Destiny Line – Ai no Matador –

Otsuka Ai – LOVE COOK [3rd Studio Album]

Posted on: July 23, 2008

Otsuka Ai’s 3rd studio album, entitled LOVE COOK, was released on 12.14.05. The singles released before the album are SMILY / ビー玉, ネコに風船, プラネタリウム and フレンジャー.

The album opens up with the interesting song, 5:09 A.M. The song starts off with a very dreamy feeling established by the instrumentation and soon Ai begins to sing. Her vocals sound very pretty and move with the music very well. As the song progresses, the instrumentation begins to become a little more varied with the drums coming in first. Soon, rock sounds come crashing in and Ai shows off more vocal power in order to match the power of the music. The softer music comes back in order to finish the song off nicely, making the listener enjoy the song from start to finish. 5:09 A.M. is a great way to open the album and catches the listener’s ear.

A more relaxing feeling comes through on the second track, 羽ありたまご. Opening the song is a cool and smooth instrumentation that takes the listener into another world. The first verse begins and Ai sings with such beauty and softness that she brings the lyrics to life. As a great way to introduce the chorus, Ai holds the final note of the verse with prettiness. The chorus really stands out to the listener as Ai sings her way smoothly through and holds her notes very nicely. The sweet instrumentation that persists throughout the song is what closes it and does that job very nicely. This song is one of the standout songs on LOVE COOK for Ai’s beautiful vocals and a strong instrumental presence.

ビー玉 is a relaxing sweet song that catches the listener’s ear nicely. A pretty instrumental starts off the song and then she smoothly sings her way through the first verse. The chorus is the most memorable part of the song as the cuteness in Ai’s voice steps forward a little more and is a nice addition to the song. The emotional presence of the lyrics is captured perfectly on this song, thus making it a memorable song off LOVE COOK.

Picking up the energy is the fun and happy song SMILY. The repetition of the word that begins each line and the “la la la” really make the hook stand out and it’s a good opening for the song. Her cutesy side comes out as well as a little more vocal power, which really captures the overall atmosphere of the song perfectly. SMILY is definitely an enjoyable energetic song which stands out to the listener very nicely.

The following track, U-ボート, keeps the energy up nicely. The song starts off with a cool instrumental and Ai repeats a phrase that is pretty cute and after that is a light-rock inspired instrumental. The first verse then begins and her vocals go with the song’s overall feel strongly and the “yay” definitely is a nice touch. The chorus stands out as Ai sings a little more powerfully and the noises in the background catch the listener’s ear. The pure instrumental section puts a nice spotlight on the guitar before going into a more peaceful sound supported with Ai humming. The phrase that opened up the song then closes is nicely, making it enjoyable.

Track number six is ネコに風船. The sweet and tender instrumental that opens the song leads the listener into a wonderful listening experience. The first verse then begins and Ai’s vocals sound great here as they show off a flare of cuteness to them. She then hits the notes at the end of the verse very well and provide a nice introduction for the chorus. Her cuteness comes through and catches the listener’s ear and fuels the emotions. The song is one of the most memorable on the album and hasn’t lost any steam from its release as a single.

Cherish, a soft rock song, stands out to the listener. The song opens up with an instrumentation that feels out-of-this-world and definitely hooks the listener from the first moment. The song’s true sound begins coming in and then the first verse starts. Her vocals sound great here and they move with the music perfectly, establishing the sorrowful feeling strongly. The chorus stands out as the instrumentation becomes a little more rock-filled and Ai’s vocals show more power. The pure instrumental section spotlights just how pretty the music is and re-introduces the chorus, sung more softly with a sweet instrumental than usual. At the end of the chorus, Ai hits a high note very strongly and captures an emotional presence. Cherish is a fantastic song and is one of the standout songs on LOVE COOK.

ラーメン3分クッキング appears as the next song on the album. The song starts off with a strange instrumental including some laughing from Ai. The piano is a nice touch to make the music stand out. The first verse is strange in that her voice is pushed to the background and then for the hook (which is one line), it steps out. The sounds in the hook are pretty weird but still enjoyable. The chorus is sung so quickly, the listener might have to take a few listens to catch what she is saying and it doesn’t stand out as much as the hook. Overall this song is the album’s weird and crazy song but it’s definitely enjoyable and fun.

Things slow down a little bit with the next song, 東京ミッドナイト. The song opens up with a beautiful piano interlude and then the energy comes out for a carnival-like sound. The first verse then begins and there is a certain relaxing feeling that comes through with Ai’s smooth vocals. The chorus doesn’t particularly pop in terms of an instrumental change but her voice still sounds nice and she does show a little more power here and there. The pure instrumental section helps show off that jazziness perfectly. The song is excellent number and is a very nice addition to LOVE COOK.

The tenth song is プラネタリウム, the beautiful ballad. Piano instrumentation starts off the song and the emotional presence comes out strongly from the first moment. Ai’s vocals during the first verse help carry the emotions to the listener. The instrumentation during the chorus is slightly different but still works with the overall feel of the song and supports Ai’s vocals nicely. Listening to the song becomes smooth sailling on the pure instrumental section, which sounds great. Overall プラネタリウム is a wonderful piece of this album and one to look out for.

The semifinal song is Birthday Song. The song begins with a group of people saying “happy birthday” before the midtempo instrumental begins. The harmonica is a nice touch and stands out to the listener before the first verse starts. Ai’s vocals carry the poppiness of the song well and are enjoyable. The repetition of “happy birthday” really catches the listener’s ear as her pronounciation is nice and enjoyable. The pure instrumental section sounds great and spotlights the light-heartedness of the song. Birthday Song is a nice and fun song which Ai brings to life with her voice.

The album closes with LOVE MUSiC. Sweet instrumentation and then Ai starts the voice with very pretty vocals that capture the emotion well. The chorus stands out with a slightly different feel, established in the instrumentation and Ai’s voice, which continues to show sweetness. Overall the song is nice although not one of Ai’s strongest and shouldn’t have been chosen to be the album closer.

Album Ranking: A –

Otsuka Ai’s third album certainly features some great songs such as the sweet song, 羽ありたまご and the soft rock song, Cherish. Ai shines on her ballads like プラネタリウム and brings the energy on happy songs SMILY and ラーメン3分クッキング. She definitely put a lot of effort into this album and it came through strongly.

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