Koda Kumi – stay with me
1. stay with me
2. Winter Bell
3. stay with me (Orgel Version)
4. stay with me (Instrumental)
5. Winter Bell (Instrumental)
stay with me is the forty-second single by Koda Kumi, released on December 24, 2008. The title track was used as the commercial song for “au Lismo” and Sony Ericsson’s “Walkman Phone Xmini”. The single peaked at #1 on the Oricon charts and has sold 65,657 copies to date.
stay with me is clearly the winter ballad, if that wasn’t already clear from the lovely cover. Kuu has a lot of ballads in her discography, but this one stands out for me because of its magical and wintery ambience, and its arrangement filled with strings and bells. I’ve heard a lot of winter ballads over the years, but this one is probably one of the best that fits the holidays best.
If you didn’t know that winter tracks can also sound upbeat and uplifting, then listen to Winter Bell. It’s a cute and poppy track, Kuu’s vocals are a little higher than usual as well, but it shows a different side of the winter theme on this single. It’s a fun track to listen to with a catchy chorus, not her absolute best but still very enjoyable.
stay with me (Orgel Version) is basically a music box playing the melody to the song. It’s cute and quite a nice addition to the single, very playful and sweet.
Koda Kumi – TABOO
3. TABOO (HOUSE NATION Sunset In Ibiza Remix)
4. TABOO (Instrumental)
5. Always (Instrumental)
TABOO is the forty-first single by Japanese singer Koda Kumi, released on October 8, 2008. The title track was used as the theme song for the Women’s Wrestling Championship 2008, the commercial song for music.jp and for the Nintendo DS Game Saihai no Yukue. The single reached #1 on the Oricon weekly charts and has sold a total of 88,405 units.
After a ballad A-side on the previous single, TABOO brings back Kuu’s dirty sex appeal in the best way you can imagine. It’s like ‘BUT’ 2.0, a good dance track with some pretty good beats. Her voice is vocoded again, but somehow that always works out very interestingly in tracks like this one. Catchy!
Oh my, it’s been YEARS since I last heard Always, and I remember loving it back when the single was released. It’s the mellow pop track to balance the single, sweet and with a lot of acoustic elements and bells. It might seem a little misplaced with a sexy A-side, to have a cute B-side like this, but personally I don’t mind because I love this a lot.
Something called TABOO (HOUSE NATION Sunset In Ibiza Remix) must have a house sound and must be fit for a party on Ibiza, and luckily, it has and it does. It upgrades the original and gives it a touch that makes it a great party song. The original is always better, but this didn’t disappoint me either.
Koda Kumi – MOON
1. Moon Crying
2. That Ain’t Cool feat. Fergie
3. Once Again
4. Lady Go!
5. Moon Crying (Piano Arrange Version)
6. Moon Crying (Instrumental)
7. That Ain’t Cool feat. Fergie
8. Once Again (Instrumental)
9. Lady Go! (Instrumental)
MOON is the fortieth single by Japanese singer Koda Kumi, released on June 11, 2008. “Moon Crying” was used as the theme song for the Japanese drama Puzzle. The single reached #2 on the Oricon weekly charts has sold a total of 140,743 units.
If I have to pick one favorite Koda Kumi single, this would be the one. It starts off lovely and vulnerable with Moon Crying, with Kuu’s voice filled with emotion. The piano opens the song, but eventually strings and soft percussion join in. The result is a beautiful power ballad that I have loved from day 1, and probably always will.
Even though Fergie seems to be the main artist in That Ain’t Cool, it’s still a nice effort and a collaboration I did not expect at the time. It fits right in with songs like ‘Cherry Girl’, with the same badass girlpower. However, there’s no Kuu (‘That Ain’t Kuu’, LOL), and her ‘Engrish’ is pretty bad. Still, guilty pleasure at times.
Kumi teamed up with reggae artist PUSHIM for Once Again, one of my absolute favorite songs on this single. It’s kind of watered down reggae, but still it’s very enjoyable, especially in the summer. This song takes me back to the summer of 2008, when I listened to this single all the time on vacation in Spain. I can’t stop loving this ❤
Lady Go! ends the single on a happy and poppy note, and it’s probably the catchiest song on the entire single. It’s an explosion of beats and synths, very vibrant and even though Kuu’s vocals are heavily vocoded, it all fits. Back in the day it took me a while to really appreciate this track, but now I can’t imagine not doing so.
