KOKIA – songbird

November 25, 2012 at 7:21 PM | Posted in KOKIA | Leave a comment

ALBUM REVIEW
KOKIA – songbird

1. Watashi wa Utau Kotori Desu
2. Soyo Kaze ga Sougen wo Naderu You ni
3. I catch a cold
4. Shiroi Yuki
5. River
6. Hirisagari no Toki
7. You
8. Live Alone
9. Arigatou…
10. Erika
11. Aishiteru Kara (Sincerely Version)

♦ ♦ ♦

songbird is the debut album by Japanese singer KOKIA, released on July 16, 1999. The album did not chart on the Oricon Weekly Charts.

Watashi wa Utau Kotori Desu instantly shows off KOKIA’s beautiful and unique vocals a capella at first before adding a simple but pretty piano line. My first KOKIA album was the Fairy Dance album, so I’m already a little bit familiar with her vocal techniques, which I find amazing. For such a simple opening track, I can get used to this! Even the whistling that closed the song gave me chills.

Although her vocals were a little bit more childish at the time, Soyo Kaze ga Sougen wo Naderu You ni continues the lovely acoustic feel the previous track already had in a rather good way. KOKIA’s timbre fit this kind of music perfectly, so I’m glad she performs another ballad now. It’s a rather long track and the melodies are pretty much continues all the way through, but there’s enough variation in the track through pitch changes and KOKIA’s always interesting vocals.

What the… I catch a cold is the craziest song I’ve ever heard. It’s like a nursery song. True, it’s upbeat and fun with a bouncy piano melody, but KOKIA’s vocals… Do I need to say more? Take the title literally guys, since there’s even some sneezing in the song. I don’t even know what this song is doing here, but damn did it make me LMFAO.

Back to the serious stuff now. Luckily, Shiroi Yuki takes on a much more mature sound, both musically and vocally. I’m also glad KOKIA kept the suspense in the track through her vocals, she doesn’t sing the same way all the time and actually sings very quietly and peaceful before belting out her lyrics suddenly. There’s a sense of drama to this song that I like, especially when compared to I catch a cold. Some repetition in the melodies as well, but it has its charms.

River is another beautiful ballad with matching vocals, in triple time to bring up some variation to the album. I like the way the piano and acoustic guitar work together to really establish that ‘river’ feel in the arrangement. KOKIA’s light vocals easily fly over that arrangement to make the song even lighter, almost angelic. By now I know that KOKIA tends to overuse some melodies in a song that could make them drag, so when I don’t really pay attention to that fact this is actually one of the better songs on the album.

Now Hisagari no Toki is an interesting track. It continues the minimalistic approach most of the other previous tracks had (well… actually it’s all of them but w/e) with the almost typical arrangement including an acoustic guitar, a piano and soft percussion. I’m not sure where I stand with KOKIA’s vocals, sometimes she tends to not hit the higher notes spot on. Other times her vocals are perfect, and ofcourse her head voice comes up again, pretty as ever. I’m in love with that sound. So.. I don’t know about the overall song. I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt for now.

You has quite a nostalgic sound in the arrangement, which reminds me a little of some older songs from the early nineties (it has the same sound as Beauty and the Beast by Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson, LOL). The strings arrangement in the background give the song a more emotional feel, and I must say that besides the repetitions there are definitely some highlights in this song that some previous songs didn’t have. Therefore I think it should deserve some extra credit here.

The longest song on the album at almost six miutes is Live Alone, and it actually drew my attention right from the start. It takes me back to the first two tracks, which I absolutely loved, but it brings along some new aspects too. The background vocals layer the song beautifully, the percussion explores some new details and halfway the song actually becomes a little bit uptempo suddenly!

Ah, the well known Arigatou… . Some of you may know the Cantonese cover version by Sammi Cheng, but since I didn’t know either version before this review I’ll just leave that one alone. For another acoustic ballad that emphasizes another good collab between the piano and acoustic guitar, it definitely has a unique melody that makes the song stand out a little more on this ballad heavy album. Same for the electric guitar, wow that was a real wake up call. I don’t even need to hear Sammi’s version, this one already completely satisfied me.

Erika starts right away with KOKIA singing to a soft piano melody with her matching angelic vocals. As soon as the background vocals drop in, the entire song really starts to take flight. There’s an emotional tone to both KOKIA’s vocals and the music, it almost gives me goosebumps since I like the melody in this song so much. It’s just too bad this song is over too soon, and still it was just over four minutes in length.

Although almost everyone thinks Aishiteru Kara (Sincerely Version) is the better song on the album, I think it’s okay. I mean, I really like it, KOKIA totally dedicated herself to this song to the fullest and the arrangement is beautiful, it’s just that I just heared Erika, which completely stunned me. Still I really think this was the best choice to close the album, and during these 5 minutes I must admit the song starts to grow on me since KOKIA’s singing is especially catchy when she sings the title words. Good song.

Okay… So this album was pretty much all ballads. It wasn’t just ballad heavy, there just wasn’t anything else to find here. STILL. If you ask me, there are definitely some good songs on this album that could’ve shot KOKIA to stardom. That didn’t happen, and after this album she took a break for two years before returning in 2001 at another record label. I must admit I can see why this album isn’t her best until now, but what I don’t get is that this album didn’t chart at all. What was wrong with the Japanese? Don’t they enjoy some easy listening? *sigh*  I guess I’m the only one who can appreciate this album.

Favorite tracks: Watashi wa Utau Kotori Desu | Soyo Kaze ga Sougen wo Naderu You ni | River | You | Live Alone | Arigatou… | Erika | Aishiteru Kara (Sincerely Version)

OVERALL RATING

4 stars

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