Destiny Line – Ai no Matador –

Posts Tagged ‘Oricon Year 2004 Albums

Arashi’s 4th album, entitled いざッ, Now, was released on 07.21.04. ハダシの未来 / 言葉より大切なもの and PIKA★★NICHI DOUBLE.

言葉より大切なもの is the album opener. The song starts off with a guitar-driven instrumental and strong vocals to support the overall atmosphere of the song. On the first verse, the vocals are very nice and smooth. The chorus is okay as the boys’ voices are nice but the music is a little lacking. The pure instrumental section is nice as the guitar really shines through and then there is a rap sequence, which seems a little misplaced for this song. Overall the song is nice but not strong enough to serve as the album’s opening number.

Up next is the jazzy upbeat number, JAM. The song begins with a sweet instrumental and soon there are some jazzy elements that come in and make the listener fall in love with the song. The first verse features smooth vocals that go with the music perfectly. English comes out on the chorus and really makes it pop nicely and is very ear catching. An absolutely fantastic pure instrumental section then comes in and sucks the listener into another world. JAM is wonderful and certainly a track to look out for.

Song number three is The Bubble. The song starts off with a nice although somewhat strange instrumental. Soon the first verse begins and the vocals are nice as they go with the clear beat of the music. The chorus features smoother vocals to make it enjoyable although it does get a little repetitive. With the rap part, it’s nice and an okay fit with the song’s overall atmosphere. For this song, the music is easily the most addictive part of the song and really stands out nicely. The Bubble definitely has a nice beat and although the chorus is a little repetitive, it’s a nice song to listen to.

Thank you for my days comes as the album’s fourth song. Opening the song is a sweet piano instrumentation and then the first verse begins. The boys’ vocals go well with the slower music and carry power as well as emotion. The slight instrumental change on the chorus makes it pop although one set of vocals doesn’t particularly fit with the music. This song is the album’s first slower song and does a good job of keeping the listener interested.

PIKA★★NICHI DOUBLE, which was released as a single before the album, is song number five. The song starts off with a fun guitar piece that evokes a feeling of happiness. Good vocals help the first verse stay in the listener’s mind while keeping that upbeat and fun sound. The chorus is nice although it doesn’t stand out in the listener’s mind as much as hoped. Overall the song is nice although it isn’t as grabbing as the earlier tracks on the album.

The sixth song is the short interlude, keep a peaK. The song begins with a strange and upbeat instrumentation that continues throughout the song. Although there are no vocals on this interlude, it definitely would have made a truly fantastic and standout song for this album.

Following is the upbeat pop song, EYES WITH DELIGHT. The song begins with an upbeat instrumental and the chorus, which features some nice and smooth vocals from the boys. Soon the first verse begins and the vocals here are continuously a strong fit with the music. The rap sequence was not needed on this song and it doesn’t really go with the music very well and the following cheering part definitely should have been taken out. Although there are some faulty parts, EYES WITH DELIGHT is a great album track and a very good fit for this album.

RIGHT BACK TO YOU is the next song. After an interesting moments of instrumentation, the first verse begins and the music takes on a more dark feeling. The boys’ voices sound very nice and they show off even more power on the chorus, which feels a little empty although the music does a very nice job of keeping the listener. The rap is okay this time around, nothing particularly noteworthy. The pure instrumentation sequence is really good as the music is spotlighted very nicely. Overall the song is okay but nothing really ear-catching.

RAINBOW, a smooth pop track, is the album’s next number. The song begins with a very smooth jazzy instrumental that catches the listener’s ear and leads into the first verse. The vocals are nice and go with the music very well. For the chorus, there is a happiness that comes out on the boys and strikes the listener on a good note. The pure instrumental section is nice although it’s nothing that really stands out as being strong. Overall it’s definitely a nice song and one to look out for.

The tenth song is ハダシの未来. Opening the song is a fantastic aggressive instrumentation that goes perfectly into the first verse. The vocals take on more of a poppy feeling and the music takes a lighter approach in order to match that sound. The chorus is nice although the vocals are a little lacking but it’s nice. An aggressive rock instrumentation with jazzy hints is what really makes this song stand out to the listener but the vocals could have been a little stronger to help guide the listener.

優しくって少しバカ follows as the eleventh song. A nice guitar-driven instrumentation starts off the song and then the first verse begins. The vocals are okay and the music doesn’t stand out as much as it should. When the chorus comes, there is no particular instrumental change and the vocals don’t demonstrate any more power so it doesn’t pop very nicely. The rockier side of the music is highlighted on the pure instrumental section but it isn’t particularly grabbing. This song is definitely one of the weaker songs on the album and isn’t really worth checking out.

Dear My Friend. The song starts off with a guitar-centric instrumental that really catches the listener’s ear. The boys’ voices sound very smooth and definitely go with the music perfectly. The chorus is very nice as the boys harmonize wonderfully and the vocals help capture that sweet atmosphere. This song is a very enjoyable one and definitely one to look out for.

