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Posts Tagged ‘Oricon Year 2003 Albums

Amuro Namie’s 5th studio album, entitled STYLE, was released on 12.10.08. The album features a fully urban Namie, which guarantees some fun dance tracks and some cool sounds. Although it is her lowest selling album, there are many gems that deserve to be recognized. Singles released prior to the album are as follows: Wishing On The Same Star, shine more, Put ‘Em Up and SO CRAZY / Come.

Namie’s Style serves as the perfect album opener. She starts of saying “ladies and gentlemen, now it’s showtime!” over a fun instrumental. The verses feature lyrics that all start off with an English lyric such as “what’s up?” (first verse) and “too hot!” (second verse). The chorus is what really stays in the listener’s mind particularly for when she sings “it’s Namie’s style.” It shows off the light-heartedness and excitement of the song. The third verse features a slightly different instrumental but still sounds great as she spells out her name for the world to hear. Namie’s Style is the perfect album opener as it shows that flare and coolness that Namie brings full force on STYLE.

Namie and ZEEBRA team up for the second track, Indy Lady. A little kid speaks saying “when I grow up, I wanna be just like you” and it’s an interesting way to open the song. Following the instrumentation comes in and then the first verse starts. Namie’s vocals are smooth and carry the appropriate attitude that makes the listener follow her every word. English is used very often but it doesn’t sound awkward at all. The chorus sounds enjoyable and every line begins “here’s what you can do for me” followed by an English phrase. After a set of two choruses, ZEEBRA delivers his rap and it’s a very nice part of the song. Like Namie, he carries the attitude perfectly and makes a smooth transition into Namie’s own rap sequence. Namie sounds great here and then it goes back to ZEEBRA to finish off the verse. Both voices work nicely together and both work strongly in capturing the attitude of the song. The same cool instrumental that opened the song finishes it off. Indy Lady is a great follow-up to the first song and one of the album’s more memorable songs.

Put ‘Em Up is the album’s third song, an upbeat ubran number made for dancing. After the fun hip-hop influenced instrumental, the first verse starts. Namie delivers her lyrics with a real attitude that works well with the atmosphere. Her vocals are pretty deep and it was a wise decision to sing that way as it keeps with the music. The various English phrases such as “anything you do, I do it better than you” are littered throughout the song but always blend with the Japanese perfectly. The chorus stands out for its catchiness and a certain poppiness. The following small section of pure instrumentation is a nice touch that leads into the second verse nicely. The full pure instrumental section is a nice although the man shouting “put em up” in the background is really unnecessary. Put ‘Em Up is a fun club song that shows off Namie’s style and flare nicely.

So Crazy, a fun dance song, appears as the album’s fourth number. After a cool instrumental, Namie comes in with the first verse. Her vocals are sung pretty deeply but they move with the music perfectly. The hook begins to introduce that energy in time for the chorus, which stands out to the listener. The English lines such as “eye to eye” and “face to face” during the hook are really what make it pop. Her vocals are shown a little more and the last line “crazy for your love” really does stand out nicely. The third verse is slightly different and Namie shows off her vocals more by reaching a little higher and delivering some great adlibs. Her rap sequence sounds great as there is that sexual energy as well as that coolness that Namie is perfect at bringing. The song fades out nicely to bring the song to a great close. So Crazy is one of the standout numbers on this album and is definitely worth the listen.

The sweet song, Don’t Lie To Me, is next. After a nice and sweet instrumental, Namie sings the first verse. Her vocals are pretty deep here but they go with the music and there is a certain smoothness that goes with the relaxing amotsphere. The chorus stands out particularly for the line “don’t lie, don’t lie to me.” The final line “gimme your hidden face” is a very strong ending lyric and stands out to the listener. The pure instrumetnal section sounds great as it spotlights how interesting the music really is. Although Don’t Lie To Me is a relatively simple track, it’s enjoyable and worth the listen.

