Ayumi Hamasaki – M(A)DE IN JAPAN

September 12, 2016 at 3:25 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

madeinjapan1_zpsc7hizsdqALBUM REVIEW
Ayumi Hamasaki – M(A)DE IN JAPAN

1. tasky
2. FLOWER
3. Mad World
4. Breakdown
5. Survivor
6. You are the only one
7. TODAY
8. Mr.Darling
9. Summer Love
10. Many Classic Moments (globe cover)

♦ ♦ ♦

madeinjapan2_zpsa1txra5tM(A)DE IN JAPAN is the seventeenth studio album by Japanese singer Ayumi Hamasaki. It was first released via the Japanese streaming service called AWA on May 11, 2016, and was released physically on June 29, 2016. The album debuted at #2 on the charts and has sold 40,609 copies to date.

After quite some years, Ayu throws in another ‘task’, but this time to open the album. Since the name of the album is M(A)DE IN JAPAN, the Japanese sound of tasky fits the album very well. Halfway through the intro, the traditional sound is mixed with some typical Ayu dance music that really spices things up. It gets me so excited for what’s to come.

FLOWER opens with a similar Japanese vibe, but whoever thinks this is a midtempo track needs to think twice. Near the chorus, the arrangement builds into this amazing rock track that easily fits right in with tracks like ‘Microphone’ and ‘WARNING’. Somehow it’s a bit reminiscent of her older days (‘GUILTY’, anyone?). Overall a great first full-length track.

I really enjoy Mad World, simply because it’s so straightforward Ayu. It’s powerful, but it has a more pop/rock sound than FLOWER had and the melodies in the chorus are very easy on the ears. I must say her vocals are a bit better than in the previous track, she sounds more at ease in her vocal range here.

Breakdown is the album’s big ballad and the way the arrangement is built it could easily be a winter ballad. It features a lot of piano melodies, bells and chimes, and there’s a sense of mystery to it. This song also takes me back a few years, like 6 or 7, back to when she did a couple more songs like this. Not the type of forgettable ballad, so this one will tend to stick.

Now Survivor is quite an interesting track because the opening sounds like it could be the opening to one of her concerts, before leading into a big chanting chorus. I don’t think many of the other songs on this album are as powerful and original as this one and I must say this is the one (together with Many Classic Moments) that stayed with me most of all. A must on the album.

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I like how You are the only one opens with bagpipes, I LOVE bagpipes. The rest of the song kinda takes the middle road between a ballad and a midtempo song, which is quite interesting to hear. The chorus does not fully appeal to me, but it’s far from bad. In the end, it’s a nice track in which Ayu delivers an emotional vocal performance to top it off.

I comparison to the experimental SurvivorTODAY sounds like a safe choice for the album. It’s an uplifting track and there’s some nice power in it, but it’s more mainstream than some of her other songs. That having been said, I think it’s also an underrated song on this album. Ayu’s vocals sound amazing and the arrangement is very nice.

Mr.Darling is a bit like ‘Life’ remastered, but fortunately it does not sound TOO much like it. It’s a pop song, balancing the album in a nice way. However, it does sound a bit generic and the repetition of the line ‘soba ni ite‘ in the chorus kind of annoys me after couple of listens. It’s not bad, but it’s not special either.

Ah, I thought we were missing something and here it is: an Ayu dance track. Summer Love is like ‘You & Me’ and ‘Merry-go-round’ with a lot of energy and synths, and today it feels like no Ayu album is complete without a track like this. It’s catchy, uplifting and suprising in its own way. I like it!

Now I’ve always been a bit on the fence with Many Classic Moments, I don’t know why. It’s nice and I like the fact that it flows nicely from Summer Love, but there’s something to it that just holds me back a little bit. Nonetheless, would this album be better without it? No. Ayu doesn’t do many covers, but when she does, she does them well. This is another example and maybe I need to get a bit more aquainted with it.