The jazzy sound comes back on 君だけを想てる. The opening instrumentation and chorus is really enjoyable as the listener is caught by the fun jazz atmosphere. The final phrase “smile tonight” also closes it very nicely. The verses feature smooth vocals that go with the music very well and keep the listener interested. For the pure instrumental section, the listener becomes hooked and it’s a very great part of this song. This song makes very good use of the jazzy sound and is a very strong track on this album.

A slow jazz song, チェックのマフラー, is up next. Overall there is a certain familiarity to this song that resonates nicely with the listener. The vocals are smooth and carry emotion so well that the listener can smoothly sail throughout the song. Overall the song is a very nice way of bringing down the tempo while keeping that jazzy sound the boys continue to come back to.

The album closes with the pop song, 途中下車. Unfortunately this song is rather forgettable: the vocals are nothing particularly noteworthy, the music is a little dry and the overall atmosphere isn’t very memorbale.

Album Ranking: C

This album faces its ups and downs. Songs like JAM, 君だけを想てる and チェックのマフラー are great songs that stand out to the listener. Unfortunately, the album features many forgettable songs that aren’t very ear-catching. The album also feels very long, despite only being 15 tracks (one of them an interlude). Their later albums show much more growth but this album isn’t very strong.

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Otsuka Ai’s 1st studio album, entitled LOVE PUNCH, was released on 03.31.04.

Opening the album is pretty voice. The song starts off with an exciting and uptempo rock-tinted instrumental and then the chorus comes in strongly. Ai’s vocals sound great by capturing the atmosphere of the song with that cuteness that she does so well. The first verse then comes in and the energy is still there as Ai happily sings the lyrics. The pure instrumental section is really cool by showing off that fun and energy that the song emits. For its exciting and free feeling, pretty voice is a nice album opener and does a great job of introducing that energy that Ai brings throughout the album.

The sweet and adorable song, 桃ノ花ビラ, is the second song. The song begins with that sweet and relaxing instrumentation that takes the listener into the world of the song. The repeating words during the verse catch the listener’s ear and the vocals sound great here. That adorableness comes out on the chorus strongly and has such an energy that it touches the listener’s heart. During the pure instrumental sequence, the music becomes a little more varied as the traditional Japanese sounds are spotlighted, which keeps the energy fresh in the listener’s mind. A continued sweet instrumental sequence closes the song nicely. 桃ノ花ビラ hasn’t lost any steam from its release as a single.

Up next is さくらんぼ. Ai begins the song by singing a few lines with hushed vocals. Following is a fun uptempo instrumental and then the first verse starts. Her cute vocals really stand out to the listener by holding that energy strongly and moving with the music very well. The chorus is what makes the song really pop, particularly that last word, the title of the song, which is sung with such spunk. Another single released before the album, the single is still fresh and alive.

GIRLY is one of the most cutesy songs on the album. The song opens with a fun and exciting instrumental before the first verse starts. Ai’s vocals sound cute and really work with the music to solidify a certain cute theme that catches the listener’s ear. Ai brings the cuteness full force on the chorus with the first note of each line, accentuated very nicely. The ending of the chorus as she sings “la la la la” really sounds nice on the ears. The pure instrumental sequence features some awesome rock flavor and the guitar really does take the listener off into another world before the chorus comes back in.

The fifth song on the album is 雨の中のメロディー. The song starts off with the chorus, which is simply the title of the song sung twice with a few “la la la” thrown in to seperate them. Ai’s voice is very pretty here and does a good job of establishing the song’s atmosphere. The first verse follows a very sweet instrumentation sequence. Ai’s vocals sound absolutely breathtaking here and she hits the higher notes strongly. Ai holds her notes fantastically on the song as well as displaying her power. As the song goes on, there are slight rock influences that come out to play, standing out to the listener before the final chorus. She holds another great note before the rock tints disappear and the soft and sweet piano instrumenation is central again, soon closing the song. 雨の中のメロディー is a brilliant song from Ai that shows off both her range and power, vocally and is one of the standout tracks on the album.

しゃぼん玉, the sweet ballad, is the following track. A soft and touching instrumental opens the song and then the first verse begins. Ai’s vocals capture the fragility of the song perfectly and take the listener away. The chorus stands out as the instrumental steps forward a little more and Ai shows off some great vocals. The pure instrumental section sounds brilliant as the piano is spotlighted before returning back to the beautiful chorus. The beauty of the lyrics, the emotional capturing element of Ai’s voice and a gorgeous instrumentation all combine to make しゃぼん玉 a fantastic song from Ai, one of the best in her entire discography.

Song number seven is 石川大阪友好条約. The song starts off with a pretty and creative instrumentation and once the first verse starts, Ai sings in a very cutesy voice and the cheering from others in the background give the song a nice touch, reflecting the lyrical theme of friendship. The chorus really stands as the part of the title is repetaed four times with a more cute voice than cutesy. Although the song is simplistic, it’s fun and cheerful, and definitely catches the listener’s ear.