LOVEBITE is the sweet sad ballad. After beginning with a very enjoyable instrumental, Namie smoothly sings the first verse. Her vocals sound great and work with the rapidity which she sings the lyrics. The piano begins to come out full force as the verses come to the end. The chorus shows off Namie’s vocals strongly and the English line “I don’t know why, I want to know” sounds great and its repetition was wise. The pure instrumental section shows off more of the urban side of Namie and although it doesn’t sound much like the rest of the song, it’s definitely interesting and keeps the listener waiting for what is next. LOVEBITE is an excellent album track that is worth checking out.

Four Seasons, a sweet ballad, is certainly a song to be remembered. The song starts off with the hook, whichi is sung in complete English. The lyrics are so sweet that it really resonates with the listener such as “four scenes of love and laughter, I’ll be alright being alone.” Then the first verse comes in and Namie perfectly captures the song’s sweet and sorrowful atmosphere. Her vocals sound great and smooth. The chorus is enjoyable as the instrumentation slightly changes and the last line really stands out. Hearing the chorus right next to the second verse really shows the relaxing sound of the verses and the energy of the chorus. The song finishes off with singing “four scenes, four seasons…” repeatedly and it’s not the strongest way to end the song but it’s nothing particularly bad. Four Seasons is a nice song and a great addition to the album.

Namie comes together with VERBAL and Arkitec for the always interesting, Fish. The song starts off with a cool instrumentation with a Japanese string instrument prominently features along with a song introduction. “Diamond crooks” is rapped repeatedly before the two rappers switch off with Namie singing a few lines with them to open the song strongly. Namie then flies solo for the rest of the verse. Her vocals sound great and work perfectly with the music. The chorus is fun and is sung in complete English, to make it really pop and connect the song nicely. The two rappers team up again and switch off for another verse and VERBAL saying “all right, okay, okay, all right, I’m feelin’ you” really sticks in the listener’s mind. The song concludes just like it began with the repetition of “diamond crooks” to create an excellent finish. Fish is a fantastic song worth listening to as it is one of the more enjoyable numbers on STYLE.

A pop/dance vibe emerges on the next song, gimme more. An interesting instrumental opens the song up and then the first verse starts. During the first verse, Namie sings deeply but it really goes nicely with the music. Right before the chorus starts, Namie sings pretty quickly and it really sets up the chorus nicely. The English used such as “baby gimme kiss” and “gimme more you” all combine to make the chorus stand out all the more. The third verse continues the song nicely and re-introduces the chorus, which is what closes the song strongly. gimme more is one of the catchier songs on the album and is definitely worth the listen.

As Good As features an interesting sound that hooks the listener from the first listen. A cool sounding instrumentation begins the song and then Namie comes in with the first verse. There is a certain poppiness to her voice that makes it really stand out but her vocal strength is also shown off nicely as well. The chorus has attitude as seen when she sings “baby that’s as good as it gets,” making the chorus really stand out to the listener nicely. The third verse features a slightly different instrumental that still sounds great with her voice and makes a nice transition into the chorus, which focuses more on her voice. She does some great adlibbing here that shows off her vocal strength very strongly. As Good As is an excellent song and certainly worth listening to.

shine more is one of the album’s true highlights. Violins play a key role in the opening instrumentation before Namie bursts out with a fantastic vocal before the first verse. Namie’s vocals are smooth and go with the slightly relaxing sound. As the verses come to a close, the energy picks up for the poppy chorus. The English “baby remember to shine” pops nicely and is a nice way to string the song along. Right before the second chorus, Namie belts out fantastically again with another great vocal. The third verse sounds great as Namie softly sings “everybody’s here, everybody hears, and nobody can stop music, you were gone forever” and then the following pure instrumental section is a nice breakdown, spotlighting the fun sound of the song. She finishes the song off by singing “I wanna shine,” bringing the song to a great close. shine more is easily one of the album’s best songs and one to look out for.

Come is the album’s semifinal track and a nice one at that. A relaxing instrumentation takes the listener into a different world and then the first verse starts. Namie sounds great vocally as she holds her notes nicely and her vocals are smooth. The hook consists of Namie repeatedly singing “I get” and it is a nice and catchy way to set up the chorus. The chorus features softer vocals as she sings “come my way” and there is something entrancing about her voice that the listener can’t resist. Namie’s vocals along with the wonderful instrumentation combine to form a song that brings the listener into a world, making the song one of the most enjoyable on the album. 