I’m very pleased with M(A)DE IN JAPAN, it’s like Ayumi has finally returned to her roots and releases stuff she is actually very good at. No experiments (except for Survivor, then), no goofy stuff as in ‘Party Queen’, just the sound that made her so great as an artist. It’s also not that long, so I don’t show any signs of fatigue after completing this review, haha. It’s a nice album, I have listened to it a couple of times already on my way to work and I don’t remember skipping anything. Good job, Ayu!

Favorite trackstasky | FLOWER | Mad World | Survivor | Summer Love

OVERALL RATING
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4 stars

madeinjapan4_zpsubowtqop

Namie Amuro – Hero

August 27, 2016 at 2:49 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

heroSINGLE REVIEW
Namie Amuro – Hero

1. Hero
2. Show Me What You’ve Got
3. Hero – Instrumental-
4. Show Me What You’ve Got -Instrumental-

Hero is the forty-third single by Japanese singer Namie Amuro, released on July 27, 2016. The single debuted at #6 on the charts and has sold 47,157 copies to date. Hero was used as the opening theme to NHK’s broadcast of the 2016 Summer Olympics.

I really like Hero, I think I can even say that I love it and I can imagine this being the Summer Olympics 2016 anthem it was. It’s interesting that it starts off slow and still manages to wow me, but after the first chorus it speeds up with some more drums and violins. Her vocals even appear to be more solid and energetic, less thin than they were on Mint. Talk about your uplifting and inspiring track…

Now a ballad wouldn’t be the best fit on this single, but I also have my doubts about Show Me What You’ve Got. It’s like a cheerleader pop anthem and it doesn’t feel like a lot of production value went into it. It feels a little empty, and it’s so sad especially since Hero is amazing. I’m not into it, but luckily the A-side saved the day.

OVERALL RATING
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4 stars

 

Namie Amuro – Mint

August 27, 2016 at 2:20 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

mint_zpsmwjbjwypSINGLE REVIEW
Namie Amuro – Mint

1. Mint
2. Chit Chat
3. Mint -Instrumental-
4. Chit Chat -Instrumental-

Mint is the forty-second single by Japanese singer Namie Amuro, released on May 18, 2016. The single debuted at #4 on the Oricon Charts and has sold 44,339 copies to date. Mint was used as the theme song for the Kansai Fuji TV drama Boku no Yabai Tsuma.

When I first heard Mint, I was very surprised by its arrangement. It’s not typical, but it kicks ass. It’s kind of a dance rock song and Namie pulled it off nicely, to say the least. Her voice can be quite thin, but somehow she can handle all the action going on. For me, it’s not that hard to think of any reasons why this single was so successful when she released it. Alright, I’ll give you one: that beat❤

Chit Chat complements Mint very well because it borrows some of the fierce arrangement, yet the song has its very own sound. The previous song is more dance club, this is for a slumber party with the girls (hence the title, I guess). It took me a couple of listens to really start to like this, but now it’s stuck in my head for the rest of the day. That darn catchy synth riff…

OVERALL RATING
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4½ stars

Kalafina – blaze

August 27, 2016 at 2:05 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

blaze_zpsvj1lgvpf

SINGLE REVIEW
Kalafina – blaze

1. blaze
2. Natsu no Asa
3. blaze ~instrumental~
4. Natsu no Asa ~instrumental~
5. blaze ~TV size~

blaze is the nineteenth single by Japanese group Kalafina, released on August 10, 2016. The title track was used as the ending theme for the anime series Arslan Senki: Fuujin Ranbu.

I’m glad blaze fits right into their latest streak of singles, including One Light and ring your bell. The song immediately opens with some strong vocals and electric guitars, which caught my attention. I must say, I’m starting to like HIKARU’s vocals more because of songs like this one, her voice comes out fierce and solid. KEIKO also deserves some credit for her vocals, she and HIKARU take the lead. WAKANA is there, but barely if you ask me. It’s not as epic as some of Kalafina’s older songs, but it’s definitely their style and the arrangement and background choir are amazing.