The eighth song on LOVE PUNCH is 片想いダイヤル. Beginning the song is the sound of a phone being dialed and after a ring, the song’s fun and carnival like instrumental comes in, really capturing the listener. Ai’s vocals during the first verse sound great and they work with the music perfectly. There is a certain cuteness to them but there is still strong power there. The twinkling sounds that spur the instrumentation during the chorus catch the listener’s ear and Ai continues to sound great. The pure instrumental section really brings out the cool flare of the song as the guitar leads the listener through the song’s world. This song is an excellent creative piece which Ai brings to life, taking the listener on an exciting adventure.

The shortest song on the album, Honey, features a pretty simple instrumentation. The song begins with a sweet song that sounds like a story and then Ai comes in singing with a sweetness in her voice that matches the music well. The repetition during the chorus really catches the listener’s ear and provides for an enjoyable experience. She sharply sings one word, which throws the listener off before going back into the sweetness. Honey ends with what sounds to be a happy ending, rounding out the short-story-like song wonderfully.

The semifinal song on the album is 甘えんぼ. A very cute and romantic instrumental starts the song off, instantly catching the listener’s ear. Ai’s vocals during the first verse sound very pretty and help establish the song’s atmosphere. There is a slight build up, instrumentally, to introduce the chorus and it stands out nicely with Ai singing strongly along. Ai’s ending vocalizing sounds great and really stand out to the listener, bringing the song to a nice close. As a sweet song released as a single, the song fits perfectly on LOVE PUNCH.

Closing the album is the sweet piano ballad, Always Together. A piano instrumental opens the song up and the twinkling sounds and other instruments really help create an atmosphere. The instrumentation throughout the song is wonderful and Ai’s vocals sound fantastic, really capturing the song’s emotion. As Ai sings “we are always together,” the tempo picks up a little more, still keeping a good atmosphere. Always Together is a great album closer by showing off Ai’s vocals very nicely.

Album Ranking: A

Otsuka Ai’s debut album is a collection of energetic numbers like GIRLY and さくらんぼ, sweet love ballads like しゃぼん玉 and 雨の中のメロディー and many other enjoyable songs that really stand out in the listener’s mind. Ai definitely brought creativity and talent to this album and the result is an enjoyable collection of songs.

Otsuka Ai’s 2nd studio album, entitled LOVE JAM, was released on 11.17.04. The singles released before the album are as follows: Happy Days, 金魚花火, 大好きだよ and 黒毛和牛上塩タン焼680円 (retitled 黒毛和牛上塩タン焼き735円 for the album).

スーパーマン is the album’s opening number. The song starts off with the sound of a car engine before a crazy and fun instrumental begins, flashing rock flares. Ai’s vocals are a little deeper than usual as she sings the first verse but it makes for a nice change of pace. Momentary sections of pure instrumentation really stand out to the listener and provide a nice music break. The chorus stands out nicely as Ai shows a little range, hitting higher notes but still singing deep enough to move with the rock sound very well. The pure instrumental section is absolutely fantastic, showcasing the sound of sirens as well as the highway police frantically talking to one another talking about superman. The final remark of the highway policeman saying “oh my god” is a great finish for the song, making スーパーマン a fantastic album opener that shows an exciting and fun sound.

Following the energy of the first track comes the happy and fun, Happy Days. A rock tinted fun instrumentation begins the song and then the first verse starts. A more poppy feeling comes through Ai’s vocals but they actually make a pefect fit with the rock sound. The chorus stands out particularly when she repeatedly says “happy days,” bringing out that cuteness that only Ai can bring. That fun and breezy element comes out during the pure instrumental section, which catches the listener’s ear nicely. More instrumentation brings the song to a close, making Happy Days a fun and exciting song for the listener to hear.

Strawberry Jam is the third song on the album. The song starts off with a really sweet and instantly addictive instrumentation before the first verse starts. Her vocals sound great and really have a certain cuteness that works with the lyrical story of the song. The note held right before the chorus is fantastic, showing off Ai’s vocal strengths. A fun sound is what makes the chorus just as addictive as it is, making the listener just fall in love with Ai. The pure instrumental section sounds really pretty as different instruments are spotlighted, showing off the instrumental variety of the song. Strawbeery Jam is a fantastic song that is one of the best songs in Ai’s discography.

大好きだよ。is a beautiful ballad that evokes a personal feeling with the listener. The song begins with a twinking sound before the piano instrumental kicks in, really striking the listener’s heart. When the first verse starts, Ai’s smooth and fragile vocals really resonate the song’s sorrowful atmosphere. As the verse comes to an end, her vocals become a little more powerful and more strongly portray the sadness of the lyrics. The chorus really sticks out particularly for the repeated lyrics and Ai’s beautiful and emotional vocals. The final part of the song is sung over an absolutely gorgeous instrumental as Ai sings “la la la” with beautiful vocals. This song is a fantastic one that sticks out to the listener strongly, making it one of the best songs on LOVE JAM.