Basically, this is a gem if you ask me. Some might not agree, but to me, this single has something for everyone. Also, it seems like it encompasses the four seasons a bit (with Moon Crying being the winter ballad, and Once Again being the summer single, etcetera).
BENI – Shiki Uta summer
1. Summer Lovers
2. Natsu no Omoide
4. Eien marriage ver.
5. Baby Blue
7. Summer Night Fever
8. OUR SKY
9. Zenryoku Shounen
10. Natsu ga Owaru Koro
♦ ♦ ♦
Shiki Uta summer is the first concept album by Japanese/American singer BENI, released on June 29, 2016.
The opening track, Summer Lovers, is quite cheery and upbeat and it sets the mood for the rest of the album. It sounds like a summer celebration with strings and brass elements, even a little flute hidden in there. It’s fun, and it makes me wonder about the rest of the album.
BENI covers Ketsumeishi’s Natsu no Omoide and its more mellow than the opening track, but it has a very nice bounce to it that captures me. I like that this is an English cover, and since BENI is bilingual, there are no weird ‘Engrish’ pronunciations. Everything about this song fits the summer concept, that little guitar solo in the bridge too.
I keep hearing something that sounds like the opening to Phil Collins’ “You Can’t Hurry Love” whenever that first beat opens Forever, it’s so funky and funny that I hear a resemblance. Anyway, this song is probably already one of my favorites on the album since it’s so catchy and I have loved it from the moment she released it as a single last year. I could listen to this song multiple times in a row and still not grow tired of it.
I really like the original version, I have always thought it was magical, and Eien marriage ver. has just that little extra. It’s sweet, and when I listen to the strings-filled arrangement, I can imagine a summer wedding. BENI’s vocals are the highlight of this track, she puts so much emotion into her voice and it’s so real and raw. Love it.
Baby Blue is a completely new song, right? I didn’t know it until now. From what I can tell from the lyrics, I know it’s a sweet song, and the arrangement fits that perfectly. Still, even though it’s nice, it doesn’t do all that much for me in the end.
The next song, Hanabi, is the next ballad on the album, and the addition of acoustic guitars makes it very summer-proof. It was co-written by BENI and Dohzi-T (to my surprise), and I like the slight build-up in the arrangement. However, BENI is a bit pitchy and loud here at times, especially in the chorus.
Summer Night Fever brings back the funky vibe that was present in some previous songs on this album, and I believe this is also a new song. It’s quite catchy, and although I do have to get over my dislike for ‘let’s-have-a-party songs’, I think I can handle this eventually since it’s not that bad. Clap clap.
Ah, OUR SKY, one of BENI’s songs that I know very well. I remember saying this is like a summer anthem, so I wasn’t surprised to find it here. It’s upbeat, fun, and filled with beats and synths for a true summer song. Still one of her better songs.
Zenryoku Shounen is obviously not about a ‘powerful boy’, but it’s still powerful since it has the same ambience that OUR SKY has. It’s fully in English, and it’s from ‘Covers 3’ as well, so we already know this one. It still slays, and I love that it’s on the album.
Closing the album is the new song Natsu ga Owaru Koro, translated to Around the End of Summer, how fitting. It’s a tad slower, and again co-written by BENI and Dohzi-T. Not too exciting for me, it just flows along very well, but I think I will forget about it soon enough.
Usually, BENI’s releases are a hit or miss for me. Her singles are usually awesome, like Forever and OUR SKY, but her new material can be somewhat bland and forgettable. Again, this was the case. True, every song had something I like, but remember I write while I listen to the album. As soon as those songs are over, I have completely forgotten what they were like. Unless it has that certain quality to make it stick. That’s why, sadly, I have to give BENI a lower rating, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy most of the album.
Favorite songs: Natsu no Omoide | Forever | Eien marriage ver. | OUR SKY | Zenryoku Shounen
BoA – Lookbook
2. Kiss My Lips
3. Meri Kuri (Happy 15th Anniversary Ver.)
4. Lookbook (inst)
5. Kiss My Lips (inst)
Lookbook is the 39th Japanese single by South Korean singer BoA, released on December 16, 2015. The title track was used as the ending theme for the NTV Kei program Tokui to Goto to Uruwashi no SHELLEY ga Konya Kurabete Mimashita. The single peaked at #8 on the charts and has sold 7,044 copies to date.