A flute and harp open Natsu no Asa and I think I couldn’t be happier. I always love these kind of Kalafina songs because, contrary to the A-side here, this actually is epic as heck. It does remind me a bit of Seventh Heaven and Red Moon songs, but I can’t come up with the names. It’s like a sequel to those songs, that much is true. I think this one balances the single so that we have one pumping fast paced track and a serene piece. I’d like to hear them do this more often!

OVERALL RATING
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4 stars

 

Trying to come back!

August 25, 2016 at 12:05 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

So hi!

After about 9 months I crawl out from under my rock, into the light again. Man, I have missed this a lot. But I guess I didn’t have much choice, graduating was my priority. Turns out it was not that bad of a decision, because in June I officially graduated from Uni as a Master of Science in Educational Psychology! Then it was off on a three week vacation and immediately off to work. A little over three weeks ago, I started my first full time job (like, 9 to 5 just to stay alive *kidding*). So you can imagine I’m a little careful with this comeback, but I do realize I need my relaxation. And of course, music and writing about it is what I like to do for relaxation.

So this is me, working from home, taking a little break to update you guys on how I’ve been. Mainly, I’ve been great. With my studies out of the way and a job, it might not be surprising. However, I did take some chances in the past year. I moved in with the love of my life and almost exactly one month ago, he asked me to marry him, right in front of Cinderella’s Castle in Walt Disney World, Florida. With a romantic gesture like that, who could say no (and he picked the perfect spot to propose to a Disney fan, right?). So we’re definitely not getting married soon, probably in a few years or so, but it’s a promise. And I’ve got a lovely ring around my finger to prove it =)

What to expect from me now? Well, I can never make any promises, but I do realize that in the evenings and weekends (or during a small break), I can post new reviews. I have heard some great releases in the past few months and all that time I was dying to write about it, so here’s my chance. I hope you guys have not given up on me, even though I understand if some of you did. It’s not like I’ve been away for a few days. But, hopefully, the fact that I’m active again brings some of you back. Love to see you all here!

Love,
Jolanda

PS You have all known me as Jade for all these years, and you can keep calling me that if you want to, but because of my inactivity (and the fact that I’m a little older now) I feel a little disconnected from my nickname. I will start going by my own name again.

BENI – Undress

December 3, 2015 at 2:15 PM | Posted in BENI | Leave a comment

ALBUM REVIEW
BENI – Undress

1. INTRO
2. DO IT RIGHT
3. BFF
4. Forever
5. MEOW
6. Kimi no Kakera
7. Yokogao
8. PAPA
9. DEEP SWEET EASY
10. BABY
11. SAYONARA
12. TATTOO
13. ZERO
14. Fun Fun Christmas

♦ ♦ ♦

Undress is the ninth studio album by Japanese/American singer BENI, and her sixth under the NAYUTAWAVE RECORDS label, released on November 25, 2015. The album ranked at #14 on the Oricon weekly charts, selling 7,281 copies in its first week.

INTRO is just a very serene track with BENI chanting in the background, kinda leading you into the feel of the album. DO IT RIGHT flows straight from it and it sounds very Western, like this is BENI’s American roots speaking. The track is similar to a mix between Selena Gomez and Kygo, a smooth R&B flow with laid back tropical deep house beats and high synths. Not very bombastic, but very nice as the first full track on the album!

BFF opens with soft acoustic guitars, but for the chorus the arrangement swells with percussion, electric guitars and strings. It gives the song just the right touch, and the melodies give it a very sweet and uplifting vibe. When you call a track ‘BFF’, this is what it should sound like. It’s a bit too long, but still very pretty (especially the vocals).

Ahh, there it is, Forever. I loved it on the single and it comes at the right time on this album, making it sounds even better than it already was. The opening still reminds me a bit of “You Can’t Hurry Love”, that same funky vibe, but BENI made this her very own unique and fun song with stellar vocals. I don’t think she has ever done anything like this before and I love her for releasing this as an A-side.

