Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Jpop album review- Mika Nakashima- Love

Love is Mika Nakashima's best selling album and the first I'm hearing from her. I've heard many of her songs but this is the first complete album I've heard from her. Love sold more than a million.

1) Venus in the dark- Venus in the dark begins with siren-like electric guitars and then transitions into a bouncy jazz rhythm with backvocals and brass instruments. As an opening, this track was quite good. It opens the album energetically. Mika's vocals are tight and sophisticated just like always. The chorus is accompanied by brass instruments and backvocals much like the intro. The song is a little too long.

2) Love addict- Love addict is a single track which sounds a lot like a James Bond theme. It has a heavy presence of strings throughout. The atmosphere is old and mysterious- like James Bond jazz. The chorus is fast paced and the catchiest part of this song. The lyrics are sensual and brought out well in Mika's performance of this song. My only complaint is, this song, like many others on this album stretches beyond six minutes (more than seven) and becomes repititive. The lyrics are probably the best part because they go well with the music.

3) Aroma- My favourite album track. Aroma has the cozy feel of sitting in a cafe. It is purely jazzy with Mika's controlled falsettos and backing chimes. The verse drags on a bit but the ambience of this song was a good fit on this album. Aroma is the kind of jazz song you'd hear in high class restaurants. Mika's vocals are soft and airy here. Warning- this song runs beyond six minutes.

4) Yuki no hana- Mika's well known winter ballad. Yuki no hana seems to be a favourite cover song among artists. It is primarily piano led and not jazzy. It sounds fragile and cold. Mika's vocals transition from breathiness to power here. The chorus comes a little late but stands out. The arrangement was well done. Mika delivers emotions well.

5) Resistance- One of the most confused tracks. I've heard the original version and since then have come to appreciate this track. It has music box, guitars, beat- everything. I'd place it in rock if not for the arrangement. However, Resistance offers something new to the album and does well after Yuki no Hana.

6) Find the way- This song was an ending theme to one of the seasons of Gundam. Find the way, again, is not jazzy but purely orchestral. It lacks beat- something that's common in Mika Nakashima songs. Piano and strings are the primary backing instruments. Mika's vocals are polished here. I quite liked Find the way- it shines in its quietness. This was the only track I liked in the first listen.

7) Marionette- This has to be my least favourite track on the album- maybe because I tend to compare it with Ayumi Hamasaki's Marionette. It is more like a light hearted puppet show with a very sugary arrangement. It is jazzy but has a very artificial sweetness.

8) Seppun- Literally means 'kiss'. It's a cover song. The arrangement was well done here. Seppun has a reggae feel to it. Mika's vocals were again, classy here. It runs a little too long.

9) You send me love- A typical jazz track that can be compared to many American jazz songs. You send me love begins with backvocals and goes onto a typical jazzy verse and weak chorus. The saxophone does some good to the song. The deadly trio starts here

10) Be in the silence- The intro runs very long. It is very similar to the previous track minus the backvocals. Not really anything special.

11) Love no cry- Reminds me of Koda Kumi's Wind and Someday. Has an optimistic orchestral into accompanied by back vocals. The chorus is again, brassy and optimistic.

12) Aishiteru~album version~- Aishiteru is one my favourite songs by Mika Nakashima. I was eagerly anticipating the album version. It was fine but the saxophone arrangement destroyed the emotional appeal of the piano. Surprisingly, this track didn't stand out. It is a jazzy love song with Mika's emotional vocals. Most of the lyrics seems to be filled with 'aishiteru' but that's not necessarily bad. This song was a disappointment since I've heard the original version. The ending seems to be filled with backvocals.

13) Last Waltz- Last waltz is typically something you expect in a high class ball. It has a jazzy, danceable feel but is melancholic. Mika's voice is airy and controlled here. It feels like the sun is sinking when you hear this song. A good ending to the album.

I'm surprised that Mika Nakashima is so successful because she's a jazz artists and there isn't much audience for jazz in Japan. Many jazz singers don't sell well at all but it's not hard to see why Mika Nakashima is successful. The album has many different varieties of jazz. I haven't heard her other albums to compare but this was quite good. The album runs quite long though with many tracks exceeding the six minute mark. If you want to experiment with jazz, try this.
Mika Nakashima's voice doesn't strike as particularly spectacular but she conveys emotions in her own quiet way. She uses a lot of breathiness and falsetto. Her voice fits jazz well since it's low and smooth. Lately, her albums have become more pop and ballad influenced so, this is a rare gem.

Overall- 4.3/5


Good single tracks


A few weak album tracks
Not a popular genre (jazz)

No comments:

Post a Comment