Tegami ~Haikei Juugo no Kimi e~

tegamiArtist: Angel Aki
Release Date: September 17, 2008
Label: Sony Music Japan
Genre: J-pop
Number of Songs: 4
Personal Rating: 4.5/5

1. Tegami ~Haikei Juugo no Kimi e~
2. final destination
3. Still Fighting It
4. Tegami ~Haikei Juugo no Kimi e~ -strings version-
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Since Angela Aki is an excellent piano player as well as a great songwriter, it’s pretty natural for people to except ballads here and there. But Tegami ~Haikei Juugo no Kimi e~? Totally awesome! It was really nice how people could hear her true emotions put into the song and how the whole song wasn’t messy, boring or simplistic like some Japanese ballads. If someone were to just listen to this song, it would seem like she spent years composing this song! Another great plus is that she mixed up the genre of light pop and slow ballad into one song. Usually, when J-pop singers attempt to do that, the whole song turns out badly but this one was an exception. There was a nice and fluid transition throughout the song and made it quite enjoyable.

For some reason, the word, final destination reminds me of that freaky horror movie with the same title. (I know, this is a bit random but honestly…) I’m pretty sure that many people really like this song but for me, it’s good and all but I’m not really into it. Despite the fact that the instrumentals were really great, there’s just something about the song that doesn’t really catch my attention. The way she sings in English was great, though and the chorus sounded uplifting. But it still doesn’t beat the A-side.

Still Fighting It is another one of Angela Aki’s cover songs. (When she takes a classic English song and then rewrites some of it while maintaining parts of the original song.) I usually don’t like the idea of artists doing cover songs since it’s not really…original but when Angela Aki sings them, it’s really flawless. Her voice has this power that makes listeners love her songs whether it’s a cover song or not. I thought this song was pretty good, too.

The Tegami ~Haikei Juugo no Kimi e~ -strings version- sounded pretty much like the original except this version sounded a bit more melodious. It’s really the power of the string instruments that makes original songs sound a bit better. (But for some reason, I still perfer the Original version.)

Personal Rating: 4.5/5

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Kuon no Kawa

kuonnokawaArtist: Alan
Release Date: April 8, 2009
Label: Avex Trax
Genre: Ballad
Number of Songs: 6
Personal Rating: 5/5

1. Kuon no Kawa
2. CHI BI~Da Jiang Dong Qu~
3. RED CLIFF ~Shin Sen~
4. Xin Zhan ~RED CLIFF~
5. Kuon no Kawa (Instrumental)
6. CHI BI ~Da Jiang Dong Qu~ (Instrumental)
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Alan has been releasing tons of singles as of lately. She’s just released her debut album not so long ago and yet, here she is again with a new single! (I’m pretty sure that the mainstream J-pop artists used to release singles and albums once a month when they first started.) Just when I thought that she would develop write and sing songs with more of a J-pop style. But instead, her newest release just had to be a ballad. (Again…) As always, Alan’s songs never cease to amaze me. I mean Kuon no Kawa is another one of her epic tracks that kept me listening until the very last second of the song. I also noticed that Alan’s ballads have their own “sub-genres,” instead of just ballads. Like RED CLIFF ~Shin Sen~ was more of the dark kind of ‘epic’ while Kuon no Kawa is more of a lighter ‘epic.’ In some ways, I pretty much prefer all the types of ballads she does. Unlike some of the tracks in her debut albums, Kuon no Kawa seems to reach the point when Alan has used her full potential and that her entire talent was put in to the song.

Personal Rating: 5/5

Voice of EARTH

voiceofearthArtist: Alan
Release Date: March 4, 2009
Label: Avex Trax
Genre: Folk/J-pop/Ballad
Number of Songs: 15
Personal Rating: 5/5

1. Tennyo ~interlude~
2. Ashita e no Sanka
3. Sora Uta
4. Natsukashii Mirai ~longing future~
5. Hitotsu
6. Kaze no Tegami
7. BRAVE
8. Yume no Garden
9. Gunjou no Tani
10. my friend
11. Liberty
12. Tsuki ga Watashi
13. RED CLIFF ~Shin Sen~
14. Megumi no Ame
15. Together
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Tennyo ~interlude~ may just be over three minutes long but it’s no doubt, one of the best opening in existence! I mean, it’s probably not even considered an interlude since there’s actually vocals in this song. (I’m pretty sure that an “interlude” is a song all instrumentals, right?) Love all of the traditional music elements played throughout the song after all, I like thecover-dvd glimpse of a very unique style!