The album closes with the ballad, Wishing On The Same Star. Opening up the song is a beautiful piano interlude and then Namie sings the first verse. Her vocals are pretty deep but capture the emotion of the song very nicely. Her vocal power is shown off nicely with the chorus, particularly on the first line and it really does stand apart from the rest of the song strongly. The third verse continues to spotlight Namie’s beautiful and powerful vocals after a small section of pure instrumentation along with some smooth vocalizing from Namie. Wishing On The Same Star is a beautiful ballad that shows off Namie’s vocal talents very nicely and it is a strong finish for the album.

Album Ranking: A –

STYLE is a collection of great songs that is tied together by an urban flare. Dance songs such as Put ‘Em Up and Indy Lady bring that urban flavor to the forefront while more pop sounds come out for shine more and gimme more. Namie delivers nicely on the ballads too like LOVEBITE and Four Seasons. And she shows off interesting instrumentals on songs like Fish and As Good As. STYLE is a cohesive effort that certainly does not deserve to be Namie’s lowest selling album.


Hamasaki Ayumi’s 1st mini album, entitled Memorial address, was released on 12.17.03. The album features seven songs as well as a bonus track (Memorial address) that further show off Ayumi’s strength at communicating her emotions. The singles released before the album are & (ourselves, Greatful days and HANABI ~episode II~), forgiveness and No way to say.

ANGEL’S SONG opens up the album very nicely. The song starts off with a slightly cool instrumental before the song’s true breezy pop sound comes in. Ayu’s vocals sound somewhat cute here and they work perfectly with the music. The chorus stands out as the instrumentation remains fun and Ayu’s vocals show a little more power. The pure instrumentation section has such a light and fun sound that it stands out to the listener. The following chorus features distortion on Ayu’s vocals to push them into the background and it is an interesting addition to the album.  Pure instrumentation finishes the song off very nicely. ANGEL’S SONG is a great album opener and a standout track on Memorial address.

The album’s summer anthem is Greatful days, a fun pop song that is filled with the sounds of summer. The song starts out with a cool sound before the song’s true sound arrives. Ayumi opens up nicely singing “la la la” repeatedly and following is pure instrumentation. The first verse features some great vocals from Ayumi that really work well with the music to capture the atmosphere of the song. The chorus really stands out to the listener as being very catchy. Ayumi’s vocals sound great with a little more power and the instrumentation remains as catchy as ever. The pure instrumentation section is one of the song’s strongest points as there is a certain atmosphere that really catches the listener’s ear and then comes back to the summer sound with the chorus. The song finishes off with Ayumi singing “la la la,” bringing the song to a great close. Greatful days is Ayumi’s best summer song and is a magnificent piece of this mini-album.

Fully channelling the rock sound is Because of you. A cold and somewhat eerie instrumental opens the song before the aggressive chorus comes in. Ayu’s vocals sound great and capture the anger that the lyrics set forth. Following the chorus is a great section of pure instrumentation that catches the listener’s ear. The verses are sung with softer vocals to put an emphasis on her words and to serve as a perfect contrast to the powerfully sung chorus. The third verse is sung nicely before the song’s section of pure instrumentation comes in, one of the most memorable parts of the song. Ayu repeats lyrics for emphasis before more pure instrumentation brings the song to a fantastic and aggressive close. Because of you is one of Ayu’s stand-out rock songs and a wonderful piece of the album.

ourselves is an aggressive pop song with rock tints that make it one of the album’s strongest songs. The song opens up with a mysterious feel before the more energetic instrumentation comes in. The hook opens up the song’s first vocals and she sounds great here as her vocals bring the song’s lyrical atmosphere to life. The vocals during the verses are sung somewhat deeply but they work very well with the music. The energy that comes from the chorus is what makes the song pop nicely. The hook and the following pure instrumental sequence brings the song to an excellent close. ourselves is one of the most standout tracks on Memorial Address for its interesting sound and great lyrical atmosphere.

