BENI – OUR SKY

June 29, 2013 at 5:35 PM | Posted in BENI, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

SINGLE REVIEW
BENI – OUR SKY

1. OUR SKY
2. HOME SWEET HOME
3. OUR SKY -instrumental-
4. HOME SWEET HOME -instrumental-

OUR SKY is the twenty-fourth single by Japanese/American singer BENI, released on June 19, 2013. The single debuted at #31 on the Oricon Charts.

Ofcourse I was expecting a lighthearted song with a breezy feel, but OUR SKY still has a bit of attitude I like very much in the song. It’s catchy, maybe not the first time you hear it but if you give it a couple more listens you’ll get the hang of it definitely. Especially the chorus tends to stay in your head, but the entire song has such an infectuous summer anthem feel to it every BENI fan must be in love with this new song. Love the vocals by the way, BENI.

I think I can prepare myself for not finding HOME SWEET HOME on her next album (TBR 2013.07.31), because B-sides never make the cut. In this case it’s a darn shame indeed because this song is so unlike what she usually releases. BENI is an R&B artist ofcourse, but this song proves she can tackle some pop/rock ballads too. The arragement in this song is so appealing with its funky ambience, while it still stays in that ballad mood. BENI’s vocals are even better in this song than in the A-side because she does some more adlibs this time (and I simply adore her adlibs and higher pitched vocals). Please put this on your album, BENI, pretty pretty PLEAAASE.

OVERALL RATING
starstarstarstarstar
5 stars

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BoA – Tail of Hope

June 25, 2013 at 9:35 PM | Posted in BoA | 1 Comment

SINGLE REVIEW
BoA – Tail of Hope

1. Tail of Hope
2. Baby you…
3. Tail of Hope (inst)
4. Baby you… (inst)

Tail of Hope is the thirty-fourth Japanese single by South Korean singer BoA, released on June 26, 2013.

I’ve been waiting for a new BoA song for soooo long, and now Tail of Hope is finally here! BoA kicks off the summer season with a very fitting uptempo summer song consisting of very catchy beats and synths, together with some nice bass riffs in the background. Some of the effects in the arrangement make the song a little more ethereal as well while the bridge covers dubstep-like music. BoA herself puts everything into her voice, giving an amazing performance without oversinging a single note. Perfect single to return to Japanese music with!

The B-side, Baby you…, is the mellow R&B song on the single to balance it off. It’s much better than most of the R&B songs BoA used to make in the past, a lot of them were either very generic or sounded much alike, but there’s something about this song that makes it sweeter and a bit more memorable. That’s just the thing with this song: where Tail of Hope was uptempo and pretty funky, this song is sweet and mellow. Another standing ‘o’ for the vocals, I could get used to BoA turning out singles like this!

OVERALL RATING
starstarstarstarhalfstar
4½ stars

Dal★Shabet – Be Ambitious

June 21, 2013 at 11:20 AM | Posted in Dal★Shabet | Leave a comment

MINI-ALBUM REVIEW
Dal★Shabet – Be Ambitious

1. Dal★Shabet Girls
2. Nae Dalileul Bwa
3. Summer Break
4. Hey, Mr. Chu~♥
5. Let It Go
6. Eojjeom
7. Nae Dalileul Bwa (Inst.)

♦ ♦ ♦

Be Ambitious is the sixth mini-album by South Korean girl group Dal★Shabet, released on June 20, 2013.

Dal★Shabet Girls serves as the introduction track since it’s just little over one minute in length, but for such a short track I think it would’ve been great as a full length one! It’s funky with some electric guitar riffs and brass instruments in the background, and the vocals were amazing too. Too bad this isn’t more!

The next track takes on more of a dance/pop style, and some of the parts in the verses remind me a bit of Namie Amuro’s ‘Fight Together’ (the weird associations I make..). Nae Dalileul Bwa is the main track of this mini-album and it has the right amount of attitude to go with it. The chorus and verses don’t really go perfectly together, but the good arrangement and the vocals make everything alright if you ask me. This deserves a couple more plays.

