Ayumi Hamasaki – TO BE

February 28, 2012 at 2:29 PM | Posted in Ayumi Hamasaki | Leave a comment

SINGLE REVIEW
Ayumi Hamasaki – TO BE

1. TO BE “Original Mix”
2. TO BE “Dub’s cool wind Remix”
3. appears “H.W Tokyo Hard House Mix”
4. Fly high “SHARP BOYS U.K VOCAL MIX”
5. Fly high “Supreme Mix”
6. Fly high “SAMPLE MADNESS REMIX”
7. TO BE “Original Mix -Instrumental-”

TO BE is the eighth single by Japanese singer Ayumi Hamasaki, it was released on May 12, 1999. The single reached #4 on the weekly charts and stayed on the charts for a total of fifteen weeks. The single also became the the #64 single of 1999. The single sold 109,860 copies during it’s first weeks sales and it has since sold a total of 324,500 copies.
The single was re-released in 2001 on a 12cm format with extra remix songs. This time around the single reached #26 and charted for three weeks.

TO BE had the most strange PV I’ve seen from Ayu in a long time, but the song itself is one of my favorites of this era. Ayu’s vocals sound improved, but it could also be her (more appealing) lower pitched singing. The song features great constrasts in the music which I really like. The music is powerful yet a bit laid back in the verses. I think this is very well arranged with an acoustic guitar, a piano and no friggin’ synths at all this time! The chorus takes the song to a more powerful part with an electric guitar in the background.

This remix was the first ever to appear on Ayu’s 8cm single releases, so it marks a turning point. TO BE “Dub’s cool wind Remix” features more of a reaggae ballad style for the arrangement, but to my liking it is sometimes a bit out of tune with her vocals. It’s not the best new arrangement for a song, but still it fits the atmosphere of the song if you ask me. Just gimme the original, though.

The original version of this song is a song that had yet to be released as a single in 1999: appears “H.W Tokyo Hard House Mix”. It’s not my favorite Ayu song if you wanna put it that way, but the remix is pretty hot and quite mysterious. It features dominant synth arrangements and I like the huge beat in this remix. Slowly the song will start to grow on me in the end, I’m sure.

Next are three remixes for the same song, and the first is Fly high “SHARP BOYS U.K. VOCAL MIX”. I always thought the original was kinda funky and cheerful, but this remix kinda tones the original down too much. I don’t like the distorted vocal effects in the chorus and it doesn’t really have a pinnacle, but the beat and synths were nice…

Which brings me to her worst remix to date, and it really makes me like even the previous track more and more. Fly high “Supreme Mix” was soooo pointless. The constant repetition of Ayu’s line ‘It’s gonna‘, the first words of her rap lines, annoyed the hell out of me together with the crazy fast beat! NEXT, NEXT, PLEAAASE =(

Fly high “SAMPLE MADNESS REMIX” really does sound like a sample madness. It starts off with a brassy tune but then a rocky dance tune takes over with lots of synths and electric guitar riffs. There is a minimum of vocals in this remix, you do hear her (fabulous) rap lines and the chorus repeated, but that’s it. Still this remix is waaaaaay better than the previous DISASTER xD

Such a shame this single features some really bad remixes, of which Fly high “Supreme Mix” just made me wanna cry. Out loud. The original song is so pretty, and then they already had to destroy it with a disappointing remix. The remix for ‘appears’ was fine, but then they completely ripped up ‘Fly high’. Well, all three of them are featured on the single Fly high, which gives me the chance to skip them. This single should’ve been just the A-side. Bummer.

OVERALL RATING

2½ stars

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Ayumi Hamasaki – LOVE ~Destiny~

February 28, 2012 at 1:52 PM | Posted in Ayumi Hamasaki | Leave a comment

SINGLE REVIEW
Ayumi Hamsaki – LOVE ~Destiny~

1. LOVE ~Destiny~
2. LOVE ~since 1999~
3. kanariya “Big Room Mix”
4. kanariya “HΛL’S Mix”
5. from your letter “pandart sasanoooha Mix”
6. LOVE ~Destiny~ “Original Mix -Instrumental-”
7. LOVE ~since 1999~ “Original Mix -Instrumental-”

LOVE ~Destiny~ is the seventh single by Japanese singer Ayumi Hamasaki, released on April 14, 1999. The two main songs were the sub-theme and main theme, for the dorama Semidouble. This single reached #1 on the Oricon charts (her first single to do so) and stayed on the charts for a total of twenty-six weeks. It sold 650,790 copies, becoming the #30 single of 1999.
The single was re-released in 2001 on a 12cm format with extra remix songs. This time around the single reached #20 and charted for four weeks.