HANABI ~episode II~ appears as the next song. The song begins with a very cool sounding instrumental before the song’s true sound comes in. The instrumentation sounds great and introduces the first verse very nicely. The vocals during the verses have a certain fragility to them that project the lyrical atmosphere beautifully. The chorus features some rock elements that add to the song very nicely as well as more great vocals. With this song, there is a true emphasis on the instrumentation as there are long sections that spotlight the interesting music. It also brings the song to a nice close. HANABI ~episode II~ is a very nice addition to the album and is one of the more interesting numbers on Memorial Address.

No way to say is the album’s strongest ballads as well as capturing the sounds of winter wonderfully. The song starts off with a fantastic pure instrumental sequence before the first verse starts. Ayu’s vocals sound great and soft enough to keep with the music. The chorus really stands out as Ayu shows off even more vocal strength and her vocals really capture the song’s emotional quality strongly. The pure instrumental section is a very nice part of the song and re-introduces the chorus very nicely. The chorus following that sounds great as the instrumentation sounds very light and Ayu’s vocals match it perfectly. No way to say is the album’s strongest ballad and a wonderful part of the album.

forgiveness, a piano ballad, is the official ending song of the album. The song starts off with a magical feeling alongside the piano, which nicely supports Ayu’s vocalizing in the beginning of the song. The first verse features some soft and fragile vocals from Ayu that capture the song’s emotional presence strongly. Soon the song picks up as the instrumentation becomes more varied and it builds up the chorus excellently. The vocals during the chorus are great and continue the song’s emotional quality strongly. The song has a magical quality that really comes out on the pure instrumental section beautifully. The final lines of the song are sung in English and feature some pretty powerful words such as “war and destruction” and “every cardinal sin.” forgiveness is an excellent ballad and a wonderful official finish for the album.

Memorial address (take 2 version), the bonus track, brings the emotions to the forefront in this ballad. The piano serves as the sole instrument along with Ayu’s vocals. She delivers her lyrics with a certain rapidity that really works with the music perfectly in capturing the song’s emotion. The chorus continues the emotional presence as Ayu’s vocals continue to portray the song’s atmosphere and the final note is held so beautifully that the listener takes notice. During the second verse, elements of rock present themselves to give the song a little more variety. The following chorus features more aggressive vocals in order to keep with the music and the final note once again is held fantastically. Following is pure instrumentation before returning to the song’s original sweet ballad sound for a moment. The chorus features a return to the rock sound but in order to suit the last two lines of the song, the same emotional ballad sound returns and brings the song to a close. Memorial address is an excellent bonus track that brings the emotions to the listener strongly. Although the song would have been stronger had the rock elements not made it into the song, it’s a great addition to the album and features absolutely beautiful and heartfelt lyrics.

Album Ranking: A +

Hamasaki Ayumi’s 1st mini album is a collection of fantastic tracks which feature interesting instrumentations, beautiful lyrics and great vocals from Ayu. The uptempo numbers such as Greatful days and ANGEL’S SONG show off Ayu’s fun spirit while she emotes strongly on the ballads like Memorial address and No way to say. Truly this album is one of Ayu’s strongest and most memorable.

Koda Kumi’s second studio album, grow into one, was released 03.19.03. The album shows a nice pop flare that begins to develop over the years. The singles released prior to the album were love across the ocean, m・a・z・e and real Emotion / 1000 乱反射.

Clench and Blistah join Kumi for the introductory track, Teaser. The song opens up Blistah delivering a nice rap section over a hot dance beat. Occasionally Kumi chimes in with a few phrases such as “get down” as well as some some oohs and yeahs. Kumi’s section comes in during the middle of the song and she sings her way wonderfully through it in all English. Her vocals sound perfect with the music and she captures the dance atmosphere perfectly. Clench comes after Kumi and delivers another rap section and finishes off the song with Kumi and Blistah chiming in a few times. Teaser is an excellent introductory track for the album and is a wonderful dance song.  

real Emotion is the second song on grow into one. The song opens up with Kumi singing “what can I do for you” before the instrumentation really comes into play. The pop sound and the beat really show just how catchy the song is before the first verse comes in. Kumi’s vocals are generally deeper here and progressively grow stronger as the verse goes on. The chorus really allows Kumi to sing with more power and catch, letting the listener follow along each word. Once the chorus finishes, the opening line repeats as she sings “what can I do for you; I can hear you.” The pure instrumental section sounds great as “what can I do for you” is repeated throughout the segment, only adding to the catchiness. real Emotion was half of Kumi’s first true hit single and it’s no wonder why.

