ayaka – First Message

February 20, 2011 at 12:32 PM | Posted in ayaka | Leave a comment

ALBUM REVIEW
ayaka – First Message

1. Start to 0 (Love)
2. Real voice
3. Sha la la
4. Blue Days (ブルーデイズ)
5. I believe
6. Stay with me
7. melody
8. Kimi no Power to Otona no Furi (君のパワーと大人のフリ)
9. Eien no Monogatari (永遠の物語)
10. Toki wo Modoshite (時を戻して)
11.  1・2・3・4
12. Story
13. Rairarai (ライラライ)
14. Mikazuki (三日月)
15. message

♦ ♦ ♦

First Message is the debut album by Japanese singer ayaka, released on November 1, 2006. It was originally planned for release on September 6, 2006, however the album was postponed so that the Mikazuki (三日月) single would be able to be released. The album reached #1 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 1,202,180 copies.

Many people say ayaka makes a lot of pop/rock songs, which is true but in my opinion they’re more of the funky genre, just like Start to 0 (Love). It’s a very good and strong opening track because it’s very cheerful and ayaka’s vocals immediately show what a good singer she is. The sound of her voice is unique, and also very attractive in this song.

Real voice then is indeed more of a pop/rock song with strong electric guitar influences. The opening of the song features ayaka singing through a sort of vintage microphone, and then a lovely piano and guitar introduction follows. I though this song was quite decent, it was not the best single she released for this album but it certainly has its qualities.

Finally the studio recording for Sha la la! The live version was featured on her second single, ‘melody ~SOUNDS REAL~’, and I loved it for its jazzyness. I kinda miss the violin though, it made the song a little folkish. The chorus is my favorite part in this song, and also the ‘sha la la la la’ lyrics in the bridge. ayaka knows how to release catchy funky songs with a little spice to them.

Blue Days (ブルーデイズ)was the B-side for melody, and it’s more of an acoustic ballad song. Each part of the song has something to offer; the verse features a lovely singing melody and in the chorus ayaka hits the high notes very well. Especially one in the bridge, her vocal abilities are really more than they appear to be.

ayaka’s debut single, I believe, is immediately one of her best songs ever. It’s full of emotion, a real ballad with strings, a piano, guitars and soft percussion. The song has a bit of drama to it, which I absolutely love, especially with ayaka’s heartfelt vocals.

Stay with me comes in with a little bang by some funky electric guitar riffs, and the song features somewhat of a bouncing beat, very catchy. When she sings ‘<em>I love you</em>’, she won me over for this one. Even though some of the new uptempo songs sound a little alike, Stay with me actually does have a distinct quality, it’s not forgeteable.

One of my fav uptempo tracks, and also my first ayaka song ever (hehe), is melody. I don’t even know why I like this song so much, maybe because it’s so happy and careless. My own guilty pleasure is the way ayaka pronounces the title word, it’s not perfect English but it doesn’t irritate me at all (‘melodaaaaaay‘ =D). Some of the guitar parts remind me of Spanish music, and the electric guitar in the bridge added that extra something to the song.

If I say uptempo, than I mean UPtempo with Kimi no Power to Otona no Furi (君のパワーと大人のフリ)! It was one heck of a surprise for me to hear ayaka breaking it down like this, and her vocals are even more than amazing here. I love the way she can easily swift from belting to her head voice. The transition into another key is not only smooth and effortless, it’s also a really good way to make this song memorable.

For a few seconds, the guitar introduction reminded me a lot of Secondhand Serenade’s ‘Your Call’ (look it up on YT), but luckily Eien no Monogatari (永遠の物語) is a real standout. It’s a shame the song is so short, ayaka’s harmonizations sound lovely and the song is so dreamy I could listen to it for another three minutes.

Then follows the probably most jazzy song on the album, Toki wo Modoshite (時を戻して). It features that same bouncy beat as some of the other songs, but this time a few brass instruments are featured and ayaka sings in a lower voice most of the time. Altogether, the song sounds a lot different from the rest, somewhat darker but not melancholic at all.

1・2・3・4 is a more pop/rock song, but with very funky vocals from ayaka herself. When she sings the title words she draws my attention to her voice instantly. I like the distorted vocals in the bridge, and the way she counts up to going back to the chorus again.

Story is an uptempo but yet still lighter song overall, and I loved the laid back electric guitar influences in the song. The acoustic guitars make this song catchy from the start, and the chorus of this track reminds me a bit of an Ayumi Hamasaki song (I can’t think of the name though). It’s a very good song individually, but after 12 songs it might come of as unoriginal, even though it is original ofcourse.

Wow even ayaka is infected with the ‘r and l problem’ in Japan (an r is pronounced like an l and vice versa). It’s written like Rairarai (ライラライ), but ofcourse it’s pronounced like ‘Lailalai’. It’s another funky pop/rock song with a lot of guitars and percussion, and it’s quite distinct from the rest of the songs on the album. The repetition of the title words makes this song very catchy and I actually like this quite a lot.

And finally there we have Mikazuki (三日月), my favourite single for this album. This is another real power ballad, the music grows stronger after a while. It’s just a piano in the beginning, but then strings and guitars come right in for a little extra touch. ayaka’s high note in the chorus, which she sustains like  a true professional, gave me goosebumps and I can’t stop talking about how wonderful this song is. Well, after having said that, I think this is a good time to stop XD  Perfect. Period.

message to end the album. That’s… different. After a few seconds of silence, it seems like we’re out on the street somewhere with a lot of noise from cars and people. ayaka starts singing as if she’s out there too, just like that, and it’s all acapella. It’s pretty, I’m jealous of her wonderful voice here.

Well, I wasn’t expecting anything else from this album than what I’ve got now: it’s a perfect debut album. Alright, it has some minor flaws, I admit, but I can listen the entire cd without wanting to skip anything. In my case, I’d say that’s rather exceptional. I even skip songs by my favorite singers, so ayaka definitely earned some points here. Even though she is knows as a real ballad queen, the album is filled with a lot of catchy uptempo pop/rock songs, some with very jazzy and funky influences. Her music is unlike what I have heard so far in the J-pop music business, and ofcourse her voice is one of a kind. My second part of the ayaka ‘obsession’ went very well again, so join me next time for the ‘Sing to the Sky’-era!

Favorite songs: Start to 0 (Love) | Sha la la | Blue Days (ブルーデイズ) | I believe | Eien no Monogatari (永遠の物語) | Mikazuki (三日月)

OVERALL RATING

4½ stars

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