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Posts Tagged ‘Oricon Year 2006 Albums

Arashi’s 6th studio album, entitled ARASHIC, was released on 07.05.06. Two singles were released prior to the album: WISH and きっと大丈夫.

WISH opens up the album on a sweet and enjoyable note. The song opens up with the chorus and the boys vocals sound great here, holding that poppiness that matches the instrumentation perfectly. After a little instrumental section, the first verse starts and the vocals continue to prove strong. The pure instrumental section really spotlights the uplifting and happy feeling that the song communicates to the listener. Following is the chorus, sung with an emphasis on the vocals rather than the music, which becomes softer. WISH is a great way to start off the album and gets the listener in a good mood.

The second song is ランナウェイ・トレイン. The song starts off with a really cool and edgy instrumental and a smooth transition is made to the first verse. The boys sing somewhat deeply in order to keep with the song’s atmosphere. The chorus stands out as the guys begin to show off more vocal power and the ending line “1, 2, 3, Lights Up!” leaves a good impression on the listener and keeps the interest level up. The rap section is a great addition to the song and works with the song’s feel and of course the guitar that comes in during the following pure instrumental section really stands out. The song is another enjoyable one from the group and certainly one to be remembered.

Raise Your Hands is the next song. Immediately, the listener becomes interested as the cool and slick instrumental leads into the boys repeatedly singing “Raise your hands” with enjoyable vocals. The first verse then begins and there is something almost relaxing about the music that a comforting feeling comes through. The chorus features the same “raise your hands” with a Japanese lyric following and it really does stand out from the song strongly and is insanely catchy. The rap sequence is a perfect fit here and leads the listener back into the chorus as the instrumentation remains addictive. Raise Your Hands is an excellent song that really stands out from this album and is one of the best album offerings.

きっと大丈夫 appears as the album’s fourth song. Beginning this song is the first verse, a rap sequence that interests the listener as there is a certain dark element with the music that fits perfectly with the voice. The chorus picks up the energy very nicely as the boys’ voices really capture the enjoyable and fun atmosphere perfectly. The pure instrumental section has some jazzy elements that really stick out in the listener’s mind and provide an interesting vocal break. Another enjoyable song on the album appears and keeps the listener interested.

Ohno takes the lead on the following on his “pick-up song,” Ready To Fly. A cool and funky feeling comes out to open up the song and then the chorus starts. The English that starts off the song really makes the chorus stand out strongly. Soon, things slow down a little bit as the vocals smoothly blend with the music to make a cohesive and strong atmosphere. The pure instrumental section really spotlights the jazziness of the song as the saxophone comes through and takes the listener’s ear on a journey before the chorus starts again. Ready To Fly is a great album track and offers the listener a lot to hold onto.

キャラメル・ソング is Nino’s “pick-up song” and the next track on the album. The song starts off with a very sweet instrumental and the flute is a very nice touch. The first verse then begins and the vocals smoothly capture the essence of the lyrics. With the chorus, there is such a sweetness that stands out that the listener can’t help but love it. The vocals are strong and show strength as well. The pure instrumenal section sounds wonderful and keeps the listener’s spirits up before the chorus comes in. It’s a very sweet song that is able to resonate with the listener nicely.

COOL & SOUL is up next and the boys try their hand at rapping on this one. The song starts off with a very cool instrumental that leaves the listener wanting more. The chorus that features the boys singing “Arashi is cool” and “Arashi is soul” is actually stronger than it sounds. The following rap sequence from the boys sounds strong and each member does a good job of bringing out the song. The moments of pure instrumentation have a certain atmosphere to them that really catches the listener’s ear strongly. The closing line “Arashi is back” stands out very nicely and leaves the listener craving to hear more. COOL & SOUL is a fantastic number and definitely one to check out.

Following is the album’s first real ballad, 旅立ちの朝. The beginning instrumentation is smooth and leads the listener into the first verse nicely. The vocals are smooth and capture emotion very well. The chorus features more vocal strength from the boys and they sound great and the last line “stay with me” is absolutely perfect. The boys bring emotion and vocal strength to this very pretty ballad, making it stand out on ARASHIC very nicely.

Matsumoto steps in for his “pick-up song,” I Want Somebody. The song begins with an instrumentation that captures the listener’s attention from the first moment and the first verse then begins and the vocals are so smooth and enjoyable that the listener is hooked. The almost-talking-like way that the vocals continue really compliment the music well. The chorus stands out as the guitar comes more forward and helps the vocals show more emotion. The notes are held very well and the last word is a perfect example of that. I Want Somebody has a certain darkness to it that stands out and keeps the listener interested from start to finish.

