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Archive for the ‘Yuna Ito’ Category

ALBUM REVIEW: Yuna Ito- WISH

Yuna Ito- WISH

Yuna Ito’s last album was quite lackluster, and I’m really hoping for a signifigant re-invention in this album. Fewer cheesy 90s pop tracks, and more edgy dance and some sparse power ballads. I don’t know if I’m going to get it, but one can hope. This is only Ito’s second album, and I’m worried because the singles leading up to WISH aren’t as strong as they were for HEART. Endless Story melts me everytime I hear it, and Precious is practically flawless. There aren’t any singles that incredible for this album, which is a bit unsettling. Well I guess we’ll find out how she does. Here is Yuna Ito’s latest album ‘WISH’.

———Yuna Ito

The album opens with Power of Love which has nearly perfect verses. There’s a unique trance feel of the electronically distorted strings in the beginning, and I had a lot of hope for this song off the bat. As the verses come to a close there’s a great build up and then… a crappy chorus. Everything was so edgy and even potential dancable, but then the chorus appears with it’s awful generic 90s pop feel, and the song just crashes. The music switches to a very pop beat and some snapping that completely destroys the edge of the song. On top of that, the English is completely cheesy. ‘Forever I feel the sound of Love‘. You don’t feel sounds unless they’re just vibrating in your lungs. Maybe some people find that poetic, but from my point of view it’s really just… stupid. Yuna really neats to take more creative control of her career. She can speak Japanese now, and she already spoke English, so she should be perfectly capable of writing her own (sensible) lyrics. And after all this experience she should know how to arrange something, even just a simple mid-tempo pop song. The transitions in this song were just too abrupt, and the verses and chorus didn’t find together. I much prefer the qualities in the verses to the happy vomit that is the chorus. Well, this track was a bust. She doesn’t sing to badly, but the composition and music is awful, leaving the song dangling on a pathetic thread.

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

Overall Grade: C+

As much as a hated the last track, Ito completely redeems herself with alone again. It opens with euphoric strings and a beautifully synthesized atmosphere. Ito’s vocal are perfect for the tone of the song. I love the blending of the percussion and the filtered piano; sparse violin making an appearance every once in a while. The verses are very interesting to listen to, but the chorus is the star of the song. The composition flows gorgeously, and the reverb on Ito’s vocals just expands the slightly ethereal atmosphere. I’m impresses at this comeback, because after the crappy intro I was expecting an album filled with junk, but I’m glad a gem as already appeared. Ito’s Japanese has really improved, and her execution is a lot more comfortable and natural. Even though I loved her old singles, I was always bugged by how she didn’t seem to know what to emphasize. Now that she knows what she’s saying, it comes off a lot more personal and heartfelt. This song is proof that Ito doesn’t need power ballads to pull off a fantastic song. It’s somewhat sad, but it’s mid-tempo and definitely not a ballad. The fantastic acoustic guitar solo at the beginning of the fourth quarter was a great addition to the song, and added some flavor. The song was great without it, but I’m glad they included it. The song is a lot more engaging when spaced out like that.

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

Overall Grade: A+

Following the fantastic previous track is Anata ga Iru Kagiri ~A World to Believe In~, Ito’s collaboration with Celine Dion. From the beginning I thought Ito was going to be blown away, even though I love her voice. To my surprise, they worked fabulously together, and managed to pull off the best duet of 2008. I can’t see anyone managing to stand up to this track. The introduction was weird, but once the vocals appeared everything ran smoothly and blended nicely. The verses are relaxed and quiet whereas the chorus is the essence of vocal power, a strong note in every line. The song is musically made up of soft acoustic guitar and a slow drum beat. The vocals are blended flawlessly, and the two support each other fantastically during the duo parts. I was impressed that Dion went and sang in Japanese to back up Ito. I wish I could hear her sing the song alone in Japanese, only because I’m really impressed. It’s not easy to sing in a language you don’t know, especially if you don’t live in the country where it’s spoken. But if Celine could master English then I’m sure she can handle Japanese.

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

Overall Grade: A

WISHI was extremely upset about Urban Mermaid being ruined by stupid English lyrics in the chorus, but I’ve gotten over it. Though it may keep me from enjoying it, the song is still technically sound. Opening with acoustic strings and electronic distortion Urban Mermaid has beautiful instrumentation and a fantastic vocal track. The composition is feminine, which is perfect for the girl-power theme of the song, and it all flows brilliantly. It’s pretty much the same musical pace as alone again, but with cheery vocals and a more inspirational atmosphere. Ito’s vocal clarity has always astounded me, and I’m constantly impressed by her tone. I have to make a note about the reason I gave this song an overall grade that was lower than the technical grades. I was really turned off by the ‘I’m a beautiful mermaid‘ line. If Ito took a more active roll in her music, I doubt she would have let this one slide. It’s cheesy, plain and simple. There are a few artists out there who, though fluent in English, have the tendency to write cheesy lyrics of their own free will, but I don’t see Ito as being one of them. The song is very well done, with the exception of that slip up. I don’t mind female empowerment, but she’s making herself look stupid to thos who know what she’s saying. I love her music, but often not her lyrics. It doesn’t make sense to me that someone who speaks English would allow incorrect grammar and idiocy into her songs.