I was hoping for a real summer song with Summer Break, and although it isn’t a groundbreaking track like you sometimes encounter it’s still catchy! The chorus is bound to stay in your head for the rest of the day, and since I’m writing this review in the morning, I’m screwed. It has that typical guitar riff based arrangement that a summer song just needs in my opinion, and the higher pitched vocals actually fit the ambience of the song. Repeat please!

Hey, Mr. Chu~♥ is another catchy song that has a lot of synths and beats in the arrangement. It’s like a Korean Lady Gaga song, really. It’s a little heavier on the raps, I think it’s Ah Young but I’m not sure. Yet whoever it was, it was sassy! The title got me raising my eyebrows a little bit, but that’s just me. The rest of the song is hard to ignore since it’s just a good and fun dance song.

I really wanted a little ballad or midtempo song now, but Let It Go isn’t a bad option either. Ofcourse it’s an uptempo song with big beats and many synths, but the electric guitars in the background give it just a little more edge so that it can be distinguished from the other songs. In fact, this song sounds a lot more mature than some of the other tracks. The girls with deeper vocals get a real chance in the chorus, which is another plus.

Eojjeom started off a bit weird for me because it had some Korean dialogue, and I can’t understand a single word of Korean (duh). Still, I finally get my ballad here! It has an R&B/pop sound for a change and the same amount of mature vocals that Let It Go had, so it instantly caught my attention. I love the melodies in this song, the chorus is just pure perfection for a Dal★Shabet ballad.

I remember reviewing some of Dal★Shabet’s music a while ago, I think I did their first three mini-albums and I pretty much liked them! Then they faded a bit more to the background in favor of other artists, but then I saw that they were going to release Be Ambitious and I was instantly curious. I really liked this mini-album, it has some really catchy songs and if you’re a diehard K-pop fan I’m sure you’ll dig this.

Favorite tracks: Dal★Shabet Girls | Nae Dalileul Bwa | Summer Break | Eojjeom

OVERALL RATING
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4 stars

Girls’ Generation – LOVE&GIRLS

June 18, 2013 at 10:31 AM | Posted in Girls' Generation | Leave a comment

SINGLE REVIEW
Girls’ Generation – LOVE&GIRLS

1. LOVE&GIRLS
2. Lingua Franca

LOVE&GIRLS is the seventh Japanese single by South Korean girl group Girls’ Generation, released on June 19, 2013.

LOVE&GIRLS is a very happy uptempo song that’s definitely summer material, from the first second on this just blew me away with its energy. The arrangement is danceable with a lot of beats, synths and one of those carnivalish whistles, and although there isn’t really a pattern in this song (they just go full out) and the vocals can get overly cute, this song is a monster (in a good way!).

To tone the hyper sound of the main song down, they those smooth Lingua Franca to accompany it. It’s more R&B/pop orientated with a very interesting percussion sound, synths, guitars and strings. The vocals aren’t too cute here either, in fact they emphasize how catchy this song is. When it comes to being catchy, this song takes the cake in comparison to LOVE&GIRLS, but that one already caught my attention with its full blown power. Both songs are great!

OVERALL RATING
starstarstarstarstar
5 stars

Koda Kumi – Cherry Girl / Unmei

June 17, 2013 at 7:49 PM | Posted in Koda Kumi | Leave a comment

SINGLE REVIEW
Koda Kumi – Cherry Girl / Unmei

1. Cherry Girl
2. Unmei
3. Cherry Girl -Space Cowboy Remix-
4. Cherry Girl (instrumental)
5. Unmei (instrumental)

Cherry Girl / Unmei is the thirty-fourth single by Japanese singer Koda Kumi, released on December 6, 2006. The single reached #3 on Oricon charts and charted for 10 weeks. It sold 61,817 units in its first week and the most recent figures show that it sold a total of 100,275 units.

At first way back, when I was just getting to know Kuu’s music in 2007 or so, I was totally in love with Cherry Girl because of its fierce sound. I thought this totally kicked ass and she almost couldn’t do better than this. Even when I reviewed the album I thought this song was pretty amazing, but by now this track is like faded glory to me. Now when I think of it there isn’t a single dynamic element in this entire song. I just wish the chorus had more impact, but apart from that this still isn’t half bad.

