BENI – Bitter & Sweet

August 23, 2010 at 1:17 PM | Posted in BENI | Leave a comment

ALBUM REVIEW
BENI – Bitter & Sweet

1. Bitter & Sweet: Intro
2. Kiss Kiss Kiss
3. Zutto Futari de (ずっと二人で)
4. Koi Kogarete (恋焦がれて)
5. Dakishimete feat. Dohzi-T (抱きしめて feat. 童子-T)
6. Anything Goes!!
7. stardust
8. KIRA☆KIRA☆
9. GO ON
10. Shinjisasete (信じさせて)
11. nice & slow
12. STAY
13. Beautiful World
14. Mou Nido to… (もう二度と・・・)
15. Kiss Kiss Kiss DJ HASEBE REMIX

♦ ♦ ♦

Bitter & Sweet is BENI’s 4th studio album, but her first after she left Avex Trax and signed up with Universal Music Japan. It’s also her first album under her new stage name BENI (previously it was Beni Arashiro). The album was released on September 2, 2009 and reached #5 on the Oricon Weekly Charts with 104,501 sold copies. It’s BENI’s highest ranked and best sold album to date.

I’ve never listened to any music by BENI before, but I must say she has a voice that I really like! The short Bitter & Sweet: Intro showcases that from the start, with it’s stormy elements and R&B influences. Her adlibbing background vocals are doing their job as well, and this introduction certainly represents the album’s midtempo R&B genre at it’s best.

Chimes, snapping, a few synths and a piano are featured in the first full length track: Kiss Kiss Kiss, in which BENI’s vocals in the chorus are so catchy when she sings the title words. I love the melody in this midtempo R&B song, it’s so smooth and well flowing, and even though there isn’t much variety, it’s hard to say not to like this song. It seems to have that typical American sound to it, and I think it will totaly blow similar songs away like hell!

Another ballad right here, with Zutto Futari de (ずっと二人で), and I instantly don’t understand the negative comments I read about this track. I hear elements that are hard to find in any song to date, such as the way BENI uses her voice and the melody in the chorus, the heavier percussion right after the chorus (and sometimes in the verses as well)… I love the way BENI presents a more aggressive side of her vocals as she belts out this song.

The more dreamy Koi Kogarete (恋焦がれて) is another midtempo track of the same sort as the two songs before it, and another single out of the bunch. I like the little synth chimes in the song, mostly throughout the chorus, and this track uses more of an acoutic guitar in it’s arrangement. Another midtempo, but unique in it’s own way, and the melody can totally get stuck in your head.

Dakishimete feat. Dohzi-T (抱きしめて feat. 童子-T) is the first non-single track, and has more of a bounce to the chorus compared to the previous songs. I remember Dohzi-T as the guy who totally ruined Ayumi Hamasaki’s debut EP (NOTHING FROM NOTHING) with her, but I’m glad he left this song alone a little more. He actually has some catchy raps in the bridge, but the real vocal stair remains BENI, who really puts something good into the chorus. As for the music: yeays for guitar riffs!

Finally BENI throws an upbeat and more aggressive track on me, Anything Goes!!. A track with more heavy synths and harder percussion is fairly placed after four tracks of the slower kind, and I wonder why this wasn’t a single. No smoothness this time, but more of a showcase for BENI’s other sides, as well as for her ability to reach short higher notes. The guy in the background annoys me, but hey, it’s a catchy song so why would I cry about that?

The next track, stardust, is another upbeat track, and it reminds me of Koda Kumi’s TABOO because of the electronic R&B influences. BENI sounds like she really found her spot in this genre, she’s so enthousiastic. And what’s with the high notes later up in the song? Hey BENI, keep on going like this, and your fanbase will grow… and grow… and grow xD

KIRA☆KIRA☆ is another midtempo track again, and it brings the smoothness right back again with snaps and all R&B beats. To me this track has more of a winter ambience to it, mostly because of the echoed chimes in the chorus, and I can imagine listening to this song in December. Some parts stand out very well, they really do, but overall this song is pretty bland compared to the rest of the bunch. It’s not variated and more of the same.

I like the guitar introduction that leads into GO ON, and if I’m not wrong it features some piano melodies as well. In this more of an upbeat kind of track, BENI throws in some dominant synth riffs that make the R&B verses flow into a danceable chorus. BENI herself has some nice vocals in this song, and a constant beat accompanies her while she’s singing the title words over and over again.

What a stupid way to begin Shinjisasete (信じさせて), and I’m not talking about the piano melody. I’m talking about that short synth-like string riff that you keep hearing throughout the verses and it totally distracts from BENI’s vocals. In the chorus the focus luckily goes back to her, since the midtempo R&B beat takes over with a more likeable soft synth melody in the back. The piano stays featured all the way as well, and the whole adds something to this unvariated song.

What’s up with nice & slow? Back to that stardust quality with more electronic synth influences, yet it’s still a slower paced R&B track. The percussion is also a little heavier than usual, so this is another track that stands out a bit. I like her lyrics, especially when she sings ‘put your arms around me, nice and slow‘, and her voice sounds pretty well blended with this track too.

Disonant strings and some kind of electronic sound lead into STAY, midtempo song #1,000,000 on this album. Yet there’s a certain appealing quality that wasn’t on this album before, and even the guy yelling ‘eyyyy’ in the background isn’t annoying to me. To be honest, it adds a kind of smoothness again, and the melody of the chorus keeps playing inside my head.

Then there’s Beautiful World, and yes, I agree with other reviewers that this is the best track on this whole album because of the first-timer elements in this song. The guy singing with BENI, can someone tell me who he is? They sound wonderful together! The track has such a flair to it, and BENI’s belting works very well too. Her voice works very well with the background adlibbing and layered vocals.

Mou Nido to… (もう二度と・・・) is the response song to Mou Ichino… feat. BENI by rapper Dohzi-T. This song is more acoustic based, and there isn’t really a beat in the first part apart from some snaps and a little bass once in a while. Later up a beat drops in to accompany the piano and acoustic guitar, and this is indeed a pretty song to be released as a single.

It’s funny to hear some Spanish counting before Kiss Kiss Kiss DJ HASEBE REMIX starts off. I’m glad to hear this is not just some electronic dance crap, but actually a song remixed into a little more complicated arrangement. There’s variaty in the percussion and the song is transformed, while the basic melody remained. It’s not very different from the original, except for the beat and tempo, but the original appealed to me a little more. Still, I don’t hate this, I actually like it!

So, basically… Bitter & Sweet isn’t a recordbreaking album to me. It truly has some good stuff, it really does, and BENI rolls along smoothly with everything she does. The individual tracks can all appeal to me, but when I have to listen to the same influences too many times in a row, the album as a whole gets kinda bland. I was very into the first half of the album, since I hadn’t listened to any music of this kind today. But as this review progressed, my interests failed a bit. It’s such a waste, since all the material is good, but there’s no variety in BENI’s music at all. I know she just released a new album, and I definitly wanna hear if she improved even more. I keep my hopes up, because I know BENI is good.

Favorite tracks: Kiss Kiss Kiss | Zutto Futari de (ずっと二人で) | Koi Kogarete (恋焦がれて) | Beautiful World

OVERALL RATING

4 stars

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