Secret Eyes is Aiba’s pick-up song. The song begins with a nice instrumental and then the next vocals are kind of high pitched so they seem a little weird. Then things go nicer as the vocals show more strength and move with the music very well. The chorus is nice although the vocals aren’t as capturing as they should be. It’s actually a nice song although it feels a little slow at points.

Sakurai’s pick-up song comes in with 超 ありがとう. The song starts off with a cool and interesting instrumental and the repeated phrase sounds kind of cheesy. That feeling disappears once the first verse comes in although the vocals are still not particularly strong. The cheesiness comes back in with the chorus and it definitely doesn’t catch the listener’s ear as well as hoped. The song isn’t very interesting and is really the first weak song thus far.

CARNIVAL NIGHT part 2 is the following track. The mellow and interesting instrumentation that opens the song really leads the listener into another world. The chorus then stands out as the boys’ vocals sound great together and go with the music strongly. Vocals continue to stand strong on the first verse as they smoothly sing their way through the song. The pure instrumental section puts a nice emphasis on the song’s jazzy quality and really stands out to the listener. CARNIVAL NIGHT part 2 is an excellent number and picks the listener back up from the last track.

Silver Ring is the album’s semifinale and final ballad. After a very enjoyable pure instrumental sequence, the first starts and the vocals are so strong in that they capture the emotional presence of the song very well. The chorus sounds great as the boys harmonize very well together and the emotions are clear from their voices. The pure instrumental section gives the listener a little more oomph as the music is a little more varied and is more addictive. It’s definitely a nice way to lower the mood and the boys do very nicely on it.

The bonus track of the album is LOVE PARADE. Jazz sounds open up the song very nicely and keeps the listener hooked until the first verse starts. The vocals are smooth and really go with the song’s atmosphere. The boys bring even more vocal strength on the chorus, which stands out very nicely. Overall LOVE PARADE is a nice way to close the album as an enjoyable jazzy number that the listener can’t help but love.

Album Ranking: A

ARASHIC is a collection of great songs that really stand out to the listener. The album is filled with jazz sounds from LOVE PARADE to CARNIVAL NIGHT part 2 to Ready To Fly. All the pick-up songs give the boys a chance to stand out from the group and some are particular album highlights such as Ready To Fly (Ohno) and キャラメル・ソング (Nino). Of course there are a few weak songs such as 超 ありがとう and Secret Eyes and although the jazz sounds are nice, they do appear quite frequently a little more variety could’ve helped just a little bit. Overall though, it’s a great album and the boys should be proud.

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BoA’s fourth original album, entitled OUTGROW, was released on 02.15.06. The singles released before the album are DO THE MOTION, make a secret, 抱きしめる and everlasting.

The most memorable song is BoA’s opening track, Silent Screamerz, a dance/pop explosion that introduces the album fantastically. Opening up with a fun dance instrumentation, the listener is taken into the song from first listen. BoA sounds great on the verses singing slickly and keeping with the coolness of the song. The hook consists of two lines but they set up the chorus nicely as she sings “are you okay?” There is a moment of pure instrumentation and then the addictive chorus comes crashing in. The English phrases “shout out” and “one scream” really stand out as BoA hits her marks perfectly vocally. The third verse is a bit different but sounds great nonetheless. The final note of the song is held fantastically and then instrumentation brings the song to a close. BoA’s opening songs are usually strong and Silent Screamerz is no exception.

The second song on OUTGROW is DO THE MOTION. The song starts off with a part of the chorus, which shows off BoA’s vocal strength over a romantic instrumental. The chorus really is the standout part of the song with great vocals. During the vereses, BoA sings slightly deeper in keeping with the song’s atmosphere. The English in the backgroud is a nice touch as well. The pure instrumental section shows off the song’s romantic atmosphere and the note sung right before is wonderful. DO THE MOTION is a fantastic addition to the album and is a standout number.

キミのとなりで is one of the sweetest songs on the album and one of the most memorable slower songs. The song starts off with BoA singing the chorus and her vocals here sound great and they move with the music very well. The verses feature some pretty soft vocals and they sound perfect with the beauty of the music. Right before the chorus comes, the instrumentation becomes slightly more varied for a moment and it is these moments that really stand out to the listener. With this chorus, BoA shows off more vocal strength and shows off the emotional presence further. The pure instrumental section puts an emphasis on just how pretty the song really is before returning to the chorus once again. Pure instrumentation brings the song to a dreamy close, making キミのとなりで an excellent slow song and nice addition to the album.