I’ve always had a weak spot for LOVE ~Destiny~ since the first time I heard it, because it’s a beautiful ballad that always seems to capture me. It’s a great way to calm things down after WHATEVER, and it’s also nice to finally see Ayu release a real ballad in her early career. The song starts off very intimate with just her vocals (which sound way better in this song most of the time, except for some flaws in the bridge) and a piano. Later, other instruments build around that base and strings, percussion and an electric guitar solo strengthen the ballad. This song is one of her best A-sides in her early career.

LOVE ~since 1999~ is a duet with the composer Tsunku and it features about the same melody as the original but it has a different arrangement. It’s more upbeat but I definitely have some problems with this track. It’s very cool that it’s a hot uptempo version of the original, but Tsunku sounds much stronger than Ayu and they sound terrible when ‘harmonizing’ together. At least they’re trying. This is LOVE ~Destiny~ gone wrong. Ugh.

kanariya “Big Room Mix” is the remix for a song that would be released as a single later in 1999 and the original song would become a hidden track on her second studio album. I like the original song, so I can dig the remixes too. This one is very long again at 7:36 minutes, but it definitely has a nice beat and a great synth arrangement. I still don’t know who that male vocalist is, but he’s so random.. I still like this remix very much and the original song is actually very suitable for remixes.

So let’s have another one: kanariya “HΛL’S Mix”, which is a lot shorter than the previous remix but also a lot more dominant with even more percussion, synths and sound effects. This time around, in the chorus, they used a vocoder to alter Ayu’s vocals and except for some of the overly extended notes it sounds pretty cool. I actually think that a remix of this quality should’ve been longer but I enjoyed myself for four and a half minutes, hihi.

from your letter “pandart sasanoooha Mix” is such a CRAZY remix! First, it starts off with the sound of a horse.. Then a crazy beat with a timpani drops in together with synths. I can enjoy this remix because it’s so crazy and not what you’d expect, but ofcourse it’s an odd hybrid of numerous elements all thrown together. It deserves points though for being a unqiue remix.

I’m so relieved this single was way better than WHATEVER, because it was (despite having a good A-side) a bit of a disappointment. The only downer on this single was LOVE ~since 1999~ because the combination of Tsunku and Ayu is a real no-go, but the original song is her best A-side in months. The remixes were much more enjoyable then some of her previous remixes, they really rocked and the remix for ‘from your letter’ was a real surprise to me. Really good single!

OVERALL RATING

4½ stars

Ayumi Hamasaki – WHATEVER

February 26, 2012 at 3:34 PM | Posted in Ayumi Hamasaki | Leave a comment

SINGLE REVIEW
Ayumi Hamasaki – WHATEVER

1. WHATEVER “version M”
2. WHATEVER “version J”
3. WHATEVER “Ferry ‘System F’ Corsten vocal extended mix”
4. appears “JP’s SoundFactory Mix”
5. immature “D-Z DUAL LUCIFER MIX”
6. WHATEVER “version M -Instrumental-”
7. WHATEVER “version J -Instrumental-”

WHATEVER is the sixth single by Japanese singer Ayumi Hamasaki, released on February 10, 1999. WHATEVER “Version J” was used in Valentine’s Day commercials for 7-Eleven, and WHATEVER “Version M” was the ending theme for the TV show ASAYAN. This single reached #5 on the Oricon charts, charted for nine weeks and sold a total of 189,610 copies.
The single was re-released in 2001 on a 12cm format with extra remix songs. This time around the single reached #28 and charted for three weeks.

This is Ayu’s first single to have more of a techno approach instead of the pop/rock sound on A Song for ××. WHATEVER “version M” is the remix version of the original song, although some say neither of the two versions is the original. I’m not a real fan of this music genre, but I can really dig this track. Ayu is probably the only artist who can make techno/dance/electronic music enjoyable for me. I’m just a bit on the fence with her freaky adlibbings in the song, it’s kinda pointless, but other than thatt this track is a great hybrid of pumping beats and nice synth riffs (and a piano in the background, wow).