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

Overall Grade: A

HEARTBEAT starts off with quick sort of choppy, jazz-esque beats that are a bit confusing, but intriguing at the same time. I like the first verses because they offer a new side of Ito’s music, which is electronic, but once again, the chorus is stupid. I don’t know why, but these people just can’t give her matching chorus’ and verses. Why? No idea. I honestly don’t think it’s that hard. The song goes from serious, edgy, and engaging to bland, cheesy, and outdated in a matter of seconds. Once again the verses drew me in but the chorus ruined the entire song. I can’t handle such an atmosphere change mid-song. It annoys me as a listener and pisses me off as someone with musical knowledge because it’s stupid and not that difficult to do. I don’t understand how they couldn’t see the flaws in this song. The only redeeming quality are the dance beats, which add a great feeling to the song for the their thirty second durations. The synth during the chorus adds to the fact that it’s generic, poppy, and not at all entertaining. The talking segment was a bad deviation from the entirety of the song, and is another thing I wish they’d left out. Having a talking segment in a song is a big risk, and it rarely works out well. A recent example of a good use is WaT’s TOKIMEKI☆DooBeeDoo, where Wentz speaks. It takes the right atmosphere, which this song doesn’t have due to it’s heinous inconsistency. Also, Ito’s vocals aren’t great here. She’s fine during the verses, but she sounds strained during the chorus and generally unpleasant.

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

Overall Grade: B-

Following that up is Colorful, the B-Side of Ito’s Urban Mermaid single. The introductory piano chords and really the entire instrumental track are pretty childish, but I will admit I went through a period where I listened to this song on repeat a lot. The happy nature and catchy percussion draw you in, even though it’s all a bit repetitive. I love the fun of the chorus, which is where the song is at its most interesting. It’s a bit generic, but it has a certain quality that makes it a nice listen. Ito sounds like she enjoys herself while she sings. The English is for once not entirely idiotic, which is a rare thing in a Yuna Ito song. Although it’s childish lyrically as well, it just has a nice feel. The quick and poppy synth isn’t too bad to listen to, and the entire song flows together well because of the musical similarity. There’s not a lot of direction, but I like that it switches up the order in the end as to not bore the listener completely. I listened to it more than Urban Mermaid, but not necessarily because it’s a better song technically. I might have listened to the A-Side more if it wasn’t so stupid. Anyway, this song definitely grew on me.

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

Overall Grade: A-Yuna Ito

The first regular, slow, tender ballad on the album is Unite as One. Overall, it’s a solid track. It begins with gentle piano chords and a light synth background. There are some R&B elements thrown in with the addition of some snapping beats and water drops. Towards the chorus there is more percussion and other instruments added in to thicken the music. During the chorus itself the music stays mostly the same but the percussion is more prominent and the piano chords are slightly louder. After the second verses there’s a short instrumental segment that features a nice rhythm and attractive atmosphere. Vocally Ito pulls of the verses brilliantly. Her soft tone supports the idea of the song well, and she doesn’t have any detectable trouble with the composition. The only issue is that during the chorus she sounds a bit strained, like she had been singing for hours and was at her lung’s breaking point. She really forces the notes out, but doesn’t quite manage to make it sound effortless. She’s way up in her head voice, which is disappointing since I know that she can pull them out of her chest just as well. The song switches up well at the end where Ito sounds a lot stronger, but has a bit of an exhausted tone. There was one ungodly high note in the song that I can’t imagine she pulled off without electronic assistance. It had to be at least three octaves above her known range, which is very suspicious. The composition is a bit odd since it goes verese, chorus, really long verse, chorus, and hook, but it actually works out in the end. Basically, I wasn’t blown away by the track, but it’s okay. Maybe a bit above average.

