Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Japanese Heartbreak Songs

So, after listneing to a lot of emotional ballads, I decided to compile a list of a few songs based on heartbreaks. I have tried to include more pop songs than enka because the whole genre of enka is based on heartbreak and sadness. Also, I have chosen songs where the singer projects emotions of sadness through his/her voice prominently. These songs are mostly about a love that is over or holding onto a dying love.

1) Nanpasen by Akina Nakamori- This song is as emotional as it gets. No one but the Queen of tragedy could do this song justice. The composer who usually doesn't give her songs to others believed that only Akina could pull this off and gave it to her. No doubt, Akina did a great job. Nanpasen (shipwreck) is considered one of the most emotionally draining ballads in Japan. Akina's love life was going through rough patches when she realeased this song and that helped her sing it with more emotion. Liar is another good sad song from Akina Nakamori which was based around the same relationship.  Here are a few lines from the lyrics:

It's only love. It would be good if I forgot about it.

I only want to cry while crying.

Before my eyes is a love that's changed.

Maybe I didn't see it coming and

To show that kind of courage, I said that

In order to forget about you.

But it is so lonely, like I'm breaking.

I am the shipwreck of love
2) Ai no Uta by Koda Kumi- This song has one of the best lyrics in Koda Kumi's discography. It speaks on one sided love that is gradually fading. Koda Kumi puts a lot of power and emotion into this song and makes it shine. It has a typical ballad structure with an orchestral and piano arrangement. The chorus is strong and powerful. Here are a few lines:
Even if there was only a vague relation between us

Please, be gentle as always

and don't tell me the truth

I can't accept the fact that I wouldn't be able to see you again anymore.

...I felt that I could go back again tomorrow as always

and I looked up the sky

Never say good-bye

The night sky is falling in my dreams, too
3) Eternal Snow by Changin' my life- Changin' my life is another band that has a lot of sad love songs. Eternal Snow is a wintry ballad brimming with emotion. Myco sings of a painful love that she can't cope up with drawing references to the cold weather. The arrangement is particularly good and Myco brings out the emotions in the song well. Here are a few lines:
Like the snow, they just

Quietly keep accumulating

Hold me tight- if this is how it feels

I didn't want to know

What it was like to be in love with someone

I love you- my tears won't stop

And so I wish

That I had never met you

4) First Love by Utada Hikaru- No heartbreak song list is complete without this song. It was used in the emotional Majo no Jouken drama and was the title track of Utada Hikaru's debut album which is currently the best selling album in japanese history. First love is a bittersweet ballad in which Utada thanks her first love for the feelings he gave her and even though she has moved on, she'll never forget him. The simple arrangement coupled with Utada's emotional voice works well here. Here are a few lines:

You are always gonna be my love

even if I fall in love with someone once again

I'll remember to love

you taught me how

you are always gonna be the one

it's still a sad song

until I can sing a new song...

tomorrow, at this time

I will probably be crying

I will probably be thinking about you

5) Doushite Kimi o Suki ni Natte Shimattandarou?- That's quite a long title. This Tohoshinki/DBSK ballad was a #1 hit that consolidated DBSK's position in the japanese industry. The title actually translates to 'Why did I fall in love with you?'. The PV brings out the emotions in the song well. It is an R&B ballad with a slow beat. Here are a few lines:

Why did I fall in love with you?

No matter how much time passes

I thought you would always be here.

...I'm not the one being blessed at your side

I'm supposed to say farewell?

...But you are still being taken from my side

And I still wish for your eternal happiness

No matter how lonely (no matter how painful)

6) Saigo no Ame by Nakanishi Yaushi- This ballad became a signature hit for Nakanishi Yasushi. It translates to 'Last rain'. It has been covered by popular artists like Atsushi of EXILE and Koda Kumi. It speaks of a love that is leaving the singer and he wants to hold onto it. Nakanishi Yasushi's voice is powerful here and filled with longing.

I’m not going to love someone so much it brings me to tears

If it’ll just be forgotten

If you’re under someone’s spell

I want to hold you so tight that I crush you

...Even though the love that can save you tomorrow

Isn’t mine, I’ll still keep gazing at you like this

...I can’t put my love into words

I can’t connect to you with words

My love for you has nowhere to go, but it won’t stop

7) Last Song by Gackt- The Seventh Night unplugged version is a masterpiece. I have said this in the review of his album Crescent too. You should go and watch the Seventh Night Unplugged Live. It shows what kind of emotions a song is capable of stirring and is one of Gackt's most powerful and emotionally captivating performances. He literally cries out with pain. Anyway, the track version with the guitars is pretty bland when compared to that. The title itself has a painful and sad tone to it. The chorus is the high point because of increased power. The verses are barely audible in the track.

