Best Friend

Artist: Kiroro
Release Date: June 6, 2001
Label: JVC Victor
Personal Rating: 4.5/5

1. Best Friend
2. Again
3. Best Friend (Instrumental)
4. Again (Instrumental)
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I haven’t been writing as often as I usually do so I’ll make an exception for today and reveiw during the week day. (These happen to be one of my few reasons to write a review during a school night.) Anyway, I hope that viewers are pretty much used to me reviewing some old Japanese albums. I’ve actually never thought of creating a J-pop review blog until I visited the ever popular “Beyond the Sea” J-pop review site. Sorry, I tend to write reviews on music that have been released in the year, 2000 but that doesn’t mean that I’m behind in the J-pop world!

Best Friend turns out to be a rather flowy and peaceful song. Whenever I feel stressed or depressed, this is the first song that comes in mind. Two of some the most melodious instruments are present at the beginning of the song and plays throughout. At some point of the song, drums are added to make the song a little bit uplifting than the introduction. Personally one of my favorite laid back songs.

Again also had a similar type of style as “Best Friend:” a bit solemn at the beginning and little beats are added as the songs progresses. The one thing that bothers me a little bit about “again” is that there’s a melody that doesn’t really fit well with the background music. Not that I’m saying that the song is messy and all, it’s just that I thought that it wouldn’t match with the tone of the duo’s voices. (At least not as messy as Ami Suzuki’s “Reincarnation” single! I hope to review that one soon.)

To explain the somewhat high rating, I usually listen more to Japanese ballads and electronica songs than pop because of the feel. (But that doesn’t mean that I don’t listen to any J-pop!) Anyway, I personally really loved “Best Friend” mroe than “Again,” but I guess that my review pretty much proved my point.

Personal Rating: 4.5/5

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Real Voice

real-voiceArtist: Ayaka
Release Date: July 19, 2006
Label: EMI Music Japan
Genre: J-pop
Personal Rating: 3/5

1. Real Voice
2. Peace Loving People
3. Real Voice (instrumental)
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I didn’t exactly think that Ayaka was really as strong as she usually is with Real Voice. I mean, its great that its upbeat but seriously, it’s too plain. What happened to the Ayaka with that really powerful and surprising voice!? I’ll simply say that she didn’t really use the extent of her talent.

I’ve listened to the live version of Peace Loving People but I didn’t really like the live version because it was too messy. But I have to say that I really liked the original version! She seems to have more power with this song than the A-side and her vocals were more fluid with track. Much better but I’m still not getting that “awesomeness” of Ayaka’s voice with this song.

Personal Rating: 3/5

Audience

audienceArtist: Ayumi Hamasaki
Release Date: November 1, 2000
Label: Avex Trax
Genre: J-pop
Number of Songs: 11
Personal Rating: 4.5/5

1. Audience (Dave Ford mix)
2. Surreal (Sample MadnesS remix)
3. Audience (Keith Litman’s radio mix)
4. Audience (Feelin’ U mix)
5. Audience (Genius Rock Big Beat mix)
6. Surreal (Paranoid Andoroid mix)
7. Audience (Scud Formant mix)
8. Audience (Hal’s mix 2000)
9. Audience (Dub’s Floor remix Transport 004)
10. Audience (Dave Ford mix – instrumental)
11. Seasons (vocal track)
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It’s pretty funny how the cover is filled with multiple Ayumis. I wonder how they’re able to photoshop and clone her all over the place. The cover must have taken a ton of time.

Audience that takes the show away! And when Ayu sings in this song, it almost seems as if there’s three people sing at a time. The title explains the lyrics on how people should support others with a clap and how audiences support a celebrity figure. I would also recommend the single for this song. (But in the Ayu-mi-x II version non-stop mega mix, they distorted some parts of the song and made it sound a little annoying.) Although the chorus was pretty catchy and very memorable, I think that they repeated a little bit too much. Since the chorus is the core of a song, it’s pretty natural to repeat it more than once. But sometimes, that gets a little annoying…

Personal Rating: 4.5/5

Passion

utada_hikaru_-_passionArtist: Utada Hikaru
Release Date: December 14, 2005
Label: EMI Music Japan
Genre: Electronica
Number of Songs: 2
Personal Rating: 5/5

