BENI – Gem

April 5, 2013 at 3:01 PM | Posted in BENI | Leave a comment

BENI – Gem

2. Mermaid
3. Losin’ control
4. Loved
5. Luna
6. How Are U?
7. Paradise
8. Mirror mirror
9. Sweet but Empty
10. Koibumi (Studio Live Version)
11. No pain, No gain (English Version)

♦ ♦ ♦

Gem is the third album by Japanese/American singer BENI, released under the name Beni Arashiro on April 25, 2007. The album reached #126 on the Oricon weekly charts, where it charted for a week.

Wow them sales, or rather the lack of them. Doesn’t look promising. Anyway, BAD GIRL jumps right in there with a lot of energy, fire and awesomeness. A lot of heavy beats, synths and just a little of R&B flavor make up this song. BENI’s vocals are top notch here, even her rap in the bridge was amazing, she brought a lot of edge to the song just by giving it all she’s got. Take it from me, this is probably one of the best opening songs on her albums.

Mermaid surprised me by having a clear urban R&B sound, close to hiphop even, and some more of BENI’s raps. I was expecting a mild pop song that was a little on the cute side, but never judge a song from its title. A catchy and bouncy song, it serves as a good second track on the album because it’s midway between awesome and generic to be honest. It caught my attention enough for me to like it though.

BENI continues the string of powerful songs with Losin’ control, another edgy song with some rapped lyrics in the verses. The addition of some piano notes into the music makes it a bit more special, since the rest of the song is pretty much made up from a drum machine, strings and synths. It comes off as a bit simpler than the previous two songs, but it’s just a good song that has enough potential to be one of the best on this album.

Loved is the first ballad on the album, and in triple time as well. BENI opens the song with light and soft vocals, accompanied by soft percussion and guitar accents. Other instruments in this song are some soft brassy sounds on the background in the chorus and a keyboard, which both make this song other than her other ballads. It’s very refreshing to have this song at this point on the album, it makes the impact so much bigger.

Another ballad follows, which is great since the previous album really didn’t have any ballads, just some midtempo songs. Luna was the most succesful single of the album, and it really packs a punch. Although it’s ‘just’ a ballad, the explosive moments in the chorus make it more powerful and it keeps the song from becoming generic in any way. Since we have two ballads in a row here, it’s good to hear that they’re very different in their approach. This song is definitely here to stay, period.

The other single of the album is How Are U?, a happy and carefree uptempo song that sounds like it’s all about fun and joy. The background vocals add to the feeling that this could’ve been the summer song of 2007 in Japan, and this just left me wondering why this single didn’t even chart at all. It’s so much better than some of BENI’s earlier singles, and that counts for the vocals as well. BENI is certainly having fun here, that’s clear. Good song!

Paradise is another happy uptempo song with a lot of interesting extras in the arrangement. I like the fact that a lot of the lyrics are in English too, in fact they make up about 60% of the entire song. BENI knows how to keep her vocals sweet and simple, yet appealing, by sounding lively enough throughout the entire song. Just a cute song that fits perfectly in the middle of the album.

Mirror mirror opens in a slightly bombastic way before adopting a style that is like a hybrid between dance/pop and Celtic music, very original and pretty. It has a sense of mystery to it, but it’s just there in the background not coming out too strong. I like BENI’s vocals in the verses, so different from her usual tone and style. Interesting song!

I really have Koda Kumi vibes when listening to Sweet but Empty, especially the opening of the song reminded me of some of her songs. BENI mixed that cute sound in the opening with some catchy uptempo dance music. The heavier guitar riffs in the background gave it just a little more edge. For just a short song this is definitely not a filler track, it’s darn entertaining.

No studio version, but a ‘studio live version’. Koibumi is definitely the most touching and intimate song BENI made in a long time, singing with just a piano and some strings. I guess the ‘studio live version’ means that her vocals didn’t get a cleanup, and she didn’t need any because her vocals are as clear as ever. This song brings a lot more depth to the album, along with songs like Loved and Luna, and it keeps it more balanced between all those uptempo songs. Definitely not a waste.

No pain, No gain (English Version) brings back the edgy and energetic ambience one more time with a lot of guitars and percussion. BENI’s vocals are a little more agressive than usual as well, fitting into the song perfectly. Funny how placing this song on the album makes it come full circle, since BAD GIRL is a song of the same calibre. It has a lot of kick, it’s fierce and it just left me stunned. The perfect ending of the album.

WHY THE HECK DID THIS ALBUM SELL SO BADLY?! Seriously, don’t the Japanese have any taste in music? Were they boycotting BENI’s music? This is some amazingly hot stuff, I found every song on this album close to perfection and she took some big steps forward. I know not everyone will agree, but if you ask me this is definitely one of BENI’s better albums, and if she had to leave avex trax, she left it with a bang. She doesn’t have to be afraid this album was bad, a huge flop and a major disappointment. For some maybe, but I see the power and influence this album should’ve had. This could have easily been one of the biggest Japanese albums of 2007, but well.. I rest my case.

Favorite tracks: BAD GIRL | Mermaid | Losin’ control | Loved | Luna | How Are U? | Paradise | Mirror mirror | Sweet but Empty | Koibumi (Studio Live Version) | No pain, No gain (English Version)

5 stars


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