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

Overall Grade: B+

I am pretty sure that this was my first review ever on the old, Windows Live ~*Highway-Chance*~, all the way back in July. Mahaloha opens with relaxing, summery strings and laid-back beats. I like this style of pop because it isn’t too fluffy, and manages to sound mature even when it’s not too serious. Yuna’s breezy vocals are very fitting of the island atmosphere, and the cheery strings definitely pull that Hawaiian image into your mind. The lyrics are sweet, and I really wish Ito would attempt to write more of her songs. She doesn’t suck at it. Even though Micro may have done a lot of it, she obviously had to have done something to get any credit. I like the way that the featured artist’s vocal blend with Yuna’s during the verses, but the first chorus, and to a lesser extent the other chorus’ were somewhat off. It’s a big ball of memories, listening to this song. It’s been such a long time. I still like it as much as I did back then. The random vocalizations, the harmonization, the calm atmosphere, the happy lyrics; all of it works out well in the end. Although it’s not quite incredible like her pre-HEART singles, it’s very pleasant.

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

Overall Grade: A

I was blown away by the uniqueness of he next track, A Long Walk. It opens with separated synthetic strings and a bit of inconsistency soon supported with an atmospheric layer of noise. I don’t know how to classify this song, but it’s really enjoyable. The music soon evolves into a constant and quick percussion track, still supported by random, cut and paste guitar. Ito’s vocals are soft and relaxed. I am trying to pull the word for this song out of my brain, but I can’t seem to think of it. You all should definitely listen to it. The entire feeling is very desirous, and I don’t think I’ve ever hear anything similar. The closest I can think of is Stay off JYONGRI’s Close to Fantasty album. The unique composition, music, and vocals bring the song into an undefinable state of being, which, though slightly annoying in that I want to give it a genre, is wondrously euphoric. There isn’t an obvious climax, but the whole thing is so incredible that you just don’t really notice. Near the end some dance elements are incorporated, and Yuna repeats some thankfully correct English with an unexpected edge to her vocals. The entire thing is just so individual that I can’t even describe how it all plays out. The song is fantastic, I just don’t know what to say about it. You have to listen to it yourself and help me…

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

Overall Grade: A+

WISHFirst of all, Moon Rabbit? Seriously. I know the derivation, but it’s still not my favorite concept. Especially when it sounds like a cheap 90s track. The song opens with outdated strings and guitar effects along with very pre-turn of the centry synth. The percussion doesn’t do much for me either. I also don’t like how long the verses go without any build up for so long. I’m half asleep by the time that the moderately catchy chorus arrives. Even though it makes next to no sense, I like the way that Ito sings the chorus. The composition is pretty dull, and this song doesn’t have much of climax either, but this time it doesn’t work out for the best. There’s nothing fabulous that opens my eyes and makes me enjoy the song. It’s all just a big pile of 90s composition, instrumentation, and vocals. There’s not much to say about it since it’s not much of a song. It just kind of trudges on wishfully and eventually sputters to a pathetic stop. The kind where you get to the end and you’re just like, “Why did I even take this ride?”

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

Overall Grade: B-

I loved the strings that epically opened I’m Here, and I’m glad that the rest of the song followed its edgy vibe. The verses are mid-paced and fairly laid-back, but the build up to the chorus is excellent, and I’m very impressed with this song. Finally Ito puts out something you can dance to, and doesn’t lull you to sleep. The chorus is maybe the slightest bit shouty, but other than that the song is a master piece. I remember when I got the single and forgot to listen to it, then left my iHome on accidentally. It woke me up after the string of ballads it had fortunately been on. I just remember thinking “At least I’m waking up to something good.” Of course when I saw that it was like two AM I realized that there was nothing good to wake up to at that time. The quick percussion and quivering violin set a wonderful mood, and the direction of the composition is the perfect rush. As everything switches up for the dramatic finale, the energy builds in an ideal manner. Ito’s vocal performance is close to flawless, and this is by far her best single released post-HEART in my opinion (not counting the horrendous B-Side).

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

Overall Grade: A+

I have to say WISHs placement on the album was not at all strategic. Despite that fact, it’s definitely in the running for the best song. The serentiy of the verses somehow leads magically into the powerful chorus, which for me is ideal. This is the first ballad that relies mostly on piano, with only a dash of synth to fill the empty space. The real reason this track is so impressive is Ito’s absolutely flooring vocal performance. This song is comparable to the brilliance of Precious and Endless Story, both of which are by far my favorite Ito songs of all time. I don’t know why she refuses to release ballad singles now considering that they’re clearly her strongest point. Don’t get me wrong, her pop and upbeat tracks are nice, but her raw vocal power makes the powerful slow tracks incredible. There’s no denying that her vocals are her strong point after listening to this song, and it is that which makes it one of the best here. The only thing I would improve is some of the execution during the chorus, which seemed a bit soft for its powerful nature. With or without that it is a very repeatable and engaging track. The gentleness and tender atmosphere haven’t been seen since HEART, which is a real shame. The sparse extra effects in the instrumental department complete the song wonderfully, and I’m glad this song was put on the album. It really shows that Ito wasn’t just randomly pulled off the streets.

