BENI – Lovebox

May 3, 2011 at 4:44 PM | Posted in BENI | Leave a comment

ALBUM REVIEW
BENI – Lovebox

1. Lovebox Intro
2. Yura Yura (ユラユラ)
3. Sign (サイン)
4. Hitomi Tojite (瞳とじて)
5. Gimme Gimme♥ (ギミギミ♥)
6. Girl’s Night feat. JAMOSA
7. a million jewels
8. Kimi Ja Nakya (君じゃなきゃ)
9. bye bye
10. MOVE
11. break the rules
12. he is mine
13. My Friend (マイ・フレンド)
14. Message
15. Zutto Futari de unplugged version (ずっと二人で)

♦ ♦ ♦

Lovebox is the fifth album by Japanese singer BENI, and the second under the Universal Music Japan label. The album was released on June 2, 2010 in two different editions: a regular CD only edition and a CD+DVD version with a DVD containing BENI’s MV’s. The album reached #1 on the Oricon weekly charts, where it charted for 14 weeks, and the album sold 57,033 copies This is BENI’s first release to ever attain the top spot on the Oricon charts.

Lovebox Intro is very cute and sweet, it has a bit of a childish ambience to it but it makes it all the more fun. I feel like I’m at a playground with a baby’s giggling, but BENI sings to a lovely melody with pretty lyrics: “‘ll take you to a place you’ve never been before, so open up your heart, it’s called the lovebox‘. Very nice introduction, just like Bitter and Sweet had.

Then the album immediately kicks off with one of my favorite A-sides of the era: Yura Yura (ユラユラ), a really nice combination of upbeat percussion and some classical instruments, such as strings and a piano. I love BENI’s vocals in this track, sometimes I get a bit jealous of her for it. The chorus is always the same, but this song has such a good quality overall that it never tends to drag. It’s happy, it’s pretty, and this is just such an enjoyable track.

Another one of my all time BENI favorites is Sign (サイン), a little more on the softer side and more like a midtempo ballad type of song. I love the piano melody in this song, and the percussion has a nice flow to it with a lot of bass (and that usually does the trick for me). Another thing that really stands out here are BENI’s vocals, she improved a lot during her career and it all comes out in this track. I especially loved her energetic performance in the bridge, can’t help but replaying this one.

Hitomi Tojite (瞳とじて) is the first new full-length track and it has a very sensual flow to it with a sort of Indian/Arabian influenced ambience. It’s a midtempo song, and I get Bitter & Sweet vibes just a little bit, this song could’ve fit easily on that album. On this one, it may not stand out that much after the previous track, but it’s lovely anyway because of the Eastern sound to it.

I can’t believe how addictive Gimme Gimme♥ (ギミギミ♥) is, I can’t help but singing ‘ Gimme gimme your love sotto‘ all day long after hearing this song. Everything about this song is catchy as hell, even the chorus with the fun counting lyrics (‘1-2 shinkokyuushite, 3-4 kimi o mitsume‘). I love the sparkling effect this song seems to have with those little bells and the sound of the synths, and I can’t say much more than all this. Perfect track.

The next new song on the album is Girl’s Night feat. JAMOSA, and the only thing I knew about JAMOSA before hearing her sing is that she has huge boobs, but I don’t care because I’m a girl myself, haha. Back to the music, BENI is a lot better vocally than that JAMOSA person, her vocals are too nasal but it probably takes time to get used to her. This song is very synth heavy but another mid-tempo song, and it’s very decent. It’s just that JAMOSA almost ruined the track…

BENI is back on her own with a million jewels, a smooth song with a nice beat with handclaps and a soulful piano melody in the background. The entire arrangement is a bit different than BENI’s usual stuff, and it may come off as a little darker due to the piano and synths. I especially enjoyed BENI’s singing here, mostly in the bridge with swiftly sung lyrics and a high note right after, never thought the girl could do it! BENI can hit whistle notes, guys! Little extra point for that fact, already liked this song but now even a bit more.