Ashita e no Sanka, meaning “A Hymn for Tomorrow,” makes an appearence for Alan’s debut album. I mean, “why not? It’s definitely a song worth your time.” The beginning did indeed sound like a hymn. I could see how Alan tried to make is sound all scary at the beginning with the traditional chinese background music but when the song progressed to the chorus, she takes me by surprise when she starts screaming all of the sudden. Her vocals were priceless and very breathtaking.

At the beginning of Sora Uta there’s uplifting beats that’s had never been used in Alan’s past releases. The reason for this? It’s the change in Alan’s style! This appears to be the only song that’s not a ballad! Overall, I thought that Sora Uta was totally a great new change of style and she executed the mood flawlessly. I think she did a great job with the change.

Natsukashii Mirai ~longing future~ marks the beginning of the five elements project. As always, her ballads are very dramatic and gives listeners a very strong impression and reaction. But the one thing that makes this ballad very special is that the way the song was composed sounded like the works of Ayumi Hamasaki’s composer, making this song more popular in Japan. Since in Japan, people there prefer very pop-like and modern songs rather than ballads. Not to mention, Alan is more of a singer of tradition type music. But once again, Alan blows me off the chair with her extremely high voice. I think that Alan’s new approach to ballads was the reason why this single hit high on the charts than u121sual.

Hitotsu starts with the sound of a piano followed by Alan’s light and rhtymic vocals. Surprise, surprise, this happens to be another one of Alan’s beautiful ballads with very powerful vocals during the chorus and very calm during the interludes. A very beautifully made song. Totally worth the effort! There’s a thing with Alan’s voice that makes it wasy to reach those incredibly high notes. The song sort of shared the same style as “Ashita e no Sanka.”

The third installment to the Five elements project begins with Kaze no Tegami which shows the new materials that Alan has been experiencing with. After the sudden change from ballads to pop in her last single Sora Uta, Kaze no Tegami continues with the new style. After her somewhat solo beginning, powerful guitars and drum beats follow it. It’s pretty obvious that Alan got a new composer for her songs now that her lyric style changed as well. Unlike her ballads, this track shows Alan’s all new side of her voice.

After hearing most of Alan’s old songs throughout this “great-so-far” album, it’s finally time to get another dose of Alan’s newer songs! BRAVE shares some characteristics from her older songs but it’s still as awesome as usual. (And it’s not a ballad!) The whole song itself is very appealing to the ears and the acoustics in the background is what totally got me captivating into continuing to listen to this song. There was no sign of a boring chorus and an ordinary melody, so BRAVE was an excellent addition to Alan’s collection of songs.91

Another new song is Yume no Garden which is also not a ballad but rather, a mid-tempo pop oriental song. I loved that there were some string instrumentals in the background since we don’t usually hear many pop songs with string instrumentals. It’s true that I’m a little tired of her singing just ballads and that her pop style also fits her perfectly but I guess that Alan’s vocals weren’t all that great here. At least, it wasn’t boring and there’s still no disappointments with this album yet. I have a feeling that this album is transitioning from her ballads to her more aggressive music….

And I was right! Gunjou no Tani starts with Alan singing calmly. When I first heard her voice, I thought that it was a voice of an angel! No one would have thought that Japanese was her second language! Anyway, powerful instrumental is played following Alan’s solo interlude. At least this wasn’t a ballad like most of her other singles were. I liked how Alan mixed up a variety of crescendos, rhthym and ones; all of them totally shook this awesome song up! Well done Alan!

Finally, a new ballad! (And I can’t stress enough how joyful I am not to hear a song with only ballads!) I pretty much expected that my friend would be a ballad because I’ve noticed that all of the Japanese songs that I hear with the title with the word “friend” in it usually turn out to be ballads. Anyway, the feel of the song is very sweet. I have the same feeling with one of her past singles called “Megumi no Ame,” that the song was nice but I thought that it wasn’t as captivating as most of Alan’s ballads.