Interesting to call a track MEOW, but oh well. At least the arrangement sounds very interesting, modern and Western again, something that is probably her style for this album. This track is all over the place, and with that I especially mean the chorus, drawing inspiration from types of hardstyle music. I don’t know where she was heading with this, but it’s very quirky and I’m sure some people will hate this x’D

Kimi no Kakera is an R&B midtempo ballad, which is her signature style, but still BENI managed to make this different and in the style of this album, in contrast to what her songs were like back when ‘BITTER & SWEET’ was released. Despite that, and despite me really liking the track, I bet I will soon forget how it goes.

For Yokogao, BENI went for a more soulful and minimalistic approach, singing to a piano and strings only (with some soft percussion). I feel the vocals are a bit too loud, making her sound unstable at times, but on the other hand the emotion in her vocals is well done.

Opening the second half of the album is the midtempo song PAPA, a sweet song for BENI’s daddy. I like the arrangement, very smooth and fitting for this kind of song, and although I can’t understand the lyrics, I get the feeling she sings a sweet song to her father about how much she loves him. Just for that, I would love this.

DEEP SWEET EASY is a drawback for BENI if you ask me. Not that there’s anything very wrong with the song, but it just lacks something outstanding to make it memorable. Despite that, the arrangement is indeed beautiful. It just doesn’t live up to its full potential.

I like the uptempo quality of BABY, it’s like R&B on steroids. It could have had a smoother arrangement, but I feel like I understand the flow of the song more now than I did back when I reviewed it on the ‘Forever’ single. Now I also notice how the music develops throughout the song, adding more fun touches and making it more memorable. BENI, now I feel you.

SAYONARA incorporates more dance influences in its arrangement, and somehow I feel the beats, deep synths and handclaps make it sounds like a 90s dance song will there is still something modern about it. Interesting, and although usually I wasn’t into songs like this, I like this one. I would like to hear BENI do more of this in the future (despite some of the too simple lyrics).

In that same style (albeit a bit more like 90s house), this is the perfect time to cue in TATTOO. I liked this on the ‘Forever’ single for being another song that was not typical for BENI, and I mean that in the best way possible. BENI has always been about the smooth midtempo R&B ballads, but this girl can do uptempo dance and house tracks too and honestly, I like this better on her! One of the most kickass tracks on the album.

Alright, BENI, have it your way, one more midtempo R&B to close the original tracklisting. ZERO is kind of predictable, but enjoyable nonetheless. I would have liked this better earlier on the album, though. One thing: did BENI just sing “I don’t give a f***” right before the first chorus??!😮

CHRISTMAS! Fun Fun Christmas is what it says on the tin: a fun, uptempo song about Christmas, BENI style. Not something you would expect on a regular album, but it’s just a bonus track anyway. I do like the addition of this, it makes me happy!🙂

At first I was very excited about this album, I loved the first couple of tracks and I had high hopes, even when that weird piece MEOW came along. This is BENI doing something different for a change, and I could get used to that. Weren’t it for the fact that she always manages to add some more generic songs to her album to spoil the fun a bit. Now I would like to make clear that I still have to hear the first bad BENI song, but some of her songs just fail to capture my attention and that’s just too bad because I know what she’s capable of. Luckily, there are some new gems on this album, and I will definitely give it another chance in the future!

Favorite tracks: DO IT RIGHT | BFF | Forever | PAPA | BABY | SAYONARA | TATTOO | Fun Fun Christmas

OVERALL RATING
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3½ stars

Namie Amuro – Red Carpet

December 3, 2015 at 1:15 PM | Posted in Namie Amuro, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

redcarpet_zpscblhl6lgSingle review
Namie Amuro – Red Carpet

1. Red Carpet
2. Black Make Up
3. Red Carpet -Instrumental-
4. Black Make Up -Instrumental-

Red Carpet is the forty-third single by Japanese singer Namie Amuro, released on December 2, 2015. Black Make Up is used for theme of One Piece ~Adventure of Nevlandia~. The single debuted at #2 on the charts and sold 13,130 copies on its first day.

I feel so proud of Namie, Red Carpet sounds amazing from beginning to end! ‘_genic’, the album released earlier this year, was very good, but some of the songs did not stand out. This track does, so she’s going places with this. It’s very rhythmic, combining electric guitars, synths and acoustic guitars, and very catchy. I love the chorus, her vocals are very good and the melodies are very memorable. All in all, I love this!