In the ephemeral nature of the changing seasons

Tears overflowed without any reason

"Even now I love you..."

...We held each other close don't forget that warmth

Even if you love someone else

I'll never let go of the sound the last I heard of your voice

...Before this body disappears now, if my wish reaches you

"Please hold me tight just once more..."
8) Kanashii Sake- I decided to finally include an enka song. I have reviewed this song earlier in Akina's Enka. I am talking about the Hibari Misora version now. Kanashii sake is performed brilliantly by Hibari Misora. Through the volume is low, there is a gripping emotion of pain underlying the lyrics.

(I) tasted the tears of farewell

The face that (I) wish to drink and forget

emerges in my drinking glass as I drank

Ah- Leave you heart behind as you leave

I still can't forget that person's face

...Sake why oh why

That person....

If only I can give up on him

That's all for now. If you have any other songs in mind, write them down in the comments section.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Jpop Album Review- Ayumi Hamasaki- A Ballads

Ayumi Hamasaki has her own distinct voice and style when it comes to ballads. Her ballads have been famous for their emotional appeal and sincere lyrics. Here's a review of her most successful ballad compilation.

Rainbow- What can I say? This tracks has it all- emotion, good singing, heartfelt lyrics and suitable arrangement. Rainbow is a nostalgic ballad which starts off with guitar in a fantasy atmosphere. Ayumi's airy vocals gradually join this powerful symphony and create an unforgettable track. Its video and lyrics represent the theme of the album. It is about discovering and believing in yourself. I love Ayumi's songs that deal with lyrics about self growth. Rainbow definitely deserves a 5/5 from me and don't miss this album out because it is only in this album.

Appears- After the powerful Rainbow, Appears is a little bland. I've never heard her loveappears album so I can't say what the HAL arrangement did to the original track but it sounds quite decent. The chorus can be a little too upbeat but the song has a good vibe and is not overly boring or stereotypical.

Key~eternal tie version~- Key has been my favourite tracks since Duty but it doesn't quite stand out on this album. The chorus (anata wa...) is the climax of this song and it gradually deteriorates and disappears. Nevertheless, a great track despite being overshadowed by the high pitched appears. The lyrics are simplistic compared to other Ayumi tracks.

You~northern breeze version~- I haven't heard the original again but this song stays true to its title. It is very breezy after other serious ballads and has a light 'spring' feel. The chorus is not very powerful but breezy and pleasant. Ayumi has re-sung this song in a much more pleasant voice.

To Be(2003 rebirth mix)- To be is a more or less typical Ayumi ballad with a good guitar arrangement. It carries the album forward well but doesn't particularly stand out. Ayumi's voice in this era were less nasal than her previous eras and had more range and agility than the present. This combo makes all the songs sound better.

Hanabi- Hanabi is partly composed by Ayumi and she has done a great job here. It starts off mysteriously. The chorus is a little boring compared to the verses but the song has a nice effect overall. The arrangement was the best part of the song.

M (Hal's progress)- M has never been one of my favourite songs from Ayumi Hamaskai despite it being a fan favourite. Considering that, his version actually sounded good. Yeah, it took forever to start but the HAL arrangement added more depth and atmosphere to the parts where she sings nasally and destroys the song. The verses were always good and shine more in this mysterious arrangement. I have actually begun to like M after this album. The lyrics, as always are beautiful especially the last sentences.

Dearest- Finally, a song with its original arrangement (after Hanabi). Dearest is the formula that Ayumi ballads today follow. Ayumi's emotions come across in the song. The arrangement is well done considering it was Inu Yasha's ending. It has that old japanesey vibe. The chorus is where the emotions explode.

Dolls- Even in this good album, Dolls is one of my least favourite songs. The arrangement is very good but the chorus is rather weak and boring. Not to mention, it is repeated endlessly. The verses are good but I would've liked a more powerful chorus.

Seasons (2003 rebirth mix)- This mix really doesn't do anything to Seasons. It is exactly the song I heard in Duty. Seasons is one of my favourites and stands out on this album as well. The instrumental intro was well done.