WHATEVER “version J” appears to be the original version of the song according to some sources, and I can understand why. It sounds much more like songs from her previous era and her voice isn’t altered at all in this version. It’s a bit slower paced and relies much more on that pop/rock sound with actual drums and electric guitars. There are, though, still some synths but that’s completely fine. This version is more melodic than “version M” though the tempo of “version M” was better.

I still think I’m crazy to go into all these remixes, but just watch until I reach singles like kanariya and Fly high, THAT’s what I call crazy. Anyway, what bugged me from the start is that in WHATEVER “Ferry ‘System F’ Corsten vocal extended mix” Ayu’s vocals have been strangely altered at some points, already in her first line. Oh well, this remix is instrumental for a major part. There seems to be no escape from the weird adlibbings, but the rest of the remix is okay.

Now one heck of a long remix is appears “JP’s SoundFactory Mix”, and the first 2:20 minutes is all music: beats and synths. The fun thing after Ayu starts to sing, is that in the instrumental parts an acoustic guitar drops in and it kinda tones down the overall dominant sound of the track. I must admit a classical instrument in a dance song makes things right for me very quickly. It’s quite an uplifting remix and I’ve heard much much worse.

The original version is a non-single track, so it’s quite nice to see that it has a remix:immature “D-Z DUAL LUCIFER MIX”. I’m surprised I actually enjoyed this remix very much because at some points it almost bursts and it’s filled with synthesizers. It has a lighter tone in the chorus thanks to a higher pitched synth but overall this remix is pretty hot.

I’m not very enthousiastic about reviewing all those remixes, but I still do it because they tend to surprise me every time. I think I just gotta learn to love them, and Ayu is close to succeeding. I liked the original version of WHATEVER best because it takes after her previous era and that was my guilty pleasure, haha. The other version was also very good, but the Ferry Corsten remix lacked charm if you ask me. The other two were quite alright, so I’d say Ayu did a good job here. Not amazing, but fine.

OVERALL RATING

3 stars

Meisa Kuroki – UNLOCKED

February 23, 2012 at 6:07 PM | Posted in Meisa Kuroki | Leave a comment

ALBUM REVIEW
Meisa Kuroki – UNLOCKED

1. Hit the Road
2. Shake it Off
3. Wired Life
4. One More Drama
5. Take Me Away
6. Flash Light
7. Woman’s Worth
8. Breeze Out
9. LAST CODE
10. Happy to be ME
11. PARADE
12. S.O.S-ワタシサガサナイデクダサイ-
13. UPGRADE U!
14. 曖昧で贅沢な欲望

♦ ♦ ♦

 UNLOCKEDis the second album by Japanese singer Meisa Kuroki. It was released on February 15, 2012 in three versions: a regular version and two limited edition versions. It charted at #18 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and it has sold 5,862 albums to date. It is expected to be her last album before her hiatus, due to her pregnancy.

Hit the Road is a very cheerful song and I love how it starts with the classic instrument: piano. The soft synths and beats drop in later so it kind of builds into a light yet strong track. I’m not going to talk about Meisa’s vocals much, but right now in general. And I will always say that I don’t exactly love her vocals. They don’t have that much depth and emotion but still she has a certain something. This opening track though is quite enjoyable, it already sounds better than MAGAZINE.

Shake it Off is edgier than the opening track but I kept having the feeling throughout the song that something was missing. That something would be a gigantic bass beat, so it’s kind of a shame that it’s not there. It makes the song sound so simplistic. But I can feel Meisa when she sings ‘I wanna dance now […] shake shake shake it now‘, it’s a nice track to dance to if you wanna look at it that way.

The first single I encounter is Wired Life and I thank God on my knees it’s not that version with Rin Okumura (don’t shoot me). It’s not her best song ever but I do think it’s one of the better. It has that great sense of mystery and subtleness, and I don’t know why but both Meisa’s vocals and the kind of track she delivers here reminds me a little of Namie Amuro.