FINALLY after months of searching, I have found a version of this single to review. Now let’s hope it was worth it. The title Lookbook is a bit weird, but wow, this song is actually pretty fierce! It’s driven by dance beats and synths, and although it took me a minute to really get into it, it’s growing on me already. It has the vibe of her Korean releases, but then in Japanese. Great!
Speaking of Korean releases in Japanese, Kiss My Lips is just that. I liked the song on her latest Korean album of the same name, and it doesn’t disappoint this time either. It’s sultry, but still danceable, with perfect vocals on the high notes. Perfect to balance the edgy Lookbook.
Here I go, listening to a Christmas song in October… Now, Meri Kuri (Happy 15th Anniversary Ver.) is the updated version of the song she released 15 years ago, how time flies. She recorded it again and there’s a new arrangement accompanying it that doesn’t sound so early 00’s. BoA still manages to give me goosebumps as soon as she starts on that amazing chorus, and even though the arrangement is a little less impressive than the original, it clearly has a sound more suitable for Christmas. This battle between the old and new version is still not over, I don’t know which one I like better!
Ayumi Hamasaki – We are the QUEENS
1. We are the QUEENS
We are the QUEENS is the eighth digital single by Japanese singer Ayumi Hamasaki, released on September 30, 2016. The song was used as the theme song for the smart phone game CLASH OF QUEENS.
So basically this is ‘just’ a digital single, but hey, it’s October 2, happy 38th birthday Queen Ayu!
The opening of the song is very mysterious with some distant strings and an orchestra building up with slow marching drums. It suits the bombastic ambiance they were probably going for with the game. After a little more than a minute, the actual song starts, and Ayu’s style becomes more evident. It’s kinda like arena rock, and it’s actually very exciting with great and energetic vocals. That guitar solo in the bridge, followed by a heroic break with trumpets and strings, makes me want this track to appear on an album soooo much. All hail Queen Ayu!
Demi Lovato – Confident
2. Cool For The Summer
3. Old Ways
4. For You
5. Stone Cold
6. Kingdom Come (feat. Iggy Azalea)
7. Waitin’ For You (feat. Sirah)
♦ ♦ ♦
Confident is the fifth studio album by American singer Demi Lovato, released on October 16, 2015. The album debuted at #1 in Canada, while reaching the top 10 in fifteen other countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States.
I love how Demi opens the album with this strong number, Confident, in which she sings ‘It’s time for me to take it // I’m the boss right now‘. Show them, girl. It’s a drum-line driven, tough track with some nice brassy elements and everything makes this song so worthy of being the title track. Demi definitely makes a statement here.
Then Cool For The Summer comes in, probably one of the hottest summer songs of 2015. It’s a nice blend, throwing in some edgy rock guitars and electronic arrangements as well. Some say this is Demi going back to her old sound, but I disagree. Of course it’s much more sexually suggestive, but musically this song sets itself apart from the rest. And I quite like it.
Old Ways is the first of a number of songs in this album in which the chorus is a nice instrumental breakdown, with great beats and something very addictive to it. I must say I respect Demi for addressing her rehab issues back in 2010 on this song, and how she’s saying she left it all behind. Great song.
I don’t think I’m the only one when I say For You is like a throwback to the sound on her previous album ‘Demi’. That being said, it’s not that it doesn’t belong on this album. Actually, it’s one of the strongest songs and I like how the verses are more quiet than the bombastic choruses. I guess it grew on me a LOT in the past year.
Ah, Stone Cold.. This sentimental ballad breaks my heart every time I hear it. Demi’s vocal performance is so raw and real, and I think she makes the message even more clear even for those who know what it’s like when someone you used to love moves on. The stripped down arrangement highlights everything perfectly and this is just so soulful and sad. In the best way possible.
Is it strange that I like Kingdom Come (feat. Iggy Azalea) so much? Just like Old Ways, it features a beat-driven, catchy instrumental break in the chorus that sounds a bit like trap music, something I seem to appreciate. It’s one of the songs I always put on repeat, and even though I’m probably alone in my opinion, not even Demi’s BFF Iggy can spoil that.