It’s nice to see that Kuu had Unmei accompanying Cherry Girl on this single since this is the soothing ballad of the two. It’s a song I had long overlooked, I never thought it would give me that musical high. Unfortunately that doesn’t show up until the bridge, but the rest of the song isn’t bad either. The melodies are lovely and I like the arrangement (strings, synth riffs, guitars, piano and later on some soft percussion), so the parts of the song leading up to the perfect bridge deserve some attention as well.

Cherry Girl -Space Cowboy Remix- finally is a remix that has an arrangement that FITS THE VOCAL MELODIES. Space Cowboy, good job. Furthermore, that arrangement finally does kick ass since it gives me a bit more funky and brassy version of the original song. It’s not the version I know by heart so this is a welcome change for me. Very original remix, definitely worth a listen.

OVERALL RATING
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3½ stars

Koda Kumi – Yume no Uta / Futari de…

June 17, 2013 at 7:36 PM | Posted in Koda Kumi | Leave a comment

SINGLE REVIEW
Koda Kumi – Yume no Uta / Futari de…

1. Yume no Uta
2. Futari de…
3. Yume no Uta ~Quartet Version~
4. Futari de… ~WHOOSH MIX~
5. Yume no Uta (Instrumental)
6. Futari de… (Instrumental)

Yume no Uta / Futari de… is the thirty-third single by Japanese singer Koda Kumi, released on October 18, 2006. The single reached #1 on Oricon charts and charted for 16 weeks. It sold 175,643 units in it’s first week and the most recent figures show that it sold a total of 301,169 units.

Yume no Uta takes Kuu’s ballads to the next level. It’s more of a power ballad that starts off soothing with just a piano, but as the first chorus approaches more instruments like drums, soft synths and guitars mix in to make everything complete. It seems as if Kuu is a bit hestitant when it comes to her vocals, but later I give her some extra points for those perfect adlibs near the end of the song. There’s something about this song that makes it all so magical, while at the same time its theme is about a sad breakup. Yep, I can get used to this.

It’s funny to hear that these two songs are actually the same when it comes to the sound and melody, the only things different about Futari de… is the arrangement and the lyrics. It’s the cuter version of the previous song with the arrangement toned down to just a keyboard/synth and soft percussion. The lyrics are about the joy of growing up now, so there’s also a sense of change in Kuu’s vocals (less dramatic and overly emotional). It only lacks the impact the previous song had.

Both songs also have a remix, so I’m basically listening to the same song four times in a row. Anyway, Yume no Uta ~Quartet Version~ has an arrangement that, ofcourse, consists of a strings quartet. Comsidering the theme of the song and Kuu’s emotional vocals, this version tends to be a real tearjerker for all you emotional people out there, so I’m just warning you in advance. Other than that, nothing wrong with this, it’s actually quite nice.

Futari de… ~WHOOSH MIX~ is the first and only song to turn things up, but still not that much. By now I’m pretty much fed up with hearing the same melody all the time, so I don’t think this version made the impression it should have. I mean, it’s not bad, the background vocals in this version actually add something to the song and the little beat gives another take to it, but still… Not my favorite.

OVERALL RATING
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3 stars

 

Koda Kumi – 4 hot wave

June 17, 2013 at 7:19 PM | Posted in Koda Kumi | 1 Comment

SINGLE REVIEW
Koda Kumi – 4 hot wave

1. INTRODUCTION ~I’ll be there~
2. Ningyo-hime
3. I’ll be there
4. INTERLUDE ~JUICY・Ningyo-hime
5. JUICY
6. With your smile
7. OUTRODUCTION ~With your smile~

4 hot wave is the thirty-second single by Japanese singer Koda Kumi, released on July 26, 2006. The single reached #2 on Oricon charts and charted for 17 weeks. It sold 207,484 units in it’s first week and the most recent figures show that it sold a total of 390,685 units.

This is the CD+DVD version of the single, which explains the extra tracks. One of those is INTRODUCTION ~I’ll be there~, which ofcourse is an opening track that uses the elements from one of the four main songs (I’ll be there). It’s pretty short, but for me it always makes me want to have the main track right now.

So it doesn’t flow well into Ningyo-hime, the first main track on the single. It’s the heavy rock song of the bunch, and also one of Kuu’s most rock influenced songs in her discography (together with ‘Can We Go Back’ and such). Although it comes as quite a shock after a relaxed guitar influenced introduction track, this song is a very good example of what good rock should sound like. Kuu gives a great vocal performance and it’s definitely putting her in another perspective. As an individual track this just works and it’s pretty fierce.