Another hard club banger is One More Drama, but the Spanish guitar that opens the song adds a great contrast to the arrangement of the song. Vocally Meisa did a better job than usual, and being the first single for this new album she really put herself in the picture with this track. I said before that she’s going Kuu with this song and I still stick to that. It’s a very nice kickass song with lots of prominant synths and beats.

Take Me Away is a very cute song and a real surprise to me, but I have to say the frequent use of autotune irritates me. It’s like Meisa can’t sing and relies on just autotune because of that. But then again if you don’t notice, it makes the song about ten times more enjoyable. This track surprised me because of the little R&B elements in the beat yet it still has a good synth arrangement. The song screams ‘FAKE’ when it comes to vocals, but the song as a whole is pretty enjoyable.

Is she going BENI with Flash Light? Well, if you ask me she’s coming pretty close to my favorite singer. Considering the music, that is. Flash Light is a light pop/R&B song with some cute little elements in there like bells and high pitched synths. The song is just kinda there, it’s cute but I’ve heard songs like this before. Still: not from Meisa. Extra points for this one? Well okay Meisa here you go.

Woman’s Worth is another pumping song but this one stands out due to its unique and nice vibe. I don’t know what ‘Womanza wold‘ means, Meisa, but other than that it’s a nice A-side. Meisa has released many uptempo songs but I must say this one stands out.

Breeze Out is the sister song to Woman’s World and it’s just as hot but it features more brassy elements than any other song I’m used from Meisa. I think I still enjoy this one more than the previous song because of that unique elements, plus the fact that Meisa raps some of her lyrics. It gives the song a sense of ‘oompfh’, if you know what I mean. It’s very sexy and strong. Only Meisa’s high note is a ‘FAKE’ screamer but who cares xD

Finally a slower song, LAST CODE, and I almost didn’t recognize the singer as Meisa! She sings in a for her sense high voice, and I don’t know if it’s really her vocal capability or if the autotuner is her best friend but she sounds fabulous to be honest. It’s not a track that’s rich of melodies, it’s very plain and simple but I love the deep bass sound and the fact that it’s a slow R&B track instead of a club banger. The album really needed LAST CODE.

Happy to be ME features some of the same elements as LAST CODE, such as the sultry R&B mood and Meisa’s higher pitched vocals. I think it would’ve been better if the two songs were a bit more spread, because now we have 8 clubbing songs in a row and then suddenly two very different R&B songs. Regardless, Happy to be ME kind of made me appreciate Meisa a bit more as an artist because she shows her diversity with this song and I can’t help but love it.

It’s back to the dark electronic songs with PARADE, and Meisa’s vocals are heavily autotuned again. Sometimes in the chorus though, it almost seems like she’s singing out of key, and then I mean REALLY out of key. I almost hate that melody, seriously, it doesn’t go anywhere. This is a filler track, it does nothing for me.

S.O.S-ワタシサガサナイデクダサイ- is by far the most vague song I’ve ever heard from Meisa. It’s like a huge hybrid of brass instruments, surfing music and a hyper fast beat. The song sounds like she’s trying way to hard to provide us with a sort of summer track, but I’m not falling for that one. I’m sorry Meisa, this is a wannabe track. Plus: she sings the high notes without the autotune. Double ouch.

UPGRADE U! is the living proof that B-side can also be featured on an album, and it gives me the chance to finally hear what I’ve been missing since I didn’t have the version of the ‘Wired Life‘ single with this song on it. I’m so glad to hear it’s a big improvement after the previous two tracks. The song is set to a much lighter note yet it’s still pretty edgy with a lot of synths and beats. Despite of some minor flaws (which she will always have) this song features one of her best vocal performances and I really love the line ‘Shine a light, shine a light‘.

So there’s a real ballad finishing the album here, and I’m surprised of how pleasant 曖昧で贅沢な欲望 sounds! Meisa’s singing without any autotune to a piano melody, how great is that? She found a pitch that works fine for her, and for the first time I can actually hear some emotion in her vocals. It’s nice how the strings, percussion and background vocals come in later and build around Meisa and the piano melody. I think I’ve found my forever favorite by Meisa, can’t believe this is true! o.O

Wow, I’m not lying when I say this album is way, waaaaay better than MAGAZINE, her first album. True, the album has some minor flaws, such as the spreading of the club bangers and slower R&B songs and Meisa’s vocals in some tracks, but overall there’s so much improvement. I’m almost in shock, and especially the last song stunned me. There’s some great uptempo stuff here and luckily Meisa shows off her softer side with a few softer songs. I didn’t imagine myself liking this album, but I actually do!