Song number five is 扇子. The song begins with a nice and mellow instrumental that hits the listener nicely before the first verse begins. Her vocals sound very nice and they do a nice job of capturing the emotion of the lyrics. The chorus is very enjoyable and is particularly memorable for the first word of each line, sung sweetly by Ai. The final words of the chorus are sung a bit higher and she hits the notes so well that it stands out to the listener. The pure instrumental section is wonderful as always, spotlighting the interesting music before returning to the chorus. After the chorus, pure instrumentation brings the song to a close. The song is another great song from Ai and is a strong song to come after the previous track.

Up next is 妄想チョップ. With an interesting and strange sound, the song begins. Ai’s vocals sound really cool and have a certain futuristic element to them that really works with the song’s overall atmosphere. The chorus sounds great and brings a little more rockish tints to the song to bring up the energy and the softer repeating lyrics are a very nice touch to the song, which keeps the song varied. The following pure instrumental section sounds fantastic and puts an emphasis on how strong and intersting the music is. The song is one of the more interesting numbers on the album, spotlighting Ai’s creativity and interesting sound.

ポンポン, the album’s shortest number, is a hyperactive song that shows off Ai’s energy. A cool rock sound opens up the song excitingly opens up the song and the chorus continues the energy. The hyper and just addictive fun quality of the song really comes out on the song as Ai rapidly repeats the song title. Her vocals on the song are even a bit strange at times but they really do suit the song’s whole energy. For a moment, the song sounds completely different and out of this world and then the original sound comes back in. The song is definitely one of Ai’s more stranger numbers but it does grab the listener’s ear and spotlights Ai’s fun happy sound.

ふたつ星記念日 is the album’s eighth track. Opening the song is a fun and poppy instrumentation centered around the piano. When the first verse comes in, there is a certain relaxing feeling that really comes with Ai’s voice. The chorus is nice and continues that enjoyable relaxing feeling perfectly. She also holds the final note of the chorus strongly to segue nicely into a small pure instrumental section. The actual section of pure instrumentation sounds great and the piano really stands out and catches the listener’s ear. After another chorus, more instrumentation brings the song to a very nice close. The song is a very enjoyable number and compliments the album nicely.

金魚花火, the beautiful and sorrowful ballad, is the ninth song on the album. An absolutely gorgeous instrumental starts off the song. Ai sweetly sings her way through the first verse with vocals that carry the music wonderfully. The emotions come through to the listener beautifully during the chorus, really making it stand out. Her vocals really portray the emotions, particularly on the final note that she holds. The final note that Ai sings is held with such power and emotion that the listener can’t help but really take the emotions to heart. Finishinf off the song is sweet instrumentation. 金魚花火 is an absolutely fantastic song that is one of Ai’s best songs.

The semifinal song on the album is 黒毛和牛上塩タン焼き735円. The song starts off with a sweet instrumentation that really resonates with the listener, bringing out a certain personal feeling.  Her vocals during the first verse really fit nicely with the music and there is a certain cuteness to her voice that stands out to the listener. She holds her notes very well during the chorus, particularly the first word of each line. The pure instrumental section sounds absolutely wonderful, taking the listener into a dreamy like state momentarily before the chorus returns. The song is a great semifinale and definitely a memorbale song on the album.

フレンズ is the album’s closing song and an enjoyable one at that. While the song was released as a B-side prior to the album, this version is more soft and sweet. Ai’s vocals compliment the piano during the first verse perfectly, standing out to the listener. She holds her notes wonderfully and the very slight rock tints that come out on the chorus really allow the listener to be absorbed into the world of the song. The pure instrumental section is absolutely gorgeous, really emphasizing just how fantastic the song really is. With the final chorus, the rock tints begin to come out a little stronger but Ai’s vocals still compliment it perfectly. The same lines that opened the song then close it with that soft and sweet instrumental. フレンズ is a wonderful album closer, showing off sweet instrumentation and strong vocals from Ai that evoke emotion strongly.

Album Ranking: A +

Otsuka Ai’s 2nd studio album is a fantastic collection of songs that show how versatile Ai can be. From the crazy uptempo songs like スーパーマン, Happy Days and ポンポン to the sweet ballads such as 大好きだよ。, 金魚花火 and フレンズ to the some of the album’s other highlights, Strawberry Jam and 妄想チョップ, LOVE JAM features so many songs that the listener can enjoy, each spotlighting how strong Ai is as an artist. The lyrics of the songs are beautifully written and Ai’s vocals sound great throughout the entire album. The album definitely shows off Ai’s signature flare.