Voyage- I really like the musix box in the beginning. The song starts off with the chorus and then comes to the darker sounding verses. A nice, traditional ballad with lot of loose Ayu vibrato. It was around this song that her vibrato began to get really annoying.

A Song for xx 030213 session#2- This song was completely ruined by the arrangement. It begins late and sounds unspectacular compared to the original version. Ayumi's voice has gotten heavier since her first album and that really shows in that 'hitori kiri de' in the end. The end borders on nasal. It sounded fine but not like the masterpiece it is. Again, the lyrics flow from Ayumi's heart and save the poor arrangement.

Who... across the universe- I've never heard Who before but I fell in love with it on the first listen. The verses are better than the chorus because they sound dark and full of pain and longing. A simple piano arrangement is used for this song that makes Ayumi's vocals stand out. The chorus is quite typical but Ayumi does a good job singing it. She is not too nasal or too airy here. The vibrato is optimal too.

Sotsugyo shashin- This song is a cover of a Yumi Matsutoya classic of the same name. The arrangement was quite good. Ayumi sings this song as well as Yumi Matsutoya if not better. The songwriting is good. This song is a perfect conclusion to this ballad compilation.

Overall, a very good compilation and Rainbow is reason enough to buy it. Ayumi's ballads from her albums up till Rainbow are included in A Ballads along with two new songs. If I haven't convinced you yet, let me say that her voice sounds good on this album. It was sung in an era where her voice had the least faults. It has much more replay value compared to other Ayumi albums. The arrangements did not significantly ruin any song (except one or two). There were absolutely no filler tracks and how many albums can match that feat? I totally sell A Ballads to any ballad lover and Ayumi Hamasaki fan.

Overall- 4.6/5


New songs
No filler tracks
Good overall atmosphere of album


Some songs were worse than original
Some songs sound nasal at some points

B'z The Best Ultra Pleasure j-pop review

B'z The Best "Ultra Pleasure" is a compilation double-album by Japanese hard rock duo B'z. It was released on June 18, 2008, and it is part of their 20th anniversary celebration. It peaked at #1 at Oricon charts. It has sold 972,595 copies. It consists of two discs.

This is the first album that I have listened to by B'z. I have listened to random songs by them before, but not a whole album. I chose to listen to this one because it includes their greatest hits from teh 1990s as well as recent times.

Here is the song by song review. I start with CD 1

1. Bad communication- This is a rock song with some danceable elements. There are eletronic elements here and there along with a beat and essence I hear more in dance tracks. It is quite a powerful and catchy song. I didn't really notice it at first listen, but it is one of my favorite tracks on this cd now.

2. BE THERE- This song is reminiscent of some of Mr. Children's songs, especially tomorrow never knows. Although there are heavy guitars, it still sounds like a mid tempo pop-rock song. It sounds totally 1990s. 1990s j-pop song had this really nostalgic feel to them. There is something different about them, so they are really beautiful. This is without doubt, my favorite track on this album.

3. Easy come Easy go- This is a cheerful pop song with jazzy words. It sounds good enough and is really easy listening though it is technically rock, but it isn't hard on the ears. Like other tracks of this CD, it has a composition and feel similar to 1990s j-pop.

4. LADY NAVIGATION- I had heard this song even before I heard it on this album, but the version that I heard was a slow bluesy version. This one is the original is more of a dance track with powerful guitars. It has a strong drum part that tends to drown out even the guitar. Inaba's voice sounds much like Kuwata Keisuke from Southern All Stars. It gruff and jazzy.

5. ALONE- This is an acoustic ballad, though a bit fast and heavy on instruments than the typical ballad, it is relaxing nontheless. A classic j-pop acoustic song but Tak Matsumoto's wonderful composition lifts it from mediocrity and puts it is the realm of being 'special'. The vocals are heartfelt.

6. ZERO- A hard rock song. It is not forgettable but I can't really describe it as something different the way I can do for other songs on this album.

7. Itsuka no merry christmas (merry christmas, someday)- B'z's christmas. It is a masterpiece. Top singers in japan, from Ayumi Hamasaki to Namie Amuro and Gackt have all covered this classic hit, but Inaba Koshi is the one who can make this shine. His hoarse and emotional voice makes the lyrics and warmth of christmas come alive. The instrumental intro by Tak is nothing short of perfect. It's placing in the album is good, because it is preceded and followed by hard rock tracks. One of the best christmas songs with meaningful lyrics.