Favorite songs: Hit the Road | Wired Life | One More Drama | Breeze Out | LAST CODE | Happy to be ME | UPGRADE U! | 曖昧で贅沢な欲望

OVERALL RATING

4 stars

Rumor: Ayumi Hamasaki’s Mile High Club nightmare

February 5, 2012 at 2:03 PM | Posted in Ayumi Hamasaki | Leave a comment

So most of us know about Ayumi Hamasaki and Manuel Schwartz’s devorce last month. After only a year of marriage, the couple decided to split due to their busy schedules. But it’s been rumored that another reason was the actual cause of the split.

Maybe it’s a little bit weird, but even Japan’s sweetheart appears to have a sex life. Even if it is weird, it’s not very surprising ofcourse. But what IS surprising, is that Mannie threatened to tell stories about that sex life to the Japanese media. “He wanted to sell stories about their sex life to the media. He used a friend to ask the Japanese media how much they were willing to pay if he talked about their sex life,” says an Avex staff member, the label where Ayu is signed.

Mannie Schwartz, an Austrian model, claimed he and Ayu had sex on a plane once. She bought out all the seats in business class and according to Mannie they ‘joined the Mile High Club’ there. He also said Ayu gave him head in a limo and they did it on the stairs in their home. The Avex staff member who told the media this wasn’t sure how much of this is actually true.

The 33-year-old singer Ayumi Hamasaki decided to devorce him around the summer, because he constantly asked her for money. Manuel Schwartz isn’t a very wealthy man, and every time the amount of money he needed increased. Ayu apparently got sick of financing him.

The worst part is that Ayu already started dating another guy when she was still married. Manuel Schwartz actually knows the guy, and Ayu recently flew out to Hawaii to be with her new lover.

I don’t know how much of all this is true, even though I’m sure Ayu divorced Mannie. I’m very sorry for her, and I’m very shocked about these rumors. I definitely hope they are just some stories that are completely made up to increase media attention… Stay strong Ayu!♥

ayaka – The beginning

February 2, 2012 at 4:53 PM | Posted in ayaka | 1 Comment

ALBUM REVIEW
ayaka – The beginning

1. Hajimari no Toki
2. Hello
3. Akai Sora
4. The beginning
5. HIKARI
6. Sora Yo Onegai
7. Tsunagaru Kokoro
8. THIS IS THE TIME
9. Soko Made Aruite Iku yo
10. Egao no Canvas
11. Magic Mind
12. Kimi e
13. Yasashii Ao

♦ ♦ ♦

The beginning is the third album released on February 1, 2012 by Japanese singer ayaka and first under her own independent label, A stAtion. It was released in two versions: a limited CD+DVD edition and a regular CD-Only version. The limited edition will come with a DVD and a photobooklet in a special package. The album debuted at #1 on the Oricon Daily Charts.

I’m so glad ayaka finally makes her comeback, and I have high expectations.Hajimari no Toki is a perfect way to start the album because it’s a beautiful but yet very strong track. It’s not a ballad, but it has soothing verses and pretty piano and strings arragements. In the chorus, ayaka really belts out her lyrics like only she can. She takes on a lovely singing melody too, it showcases her huge vocal range from chest voice right into head voice. Seems like she still has her strength!

Hello slowly gains volume and an electric guitar is heard from the very start. Apparently ayaka decided to add some more powerful songs on her album (I used to know her as the Queen of ballads). I love it when ayaka adopts a lower vocal sound, because it makes her voice sound much deeper and more impressive. I was very impressed by the power in this track, and luckily ayaka blends in with her huge voice.

If you ask me, Akai Sora sounds like a very uplifting song with a cute little bounce to it (thanks to the keyboard). It tones everything down a bit because the previous tracks had quite strong arrangements, and this one just kind of stays in that bouncy relaxed spot. I love the simplicity of this song, it still really appeals to me. I love this^^

The beginning is the first song I encounter that screams ’emotion’. It’s a lovely power ballad with piano, strings and percussion. It sort of gives us the best of both worlds when it comes to ballads. In the verses, ayaka keeps things very simple with just a piano and a soft tone in her voice, and then the chorus takes us to the powerful part again with ayaka hitting her beautiful high notes. The electric guitar solo gave me goosebumps and the bridge even showed ayaka improved her English! A stunning title track.