And there it is, then: I’ll be there. The main version features the same laid back acoustic guitar arrangement, along with some drums and synths, but there’s even more life in this song. It’s light and sweet, and I always like to think there’s a sense of hope coming from this song. It took me a while to recognize what a gem this song actually is, but now I fully appreciate everything this song is. One of the recommendations on this single.

INTERLUDE ~JUICY・Ningyo-hime is very interesting since it mixes JUICY and Ningyo-hime together, two very different songs, and it sets the songs to a nice hiphop beat. Especially Ningyo-hime comes out great with that beat, but it fits together quite well.

The main song JUICY is a song that is a little bit on the edge, if you know what I mean. Like, this song is about sex. Let’s make that clear, ok. But besides the moaning in the background, the sultry music and its Arabian elements there is no emphasis on the ‘dirty’ concept. In fact, if you look past it, this is just a good song and it’s even the most laid back song on the single. It’s controversial, but I always say ‘Ima Sugu Hoshii’ is much worse.

With your smile is the happy party song on the single, and now when I think of it it’s like a combination of songs like ‘real Emotion’ and ‘COME WITH ME’. It’s very danceable and summer song material, the lyrics can get a little weird sometimes but I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that. This is one of those tracks I always tended to overlook, until I heard it on this single. It got a little bit more of my attention after that, so now I can say I really like this track!

To close the single (the CD+DVD version that is), we have the cute OUTRODUCTION ~With your smile~, which is mostly a instrumental version of the last main song. It only lasts for about a minute though, which is a bummer. Another bummer is that a minute of silence follows, like, what’s the point in that. A very bad synthesized version of Ningyo-hime comes up after that. There’s nothing wrong with the sound of the synths, they just don’t fit the vocal melodies. Bummer.

OVERALL RATING
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4 stars

 

Koda Kumi – Koi no Tsubomi

June 17, 2013 at 6:56 PM | Posted in Koda Kumi, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

SINGLE REVIEW
Koda Kumi – Koi no Tsubomi

1. Koi no Tsubomi
2. Koi no Tsubomi (A Cup Of Milk Tea Bossa Nova Version)
3. Koi no Tsubomi (Instrumental)

Koi no Tsubomi is the thirty-first single by Japanese singer Koda Kumi, released on May 24, 2006. The main track was used as the theme song to the Fuji TV dorama “Buzu no Hitomi ni Koishiteru” as well as the image song to the Japan release of the movie “Cars”. The single reached #2 on Oricon charts and charted for 21 weeks. It sold 140,269 units in it’s first week and the most recent figures show that it sold a total of 273,060 units.

Actually, Koi no Tsubomi is the perfect cute song in J-pop music. It’s fluffy, but not overly cute and Kumi doesn’t emphasize the cuteness in her vocals either. I definitely think some singers need this song as an example (like, Ai Otsuka). Anyway, I really love this song and I have done so ever since it came out. It just makes me very happy and I always want to sing and dance along to it. The arrangement is very uplifting and breezy, just the perfect cute summer song.

Koi no Tsubomi (A Cup Of Milk Tea Bossa Nova Version) always makes me think of the airplane lounge music style, if you know what I mean. Maybe it’s a little far fetched, but just have a listen and I’m 90% sure you’ll agree. The cuteness is all gone in this version, but instead there is a very laid back and relaxed version in its place. There’s not really a highlight since even the chorus is pretty much toned down, but for the diehard lovers of the original song this can’t be a problem.

OVERALL RATING
starstarstarstarhalfstar
4½ stars

After School – First Love

June 13, 2013 at 10:45 AM | Posted in After School | Leave a comment

SINGLE REVIEW
After School – First Love

1. 8 Hot Girl
2. Cheos Sarang
3. Dressing Room
4. Time’s Up
5. Love Beat
6. Hwajangeul Hada Ureosseo

First Love is the sixth Korean single by South Korean girl group After School, released on June 13, 2013.

