Mika Nakashima – TRUE

August 28, 2012 at 10:09 PM | Posted in Mika Nakashima | Leave a comment

ALBUM REVIEW
Mika Nakashima – TRUE

1. AMAZING GRACE (album version)
2. WILL (album version)
3. ONE SURVIVE (album version)
4. HEAVEN ON EARTH
5. DESTINY’S LOTUS
6. Helpless Rain
7. I
8. TEARS (粉雪が舞うように…)
9. TRUE EYES
10. CRESCENT MOON
11. JUST TRUST IN OUR LOVE (album version)
12. STARS (album version)
13. A MIRACLE FOR YOU

♦ ♦ ♦

TRUE is the debut album by Japanese singer Mika Nakashima, released on February 28, 2002. It reached #1 on the Oricon charts, selling 451,230 copies in its first week. Because it sold 996,680 copies in 2002, it became the #8 album of that year. Overall, this album charted for 80 weeks and sold a total of 1,173,534 units.

Mika, you can’t find a worse song than AMAZING GRACE (album version) to open the album. Then again, you can’t find a worse song in her entire discography as far as I know. After the sound of some waves, beautiful but simple strings come in. After a shorter time than on the single Mika starts singing and it’s just plain awful. ‘Amazing glase‘? Her English is just bad and she sounds off all the time. Good thing we got rid of it already. Terrible opener.

Luckily the song that is my favorite A-side from the first era comes in to save the first couple of tracks. WILL (album version) is an extremely pretty ballad, almost like a power ballad actually because Mika is sometimes belting out her lyrics and she finally doesn’t suck at it. The album version is slightly different than the original, for here the jazzy elements are replaced by a more dominant piano arrangement together with some more strings. I must say, I like this version more.

I’m glad ONE SURVIVE (album version) didn’t get rid of that amazing hybrid of disco and jazz, they did with the remix on the single and I wasn’t very happy about it because it took away some of the originality of the track. But here we are with the first uptempo track on the album, complete with the disco beat, strings accents and the additional brassy elements to make it ~jazz disco~! I’ve come to love this one.

HEAVEN ON EARTH strangely enough incorporates some R&B in the overall poppy arrangement, and I said ‘strangely’ because most of the time Mika + R&B = meh. Still she managed to create a catchy song with some good R&B beats, nice harp accents, bells and she shows off some good vocals herself as well. Her English isn’t that good though, but I knew that from hearing AMAZING GRACE.

DESTINY’S LOTUS is one of the more funkier songs on the album for its use of the bass and electric guitar, which was extremely infectuous. The beat is fast, the strings accents are a nice addition as well, in short I have gotten more used to this song and I really like it now for its cool arrangement. Mika’s vocals are a little iffy but not bad, and the random rap section was pretty awesome this time too.

It’s such a shame this next song has a very nice sound when it comes to the music, but vocally, it’s the same story as AMAZING GRACE had. Helpless Rain is the song that when I see the title, it almost makes me cry. The music is very smooth, R&B influenced, but the vocals… Mika is really stressing her vocals in the chorus and she totally sucks at singing the high notes. Probably her worst song ever and it could’ve been so much more.

From just three new tracks on the album, I is the second. It’s another R&B influenced song, pretty smooth arranged with a not too heavy beat, soft bass en electric guitar riffs, some scratches and a pretty cool harmonica solo in the bridge. Mika’s vocals are still high in the chorus, maybe still a little too high for her own comfort but at least she’s not almost choking on her own pitch. The entire song has a feeling of peace, nice to tone things down for a moment.

Which takes us to another ballad and in fact the oldest on the album: TEARS (粉雪が舞うように…). This ballad still reminds me of nighttime, a lullaby, since it’s so peaceful and harmonious. The arrangement is minimal, with just some strings and later a very soft background beat. That beat is what makes it more ethereal and magical thanks to the echoed sound. A long track, but it’s the equivalent of ‘beautiful’.

Ah, TRUE EYES, my dear unorthodox song. This uptempo disco influenced track includes an amazing additional arrangement with a flute and sitar, next to the usual strings and beats. The flute makes it a little more freestyle jazz at some points, which works very cool. ONE SURVIVE is the sister song, but when I think of the arrangements this is definitely my fav of the siblings.

I remember loving CRESCENT MOON for its amazing use of the strings arrangement, especially since it’s another disco beat driven song and it still reminds me so much of the Spice Girls song ‘Never Give Up On The Good Times’ when the strings start playing. The strings are also what makes this song a little funkier, and it’s pretty catchy. Mika has a good vocal performance here, even with the higher notes. Good job.

Okay, what happened to that beautiful R&B ballad we had on the single??! Apparently, JUST TRUST IN OUR LOVE (album version) is a DANCE TRACK. Guess that’s why the title’s suddenly written with caps lock. Anywayz, it still works very well and if there is any ballad song that you can turn into an uptempo track, it’s this one. They gave it the same kind of flavor as tracks like TRUE EYES and CRESCENT MOON, but I really like that style. Works fine if you ask me. Good ‘remix’.

STARS (album version) doesn’t differ much from the original, other than being a little bit jazzier. It’s still the same enjoyable ballad song with a soft beat in the choruses, many strings and some brass instruments. I know I said before that Mika sounds a little insecure singing this song, but now I must say she sounds a lot better on this track than on some others. Her vocals are actually very good here so this is definitely one of my favorite tracks on the album.

The last track on the album is also the last new track, making everything come full circle. A MIRACLE FOR YOU opens beautifully with a piano and strings, after which a background choir and some fingersnaps join in. I think this is the only Mika song that is a little bit gospel inspired and it’s simply breathtaking. Beautiful melodies, music, vocals… Perfect album closer and a good long track as well.

I’m glad I took the time to listen to Mika’s singles first before reviewing this album, otherwise I would’ve never gotten used to her voice and style and I would actually tune out after hearing AMAZING GRACE (please ban that crap). I’m even happier now to know there’s so much more to this girl and she made quite an enjoyable album. With many recognizeable tracks, that’s true, but at least she releases some quality material and her new tracks fit perfectly between the already existing songs. I’m beginning to understand why this album sold far over a million units.

Favorite tracks: WILL (album version) | ONE SURVIVE (album version) | HEAVEN ON EARTH | DESTINY’S LOTUS | TEARS (粉雪が舞うように…) | TRUE EYES | CRESCENT MOON | STARS (album version) | A MIRACLE FOR YOU

OVERALL RATING

4½ stars

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