Now I don’t really have a straight opinion with Liberty. It’s another ballad, not surprise but the beginning was pretty weak until the end. When the song was near the end, I thought it was pretty powerful. (Like some bands say before a concert, “we could start whatever way we want but we have to be strong at the end!”) At least Alan’ made it a memorable song near the conclusion since the last thing listeners hear is their last impression of the song. I still have some mixed opinions with this track but this sort of shares the same comment with “Yume no Garden.”

14Tsuki ga Watashi is what I’m talking about! (And this new track actually has a title that suits the title of this album! It means “I am the Moon.”) Just like “Gunjou no Tani,” the song kind of sounds like a ballad at the beginning but it becomes more faster paced after the first verse. I liked how there was a large addition of instruments added throughout the song and how the chorus sounded a bit “fluid.” J-pop in general do share some sort of the same style but this song is definitely the most unique.

I seen many of my fellow bloggers post that RED CLIFF ~Shin Sen~ seems to turn out to be one of Alan’s most epic pre-released song, and it turns out they’re totally right! Although Alan may have been mostly doing ballads, it seems that she did try some experimenting with the pop style but now…she went back to her ballad style and took it to the next level! She has no doubt, greatly improved and touched up her ballad style since her last. I liked the part of the song when she began to build up her voice while softer versions of Alan’s voice also began to somewhat echo along with it. The chorus is also pretty darn powerful that I almost fell off my chair in surprise.

After listening to most of Alan’s past singles, I was pretty much expecting a lot from her since she always released good music. Maybe I was expecting too much since I wasn’t really fond of Megumi no Ame. I thought that it was a little too plain and a little boring compared to her other ballads. I mean, she was pretty much monotoning which really made me a little disappointed. It’s not so bad or anything; just “decent.” At least her beautiful voice is still present in this song.

Finally, there’ Together which is actually Alan’s first song she’s written. I’m not going to complain about it being a ballad since ballads do make a great ending to a great album. This song isn’t all that slow and boring but at least there’s a great combination of string instruments in the background.71 (Background music is key to making a ballad interesting.) I thought this song was an excellent way to end this incredibly beautiful album.

Okay, Alan’s Voice of EARTH was a total phenomenon! Although the album mostly consisted of her previous releases, the album was very refreshing to the ear. I mean, Avex Trax always picks extraordinary artists to be a part of their label and including Alan was probably one of their best miracle yet! It has been a total blessing that I was given a chance to give this single a listen and I will vow to treasure my copy of this extraordinary album! There’s a chance that she could be the next Ayumi Hamasaki!

Personal Rating: 5/5

Gunjou no Tani

gunjounotaniArtist: Alan
Release Date: February 4, 2008
Label: Avex Trax
Genre: J-pop
Personal Rating: 5/5

1. Gunjou no Tani
2. Gunjou no Tani (Acoustic Version)
3. Gunjou no Tani (Instrumental)
4. Gunjou no Tani (Acoustic Version -Instrumental-)
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Lately, I’ve been into Alan, an introductory artist since 2008! I have been wanting to review the singles that were part of her “Five elements” campaign but for now, I’ll start with the “Gunjou no Tani” single. Somehow, she doesn’t seem to be selling a ton of releases and hasn’t made it to #1 on the charts yet but she does seem to be pretty well known among the international network….this could a a good sign….

So the first and only original track in this single, Gunjou no Tani starts with Alan singing calmly. (If you watch the DVD version of the PV, there’s a traditional chinese string instrument that plays before the beginning of the song. It sounded beautiful so you might want to check that out.) When I first heard her voice, I thought that it was a voice of an angel! No one would have thought that Japanese was her second language! Anyway, powerful instrumental is played following Alan’s solo interlude. At least this wasn’t a ballad like most of her other singles were. (All of them were nicely made by the way. I’m just planning on reviewing them over the spring break.) I liked how Alan mixed up a variety of crescendos, rhthym and ones; all of them totally shook this awesome song up! Well done Alan!