8. Ai no mama ni Wagamama ni Boku wa Kimi dake o Kizutsukenai- Really long title! It means 'Even if love is selfish, you're the only one I won't hurt'. The lyrics are superb and tug at the heartstrings. the melody is catchy to the extreme. This is the first song on this album that I could hum out the tune of. It is electronic rock and the vocals are powerful and belted out. This is their higest selling single, by the way. It sold in excess of 2 million copies.

9. Hadashi no Megami (Barefoot godess)- A rock track with more percussion and electric guitar than many other tracks on this album. Though there was nothing wrong with this track, I couldn't really feel something 'different' in it. It just didn't stand out.

10. Negai (Wish)- The intro is full of jazzy piano and for a while I started thinking this was going to be one of those nice jazz songs. The verse remains mellow with the piano accompaniment but the chorus is totally rock. The guitars come bursting in and the whole feel of the song changes. It is quite an unpredictable song.

11. Love me, I love you- It also has that distinct nostalgic feel like some other tracks on this album. A good track. It is cheerful and upbeat.

12. LOVE PHANTOM- It is one of B'z's signature hit songs. It starts with a beautiful orchestral piece and then the noise comes in along with Inaba screaming out the chorus.
Rating- 4.6/5

13. Mienai chikara ~the invisible one~- The title is quite inspiring but the song, though very upbeat, doesn't really 'inspire' me.

14. Calling- It is a hybrid of rock and ballad. So I guess it is a rock ballad? The thing is the chorus and some parts and definitely rock. And then suddenly all the sound disappears and there is just Inaba's voice and a piano in the background. It switches from mellow to noisy. There are a lot of dynamics changes.
Rating- 4.8/5

15. Samayoeru Aoi Dangan (Wandering Blue bullet)- This is 'real' rock. There is screaming, shreiking, frying, everything. It sounds a lot like the opening of an anime, with the energy and uninterrupted flow.
Rating- 4.5/5

Well, I couldn't really say that there was even a single bad  track on CD 1. I would have a hard time selecting favorites, but I loved all the songs except Hadashi no Megami, Samayoeru Aoi Dangan and Mienai Chikara, though these tracks were also pretty good. As I said, all the tracks are single tracks and so amazing in their own way, but I have chosen according to my tastes. My absolute favorites are Alone, BE THERE, LADY NAVIGATIONS, Itsuka no merry christmas, Calling, Ai no mama ni Wagamama ni Boku wa Kimi dake o Kizutsukenai (that's pretty much everything!)

CD 2

1. HOME- It starts off like hearing something on radio and then picks up pace. It is a decently catchy song with a good melody and it's difficult to get bored of this.

2. Giri Giri Chop- A hard rock track with plenty of vocal acrobatics. It was used in Detective conan. It was really too all over the place with more emphasis on vocal dynamics than the melody and arrangement. The only thing that saved it was the brilliant vocal performance.

3. Kon'ya Tsuki no Mieru Oka ni (Tonight, from top of the hill where we can see the moon)- It was used in the drama beautiful life starring Tokiwa Takako and Takuya Kimura. It is an acoustic song, but Inaba's voice gives it emotion and makes it sound like a rock song.

4. Juice- It is very similar to Giri Giri chop in melody and arrangement, but it stood out more than Giri, Giri chop.

5. Ultra soul- It is a rock song with a mysterious atmosphere. It sounded dark and suspenseful. It is my favorite rock track on this album.

6. Atsuki Kodō no Hate- It took me many, many listens to even make out that this song existed on this album. It is really too similar to everything else for me to be able to single it out.

7. It's Showtime!!- An energy filled track with great singing.

8. BANZAI- I really loved the part where they yelled BANZAI!. A heavy rock track like all it's predecessors, BANZAI is quiet catchy.

9. Ai no Bakudan- This track is really quite unremarkable. It was one of those tracks where I was thinking 'Was there really any track in the place'. It simple blended into the album. If I had listened to it separately, I could have said that it was a good track, but in this album, there are many songs which simply outshine it so much that it is not even noticeable.
Rating- 2.9/5

10. OCEAN- OCEAN is a ballad. It is quite peaceful and relaxing, much like sitting on a beach near a real ocean. The vocals were soft by B'z standards which made this song seem so delicate.