The third song on the album is the slow pop song, BOY FRIEND? The song opens up with a sweet instrumentation before the pop chorus comes in. Kumi’s vocals sound very good here and it makes the chorus really stand out. During the verses, Kumi’s vocals are a little softer but still show flare that make them memorable. It’s the hook that really stands out as the instrumentation changes and gives a “night-time” feeling and serves as a good contrast from the verses and the chorus. With some English phrases as well as Japanese lyrics, both languages work to compliment the other. The pure instrumental takes on the sound of the hook with only the English lines in a hushed voice. It’s a very strong decision that re-introduces the chorus strongly because of the different sound. Kumi adlibs her way out to bring the song to a great close. BOY FRIEND? is a nice song after real Emotion and a great addition to the album.

The mood of the album slows down with Your only one. The song opens up with a flute-like sound that really sets the atmosphere of the song nicely. The verses feature pretty soft vocals from Kumi in a deep tone and progressively, they become slightly stronger over the course of the verse. The chorus features a slightly different instrumenation along with some more powerful and emotional vocals from Kumi to really make it stand out more. The small pure instrumental section sounds very pretty as it takes on the same sound that opened the song up. Kumi ends the song with a little more power in her vocals with a few adlibs before instrumentation takes the final end. Your only one is a nice song and the album’s first ballad that is worth the listen.

LISA joins Koda Kumi for the fifth song, one. The song opens strongly with one line that really opens up the song on a fun and catchy part. Instrumentation follows and then the first verse comes in. Kumi’s vocals during the verses are pretty low-pitched but the chorus gives her a chance to show off her vocals strongly. She displays more power and she holds the final note of the chorus excellently before the hook, rapped by Kumi with attitude. LISA’s rap sequence features a lot of English to make it really pop and is pretty catchy in its own right. The song ends nicely with the chorus as lines of the hook are inserted during what would be the small music breaks to really combine Kumi’s more powerful vocals with her deeper vocals. Then the same line that opened the song, closes it, making for a very catchy ending. For its catchiness and fun, Kumi and LISA did a great job on the song. 

The sound of a harp opens the next song, One night romance. A mellow pop instrumentation opens up the song very nicely with a great beat. When the first verse arrives, Kumi shows off a little range as she sings both high and deep, soft and with power. She introduces each chorus with an English line such as “I wanna know what it’s all about.” The chorus really stands out for being catchy and Kumi’s vocals sound great here. One night romance is a pretty nice track and is fairly catchy so it’s worth the listen.

1000 の言葉, a magical ballad and one half of her first hit single, is next. The song opens up with a fantasy-like instrumentation before the first verse starts. Her vocals here begin on the deeper side, matching with the music which has become more simplistic. The hook begins to bring more variety to the instrumentation and Kumi begins to show off a little more vocal power, introducing the chorus perfectly. During the chorus, Kumi’s vocals sound great, particularly as she holds the final note with power and control. She does a good job of portraying the emotion of the song with her voice through the chorus especially. The pure instrumental setion spotlights just how pretty the music is and shows off it’s magical quality that makes it so enjoyable. The song is a beautiful ballad with lots of emotion that Kumi creates with her great vocals, making it a stand-out track on the album.

S.O.S. ~sound of silence~ shows off a pop flare with very interesting instrumentation. The song begins with very cool and synthesized music so that an almost “technological instrumentation” is established. Once the first verse, Kumi delivers her lyrics in a somewhat deep voice and with such a slickness, it fits with the music perfectly. The hook takes the instrumenation in a different direction as strings are focused and Kumi begins to display more vocal strength. The chorus shows off Kumi’s vocals even further in a catchy pop section that stands out perfectly. The pure instrumental section sounds great and puts an emphasis on the slickness and coolness of the music before making a smooth transition into the hook and final chorus. S.O.S. ~sound of silence~ is a great album track and a fun pop song that is one of the more memorable songs on the album.