Kimi Ja Nakya (君じゃなきゃ) is a bit on the ballad side of the mid-tempo stuff, an it mostly consists of strings, a piano and those typical fingersnaps in the percussion. This is the first song that didn’t really stand out all that much when compared to the rest of the album, but as an individual track, it has actually a very nice chorus. That might make it a little bit unique and different from the rest of the songs, but mostly it is a bit forgettable.

The next A-side is bye bye, and it kinda brings the spice and energy back after the previous track. The reason why I love this track, even in the context of this album, is because of the way BENI emphasizes the title words in the chorus, and just like Gimme Gimme that might be a little catchy when you’re aware of it. This song is driven by its use of the typical R&B beat, synths and sometimes even a little piano in there, and I’m always surprised how BENI can spark up an entire song with her vocals.

MOVE stunned me because it’s one of BENI’s fewer agressive songs, and uptempo as well. The only thing I miss here is a bit of a stronger bass, but the synths already give this song a certain energy. BENI’s vocals could’ve also been a little more on the agressive side at some points, sometimes they are a bit too smooth and soft, but overall she pulls it off very nicely. This track comes as such a surprise to me now, and I really like it, especially the chorus.

On the other hand, break the rules is even more agressive, so hold your horses here. Finally I get my dominant bass and blazing synths combined, and even some agressive vocals by BENI! This one has got to be the best one out of the new uptempo tracks, it’s very energetic and funky. BENI’s vocodized vocals after the chorus are very funny as well, give the song a little extra. I’m in love with this one =D

There is one thing that annoyed me about he is mine, and that is the weird voice in the background saying ‘HEY’ with a baby-like voice all the time, it’s so distracting. Apart from that, this song brings us back to the ballad stuff with a nice prominent piano melody and overall nice percussion (except for the baby). BENI’s singing is very soothing and at peace, but during the end of the song, some of her adlibbing is a bit out of place. When the song ends, I’ve overcome the sound effects and still find this a decent song.

My Friend (マイ・フレンド) features a beat that slightly reminds me of reggaeton, but the rest of the song is on the fluffy and cheerful side. It has more of an acoustic feel due to the acoustic guitar, combined with some synths and percussion for a signature BENI song. BENI’s vocals are lovely when layered, but when several BENI voices sing in the same pitch: POOF, magic. I like the sound of the line ‘I’ll be there, always be there‘, and with that the rest of the song. Nicely done.

Message is a real piano ballad drawing attention from the start with an interesting beat and even some brass instruments at some points. BENI’s overall vocal performance is very nice with good phrasing and her tone is also very nice, she tends to change the quality of her voice to fit the various parts of the song. The chorus stands out, even after 13 songs, and this was a good closer for the original tracklist of the album.

There is however a bonus track, and oh how happy I became when I saw it was <strong>Zutto Futari de unplugged version (ずっと二人で), </strong>one of my favorite songs from Bitter & Sweet and also one of my favorite BENI songs. This acoustic piano version, together with soft strings, give the song an entirely different perspective, much more emotional. BENI’s vocals are close to perfect, a stunning prestation since this is a very difficult song to sing. Still, she stands, and the result ends the album in a gorgeous way.

Overall, this album left a good impression and I will certainly listen to it more often. I think I like this one even more than I liked Bitter &amp; Sweet, because BENI improved her vocals as well as the variation in her style a bit. This makes me even more curious about her latest album, JEWEL, and I think the start of reviewing that era won’t be far off. These last few months I noticed what an artist BENI is, and now I finally got to listen carefully to her album Lovebox. The album that features my favorite BENI singles of all time, adding a little bit to the rating. I enjoyed most of the tracks here, the other tracks weren’t really bad either or I still have to get used to them a little (such as JAMOSA’s voice). Even though some may disagree, it’s just a matter of taste after all (as always), I really liked this album quite a lot and maybe I will like it even more in the future!

Favorite tracks: Yura Yura (ユラユラ) | Sign (サイン) | Gimme Gimme♥ (ギミギミ♥) | a million jewels | bye bye | break the rules | Zutto Futari de unplugged version (ずっと二人で)

OVERALL RATING

4½ stars

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