Koda Kumi’s 3rd studio album, entitled feel my mind, was released on 02.18.04. The album features more dance numbers than her previous albums and her ero-kakkoi image began to emerge with the release of Crazy 4 U. The singles released before the album were Gentle Words, COME WITH ME and Crazy 4 U.

Break it down is the opening song on the album and a very strong track. The song begins with Kumi checking her messages as a woman speaks and once the message plays and the man says “K.K., it’s time to bounce again,” the song’s true sound begins. An more mellow dance instrumental begins the song with some vocalizing from Kumi that sounds great. The verses feature some rather soft vocals that work with the twinkling instrumentation. The chorus stands out as Kumi shows off a little more vocal power and the repetition of “I just wanna break it down” really stands out. The third verse features an unidentified man rapping in English and honestly, his presence is definitely not needed. The song begins much like it began with Kumi doing some vocalizing and makes for an excellent finish. Break it down is a bit simplistic but a song to look for and a great opening song.

The album’s strongest song, Crazy 4 U, is the second track. The song begins with a great R&B dance beat with Kumi doing a little vocalizing before the real beat comes in. During the verses, Kumi’s vocals are a little deep but the lines are sung with a certain attitude that really stands out. The chorus is the most addictive part of the song as Kumi’s vocals are strengthened and the little English phrases “crazy for you” and “only for you” really stand out. The pure instrumental section is a perfect breakdown as the coolness and slickness of the song is spotlighted. Crazy 4 U is a hot dance track that is the album’s best offering and definitely a song to look out for.

Rock Your Body is an uptempo dance number that is very catchy. The English used in the song in the background “rock your body, move your body, on the dance floor, don’t hurt nobody” is a very nice touch and appears along with the opening instrumentation. The verses feature some slightly deeper vocals that work well with the music. The hook begins the song’s addictiveness with the English phrase “boy if you wanna down with me.” The chorus stands out as Kumi shows more vocal power and the English makes the song pop nicely. The unidentified man from Break it down returns on the song and his presence does get annoying after a while but Kumi keeps the energy up. Rock Your Body is a very nice dance song with some pretty interesting lyrics and if nothing else, the chorus is very catchy.

Rain is the album’s most beautiful and emotional ballad. The song starts out with beautiful instrumentation before the first verse starts. Her vocals during the verses are somewhat deep and they capture the sorrow of the song perfectly. It’s the chorus that really stands out as Kumi sings her heart out. She sings with power and she hits the higher notes flawlessly, enhancing the song’s sorrowful atmosphere. The pure instrumental section sounds great as it really puts a spotlight on how key the music is in maintaing the song’s sorrowful magic. The final line is said with such emotion and fragility and segues perfectly into the ending instrumentation. Rain is a beautiful song that can bring the listener to tears, truly one of the album’s best songs.

Without Your Love is a great dance song that is very catchy. The song opens up with the sound of a car being started up and then a siren is set on before the song’s catchy instrumentation begins. After a few moments of vocalizing from Kumi, the first verse starts. Her vocals are a little deep and the English words such as “sorry” and “magic” really pop and make the listener pay attention to her voice. The hook, which consists of both English and Japanese begins to introduce a more varied instrumental. She finishes it nicely with good vocals as she “my love is on the way” and the echoing of “my way” is a nice touch. The chorus is especially as Kumi shows off more vocal strength and the beat remains addictive, finishing with Kumi singing “baby boy come and knock on my door.” The third verse breaks things down a little as the music goes softly and Kumi’s vocals go with them in a softer tone and after Kumi delivers a little rap in English as she repeats “I’ll bee going crazy without your love my baby.” This same rap sequence brings the hot song to a close with the sound of helicopters overhead. Without Your Love is a very nice dance track and one of the standouts on feel my mind.

Cuteness emerges on the next track, Talk to you. The track starts off with a cute and interesting instrumental before Kumi’s vocals really bring out the cuteness as she sings the title of the song. During the verses, Kumi sings her cute voice and it fits perfectly with the song’s overall atmosphere. The chorus stands out with the English phrases that pop as well as ker kawaii voice. Following is the hook, which is what opens the song. The pure instrumental section is really interesting as more elements than just the kawaii comes out. Talk to you is the album’s cute track and Kumi does a great job of bringing the kawaii atmosphere that makes the listener follow her throughout the song.

華 is one of the album’s true ballads. Beautiful instrumentation opens the song up along with some soft vocalizing from Kumi. Kumi’s vocals after this begin deep and soon they gain a little more power in order to capture the sorrow and emotion set forth by the beautiful lyrics. The song has a relative structure that is created mostly by the vocals as the chorus features stronger and more emotional carrying vocals and the verses are deeper. The moments of pure instrumentation are wonderful as Kumi’s soft vocalizing mixes perfectly with the music to capture the song’s atmosphere. The final line of the song is a perfect finish and is a very beautiful way of bringing the song to a close. 華 is one of the strongest album tracks and is a track worth listening to.