I had never heard of Sirah, but Demi’s collaboration with her on Waitin’ For You is smashing. This song screams confidence, it’s assertive (maybe even a little aggressive at some points), and I love the arrangement. Sirah lifted this track to the next level with her performance and I would like to see these girls join forces again.
If I have to pick one song that I skip most often, it would be Wildfire. Not that it’s a bad song, not at all! Everytime that perfect whistle note near the end sends shivers up my spine (eat your heart out, Mariah), and it’s soothing in its own way. But maybe that quality makes it hard to compare it to the kickass songs that dominate the album.
Lionheart, then, is like the soundtrack to a Nicholas Sparks movie, and it’s definitely one of my favorites. I thought it was about one of Demi’s late dogs (I think it’s Buddy), which makes it so bittersweet I can’t even. Everything about this song, from the arrangement to Demi’s amazing vocals, is pure perfection.
Yes makes me think about my own fiancé, and I think everyone who’s in love can relate to the lyrics. I think this song made me realize I wanted to marry him eventually, so it holds a special place in my heart. What I like best next to the lyrics, is Demi’s voice. She has so much positive energy and that range is to die for. A-ma-zing.
If Stone Cold was an emotional tearjerker, Father is the other one. You´ll need tissues, trust me. Now, Demi´s father passed away in 2013 and their relationship was, so to say, troubled. Now this ballad, with piano and violins to make it even worse, shows Demi leaving everything behind. It breaks my heart to hear her sing ´I hope that heaven´s giving you a second chance´.
So I have wanted to review this album ever since it came out, but due to circumstances, here it is one year later. In the meantime, I have listened to it over and over again, so I probably know most (if not all) songs by heart. I’m in love with this album, and it’s so close to perfection it made me become even a bigger Lovatic than I already was. If you ask me, this is Demi’s best album to date, and I would be so happy if this is the style she has found for herself. It works so well for her! Keep that confidence coming Demi, it looks good on you.
Favorite songs: Confident | Cool For The Summer | For You | Stone Cold | Kingdom Come (feat. Iggy Azalea) | Waitin’ For You (feat. Sirah) | Lionhearts
Ayumi Hamasaki – M(A)DE IN JAPAN
3. Mad World
6. You are the only one
9. Summer Love
10. Many Classic Moments (globe cover)
♦ ♦ ♦
M(A)DE IN JAPAN is the seventeenth studio album by Japanese singer Ayumi Hamasaki. It was first released via the Japanese streaming service called AWA on May 11, 2016, and was released physically on June 29, 2016. The album debuted at #2 on the charts and has sold 40,609 copies to date.
After quite some years, Ayu throws in another ‘task’, but this time to open the album. Since the name of the album is M(A)DE IN JAPAN, the Japanese sound of tasky fits the album very well. Halfway through the intro, the traditional sound is mixed with some typical Ayu dance music that really spices things up. It gets me so excited for what’s to come.
FLOWER opens with a similar Japanese vibe, but whoever thinks this is a midtempo track needs to think twice. Near the chorus, the arrangement builds into this amazing rock track that easily fits right in with tracks like ‘Microphone’ and ‘WARNING’. Somehow it’s a bit reminiscent of her older days (‘GUILTY’, anyone?). Overall a great first full-length track.
I really enjoy Mad World, simply because it’s so straightforward Ayu. It’s powerful, but it has a more pop/rock sound than FLOWER had and the melodies in the chorus are very easy on the ears. I must say her vocals are a bit better than in the previous track, she sounds more at ease in her vocal range here.
Breakdown is the album’s big ballad and the way the arrangement is built it could easily be a winter ballad. It features a lot of piano melodies, bells and chimes, and there’s a sense of mystery to it. This song also takes me back a few years, like 6 or 7, back to when she did a couple more songs like this. Not the type of forgettable ballad, so this one will tend to stick.
Now Survivor is quite an interesting track because the opening sounds like it could be the opening to one of her concerts, before leading into a big chanting chorus. I don’t think many of the other songs on this album are as powerful and original as this one and I must say this is the one (together with Many Classic Moments) that stayed with me most of all. A must on the album.