Another bouncy song is HIKARI with a cute percussion rhythm and a surprising synth melody in the background. In the chorus, some heavy electric guitar riffs come in and it doesn’t really makes sense but it gives the song a sense of power. ayaka’s vocals are dominant in this song, sometimes her belting is a bit out of place but in the end all these elements make the song a unique experience. Another goosebump moment with the solo (and the freaking high notes after the bridge!).

As expected, Sora Yo Onegai is a ballad, and eventually the shortest track on the album. What surprises me is that this ballad is the simplest track on this album with just a piano and ayaka’s vocals. Sometimes we only want simplicity, and ayaka apparently is very good at varying her music. Because of the simple music you tend to concentrate on her voice much more, and then you’ll notice how pretty and deep her voice is.

Tsunagaru Kokoro is so damn catchy, and it may sound cheesy but it reminds me of a nice summer’s day. It’s almost like an acoustic jam session with a guitar, handclaps, a nice percussion rhythm and something like an accordeon(?). It’s just a song that needs doesn’t require explanation, you just wanna get into the groove with it.

THIS IS THE TIME stirs things up a bit with a more heavy sound to it and a powerful arrangement. I love the mysterious melody of the strings, especially when combined with the electric guitar solo in the bridge. The real star in this song is ayaka herself, she shows she has so much power in her strong voice. She either belts out her lyrics or sings really high erall her adlibs are amazing. Another great and strong uptempo song.

Soko Made Aruite Iku yo is a ballad again, and a quite simple one but it shows from the start it has potential to grow. The piano is the central instrument and it plays lovely high notes. The tempo combined with the melody gives a nice soothing song, and it’s the golden combination of piano, strings, acoustic guitar and percussion that makes me like this song even more. One of my favorite ballads on this album, again because it’s not that complex.

It appears ayaka likes to make her non-ballads songs a bit bouncy, and Egao no Canvas is the definition of uplifting as well. I love the ‘Sha la la la la la’ line, it makes the song so much cuter than it already was. The cute lyrics make up most of the total lyrics, but I don’t think it’s a problem because it makes the song so damn uplifting!

Magic Mind doesn’t sound like a ayaka song, it reminds me much more of BENI’s music! The percussion is different, it’s not her usual drum percussion but more of a machine kind. The song is less ‘acoustic’ than the rest of the songs on this album, and it’s completely different too with the use of synths. Still there are some traditional elements too, such as nice high piano notes and strings. It’s the only ‘danceable’ track on this album, but that’s what makes it unique. Damn, ayaka’s super high note near the end of the song just nailed it!

I didn’t expect Kimi e to be uptempo since the title means ‘To You’, but well, it is. The great surprise in this song that really gave me alan vibes was the erhu in the bridge! It sounds great with the overall pop/rock sound, and I didn’t expect it to be that way. Eventually the ‘mistaken ballad’ turned out to be another kickass song with great power, thanks to the electric guitar and percussion.

Yasashii Ao is the last song, and this one is a ballad for real. It’s touching and ofcourse the piano is the central instrument again. The strings build around it wonderfully, and when ayaka is joined by a choir in the second chorus, the real goosebump moments have arrived for me. In my opinion, this song features ayaka’s best vocals on the entire album because of her adlips and frequent use of her head voice. It’s almost like she expanded her vocal range about an octave during her three year hiatus! Another great ballad, and maybe even my absolute favorite!

Three years are a real pain, and it’s exactly how long I’ve waited for something new to be released by ayaka. And damn, what an album! She’s gone indies, and she does it pretty well. I’m so happy for her that her condition from her Graves’ disease has improved over time, she has great talent and she really can’t be missed in the music industry. With The beginning she delivered a great comeback album with the best of musical variety on it. I’m hooked ❤

Favorite songs: Hajimari no Toki | Akai Sora | The beginning | Tsunagaru Kokoro | Sono Made Aruite Iku yo | Egao no Canvas | Yasashii Ao

OVERALL RATING

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