1. Passion
2. Passion (After Battle version)
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So the legacy of Utada Hikaru’s ULTRA BLUE studio album all begins with this release of one of her best singles. Not only it was a phenomenal in Japan but there was an english version made and was also used as the opening theme for Kingdom Hearts II. (Well, not really an english version but a song in english by Utada Hikaru with the same melody but not the same lyrics.) Every J-pop fan has to listen to this single. Soon, it would be a high on demad collectible item in a hundred years! (I’m pretty sure I’m not over exagerating)

So there’s Passion the begins with the very popular distorted beginning a part of the lyrics being sung…backwards. “Why would it be backwards in the beginning?” You may ask. It’s the beauty of electronica. The whole style itself is unique and is rarely used among J-pop artists. (Since the style usually consists of pop, rock, dance and trance.) The whole lyrics and melody of this whole song itself is what’s winning the hearts of the people nationwide. Seriously, it was charted for sixteen whole weeks along with reaching #11 worldwide! Do you know what kind of achievement that is? The kind that even the best singers dream about!

And then, the ending version of the ever popular A-side called Passion (After Battle version). It was also used in Kingdom Hearts II but as the ending theme. It starts with the ballad of the original song but the mood is suddenly changed when a fragment of the instrumental version of Passion is played during the second half of the song. The perfect ending theme and closing to a popular video game.

Personal Rating: 5/5

SURREAL

surrealArtist: Ayumi Hamasaki
Release Date: September 27, 2000
Label: Avex Trax
Genre: J-pop
Number of Songs: 10
Personal Rating: 5/5

1. Surreal
2. Duty (Eric Kupper Big Room mix -radio edit-)
3. Seasons (Bump & Flex radio edit)
4. Duty (Under Lounge club mix)
5. Duty (Nicely Nice remix)
6. Duty (Steppin’ dub mix)
7. Duty (Sky Modulation mix)
8. Duty (Dub’s Mellowtech 002 remix)
9. Duty (Genius Beat mix)
10. Surreal (instrumental)
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Surreal is probably one of Ayumi’s best songs EVER! I mean, there’s even variety in the melody so there’s actually no sign of repetition! It’s really slow paced at the beginning and then it becomes faster after the first chorus. Then comes her breathtaking solo and finally, towards a powerful ending. Loved the change in rhythm and how the acoustics are really fitting for this song and for Ayumi’s voice. (I would probably like to say right now that I would recommend buying the single for this song!) Ayu sings about the strange and awkward parts in life. (Which isn’t really surreal) She also sings about people being themselves in their own world and how it isn’t irresponsible. I seriously LOVE this song!

Personal Rating: 5/5

Be My Last

utada_hikaru_-_be_my_last1Artist: Utada Hikaru
Release Date: September 28, 2005
Label: EMI Music Japan
Genre: Electronica
Number of Songs: 1
Personal Rating: 3/5

1. Be My Last
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Be my Last has a very nice chorus for a ballad. Looks like the kind of music that would be included in a compilation of “great Japanese ballads.” Noticed how the album was a little bit uplifting and a tad disappointing at the beginning and how it transitioned to more of a flowly ending. After listening to the last five tracks of the song, it kind of made me take back my first impression of the album. I guess that’s just the power of Utada Hikaru.

Personal Rating: 3/5

Seasons

seasonsArtist: Ayumi Hamasaki
Release Date: June 7, 2000
Label: Avex Trax
Genre: J-pop
Number of Songs: 11
Personal Rating: 5/5

1. Seasons
2. Seasons (acoustic orchestra version)
3. To Be (acoustic orchestra version)
4. Seasons (so happy so sad mix)
5. Seasons (Jonathan Peters’ radio mix)
6. Seasons (Rays of Light mix)
7. Seasons (Neutralize : Final Attack mix)
8. Seasons (D-Z Blue Sunbeam mix)
9. Seasons (Dub’s Rain of duv remix)
10. Seasons (instrumental)
11. Ever Free (Hal’s Mix 2000)
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Ah, this is back in the day when Ayumi had incredibly long singles. I mean look at her releases now, they only have a standard four tracks: 2 original songs and two karaoke version. But look at her singles back then, at least one original song with a whooping 10 remixes! Also notice that Ayumi’s songs were more epic back then than right now. I mean look at “NEXT LEVEL.” Do you think that album could beat “Duty” and “I Am…” Not a chance! This totally proves that the times have changed for out J-pop empress!

Another popular song, Seasons is also featured in the album. A song stating that as the seasons go by, so does time and so does memories. (I hear this song everytime I walk into the Japanese dollar store. It’s still popular even today!) Love the lovely melody and harmony, it makes the listeners feel at rest. I would give this song another thumbs up.

Personal Rating: 5/5