11. Shodo- It was a detective conan opening which I had heard before, but in this placement, it is even more prominent. The part where they say 'shooo-dou' is similar to the catchy part from BANZAI. But I have to say, I prefer Banzai to this.

12. Splash- It has a tune that kind of makes you want to sway, like arabian songs. It has 'flow', like water. Some Koda Kumi songs like Amai Wana or Shake it! have a similar effect where I just feel like closing my eyes and moving from side to side. This song is quite rhythmic.

13. Eien no tsubasa- A poweful rock ballad. It is undoubtedly the best track on this CD and one of the best on this album. It immediately stood out and caught me in the first listen.

14. SUPER LOVE SONG- Similar to almost all the rock tracks on this album, it really doesn't anything different going for it. But it's not 'lost' in the album, like some other tracks, maybe because of its placing.

15. Pleasure 2008 ~Jinsei no Kairaku~- A good song and a nice way to end this amazing album.

CD 2 was not quite as good as CD 1 because the tracks had no individuality. They would all have stood out as singles, but as tracks on an album, I had to rack my mind and re-listen to the whole CD just to find out what 'that' song was. They are all quite similar in composition, feeling and arrangement. My favorite tracks were Eien no tsubasa, OCEAN and ultra soul.

Overall this 2 CD album is a treat and features many, many great songs. It is a good way to get acquainted with the legend known as B'z. B'z is the highest selling contemporary act in Japanese history and listening to this album will leave no doubts in your mind about how deserving they are to be in that place.

Overall rating- 4.8/5

No filler tracks
CD 1 really has a lot of amazing tracks

Most tracks in CD 2 fail to stand out because of placement
Many songs sound very similar. I could only distinguish tracks after the first ten listens.
Most songs take time to 'grow' on you. They might sound boring on first listen

Manga review Psychometrer Eiji by Masashi Asaki &Tadashi Agi

Okay I know the title is really long! Psychometrer Eiji (サイコメトラーEIJI Saikometorā Eiji?) is a mystery manga and live-action series created by Masashi Asaki and Tadashi Agi, that started in 1996. The manga series is composed of 25 tankōbon and was serialized by Kodansha. Okay first off, I must make it clear that I haven't read the whole manga. I have only read until chapter 118 (whichever volume that is). My review will be based on the story until that point.

Asuma Eiji is a normal high school student, with a reputation for being violent and involved in gangs. But he has the psychometry ability, which is discovered by Shima Ryoko, a police investigator when his little sister Emi gets involved in a serial murder case. And so, Shima uses her charm to get the boy to help her, and Eiji obliges, getting more and more involved in the murders, his powers proving to be quite powerful.(from wikipedia)

Psychometry is the ability to touch a person or object and see memories or visions of things seen by that person or object. This is not the dictonary definition but what I gathered from the manga. In the manga, it is used in this sense. I do not know whether such an ability really exists or is fictional but I gues sit can be found out easily, if you want, using google search.

First, I was really intrigued by the psychometry ability. I found it gave a unique twist to the manga. The manga is really dark and probably labelled as A for the excessive blood, gore and violence. Almost all the murders are serial murders. The format is like, a single mystery is taken and solved for 5-10 chapters, where more information and clues are revealed in each chapter.

Eiji is an interesting character. He is both reckless as well as careful and protective of his younger sister. Shima Ryoko is a good-looking, hard-working, sincere and honest police detective who believes is psychology to solve mysteries. Although it sounds like solving mysteries would be a cake walk with psychometry, it is not so. Eiji doesn't see everything when he touches an object, just some really vague and unrelated images and never the murderer's face. Shima and Eiji then use their brains and other clues along with techniques like profiling to solve the case. So, this is essentially a mystery whodunit type manga, not thriller, though there are plenty of thriller elements.

One thing is that except one, all the serial killers are psychopaths, which seemed really shallow. I mean even for a psychopath, they are really over the top. Most of the times, when the murder consciously chooses targets, it is always women or girls. This was really weird because all murders had really different methods, motives and personalities. Some cases (especially one particular one about red mushrooms) didn't have very reasonable or acceptable explanations, relying too much on pshychology mumbo-jumbo to convince the reader.

The technique of psychological profiling by Shima was very interesting and logical and I liked techniques like these in the manga.

Overall, the manga was good though it lacked consistent logic at points and was a bit predictable with respect to all the killers being psychopaths. It is also really dark and the corpses of the killed people are always shown. I didn't feel it was all that gory or bloody, though definitely ugly. One more warning- this manga is kind of disturbing, psychologically speaking especially if the chapters are read in constant succession.