8 Hot Girl serves as the introduction track for this comeback single, and although it’s nice and laid back I think it’s kind of a vague track because there are some guys in here that ain’t members of After School. Who are these dudes…

Cheos Sarang, the title track, is where the single really begins to interest me. The guys are still in the background but finally I can hear the real girls from After School singing with sultry voices. This track is connected to the introduction when it comes to the soft and relaxed R&B style, and although it’s not something I’m used to in After School’s music I think it’s very cool and yet simple in it’s own way. Very cute.

After two relatively smooth and slow tracks. Dressing Room brings around the dance/pop on the single. I always love it when this style comes with a lot of heavy synths, which give a song a lot of power. Another nice thing about this track is that it isn’t very uptempo, it’s fierce but the tempo stays a bit more in the middle. It makes it all very interesting and the girls are amazing here as well.

Ah, this is what I was waiting for. Time’s Up is one of those typical uptempo After School songs with a distinctive pop sound and maybe a little cuteness here and there. When the song develops it becomes more powerful and interesting altogether, including some raps in the bridge section and more synths in the chorus and bridge too. I think this is my favorite song on the entire single, love it!

Love Beat pushes some boundaries here with it’s more aggressive dance sound. The synths are much deeper and darker here, and the focus might even be more on the music than on the girls’ vocals (which are ofcourse great, as always). It’s not a mind-blowing song or anything, but it’s definitely one of the better tracks with its clubbing qualities.

Closing the single, Hwajangeul Hada Ureosseo is a collab between Raina and Jung Ah and it sounds exactly like its title, which means ‘crying after putting on make-up’ or ‘make-up and tears’. It’s the only ballad on the single, but they go full out with a piano power ballad. This song becomes stronger and stronger near the bridge, and there the girls just let go with their adlibs an vocal acrobatics. Raina will always be one of my favorite members, but Jung Ah proved herself here as well! Great song!

OVERALL RATING
starstarstarstarhalfstar
4½ stars

BoA – My Name

June 9, 2013 at 5:42 PM | Posted in BoA | Leave a comment

ALBUM REVIEW
BoA – My Name

1. My Name
2. Spark
3. I Got U
4. Gido
5. Woenjunhan Nalgae
6. Dugeon Dugeun
7. I Kiss
8. Don’t Give A Damn (Sanggwanupseo)
9. Geureol Su Issgessji
10. Etude
11. Insa
12. Feel Me
13. Babogattjyo
14. We (Uri)

♦ ♦ ♦

My Name is the fourth Korean album by South Korean singer BoA, released on June 11, 2004.

My Name instantly puts BoA in a whole different perspective. I think this is one of the first times she actually incorporated some more R&B than pop elements in her music and it comes quite close to her contemporary style. It reminds me of American R&B music but with a lot more sass because of BoA’s amazing vocals. I loved the central position of the guitars and strings in this song, especially in contrast with the good beat in the background. For an opening song it could use a little bit more power, but I’m not unimpressed.

The power I needed is present in Spark a little bit more than in the title track. The music of said track flows seamlessly into this one because both songs have a similar sound when it comes to the instruments (guitars, strings, beats etc.), but the incorporation of a better beat machine does the trick already. I even find this song catchier and more memorable than the title track, BoA’s vocals are more powerful as well.

I Got U is a softer R&B song with the focus on the soft background beats. It’s quite minimalistic in fact, but somehow BoA’s strong vocals and the background vocals captured me more than I first expected. Most of the time, songs like this are very dull. This one, however, kept my attention because of the vocals most of all. And it’s not that long of a song either.

Gido, meaning ‘My Prayer’, is the first soothing ballad on the album and a very pretty one indeed. From the very beginning it captured me because it’s not as predictable as other ballads when it comes to the chords and patterns of the song. BoA’s own vocals are top notch as well, just right and not oversinging a single note this time (she tends to let go a little bit too much sometimes). Nothing wrong with this song, it’s not the best I’ve ever heard but nonetheless it’s beautiful.

The next song brings back the style that was present on BoA’s previous albums. Woenjunhan Nalgae also features some random guy that is uncredited, but anyway. It’s very uptempo and poppy, and in fact when it comes to the tempo you can also say it´s bouncier than the previous songs on the  album. It makes quite a positive impact after Gido and it definitely sounds like BoA had fun singing this song (not the lifeless drone she can be sometimes).