Black Make Up is like a throwback to Namie’s ‘PLAY’ days (the 2007 album), it’s as playful as some of the tracks on that particular album. It’s faster paced than the A-side track, kinda funky with a lot of nice electric guitars, baselines and percussion. The arrangement is less full than that of Red Carpet, but it’s more fun while Red Carpet was impressive. All I can say is: perfect combination of two tracks on one single!

OVERALL RATING
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5 stars

Selena Gomez – Revival

November 13, 2015 at 1:12 PM | Posted in Selena Gomez | Leave a comment

ALBUM REVIEW
Selena Gomez – Revival

1. Revival
2. Kill Em With Kindness
3. Hands To Myself
4. Same Old Love
5. Sober
6. Good For You (feat. A$AP Rocky)
7. Camouflage
8. Me & The Rhythm
9. Survivors
10. Body Heat
11. Rise
12. Me & My Girls
13. Nobody
14. Perfect
15. Outta My Hands (Loco)
16. Cologne

♦ ♦ ♦

Revival is the second solo album by American singer Selena Gomez, released on October 9, 2015. The album topped the charts in the USA, Canada, and Norway, and sold 117,000 units in its first week.

I dive into the future / But I’m blinded by the sun / I’m reborn in every moment / So who knows what I become
Selena speaks these words when opening Revival, the title track and first track on the album. The song has an interesting sound, kind of experimental electro, very soft and yet the percussion is very loud and thumping. Selena delivers a very solid vocal performance, but as an opening track, this is probably a bit too laid back. Amazing track, just in the wrong place.

This is where things really take off. Kill Em With Kindness probably has even a better whistle hook than Adam Lambert’s ‘Ghost Town’, which was already amazing, but in this song it’s even more catchy. The album should’ve been opened by this track, since it instantly got me into the groove. Instead of sticking up her middle finger to how bad the world can be, Selena tells us to ‘kill em with kindness’. Inspirational.

A song that will hopefully become a hit somewhere down the line is Hands To Myself, which is so catchy I cannot get it out of my head (I haven’t been able to do so for the past few days so…). It’s seductive, smooth, and Selena’s vocals are soft and sultry in the verses, while she cries out in the hooks sounding like a mix between Miley Cyrus and Robyn. I’m in love with this one.

I was wondering why Selena sounded a bit different in the chorus of Same Old Love, but Charli XCX delivers the background vocals and they sound great together nonetheless. It’s an interesting midtempo electropop song that is another earworm on this album. I like the snappy beats, jazzy elements and piano tune in the arrangement. Great choice for a single.

Sober reminded me sooo much of Charli XCX’s ‘Boom Clap’, but it’s a good thing because it’s one of those few songs on the album I keep thinking about all day. It’s very catchy, I love that echoed percussion, and Selena’s vocals are again very powerful and solid.

And of course, there is the big summer hit: Good For You (feat. A$AP Rocky). I adore this song and I’m in love with Selena’s breathy and mumbling vocals, the stripped-down, minimalistic sound of the arrangement and the little hiphop elements (strengthened by A$AP Rocky’s catchy and fitting performance). All in all, possibly the strongest song on the entire album, it’s like Selena’s own version of Beyoncé’s ‘Partition’.

I was wondering if Selena would only do catchy and minimalistic songs, but not ballads on this album. Yet, Camouflage is the ballad I’ve been waiting for, and she executed it wonderfully. Her vocals are clear and controlled, attractive to listen to, and the arrangement is simple yet effective with only a piano and strings.

Me & The Rhythm is the next earworm on the album, and it took only one listen for me to love it. That chorus, and the way Selena sings her lyrics, is too catchy and interesting to forget. Nice for a change that it features a deep house beat (which I have come to love), while also incorporating 70s beats and tropical steeldrum sounds every now and then. Very good choice for the third single.

