SAKURA Drops/Letters

Artist: Utada Hikaru
Release Date: May 9, 2002
Label: EMI Music Japan
Personal Rating: 5/5

1. SAKURA Drops
2. Letters
3. SAKURA Drops (Karaoke)
4. Letters (Karaoke)
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The “SAKURA Drops/Letters” has the standard single format; two original songs and both of their karaoke version. Despite that fact that the format is normal, this single is another one of Utada’s Phenomenal singles! Aside from the “Traveling” and “Colors” singles, this also happen to be another one of my high rated reviews! I don’t usually give full scores to every single since the B-side or the A-side songs usually bring down the ratings. This however, has two of Utada’s best songs. (Not to mention, that the cover’s also nice.)

The fan loved song, SAKURA Drops begins with vocals followed by beats and an acoustic guitar. The element that makes this song so phenomenal is the lyrics about getting over a heart break as spring time comes. (Or in other words, as the cherry blossoms begin to bloom.) I enjoyed Utada’s melodious voice that was used throughout the song. I personally think that the “Deep River” albums (which includes, “Traveling,” “Hikari,” “SAKURA Drops” and “Letter”) contains all of Utada’s best songs. I guess the press made a great decision including those awesome songs into the album.

Another song loved by fans all over is Letters that sounds like an R&B song at first since the beats in the beginning sounds pretty promising. And since the song does sound promising from beginning to end, the second original track fails to disappoint me! The background sounds fits with the mood and the voice of the song with a catchy chorus and a unique pop style!

Usually, Utada doesn’t pull off a 100% fan loved single. Back then, I thought that “Simple and Clean” and later on, “Sanctuary” were the only best songs that Utada has ever written. All of the songs featured in “Deep River” proved me totally wrong! I guess its safe to say that Utada is one of the best J-pop singer out there!

Personal Rating: 5/5

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Depend on You

600px-dependonyourereleaseayumihamasaki1Artist: Ayumi Hamasaki
Release Date: December 9, 1998 (February 28, 2001)
Label: Avex Trax
Genre: J-pop
Number of songs: 8
Personal Rating: 5/5

1. Depend on You
2. Two of Us
3. Depend on You (Dub’s Electro Remix)
4. Depend on You (44XL dub)
5. Depend on You (Bodyguard mix)
6. Two of Us (PPS Connection mix)
7. Two of Us (Touch of Mohagany mix)
8. Depend on You (Instrumental)
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Time to travel back in time to the beginning of Ayumi Hamasaki’s reign as the J-pop empress! Originally, this single was released back in 1998 but was soon rereleased in 2001 with more remix tracks. Believe it or not but this is one of the first singles that Ayumi did with Avex Trax and also one of the first singles that marked the beginning of Ayumi’s popularity. (Aside from “Nothing from Nothing” which was really a bomb.)

Depend on You is probably considered Ayumi’s most used song for concerts and countdown lives since it was a total hit at the time. (And now!) Even my brother was into this song the first time he heard it! (And he’s not really a fan of J-pop.) I thought that the uplifting beats and chorus was a hit and that in my opinion, I think that this is probably one of Ayumi’s best songs that she has ever written. I totally agree with these people who are heard over heels in love with this track because there’s the three elements of music in this song: Melody, chorus and climax. Definately a great example of a sucessful J-pop single! And this isn’t just a typical “Ayumi Hamasaki” song, either! There’s a 10th anniversary version which is sung by Ayumi Hamasaki’s current mature voice. (Because back then, her voice was very cute and squeaky. Well, duh! 10 years ago!)

Two of Us was a very graceful song. Very slow with beats and it represents the friendship between two people although it wasn’t considered a ballad. (Kind of like “FRIEND” and “FRIEND II” from A Story from XX.) Not many people liked this song as much as “Depend on You” but I’ll be honest and say that I’ve listened to this track at least twenty times in one week! (Although I do still perfer “Depend on You,” anyways.) It’s the kind of slow Ayumi song that isn’t forgettable… or so I think.