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

Overall Grade: A+Yuna Ito

The gospel-esque choir in the background of Tokyo Days did not work at all with Ito’s vocals, and ruined the song. Plus we’ve jumped back a decade once more. Even the composition screams made in the 90s. I don’t like that they chose to end the album with this song. WISH would have been a much better choice. You turn on the song and you hear some group of people speaking awful and indecipherable Engrish, which in itself is grating, and then Ito starts singing irremediably: the song might as well just end there since it really doesn’t go anywhere. If you’ve heard the first twenty seconds then you’ve heard the whole thing. I won’t blame you for not downloading this because it’s just so cheesy. The constant synthetic percussion and squeaky synth don’t work out here, and I’m not impressed at all. There are so many things that could have been done with the last track, but this was the last one on the list. Why, I will never know. Probably becacuse Ito realized the album would flow to well if it ended with WISH and decided to tack on a cop out track with boring, repetitive composition and no direction.

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

Overall Grade: C+

The bonus track ends the album so much better. Ito’s cover of Celine Dion’s MY HEART WILL GO ON is actually quite good. Usually composition intended for Dion means you need complete control of your diaphragm, but since I’m reasonably certain that Ito doesn’t have that, obviously it’s not too hard of a song. Unless maybe if it’s live. Since it’s an old song, I’m sure you all know what it sounds like. I remember watching my first fountain show at the Bellagio to this song (I won’t pretend to know how to spell that). Yeah so basically good job.

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

Overall Grade: A

———

Although it’s not the perfect album, it is a huge step up from the sad mess that is HEART. Ito shows overall vocal improvement, though she still needs to fire her lyricists and put some more effort into her career. How does she expect to solicit a song she has no personal feelings towards other than ‘Some guy got paid to make this for me to sing.’ Yeah, next time try writing it yourself. Anyway, best songs have to be WISH, A Long Walk, and alone again. Worst? Hmm… I’d say Power of Love and Tokyo Days. Even though there were a few crappy songs on the album, I have to say that it was pretty nice to listen to.

ALBUM 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~’

———

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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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.

———

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 REVEIW: Yuna Ito- Mahaloha

Yuna Ito- Mahaloha

Yuna Ito was born to a Japanese father and a Korean mother in Los Angeles, California (September 20th, 1983). When she was three months old, her family moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, where she was then raised. She graduated from McKinley High School in 2001, with dreams of becoming a singer. She’d sing Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson songs, wishing she was like them. Ito’s big break came in the form of the role of ‘Riera Serizawa’, an energetic singer portrayed in the Japanese film ‘NANA’. Ito’s identity was concealed from the public until the actual debut of the film, at which point her enormous potential and ‘beautiful, high pitched voice’ was revealed. The song ‘Endless Story’, sung by Ito and featured in the film, was an instant and enormous sucess in Japan. It reached number two on the Oricon Charts, and quickly took Japan by storm. Ito was featured on many different public entertainment magazines, and posters of her were plentiful. Endless Story went on to sell 450,000 copies, which is a lot if you keep in mind that Japan’s population is far less than america’s. Yuna went on to release the single ‘Faith/Pureeyes’, and many more. Now onto the review…

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The song Mahaloha is a very islandy, breezy song which is very pleasant to the ears. As it is roughly half english, the meaning is clear through the song even if you don’t speak Japanese fluently. Anyone can appreciate Ito’s crips vocals, and it’s clear her voice is strong. She’s come back from the deadness of her voice in her last A-side ‘I”m here’. I’m quite proud of her in this single, and I think it is definitely one of her better songs. She can really pull it out when she needs to. Just a note, I really liked the featured artist in this one. His voice is pleasant and calm and really harmonizes well with Ito’s. This single reached #5 on the Oricon weekly, and has so far sold over 29,000 copies.

Music Grade: B — Vocal Grade: A

Overall Grade: A-

Hmm… I didn’t really like Shining On as much as Mahaloha… I think Ito’s vocals were a bit bland for me, and that the song sounded somewhat generic… The beat was nice, and her vocals were, as usual, nice… Something about the song just really didn’t do it for me this time though. I think the song is good, and certainly not her worst work. I think that it definitely belongs on a B-side, and the song does have it’s good moments. Where Ito sings the ‘Hajimete, kanjiru’ I think the way she quivered her voice was really nice and I enjoyed it. I do like the song, it’s just weak in contrast to some of her other work.

Music Grade: B — Vocal Grade: B

Overall Grade: B

SINGLE GRADE: B+

 

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