Mysteries keep you on the edge
Interesting abilities and techniques make the manga unique
Characters are good and there is development

Too dark and some explanations/people make no sense at all

NOTE- images do not belong to me

Manga review- Mars by Fuyumi Soryo

Mars is a shojo manga by Fuyumi Soryo. It explores the romantic relationship between Kira Aso, a shy painter and Rei Kashino, a good-looking delinquent and racer.

Kira Aso and Rei Kashino meet when Rei asks Kira for directions to a local hospital one day in the park, but instead of telling him the directions she draws him a map and hands it to him without saying a word. On the back of the directions is a picture Kira drew of a mother and child. On the first day of school they are both surprised to find that they are in the same class. Later Rei walks in on their teacher sexually harassing Kira. Rei promises to protect Kira in exchange for a painted version of the sketch that was on the back of the map. He also offers to "lend Kira his body" and she asks him to model for her.

Okay, the above was taken from wikipedia and probably accurately summarizes the first volume. But Mars has 15 volumes and a lot more happens. It started out pretty interesting. The character types were new and different. Rei seems carefree and confident but has many terrible secrets and experiences. Kira also has gone through a lot. Their 'inner sadness' is what brings them together, though the causes for them are revealed much, much later in the story. Kira is shy, but not spineless or pushed around. Rei is not like one of those delinquents who have no real reason to be one. He also has his dreams and passion. At no point does their relationship seem forced or one-sided. The guy, though he is a delinquent doesn't push his feelings or himself on Kira. This is quite refreshing since I have read a lot of manga where feelings seem really forced or baseless.

The romance develops slowly but steadily and there are plenty of obstacles along the way for love to overcome. One thing is that the secondary characters are cardboard cutouts and don't really serve any particular purpose other than the girl's/guy's best friend stereotype.

Art is not quite as big a part of the story as one would expect. Racing is given a lot of prominence in the first few volumes, but then as things change, there is hardly any mention of it for a few volumes.

One thing I felt was that the writer tried to project the characters as wounded victims of their families, and uses every possible cliched plot device to suck synpathy out of the reader. It really seems unbelievable at times how so many bad things could have happened to both of them in the past.

Overall, Mars was a manga with refreshing characters and a well developed and steady love story. One thing that detracted was the unnecessary 'darkness' because there was no real need for it. Every encounter led to revealation of some bad memories or event from the past. Maybe this was for a kind of mystery, thriller effect but sadly, no such effect was achieved for me.

Characters- 5 for main, 2 for side

New characters types for shojo
Darker than other shojo manga
Well developed characters and relationship

Some really unnecessary plot elements are added to victimize the characters
Illustrations seemed a bit oldish to me, similar to older manga
Would have liked to see more art

Overall, 15 volumes isn't that long to invest your time and energy into this deep manga.

NOTE- All pictures are from google image search. They are copyright of their respective owners.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Jpop Album Review- Koda Kumi- Kingdom

Koda Kumi is one of the current divas of jpop and Kingdom was her comeback album after a controversy. After Kingdom, her sales has been continuosly declining but Kingdom was the high point in her post million seller era. Koda Kumi has a unique, sandpapery voice that gives life to her songs.

Introduction to kindgdom- A nice instrumental and random vocal intro. Kods Kumi is good at making intros. Many intros to her albums shine more than album tracks.

Last Angel feat Tohoshinki- Not the greatest album or single track but a good follow up to the introduction. The chorus is especially weak but Tohoshinki and Koda Kumi's vocals compensate for it.

Amai Wana- Amai wana is quite an interesting album track that has an arabian vibe to it. Something new from Koda Kumi in this album. It stands out especially after the mediocre Last Angel and Introduction.

Himitsu- This would've qualified for a filler track in one of her other albums but does quite well on this one. Himitsu is sugary and cute- something that Koda Kumi likes to do once in a while.

Ai no uta- A powerful ballad with touching lyrics. Ai no uta is a 'beautiful' song as Koda Kumi herself described on music station. It has power, emotion, good lyrics and good vocals- everything. Being one of the few ballads in this album, it is a great track.

Anytime- A cheerful pop song. Anytime is acoustic guitar led and offers something new to this album. Koda Kumi tries her best to be cute and cheerful, sometimes being too 'over the top'. She did a nice live of this on on the tour in a red dress, sitting on a swing.