I like how You are the only one opens with bagpipes, I LOVE bagpipes. The rest of the song kinda takes the middle road between a ballad and a midtempo song, which is quite interesting to hear. The chorus does not fully appeal to me, but it’s far from bad. In the end, it’s a nice track in which Ayu delivers an emotional vocal performance to top it off.
I comparison to the experimental Survivor, TODAY sounds like a safe choice for the album. It’s an uplifting track and there’s some nice power in it, but it’s more mainstream than some of her other songs. That having been said, I think it’s also an underrated song on this album. Ayu’s vocals sound amazing and the arrangement is very nice.
Mr.Darling is a bit like ‘Life’ remastered, but fortunately it does not sound TOO much like it. It’s a pop song, balancing the album in a nice way. However, it does sound a bit generic and the repetition of the line ‘soba ni ite‘ in the chorus kind of annoys me after couple of listens. It’s not bad, but it’s not special either.
Ah, I thought we were missing something and here it is: an Ayu dance track. Summer Love is like ‘You & Me’ and ‘Merry-go-round’ with a lot of energy and synths, and today it feels like no Ayu album is complete without a track like this. It’s catchy, uplifting and suprising in its own way. I like it!
Now I’ve always been a bit on the fence with Many Classic Moments, I don’t know why. It’s nice and I like the fact that it flows nicely from Summer Love, but there’s something to it that just holds me back a little bit. Nonetheless, would this album be better without it? No. Ayu doesn’t do many covers, but when she does, she does them well. This is another example and maybe I need to get a bit more aquainted with it.
I’m very pleased with M(A)DE IN JAPAN, it’s like Ayumi has finally returned to her roots and releases stuff she is actually very good at. No experiments (except for Survivor, then), no goofy stuff as in ‘Party Queen’, just the sound that made her so great as an artist. It’s also not that long, so I don’t show any signs of fatigue after completing this review, haha. It’s a nice album, I have listened to it a couple of times already on my way to work and I don’t remember skipping anything. Good job, Ayu!
Favorite tracks: tasky | FLOWER | Mad World | Survivor | Summer Love
Namie Amuro – Hero
2. Show Me What You’ve Got
3. Hero – Instrumental-
4. Show Me What You’ve Got -Instrumental-
Hero is the forty-third single by Japanese singer Namie Amuro, released on July 27, 2016. The single debuted at #6 on the charts and has sold 47,157 copies to date. Hero was used as the opening theme to NHK’s broadcast of the 2016 Summer Olympics.
I really like Hero, I think I can even say that I love it and I can imagine this being the Summer Olympics 2016 anthem it was. It’s interesting that it starts off slow and still manages to wow me, but after the first chorus it speeds up with some more drums and violins. Her vocals even appear to be more solid and energetic, less thin than they were on Mint. Talk about your uplifting and inspiring track…
Now a ballad wouldn’t be the best fit on this single, but I also have my doubts about Show Me What You’ve Got. It’s like a cheerleader pop anthem and it doesn’t feel like a lot of production value went into it. It feels a little empty, and it’s so sad especially since Hero is amazing. I’m not into it, but luckily the A-side saved the day.
Namie Amuro – Mint
2. Chit Chat
3. Mint -Instrumental-
4. Chit Chat -Instrumental-
Mint is the forty-second single by Japanese singer Namie Amuro, released on May 18, 2016. The single debuted at #4 on the Oricon Charts and has sold 44,339 copies to date. Mint was used as the theme song for the Kansai Fuji TV drama Boku no Yabai Tsuma.
When I first heard Mint, I was very surprised by its arrangement. It’s not typical, but it kicks ass. It’s kind of a dance rock song and Namie pulled it off nicely, to say the least. Her voice can be quite thin, but somehow she can handle all the action going on. For me, it’s not that hard to think of any reasons why this single was so successful when she released it. Alright, I’ll give you one: that beat ❤
Chit Chat complements Mint very well because it borrows some of the fierce arrangement, yet the song has its very own sound. The previous song is more dance club, this is for a slumber party with the girls (hence the title, I guess). It took me a couple of listens to really start to like this, but now it’s stuck in my head for the rest of the day. That darn catchy synth riff…