Personal Rating: 5/5

Believe in You

believe-in-youArtist: Dream
Release Date: February 28, 2002
Label: Avex Trax
Genre: Dance
Number of Songs: 3
Personal Rating: 2.5/5

1. Believe in you
2. My will (sweet dream mix)
3. Believe in you (Instrumental)
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By looking at it, I would just automatically state that Believe in You was too boring and it didn’t interest me one bit. Why? The whole song doesn’t even have a strong chorus or melody whatsoever. I mean, I couldn’t even get through the first listen. With the instrumentals aside, Dream’s vocals weren’t even as powerful and the way they presented the song was like, “What happened?!” Though, I’ve got to admit that even if they sing a boring song, their’ vocals are still very nice to listen to. I don’t know what they were thinking but I would say that this single was pretty much a flop.

Personal Rating: 2.5/5

Every Heart -Minna no Kimochi-

everyheartminnanokimochiboaArtist: BoA
Release Date: March 13, 2002
Label: Avex Trax
Genre: Ballad
Number of Songs: 4
Personal Rating: 4.5/5

1. Every Heart -Minna no Kimochi-
2. Every Heart (English Version)
3. Listen To My Heart (Ken Harada’s TB-Bassin’ Remix)
4. Every Heart -Minna no Kimochi- (Instrumental)
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BoA’s style in music is so much different back then than right now in the present which is pretty natural since she was really new at J-pop when she released this single. Just like Alan, Japanese is their second language yet, they pretty much master at it if they’re singing in Japanese.

Every Heart -Minna no Kimochi- is my first song that I listened to by BoA since it was used as the third ending theme of the anime Inuyasha. (That anime series gave a ton of publicity in America for the J-pop artists.) Since the third ending was around the emotional part of the series, it’s pretty obvious that its a ballad. The nice sound of the piano at the beginning makes the song very melodious at first sight and it really kept me listening. BoA’s vocals were very fitting for the song since her voice was indeed the “beat of the angel” which really made this song pretty much one of her hit singles back then. (It reached #10 on the Japanese Oricon charts which is really good for a fifth single!)

With the Japanese Version of “Every Heart” very memorable and all, the Every Heart (English Version) totally sounds different. Unlike the nice feel of Utada’s English or awkward feeling with Ayumi Hamasaki’s, BoA’s English is actually pretty presentable. Not that it’s bad, it’s just that BoA’s English vocals sounds so much different compared to her Japanese.

Personal Rating: 4.5/5

Anata to

anatato Artist: Ayaka
Release Date: September 24, 2008
Label: EMI Music Japan
Personal Rating: 5/5

1. Anata to
2. Anata to (Instrumental)
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Ever since I’ve been introduced to Ayaka after listening to “Why,” (famous ending from Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core) I’ve been listening and buying more songs by Ayaka. …And I chose one of her ‘featuring’ singles to review of all singles. The thing is, I’ve never reviewed a collaboration single for the past three months so I wanted to review something new. In one of the Utada Hikaru reviews that I wrote, I stated that “At least they did well working together but I wouldn’t really consider this as my “favorite” collaboration song.” (This probably wouldn’t have made any sense if you haven’t read it yet.) Anyway, there are some better collaboration songs then the one that was featured in “Ultra Blue” by Utada Hikaru was what I wanted to say. Besides the fact that I’m purposely making my introductory paragraph long, I would simplay like to state that this is one of Ayaka’s best single, even though it was a collaboration!

After WINDING ROAD, Ayaka and Kokuburo reform once again to bring fans, Anata to. Unlike the first collaboration single, they sing a slow ballad with a piano introduction. (Is it just me or all of the J-pop ballads have a piano introduction?) As for the vocals, it starts with a solo by Kokuburo followed by Ayaka. Nobody would have guessed that Ayaka was the only female singer in this song since her voice seems very powerful compared to the two male singers. I would just bluntly say that the voices combined together really does sound nice and the lyrics totally suit the whole meaning of the song. (Even the PV makes sense.) This is definately on my list of favorite singles!
Personal Rating: 5/5