Personal Rating: 5/5

Hikari

utada_hikaru_-_hikariArtist: Utada Hikaru
Release Date: March 20, 2002
Label: EMI Music Japan
Genre: J-pop
Number of Songs: 4
Personal Rating: 5/5

1. Hikari
2. Hikari (Planitb Remix)
3. Hikari (Godson Mix)
4. Hikari (Original Karaoke)
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Okay, “Simple and Clean” may have been Utada’s real nationwide hit song but let’s take things from where the song really sounded like. “Simple and Clean” was like Utada’s huge phenomenon and also opened doors from people around the world into the world of J-pop. Like many long time J-pop bloggers, they were introduced to J-pop with “Simple and Clean.”…

But if you ask me, I think “Simple and Clean” sounded a bit better than Hikari; the original song. My first point I would like to get across is that Simple and Clean is most definitely not the English version of Hikari. Seriously, I’ve seen countless people think that just because the song has the same melody, it means that it’s the same song except in a different language. (I’m not offended or anything; it’s just common knowledge.) “Simple and Clean” is about a girl who is not willing to see her loved one -or boyfriend- to leave her behind.  “Hikari” actually suits the theme of “Kingdom Hearts” focusing on the importance and guidance of light.

The popular remix of Hikari, also known as the Hikaru (Planitb Remix) was a great addition to the single. Although it may be a little long, it’s still worth listening to. (And if you’re really impatient, the good part shows up one minute through the song.) It’s not one of those remix that sounds like the original song except there’s beats in the background. The Planitb Remix shows the beauty of electronica, and synchs. Totally worth your time.

The Hikari (Godson Mix) wasn’t all as good as the Planitb remix. I was a little bored of it after a while. It’s a nice remix but it’s only good for one listen, in my opinion.

Personal Rating: 5/5

Final Distance

utada_hikaru_-_final_distanceArtist: Utada Hikaru
Release Date: July 25, 2001
Label: EMI Music Japan
Genre: J-pop/Ballad
Personal Rating: 4/5

01. Final Distance
02. Distance (PLANITbRemix)
03. Distance (M-Flo Remix)
04. Distance
05. Distance (Instrumental)
06. Final Distance (Instrumental)
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Inspired by a heartbreaking incident when a girl who aspired to become like Utada Hikaru, dies, Utada decides to create a ballad version of “distance” and named it “Final Distance.” Although the single was going to be originally released as “Distance,” she replaced the A-side song as “Final Distance” and made “Distance” her B-side. I would probably say that the first thing that caught my eye before buying this single was the cover that features a close up to her face. I would honestly say that Utada Hikaru needs to do a little bit of a better job at creating covers for her cds. (Although she’s very pretty, the covers are sometimes too bright and focuses a little bit too much on her face. Maybe a cover that’s a little more abstract.)

So listeners begin with Final Distance, a flowy and slower version of “Distance.” (So literally, its the same lyrics except that there’s a different feeling, arrangement and pacing to it compared to the B-side.) I think that the song would show more of the emotional side of Utada and that it would be the kind of song that would make some listeners cry. I really, really like how there’s a piano instrumental part to the song and how the emotions of it relates to the dramatic accident that inspired Utada to write this song.

Then there’s a few remixes of “Distance.” Although I don’t usually review remixes, I would like to point out a few things about the ones featured in this single.

The Distance (PLANITb Remix) is one of my favorite remixed songs even though more people would perfer the Distance (M-flo Remix). Just like the “Simple and Clean (PLANITb Remix) from Kingdom Hearts, it starts with quiet acoustics and as the song progresses, it turns into a more catchy and a more pop-type remix. However, people would probably perfer the “M-flo” mix because of the interesting introduction that is played at the beginning that is different than most of Utada’s remixes. But the thing threw me off track was the talking at the beginning that says “Welcome aboard” or something like that.

Finally, there’s Distance that was the original song for “Final Distance.” The lyrics are similar to “Simple and Clean” because of how it relates to a part when the singer doesn’t want the boy to go away. (And how the “Distance” lyrics say “I wanna be with you now” and that its similar to “Simple and Clean’s” “It’s hard to let you go.”) And as many of you have already guessed, “Distance” is another one of Utada’s repetitive R&B songs that repeats the chorus over and over and over again.