Get Out The Way is one of the album’s catchiest dance tracks. The song opens up with a cool and fun instrumental before Kumi sings the first verse. Her vocals have enough power to make the listener pay attention to her voice but soft enough to not clash with the music. The hook is somewhat of a bridge as the instrumentation stands out a little more, as an introduction for the chorus. The chorus really stands out as Kumi’s vocals are slightly stronger and the beat becomes even more key and retains its addictive quality. The pure instrumental section is accompanied by a man speaking in the background in English as well Kumi doing a little vocalizing. It’s a nice breakdown before the hook comes in again. Get Out The Way is one of the more memorable tracks on feel my mind and is definitely a track that should not be missed.

Sweet love… is one of the blandest songs on the album. It’s a nice upbeat track with some very nice vocals however it doesn’t really stand out from the rest of the album. It has a nice atmosphere but nothing particularly noteworthy and it doesn’t fit very well with the overall sound of the album.

Gentle Words is a sweet love ballad that stands out on the album so strongly. The song begins with a mellow and peaceful instrumental, which comes before the first verse. During the verses, Kumi’s vocals are somewhat soft and the phrase “Hello, hello” really stands out. As the verse progresses the instrumentation begins to build and become more varied in time for the chorus. The chorus is strong as Kumi’s vocals are slightly more powerful and capture the song’s atmosphere perfectly. The pure instrumental section is very pretty as it spotlights the softness and fragility of the song with a few great adlibs from Kumi to make it pop. The same instrumentation which opened up the song also brings it to a fantastic close. Gentle Words is a pretty and sweet song, which Kumi’s vocals really bring to life.

magic, the semifinal track, is the album’s weakest song. The song starts off with nice instrumentation before the first verse. Her vocals are very low-pitched here and they seem a bit dry. The chorus features some nice vocals but it’s not memorable at all. magic is the album’s dryest number and what sounds like a choir backing Kumi up is not enjoyable. magic definitely should have been left off the album because it’s not a very good fit with the rest of the album’s sound.

COME WITH ME, the song that perfectly captures the sounds of summer, is the album’s closer. A fun and exciting instrumentation opens up the song before the first verse. The verses feature English phrases such as “hear me vent my best friend” as well as some nice vocals. The chorus is very memorable with Kumi’s stronger vocals and the way she holds her notes as she sings “come with me to the sun” is brilliant. The pure instrumental section puts an emphasis on how fun and exciting the music really is. COME WITH ME is a wonderful album closer and certainly a track not to be skipped.

Album Ranking: A –

feel my mind features more dance tracks than her previous album and on these songs, Kumi sounds perfectly comfortable. Tracks such as Crazy 4 U, Break it down and Rock Your Body show off Kumi’s flare over hot beats. Kumi does bring the emotions on the ballads such as Rain and Gentle Words. The album has its flaws, such as magic, but overall it’s worth the listen.

Utada Hikaru’s 2nd English studio album, entitled Exodus, was released on 09.08.04 (Japan) and 10.05.04 (United States) under the stage name, Utada. This album allowed Hikki to explore sounds and lyrical themes that she couldn’t in Japan. Nearly all the tracks were written solely and mixed by Hikki herself save Exodus ’04 and Let Me Give You My Love, which she co-wrote and co-composed with Timbaland. Exodus is a refreshing album that shows off a Hikki that is different from her earlier works and remains a strong album to this day.

Opening is the first song on the album and really does a perfect job of setting the tone for the album. The opening instrumentation is very peaceful and evokes a feeling of space. Once Hikki comes singing, her voice matches the music perfectly and the feeling of passing comets is made. She sings that she doesn’t wish to stick between genres and to cross over between her and another person. After she finishes singing, pure instrumentation is left to close the song and it does a wonderful job. The music picks up more of a beat over the space-like instrumentation to make this opening song a great way for the listener to enter Hikki’s world with this album.

Devil Inside is a synth-driven pop song with lyrics speaking about not being the person everyone thinks she is. The song begins with a cool instrumentation before the first verse starts. She uses a somewhat deep voice during the verses, which are rather short before the hook comes in. This is where the instrumentation begins coming to life and Hikki’s vocals begin to show a little more power as she sings “they don’t know I burn.” The chorus continues this atmosphere as her vocals are even more powerful, particularly on the lines on the words of the title and the music keeps the hot addictive element. Hikki’s dirty side appears slightly as she sings “you’re missing all the action underneath my table” during the verse, which also fits with the song’s theme. The pure instrumental section puts an emphasis on the guitar before she sings “time to make it burn; this is how I burn.” Pure instrumentation finishes the song, spotlighting the elements of traditional Japanese instruments, which sound great. Devil Inside is a perfect first full song on the album that is addictive and thematically strong.