Under- Under stands out, being the first heavy R&B track on the album. Under has persistent backvocals and a strong beat that add to its catchiness. A very strong track with Koda Kumi's autotuned vocals and high 'coolness' factor.

BUT- Compared to Under, BUT seems a little bland. It is quite similar to Under in melody and arrangement but has a more electronic vibe. Koda Kumi's vocals are again, fabulous and burst in the chorus.

Koi no mahou- Himitsu's estranged sister. It is easily comparable to himistu in tone, melody, vibe and placing. Its good placing saved it from becoming another filler track. The airy vocals in the beginning remind me of Namie Amuro.

Aisho- Aisho is one of the most powerful and unique tracks on this album. Koda Kumi's sultry vocals carry off the song well, complementing the chorus with power and emotion. It has a japanese vibe that make it a rather unique rock track that borders on ballad.

Anata no shite kureta koro- A filler track that follows the footsteps of himitsu and koi no mahou but does not get the lucky placement. Too sugary and cutesy for Koda Kumi.

Wonderland- Wonderland is kawaii and pinku diva done right. It has an artificial/computer arrangement that sounds like a video game song. Koda Kumi manages to be quite kawaii here and makes this a successful track instead of a wannabe kawaii track.

FREAKY- The strong vocals and beat carry of this song well. The chorus is dominated by backvocals and there quite a lot of autotuning. Koda Kumi's voice has an edge and attitude that makes this song worthwhile.

MORE- More is a jazzy tracks with Koda Kumi's powerful vocals trying quite a bit of sliding and style. MORE has a catchy chorus (I want you more, everything more) and laid back beat that stands out after the demanding Freaky. The jazz adds another dimension to this album. Sounds a lot like an english song.

Black Cherry- Black Cherry is a strong R&B track though not the greatest ending to the album. The signals in the background can become distracting after a while.

Kingdom is a very strong studio album from Koda Kumi and as good as it gets. It would've sold over a million easily if it hadn't been released amidst controversy. Koda Kumi's vocals shine and the album is filled with much needed variety. Japanese, jazz, rock, pop, kawaii, ballads, R&B and arabian- it has it all. I have bought so many of her albums hoping that this would be the best one with minimal 'filler' tracks but they always dissapoint. Kingdom however, is quite good considering the low number of filler tracks. If you're trying out Koda Kumi, start here. It shows all that she can do.

Overall- 4.5/5


Vocals are powerful and consistent
Few filler tracks


Too many 'cutesy' songs where she seems to be trying a little too hard

Jpop Album Review- Yui- I Loved Yesterday

Here I am, reviewing one of Yui's albums again.

Laugh Away- Yui begins things on a cheerful note with the summery laugh away. Laugh away is the best album track Yui has produced in quite a while and the best on the album. The fast paced chorus and acoustic feel make this song unique along with Yui's vocals.

My Generation- My generation has a rebellious, teenage feel. Electic guitars and drums join in the pre chorus, giving this song a rock feel. Yui's vocals are strong here and the fast pre-chorus works well.

Find me- Find me is a complete filler track. It has the normal acoustic chorus and verse. Nothing that we've not heard from Yui.

No way- More intresting than Find me. It has a rock instrumental led by electric guitars. A nice bridge to namidairo.

Namidairo- One of the rare ballads on this album. It shines well. There is a feeling of sadness presented in the song by Yui's soft and airy vocals. The arrangement is plain acoustic guitar and some drums join in during the chorus. A very good track that shines among the other similar sounding tracks.

Daydreamer- There's nothing special about this track except the 'daydreamer' Yui sings at the end of the chorus. That's enough to make it catchy though. Again, a rockish guitar led track that begins with heavy jamming and moves into a high chorus.

Love is all- An interesting instrumental intro. This is one of the better album tracks especially because of the arrangement. The chorus stands out. Acoustic guitars are joined by electric ones in the chorus. Love is all has a better tone and vibe to it that is somewhat nostalgic.

I will love you- Not a great album track that presents something special. 'I will love you' at the end of the chorus is the high point. But that is not as catchy as daydreamer. Quite a normal acoustic track.

We will go- A rock track. Starts off quite well but doesn't shine very much. Sounds like every other track on Can't buy my love and on I loved yesterday.

Oh yeah- Pretty much like the previous one but more cheerful. Again, a disappointment.