This is probably one of the few singles that actually has really great remixes! I would definately recommend this to Utada fans but be forewarned: you might cry with the first song.
Personal Rating: 4/5

Traveling

Artist: Utada Hikaru
Release Date: November 28, 2001
Label: EMI Music Japan
Personal Rating: 5/5

1. Traveling
2. Traveling (Planitb Remix)
3. Traveling (Bahiatronic Mix)
4. Traveling (Original Karaoke)
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Ah, “Traveling” happened to be my most favorite J-pop singles of 2001. In fact, I loved this single so much that I would probably be willing to review some of the remixes. (Since I usually never do) Anyway, the first element that appeals to me about this single is the nice looking cover. The pink, exotic and somewhat wild background adds up to the mood of the A-side and the expression on Utada Hikaru’s face totally makes the people think she’s traveling. Utada’s album covers usually don’t have great shots of her so I guess this one exceeds my expectation.

Traveling is actually based on traveling but with a small twist in the lyrics. (the “twist” is that the pv is actually focusing on a girl traveling in a futuristic city.) I would honestly say that I liked the song from the very first second until the end. So bluntly, I would say that I’ve listened to this song over fifty times and yet, I’m still not tired of it! (I bourght the single in 2002 but as of 2009, I still listen to it!) And this happens to be another song that isn’t Utada’s usual repetitive R&B style! Totally my definition of “superior” music!

Since Utada always uses the famous PLanitb company for her remixes, I would say that the Traveling (Planitb Remix) is another great song to listen to despite the time. (10 minutes, are you kidding me!) The remix makes the songs a bit more catchy and more electronica sounding. At least, this isn’t one of those remixes that only focuses on the acoustics. I bet some Japanese clubs used this remix.

Honestly, I had a hard time spelling the Traveling (Bahiatronic Mix). I think this one took a step back than the original version because it wasn’t really as uplifting as the original song and the planitb remix. So, I prefer the first two songs than this one.

“Traveling” somewhat shares that awesome electronica style that Utada used in her “Ultra Blue” studio album which was released much later on. (Since Traveling was in her “Deep River” ablum.) So I guess people were right when they say that Utada begun to transition to her later style in “Deep River.” And yes, this single has my full score rating =)

Personal Rating: 5/5

Hop, Step, Jump!

hopstepjumpArtist: Jyongri
Release Date: February 21, 2007
Label: EMI Music Japan
Genre: J-pop
Number of Songs: 4
Personal Rating: 3.5/5

1. Hop, Step, Jump!
2. Romeo & Juliet
3. Hop, Step, Jump! (Instrumental)
3. Romeo & Juliet (Instrumental)
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Hop, Step, Jump! is more of a relaxing type of pop. (I guess I shouldn’t make first impressions of the title anymore.) Love how there’s a nice R&B style that is a little bit like Utada Hikaru’s catchy songs. Definately a great contribution to the rating of the entire album! Also notice that she says “Close to Fantasy” throughout the song.

Romeo and Juliet was something that was the opposite than I was expecting. (Because you know, Romeo and Juliet is a love and romance story so I was actually expecting the track to be more slower and more melodious.) Anyway, the lyrics were a bit effortless and didn’t really make a lot of sense, despite the fact that it actually had no relation to Shakespeare’s play. Its probably one of the worst songs in the album.

Personal Rating: 3.5/5

Possession/My All for You

possessionArtist: Jyongri
Release Date: December 13, 2006
Label: EMI Music Japan
Genre: J-pop/Ballad
Number of Songs: 9
Personal Rating: 4/5

1. Possession
2. My All For You
3. Possession (English Version)
4. Possession (Chris Paul Club Remix)
5. Re-Possessed (Possession-Chris Paul Dub Mix)
6. Possession -Instrumental-
7. My All For You -Instrumental-
8. Possession (Vocal Track)
9. My All For You (Vocal Track)
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There’s Possession which shows Jyongri’s true talent. There’s a nice combination of orchestral strings and beats as its background music. But best of all, I like how there’s a mixture of english within J-pop music! (For those of you who don’t know, Japanese high school students are usually supposed to take an english course so fluent Japanese speakers can actually understand some english.) “Possesion” also happens to be one of Jyongri’s first songs but it sounds more like she already had a lot of experience before writing this lovely track!

My All for You is one of Jyongri’s first ballads. There’s a nice, calming feel that occurs throughout the whole entire song so My All for you is my idea of a song that I would read a book with. (Not to mention the fluid instrumentals.) If you compare this song to all of the tracks in her debut album, “Close to Fantasy,” I would say that this is probably one of her best songs. I’m not kidding, both songs in this single totally beat the majority of the twelve track debut album.

Personal Rating: 4/5