In order to keep things even more interesting, there is Survivors, which is kind of an anthemic song in the best possible way there is. It has a softer approach to electro-pop music, just to slow things down after Me & The Rhythm, but it works so well. That high pitched synth hook is perfection, reminds me a bit of Kygo music.

While explicit content isn’t Selena’s thing, she comes pretty close to discussing it in Body Heat. It’s like a little throwback to her roots because it features some catchy Latin influences, made more unique by brassy instruments and drums. If I didn’t know any better, this could’ve been Carnival music (and I mean that in a good way).

I was instantly attracted to the sound of Rise, somehow similar to Rihanna’s ‘Here I Go Again’ minus the beachy influences. There’s a certain bounce to it that I like and it sounds so airy and celebratory, so different from the approach Revival had, but it’s still like its sister song.

Moving on to the bonus tracks of the deluxe edition, there is Me & My Girls, a complete wake-up call. It’s like Body Heat, but on party drugs. Latin influences, quite feisty vocals by Selena (feistier than on the actual album tracks), and a big dose of female empowerment. If there’s a track that deserves it to be a special bonus track, it’s this spicy one.

Nobody slows it down again, and it’s like the sister song to Good For You, but then more about love than seduction. Still, the music is very seductive and while it’s not necessary, it sticks very well. It’s sweet and tasteful, and the R&B beats and soft piano notes echo around nicely.

From sweet love to bitter and obsessive jealousy in Perfect, which has an interesting and looming harp-smattered arrangement. When Selena sings ‘Maybe I should be more like her‘, I feel it. She brings a certain desperateness to her vocal performance that brings the track to a whole new level, proving that it’s well worth it to have the deluxe version of the album.

There are also two Target bonus tracks (wow, I really got my work cut out for me today). Outta My Hands (Loco) is indeed a bit ‘loco’ with that crazy violin melody opening the song, but it sure grabbed my attention very well. The longer I listen to this, the more I love it, although it’s more like material for her previous albums. Yet, I don’t mind at all!

Last but not least, there is Cologne. Is it just me, or does Selena indeed sound like Miley Cyrus when she belts out? Well, never mind, it’s nice to have her slow things down one last time with this mellow midtempo track. It features beats and synths, but in such a way that it’s soft and sweet, sounding like the love letter that it is. These last two tracks will make that trip to Target worth it.

Is it a big surprise that I love this album very much? I never expected to like Selena’s music because she never really caught my attention, but she surely has with this perfect piece of work. She embraced a completely new image, shaking off her Disney princess one, and she shows she is mature enough while she’s keeping it classy and tasteful. I was expecting a ‘phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes’ all over again, but eventually, that was totally not the case. Could this be the best revival ever?

Favorite tracks: Kill Em With Kindness | Hands To Myself | Same Old Love | Sober | Good For You (feat. A$AP Rocky | Canouflage | Survirors | Me & My Girls | Outta My Hands (Loco)

OVERALL RATING
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5 stars

Girls’ Generation – Lion Heart

November 13, 2015 at 11:45 AM | Posted in Girls' Generation | 2 Comments

ALBUM REVIEW
Girls’ Generation – Lion Heart

1. Lion Heart
2. You Think
3. PARTY
4. Eotteon Ohu (One Afternoon)
5. Show Girls
6. Fire Alarm
7. Talk Talk
8. Green Light
9. Paradise
10. Check
11. Sign
12. Yegam (Bump It)

♦ ♦ ♦

Lion Heart is the fifth Korean album by South Korean girl group Girls’ Generation, released on August 18 and 19, 2015. Half of the album’s songs were released on the 18th while the other half were released on the 19th. The title track and song “You Think” were used as the lead tracks.

I really like their vintage pin-up concept for this album, and Lion Heart fits that concept well with its retro sound. I keep thinking where I heard this song before, but I can’t seem to figure it out. It does mean it’s catchy enough to stick, which is absolutely true. Love the sugary pop vibe and cute vocals.