Relying a bit heavier on the beats, Dugeon Dugeun seems somewhat like Woenjunhan Nalgae but they differ in some ways, thank heaven. It has the same bouncy quality, but it has a bit more oomph because of the bigger bass. It’s one of those typical songs you need to listen to when you’re a bit more acquainted with BoA’s work, otherwise you just won’t dig this. Not to bring down the song, just being honest.

Wow, I Kiss kicks right in with some hot electric guitars that were missing for, like, forever on this album. This is one of those songs that crank up the volume because of its amazing attitude. That intro, by the way, is what’s the very best thing about this entire song if you ask me. The guitars are present in the background during the verses and the chorus, but some synths are there as well to make it sound a bit more like the other songs when it comes to the style. There’s definitely something there.

What kind of title is Don’t Give A Damn (Sanggwanupseo) and what kind of way to start a song is THAT. Well, anyway, it gets a little bit better when the song reaches the chorus. The beat makes much more sense after that, and it also gets a little bit more powerful once you make sense of everything that is going on here. Eventually, I don’t think this song is half bad after all.

Geureol Su Issgessji is the more lighthearted song after a couple of fierce tracks, so there goes one point to balancing the album. It’s not amazingly catchy ot anything, but it’s just so different from Don’t Give A Damn that it still stands out for me. Despite being a good song, there’s one weird thing going on: BoA is overpowered by the music instead of the other way around. SPEAK UP GIRL. Other than that, I like this haha.

At first, Etude starts off with this big orchestra, but that gets toned down a bit in the verses. It becomes more poppy with some beats and synths thrown in, and when the song reaches the chorus I think I’ve found my favorite track on the entire album. This song has such a magical and breezy sound that it makes me wanna sing and dance along to it. Recommended to everyone, this is the complete opposite from generic.

Back to the ballads with Insa, a soft pop track with mostly acoustic guitar riffs, strings and a piano. In short: good ol’ ballad stuff. BoA does the best she can with her vocals to not sing out until further in the song, and she did a great job doing so and therefore not overdoing the vocals. There are some great high notes here as well, I don’t know how she manages to burst them out but she just does. Never thought I was gonna get surprised twice in a row.

So there apparently are some new and refreshing songs on the album, and then we have tracks like Feel Me that take you back to the ‘ID; Peace B’ days. Not that I mind ofcourse, just saying that this doesn’t sound very original. Apart from that, this song still has lots of appeal and great attitude (mostly because of the vocals and how they emphasize every single focus of the beat in the background). Not the best, not the worst.

Stay In Love is the next ballad (which makes Feel Me come out even worse because it’s stuck between two gorgeous songs). It starts off very gently and soft with some strings, a keyboard and soft fingersnaps, but eventually it develops into the typical BoA power ballad with great vocals. Not to mention the magical ambience and how great that male background singer works his vocals around BoA’s. Now THAT’s what I’m talking about, BoA.

In the intro of We (Uri), I can’t seem to figure out if it’s an erhu or strange male vocals opening the song, but I hope it’s the first option because that’s quite a first in BoA’s music. Anyway, what follows is probably one of the most mysterious songs on the album (and one of the most Asian sounding songs in BoA’s discography), and I feel like I’m listening to an alan song or something like that. Great way to close the album with something so unexpected.

My Name breaks the pattern I used to find on BoA’s albums: great songs to start the album, some generic songs in the middle and then out with a bang. In this case, the album was so balanced that both the incredibly catchy and generic songs were scattered on the album. There were no particular ‘sections’ on the album, no clusters of either good or bad songs. That said, I think this album is better than her previous album Atlantis Princess. It doesn’t exceed the rating of that album, but it’s slightly better when it comes to the various styles on the album and the fact that you can hear that BoA is growing as an artist. She’s not quite there yet, but that last track blew me away so badly I can’t imagine her being far from stardom at this point. If she wasn’t already there yet.

Favorite tracks: My Name | Spark | Gido | Dugeon Dugeun | I Kiss | Don’t Give A Damn (Sanggwanupseo) | Etude | Insa | Stay In Love | We (Uri)

OVERALL RATING
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4 stars

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