Continuing songs with interesting instrumentation is m・a・z・e. The song opens up with Kumi speaking in English when a very cool and somewhat mysterious instrumentation comes booming in. Kumi’s vocals are deeper during the verses and as the instrumentation becomes slightly more varied, her vocals become strongly. The catchiest part of the song, the chorus, brings the instrumentation to its coolest sound and Kumi’s vocals to their strongest in the song as she sings with emotion. The strings are really brought out during the pure instrumental section, which re-introduces the chorus very nicely. Instrumentation finishes the song off very nicely, making this song another one not to be skipped nor forgotten.

The final song in the trio of interesting instrumentation is 乱反射. The song begins with an instrumentation almost reminiscent of a video-game, opening the song up very strongly. During the verses, Kumi’s vocals are deeper to match the more basic instrumentation at this point. The hook is strong as Kumi shows more vocal strength and the instrumentation begins to sound like it did in the opening. The chorus allows Kumi to sing even more powerfully and with more emotion. The pure instrumental section is very nice as Kumi sings in a deep voice “hey boy.” A powerful finish ends the song with wonderful music. With an interesting instrumentation and some great vocals from Kumi, the song is cool and addictive.

One of the album’s true ballads is here, Pearl Moon. Soft and pretty piano playing introduces the song before Kumi sings with smooth and deep vocals during the verses. The overall song is pretty simplistic as the instrumentation remains piano-central and Kumi sings with the same general tone. Her vocals carry the emotion well so that the listener can really believe what she is singing. It may be a little bland but it’s a nice listen every now and then.

Certain elements of jazz come to Kumi on the sexy and seductive, Nasty girl. The song opens up with a great instrumentation that captures a jazzy feel and creates a certain sexual energy. As the first verse begins, Kumi’s vocals are smooth and seductive to really capture the atmosphere created by the sound and the lyrics. The chorus steps out as Kumi shows off more vocal strength, particularly as she holds the last note of the last line perfectly. The pure instrumental section is a nice touch, showing off some great piano sounds and the following line that she whispers puts the icing on the cake. The song finishes with a fantastic note from Kumi in the final chorus and following instrumentation. Nasty girl is an excellent album track that shows off Kumi’s vocals, which help capture a sexual atmosphere perfectly.

To be one is the semifinal track, which nicely captures the sounds of summer. A fun dance beat opens up the song before the first verse comes in. Once again, her vocals are somewhat low but they really have a certain energy to them that works perfectly with the music. The chorus gives more vocal power and even more energy to this catchy song. The pure instrumental section really takes the listener into the world of the song as Kumi’s “hey” is repeated in a somewhat hushed voice in the beginning and grows louder until the section finishes. To be one is a really fun summery pop song that segues very nicely into the album’s final track.

The album ends strongly with the infectious pop dance song, love across the ocean. The song opens up with a fun instrumentation before the first verse begins. During the verses, Kumi’s vocals are more on the deep side to because the instrumentation is simplistic during the verses, her voice is spotlighted. The hook serves as a bridge as Kumi begins to sing a bit more powerfully and the instrumentation becomes more varied, which transitions into the chorus perfectly. Kumi brings out even more vocal power on the catchy chorus and the finishing English lyrics “oceans apart, longing to be with you again” really make it pop at the end. The pure instrumental section spotlights the impressive guitar playing in particular to bring out just how catchy and infectious the instrumentation really is. The same instrumentation finishes off the song after the chorus, rounding off the song wonderfully. love across the ocean is an excellent song and a brilliant album closer as it shows off Kumi’s great vocals with a dance beat that she shows her completely in her element.

Album Ranking: A –

Kumi’s second album features many tracks that listeners can find enjoyable. From the beautiful ballads such as 1000 の言葉 and Your only one to the dance pop tracks such as love across the ocean and S.O.S. ~sound of silence,~ the album has its bases covered. Kumi brings her heat on Nasty girl and works very well with interesting instrumentation on tracks such as 乱反射. grow into one is an excellent album that is a good collection of Kumi songs.