R&B is explored with the sentimental Exodus ’04. Following a instrumenting instrumentation, Hikki uses a deeper voice to sing the verses. In contrast, the chorus features higher vocals during certain lines and phrases. The lyrics are powerful as she speaks about leaving her world with her loved one, leaving behind even her family and friends. Overall the song is somewhat bland but Hikki’s vocals are nice and the music is interesting at some points. There is also that personal touch that makes the listener travel on a voyage through the lyrics.

Hikki’s sexual energy is released on The Workout. The song opens up on a hot beat before the first verse comes in. Hikki’s vocals sound great and from the opening line “I was dancing with a dirty blonde Texan,” the magic of the song really presents itself. The hook sounds absolutely perfect although the lyrical content is simplistic “push it up, push it down” as well being filled with sexual metaphors. The chorus continues the song’s catchiness as Hikki’s says it’s good to be alive before she counts her way up “one life, two time, thee girls, four guys…” The second verse establishes a slightly different feel as the instrumentation is slightly varied and she sings about taking to a born-again Christian. The song ends strongly with the hot dance instrumentation that lasts for a good duration. The Workout is definitely unlike her Japanese works but it’s a great song that is absolutely worth the listen.

Hikki’s humor comes full force with the poppy song, Easy Breezy. The song begins with the chorus, which has some nice vocals and with some fun lyrics such as “you’re easy breezy and I’m Japanesey.” The verses start and Hikki uses more of a deep voice to really work with the music in capturing the song’s atmosphere. The hook is very interesting as she steps up a little vocally and the lyrics are delivered with a little more rapidity and it makes a smooth transition into the chorus. The song ends nicely with Hikki singing “she’s got a new microphone” repeatedly and the guitar comes more into the instrumentation. Her vocals during this section sound great and it brings the song to a perfect close as she does an adlib and it sounds like she is cut off just as she finishes. It somewhat ties the whole humorous aspect of the song together at the end. Easy Breezy is a light-hearted and fun pop song that let Hikki show off her humor and is a pretty catchy song as well.

Hikki takes the position of “the other woman” on the pop song, Tippy Toe. The song starts with instrumentation before the chorus comes in. Hikki’s vocals are strong here as she reaches a little higher and the line “every time I think about you heaven needs a prayer cause you’re married and you’ve even got a family too” shows off Hikki’s vocals as she holds the “too” very nicely. She then finishes off the chorus by using the metaphor of “dancing on your tippy toe” to describe having an affair. The verses show a very interesting touch lyric-wise as the listener really believes what she is singing. The hook continues the interest level of the song as she sings “synchronize it” very nicely after each line, making it really step out. During the second verse, there is a small instrumental break after she sings “worry infiltrates my head till I kill it, I fill it instead with” that really sounds great and connects back as she finishes the line “improper visions of you.” Nearing the end, the piano makes itself more noticeable in the instrumentation before the song ends with Hikki’s “heaven” repeated various times as the song comes to a close. Tippy Toe is a very interesting song, both in terms of its lyrical approach as well as its sound and is a song that really stands out on Exodus.

Hotel Lobby is an interesting song that centers around the theme of prostitution. The song begins with a catchy pop instrumentation before the first verse starts. Hikki sings her way through nicely through the verse as the two sets of vocals, one deep and one high, intertwine. Between the two parts of the verse is very catchy “ahh” that sounds great. Its repetition throughout the rest of the song is still catchy. The chorus is even catchier as Hikki’s vocals sound great and the instrumnentation retains its style. Some of the lyrics talk about reportings and things that “go unseen,” which display a certain education on the subject that stands out lyrically. The somewhat haunting “she’s unprotected” right before the final choruses also stands out during the instrumentation. The final chorus features a different ending line “catch me cause I think I’m falling; I’ll be waiting in the mirrors of the hotel lobby.” The echo effect of the word “lobby” really stands out and the final instrumentation is a perfect finish to the song. Hotel Lobby is a fantastic album track worth listening to.

Animato is the most interesting track on the album and the best song the album has to offer. Hikki has stated that this song is her favorite from the album and was the one who translated the song into Japanese for her fans herself. To her, she says the song is about her being a singer. The song opens up with a very cool instrumentation before the first verse starts and the lyrics show off her flare as she sings “somebody out there better get this, not many people can do it like this.” The sections of pure instrumentation connect the verses and the chorus and it is these small breaks that really stand out and keep the listener hooked to the music. She ends the verse very nicely as she sings “life’s messy so I clarify it, simplifying things for everybody.” The chorus features some nice lyrics such as “I’ll take my diamond shoes” and “I need someone who’s true; someone who does the laundry too.” Lyrics such as these stick out as being very “Hikki.” The song ends with that magical personal touch as she lists some of her favorite musical acts such as Elvis Presley and F. Mercury. Animato is definitely a track to be remembered and is truly the album’s strongest offering.