Now it seems that 2 EPs were released, ‘Lion Heart’ and ‘You Think’, but I’ll just stick to the tracklisting I’ve got here. You Think is the other lead track and it’s very different from Lion Heart. Again, it sounds so familiar, but oh well. Maybe my friend M. introduced me to the tracks months ago. This track is the R&B club banger the girls perform so well, and I love how bratty it sounds. Great vocals again.

Of course, I know PARTY. I reviewed it when it was released and that ‘P-A-R-T-Y‘ is something I cannot get out of my head for, like, the rest of the month, thank you very much. It’s generic, it’s autotuned, it’s completely out of place in November with its summery sound, but it’s like a guilty pleasure. So despite that, I still seem to love it. When I’m in the right mood, that is.

SNSD goes Spanish for Eotteon Ohu (One Afternoon), with the arrangement I mean. It’s a sweeter and more mellow songs than the other songs on the album, it features some nice Spanish guitars, but the jazzy piano solo makes it even more interesting. It’s like they mixed two different styles and made a new one that doesn’t sound unattractive. Extra points for originality.

From Spain to a Burlesque club, where the heck are these girls taking me. Show Girls starts off very smooth and mysterious with that typical slow burlesque vibe, I really like it. But then they screw things up by moving into a very bombastic and fast chorus. It’s like two songs mixed into one, and it kinda ruins it for me. Just stick to the slower verse vibe, please, this is just horrifying while it didn’t have to be.

Fire Alarm is what its title suggests (in my opinion): a dance tune with blazing synths and beats, and some more techno sound effects. The arrangement sounds very full for most of the song, which I like, but it could’ve been better, I need some more power now. Praise for the vocals though, which are very smooth.

Apparently, Talk Talk was already on another release, but I can’t seem to figure out which one. Anyway, it’s a midtempo R&B inspired track with a snapping beat, piano melodies in the background, and solid vocals. It’s a bit 90s Destiny’s Child, which is amazing. I really like this one.

Green Light is pure SNSD at its best: catchy hooks and a little bit of repeated lyrics here and there to really make it stick. The chorus is the best part, I like how they repeat ‘Beep Beep‘ between their lines. This should’ve been a single to be honest, could’ve been a hit.

Paradise keeps the smooth ambiance of the album on track, it’s somewhere between a midtempo and uptempo track. Somehow I categorize it as a summer song, probably because of its soft and airy approach to dance music. The verses are the best, but the chorus doesn’t stay to far behind either. It’s relaxing, while it still slays with those synths and beats.

Partnering PARTY, Check is like a mellow take to EDM music, which leaves more room for the SNSD girls with their crooning. I liked it when I reviewed the PARTY single because the songs balanced each other, but on this spot in the tracklisting, it sounds a bit too generic and maybe forgettable. Still, the lower vocals make it stick just enough. Maybe if I listen to it more, things will work out.

Sign brings back a bit more of the power that was needed at this point, with low pitched synths, and even some horns that really spice it up. The little hiphop break in the bridge was nice, kinda had me surprised there. But overall, I think this is the track on the album that is easiest to forget, at least for me. Not bad, but still.

Moving on to the last track already. I was expecting a ballad because of how Yegam (Bump It) starts, with a soft piano tune. Then, the other girls come in with a relatively fast and bouncy beat that’s typical for R&B, but the piano tune in the background makes it more bluesy. You got it, a very interesting arrangement to say the least. That’s what makes me love it so much, this is the track I’ve been waiting for! It’s amazing and definitely a recommendation.

I completely forgot about this album. I mean, HOW COULD I, I checked the Generasia Wiki frequently during the summer because I knew SNSD would release a new album. Well, thankfully, I caught up eventually. I really like this album, there wasn’t a single bad track. Maybe some that were kinda lost between the others because of their particular spot on the tracklist, but many songs have something unique and interesting to offer that I haven’t heard before. SNSD manages to keep things vibrant, and for that, they receive extra points!