My friend- I haven't listened to this much so no rating. But it is quite cheerful and interesting though not very different from the previous tracks. The piano in the beginning provides some relief from the monotony.

Love and truth- Another saver track in this album. Love and truth has an orchestral arrangement that is something new for Yui. Her vocals stand out in the track, giving it a nice atmosphere. One of the good tracks on this album.

Am I wrong? Things go back to acoustic town with this track. A light track that closes off the album well. Yui's vocals are relaxed and take the foreground in Am I wrong?

Overall, though I hate to say it, I found it better than Can't buy my love. The album tracks can be quite boring and monotonous but the album had more variety than Can't buy my love and better single tracks. Laugh away was a good song from her and Yui has experimented some unique things in this album like Love and truth. Yui has a very unique voice that I found shines better in her mellower songs like Tomorrow's way, love and truth and goodbye days.

Overall rating- 4/5


Some unique tracks and experimentation from Yui
Solid single tracks


Monotonous and similar sounding album tracks (except laugh away)
Boring arrangements in album tracks

Jpop Album Review- Yui- Can't Buy My Love

I have been listening to a lot of Yui songs and albums these days and will review them in due course. I'll begin with her best selling one- Can't buy my Love.

How Crazy- Yui begins the album with the breezy and rocking 'How Crazy' which features a lot of back vocals in the chorus. That's something unique for Yui. The chorus is probably the catchiest part of the song which makes a nice intro to the album.

Rolling Star- Rolling Star keeps the rock spirit of the album with jamming electric guitars and a fast paced chorus. It was used in the anime Bleach which features a lot of rock songs. Yui sings this one well considering its pace. A good follow up to How Crazy.

It's all right- This again follows the slower verse and rock influenced chorus formula that seems to be the key in this album. However, I must say all the tracks in the album have a similar tone which can get repititive after a while. It's all right shines in the chorus.

I remember you- Another chorus centric song. I remember you is an acoustic pop track that comes from one of Yui's singles. The chorus again shines here and has a more nostalgic tone than some other tracks.

RUIDO- This one is a really short track and doesn't shine much.

CHERRY- This remains one of Yui's popular songs that was once voted as the best Valentine's day song in Japan. Lyrically, it speaks of firstlove and crushes. Yui tries a little 'kawaii-ness' here. I didn't like this track much in the beginning and it took quite a while to grow on me. The lyrics are very refreshing and the best point of this song.

Thank you my teens- The tour for this album was named after this song so, I was eager to listen to it. It follows the same formula as the rest of the album but the chorus doesn't shine much. It has a mysterious old rock feel to the instrumental. 'Sank you my teens' in the chorus end was the saving grace of this song.

Umbrella- It has a mysterious, acoustic tone compared to other tracks. The chorus is again, the weakness of this track. The chorus is weak and the song comes off as yet another acoustic track in the album. It follows well after Thank you my teens with a mysterious, acoustic verse.

Highway Chance- This one is more interesting than some of its preceeding tracks. It has a rock arrangement with some mysterious instruments in the background. The arrangement works better than the chorus.

Happy birthday to you you- Another rock track with a strange arrangement. Not one of my favourites because it sounds similar to other tracks.

Winding Road- After the rocking Happy birthday to you and highway chance, Winding road takes things slower. It stands out quite a bit after the previous tracks. It has the sound of the opening of an old mystery drama. The verse and bridge are more interesting than the chorus. The instrumental into and outro create a nice mood.

Goodbye days- Clearly the best track on this album and the reason this album sold so much. Goodbye days is an acostic ballad- something which this album seems to lack. It has a nice vibe and was used in the Taiyou no Uta movie in which Yui starred as the main character.

Why- Yui decided to save the best for last. Another slow track which is very relaxing. Why shines in the album because of its uniqueness. A nice way to end the album. It sounds somewhat like a folk track you expect from Chitose Hajime, not Yui. The chorus is unspectacular but the verse stands out.

Overall, Can't Buy my love is not a great album though it is better than rest of her albums (And I can say that now that I've listened to the rest of her albums). The main reason for this is the better quality of album tracks. Can't buy my love has fewer filler album tracks than other Yui albums. Yui's singing is angelic but the album is dominated by rock tracks which drown her vocals sometimes. Like all Yui albums, this requires a few listens to get used to.

Overall- 4/5


Single tracks
Better album tracks than other albums


All the songs are just too similar sounding
Lack of unique/ experimental songs