The same sound from Opening appears in the album’s interlude, Crossover Interlude. Interestingly enough, the very same music is used but put to more of a dance beat, which keeps the interlude lively and enjoyable. The song also features the same lyrics and once the lyrics start, the instrumentation changes a bit, keeping the song fresh in the listener’s mind. Unlike Opening, Crossover Interlude fades out with the dance beat rather than letting the beat finish at one point. Although Opening does a better job of matching the sound with the lyrics, this interlude is a nice listen.

The haunting fan-favorite, Kremlin Dusk, appears after the album’s interlude. The song begins with a dark and cold instrumentation before the Hikki sings the first verse, with pretty vocals that capture the atmosphere of the song perfectly. The lyrics here also show the overall lyrical theme of the song – “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe, who is directly mentioned in the first verse. Mentions of “Lenore” and the “the raven” round off the verse perfectly. Her emotional vocals on the word “home” really do show the song’s emotional presence. The song is interesting here as there is no real chorus and pure instrumentation connects the two verses. Half-way through the song, the tone changes and a more rock sound is channeled as Hikki delivers some wonderful lyrics such as “torn by the arms in opposite direction.” The section is a very nice change of pace and after the song returns to its beginning beautiful instrumentation. She emotionally sings “is it always the same when a heartache begins, is it like this?” The instrumentation brings the song to a perfect finish as one of the more memorable songs on the album.

You Make Me Want To Be A Man is one of the most interesting songs on the album, thematically. The central theme is the desire to be a man so that she can better understand her husband. The song opens up with a very interesting instrumentation before the chorus comes in. Her vocals sound great as she hits higher notes strongly, particularly when she hits the note on “man.” During the verses, her vocals are lower and are followed by a small adlibbing section that introduces the chorus nicely. You Make Me Want To Be A Man isn’t the strongest song on the album but it’s a nice listen every now and then.

Wonder ‘Bout displays an interesting instrumentation with a pop sound. The song begins with some cool music and Hikki’s vocals are echoed as she sings “every day” before the first verse starts. Her vocals sound very nice here and the lyrics do a good job of capturing the anger and other emotions that Hikki brings to life with her voice. The hook features some interesting lyrics such as “are you asleep or are you still afraid of the dark” before nicely moving into the chorus. Hikki shows off more controlled vocal power during the chorus as she sings various questions and finishes nicely “I wonder ’bout but I don’t give a damn about you.” It’s somewhat surprising coming from Hikki but it makes the chorus pop at the end. The second verse features a particularly striking lyric “rather be out of the rain, now I understand why my mother ran away.” That lyric stands out to the listner before going into the hook. The pure instrumental section is a nice spotlight on how interesting the instrumentation is before the same echoing of “every day” appears again. More instrumentation brings the song to a nice close as the listener enjoys the song from beginning to end. Wonder ‘Bout is an excellent track that shows a certain anger that comes across strongly from her vocals and the lyrics.

More sexual energy appears with the album’s semifinal song, Let Me Give You My Love. An instrumentation that circles around pop flare opens the song before the first verse starts. Hikki’s vocals are great and the lyrical content is also interesting as she sings that after the young boy next door passed away, she came to the realization that people shouldn’t waste any time and soon the sexual metaphors come in with “mixing gene pools” and getting “multilingual.” The hook makes a smooth transition between the verses and the chorus as she describes soulsearching and a body that is “jaw-dropping.” Her vocals go a little bit higher on the chorus and there is a certain fun-ness to that sexual atmosphere that is refreshing like when she sings “giddy-up baby giddy-up baby, let me give you my love.” The third verse features Hikki singing in a deeper tone while another set of her vocals are heard singing higher and the two come together particularly at the last moment of the verse as she sings “hot, hot, hot.” Pure instrumentation brings the song to a close, making Let Me Give You My Love a truly wonderful addition to the album.

A personal touch is put on the acoustic finale, About Me. The song opens up with Hikki playing the guitar as she sings the first verse. Her vocals sound wonderful and the honesty of the lyrics really stand out to the listener. More of a beat comes in with the chorus as she sings lyrics such as “right now you’re sure you love but are you really ready to know more about me?”  and the moment after the chorus is finished, the piano is showed off. Another noteworthy lyric is “what if I don’t want a baby; what if I’m not cute and naive?” which really shows off the personal flare that the song emotes. The song ends wonderfully as she sings “right now you’re sure that you love me but are you really ready to know more about me?” and then finishes it with “up and down…and down, round and round and round, where do we go?” Her vocals on the final “down” really stick out, bringing the song to a wonderful finish. About Me is a personal acoustic song that allows Hikki to be honest lyrically and makes for the perfect album closer.

Album Ranking: A +

Hikki’s second English album is a collection of magnificent songs that are both interesting instrumentally and lyrically. Hikki’s dirtier side is brought out on songs like The Workout and Wonder ‘Bout. A highly personal touch was put on the album with her humor showed off on Easy Breezy and her feelings on being a singer on Animato and the beautiful honesty of About Me. Exodus reflects a side of Hikki that isn’t necessarily reflected in her Japanese works and really is one of her best albums to date.