Favorite tracks: Lion Heart | You Think | PARTY | Talk Talk | Green Light | Paradise | Yegam (Bump It)

OVERALL RATING
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4½ stars

Leona Lewis – I Am

November 12, 2015 at 4:22 PM | Posted in Leona Lewis | Leave a comment

ALBUM REVIEW
Leona Lewis – I Am

1. Thunder
2. Fire Under My Feet
3. You Knew Me When
4. I Am
5. Ladders
6. The Essence Of Me
7. I Got You
8. Power
9. Another Love Song
10. Thank You

♦ ♦ ♦

I Am is the fifth studio album by British singer/songwriter Leona Lewis, released on September 11, 2015. The album sold 24,000 copies in its first week of release.

What a great way to open the album with power anthem Thunder. It’s a power ballad with a soulful bounce to it, announcing Leona’s rise from the ashes and her return to the industry after her depression. She certainly puts herself on the map again with this song and I love it for its fiery ambiance.

For Fire Under My Feet, Leona channeled her inner Adele (think ‘Rolling In The Deep’). It’s a bit of a diva song that takes elements from gospel music, which I think is very original nonetheless. It took me a bit longer to let everything this song has to offer sink in, but now I’m positive about how strong this single really is.

For the first slow ballad on the album, Leona pours her heart out in You Knew Me When. Lyrically, it’s about how she changed after a relationship gone wrong. When it comes to the music, there’s a noticeable buildup in the song. She starts softly singing to a piano melody, but eventually percussion, strings and a background choir come in to add to the drama of it all. Center point is Leona’s vocals, which are stunning.

Massive Attack (‘Unfinished Sympathy’) anyone? I Am is the next self-empowerment song and it takes a bit after said song, in the best possible way of course. Some believe this is about how Leona feels after leaving Syco Records and Simon Cowell, but I’m not sure, could be though. Anyway, this is quite a catchy song and a worthy title track. Also, one of my favorites.

Ladders is so different from the rest of the tracks when it comes to the arrangement (not surprising since it’s the only song with other producers). This track is more dance-friendly, which is something I did not expect Leona to tackle, but she did it very well. Her vocal acrobatics near the end of the song are among the best on this album, but overall this song is not among my absolute favorites. Not bad, though.

Of all the songs on the album, I think The Essence Of Me was most forgettable (despite some highlights in the song, but they apparently couldn’t really save it). It’s a bit too generic, and by now I was so surprised about the diversity on this album. Not a bad song, but it could’ve been more special. Maybe I just need a little time with this one.

As the queen of emotional ballads, Leona has had problems in the past with uptempo songs. Yet, on this album, another track like I Got You proves otherwise. This positive song is very welcome by now on the album, and it reminds me a bit of some other uplifting gospel songs. Her vocals slay everything and I think this is probably the track that showcases her amazing abilities best.

Power is right what it says on the tin: another self-empowerment song (‘This is where you end and I begin‘). Some blame Leona for being too blunt on the album, which is sort of true, but at least she’s not overly bitter. The chorus is quite simple, but I like the overall 90s pop ambiance this track has. It’s like a little throwback!

Another uptempo track, and this is probably the best on the entire album since it’s so different. Tropical dance, yay! Another Love Song might feature some bitter lyrics, but the arrangement is so uplifting with its tropical steeldrums and fast beats I can’t even. Some autotuning won’t even ruin this, I think she needed this song in her discography since it’s wonderful.

Closing the album gracefully, Thank You is a soft ballad in which Leona thanks someone for always standing by her side, which is of course a beautiful message. It has a subtle soulful approach, but that only becomes evident near the end when the music swells, and that’s when everything truly becomes magical. Thank you Leona, for those lovely notes that were borderline whistle notes.

I’m surprised this album is this good, I’ve never considered Leona as one of my standard artists but now I’m definitely contemplating it. This is her breakup album, and usually, when they are good, I love those kinds of albums. She gave it her own twist and tackled some genres that make her more diverse as an artist. She fought her way back into the spotlight and battled many things to accomplish this, I think she should receive more recognition for this album. After all, 24,000 copies is not a lot.

Favorite songs: Thunder | Fire Under My Feet | I Am | I Got You | Another Love Song | Thank You

OVERALL RATING
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4 stars

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