities, which is good, but the song was just so high energy that it confused me. After listening to it a few times I still don’t really know what to say, but I guess it’s unique and showcases a style of music not usually seen in the Japanese industry. I guess it was just awkward for me to listen to. Not my style, but not badly done.

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

Overall Grade: B+

SINGLE GRADE: B+

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SINGLE REVIEW: Stephanie- Winter Gold

Stephanie- Winter Gold

Although people whine and complain about the way Stephanie looks, I really have done well in separating her voice from her image. However, I really don’t think that she’s ugly. She might not be gorgeous, but she’s certainly not below average when it comes to looks. If the right elements are in play, she’s really cute. I think this is for sure her best cover yet, and that she honestly looks quite good in it. I have been a fan of Stephanie since her debut single which was absolutely amazing due to its diversity and sheer vocal power. There were some weaknesses that I picked out, but they were overshadowed by her astounding vocal range and pitch. People say that her high notes are her only good quality, but I think that even without them her voice is really clear and attractive to the ears. I have been waiting quite a while for my most recent review of Stephanie, Winter Gold.

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The main track on this single is the fantastic upbeat Winter Gold. Despite it’s pace, it really manages to incorperate the feeling of winter quite well. The overall idea of the song is quite cute, and I love the way she sings it. Vocally, Stephanie does an absolutely superb job. Her tone and high notes are flawless, and I really feel that this is assuredly her most engaging A-Side to date. Kimi ga Iru Kagiri was fantastic, but this song really keep you entertained with it’s upbeat nature. The music is made up of very quick percussion and brass back up, along with a few synthetic additions. I think this song really brings Stephanie into a new light for me, even though it sadly did not chart well at all. Stephanie really deserves her record deal, and I can totally see why they made their choice. This girl’s voice truly is diverse, and thankfully so much better than Angel Girl, which I think is the only song in her discography that really could be compared to this one. I love the echo effects used on her voice and that you can hear barely audible background vocals after the verses. Whoever composed this is truly talented. The way they arranged her vocals creates the most beautiful effect, and the chorus is absolutely brilliant. The tune of the whole thing is amazing, and I have to say that this is probably my favorite song from her ever.

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

Overall Grade: A+

Next up is the more rock-esque song Life. It kind of reminds me of a watered down All the Way or To.Be.Me, but the composition is a little bit better. The background vocals are entirely percussion and electric guitar, which without superb vocals would be decidedly boring. Musically there is a bit of an awkward moment when the vocals stop and it shifts to piano, but I’ve grown to enjoy the change in pace after listening a few times. I have to say that if she didn’t perform so fantastically in this song, it would be really boring. She puts a ton of energy into her vocals, and it really shows. It’s like you can really tell she likes doing what she’s doing. I don’t know who composes her music, but they should really be proud. If she composed even just the way the vocals blend with the music, then she’s a lot more amazing than I realized. The way everything fits together in this song is amazing, and it really pulls you in. It’s not quite as good as the A-Side, which is to be expected, but it’s giving it a run for its money. This is an amazing single, and I’m really shocked at its lack of popularity. Well Stephanie has certainly earned her place among great new artists of 2007 for me, and I can’t wait to hear her next single and hopefully coming debut album.

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

Overall Grade: A

SINGLE GRADE: A+

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COLLABORATION SINGLE REVIEW: Yuna Ito x Celine Dion- Anata ga Iru Kagiri ~A World to Believe In~

Yuna Ito x Celine Dion- Anata ga Iru Kagiri ~A World to Believe In~

I wasn’t sure what to think of this collaboration at first, but I’ve really warmed up tot he idea. All that ran through my mind at first was ‘Who will scream louder!?’, but I’ve decided that I really do like both of these artists and I know that they both have fantastic voices. Together, I think they can really pull something beautiful off. I guess we’ll see how this turns out… Here we are with Yuna Ito x Celine Dion ‘Anata ga Iru Kagiri ~A World to Believe In~’

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The first and only track on this single that I will review is the main track, Anata ga Iru Kagiri ~A World to Believe In~. I’ve written the title enough now that my fingers hurt, but I’ll go on… I was surprised at how well Dion and Ito’s vocals blended, because I always figured that Dion’s voice was too distinct for duets. Although you can certainly tell who is who in this song, both give incredible performances and really work well together. This song is basically half Japanese and half English, which is a characteristic of many bi-lingual singer’s songs. The music for the song is perfect for the paces as the guitar and piano manage to keep the song under control. I actually think Ito may have outperformed Dion in this song simply because of how clear and natural her vocals felt. There are quite a few powerful notes in this song, and although Dion does amazingly well, Ito’s tone and the way that she makes it sound so easy takes the cake. I’m sure that the Yuna Ito only version will be amazing as well. I was really excited to hear Dion in the background of the Japanese parts because I thought it showed that she actually put some effort into this collaboration rather than just sitting back and repeating her older version of the song. I applaud both of them, because they did a fantastic job in making this song.

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

Overall Grade: A

SINGLE GRADE: A

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