OUTGROW ~Ready butterfly~ comes as the fourth song on the album and one of the album’s strongest songs. An interesting and addictive instrumental sequence starts off the song strongly before the first verse starts. BoA sings higher and with a certain slick rapidity that shows off just how much flare she really has. She also whispers in the background, which is a perfect fit and brings out the sexual energy. The chorus is addictive and has an element of sexiness that comes to the listener strongly. The chorus features a certain echoing to the vocals that make them stand out all the more and the following pure instrumental section really spotlights just how cool the song is. OUTGROW ~Ready butterfly~ is a fantastic album track and one of the strongest songs on the entire album.

BoA brings the magic on the fifth song, make a secret. Opening up with a fun instrumentation and some nice vocalizing from BoA. She sounds great on the verses and sounds very comfortable with the music. The English phrases such as “birthday” stand out with the various Japanese phrases. BoA goes slightly more powerfully with her vocals durnig the chorus and it really makes the chorus stad out strongly. The third verse is pretty simple but it’s a nice part of the song. Overall make a secret is very enjoyable and certainly a track worth watching out for.

Following is the ballad, Everlasting. Although the vocals are very strong during the chorus, the song is pretty forgettable. Nothing really stands out about this song. The moments of pure instrumentation are pretty nice too but they aren’t enough to save this song. Everlasting is worst song on the album and would have been better had it been left off.

The seventh song, LONG TIME NO SEE, is a sweet ballad that just touches the listener’s heart. Opening up the song is a sweet and cute instrumental that opens the song’s atmosphere from the very beginning. BoA sounds very nice on the verses as she sings smoothly in keeping with the song’s feel. The vocals right before the chorus show off her range nicely as she demonstrates a little more power. The chorus really stands out as BoA’s vocals continue to support the music well and the lyrics are so touching that the listener really is taken into the world of the song. The final chorus sounds absolutely wonderful as she sings with more emotion and keeps the image of the song vivid in the listener’s mind. Following is the same sweet pure instrumentation to bring the song to a very nice finish. LONG TIME NO SEE is definitely a wonderful addition to the album that is worth listening to.

The eighth song on the album is the cute and inspiring, cosmic eyes. BoA says “Who, what, who, what?” opening up the song very nicely with a fantastic instrumental. BoA’s vocals are somewhat cute during the verses and the instrumentation remains one of the most interesting on the album. She sings a little higher during the chorus and the energy really comes through strongly to the listener, making the chorus pop nicely. With an interesting instrumental, fun vocals from BoA and inspiring and uptempo lyrics, cosmic eyes is a fun and unique track on the album.

抱きしめる is one of the more aggressive and standout songs in OUTGROW. The song begins with a hot instrumentation with mysterious and cool sounds before the first verse starts. BoA sings her lines with a certain slickness that strongly shows off the song’s attitude. The English line such as “I know loneliness is best friend” really pop as they are surrounded by Japanese lyrics. The hook sounds nice as she holds the final note very nicely and it serves as a great introduction to the addictive chorus. BoA powerfully sings the title of the song as the first word. The English words such as “true love” pop very nicely as well. The third verse feature BoA talking for a little bit and then pure instrumentation comes in with BoA vocalizing in the background. More instrumental comes in after the chorus is sung again, bringing the song to its finish. 抱きしめる is a fantastic aggressive dance song that BoA sounds completely comfortable on and is truly one of the album’s strongest tracks.

Featuring a slight throwback sound, Love is just what you can’t see, if one of the most memorable songs on the album. A fun instrumentation opens up the song and then BoA comes with the first verse. She sounds very natural here and her voice works well with the music. The chorus is particularly noteworthy as she shows off more vocal power and range. The English phrases “feel me baby” and the title really stand out with her voice. The pure instrumental section sounds great and re-introduces the chorus very nicely. With the last chorus, her vocals are the strongest on the entire song as she sings “feel me baby” with power and range, hitting the note in the higher range. It’s an excellent song definitely worth the listen.

Stay My Gold is a sweet ballad that is certainly one to remember. BoA opens up very nicely singing the chorus with emotion and vocal strength. The background singers singing “I sing this song for you” isn’t particularly necessary but it’s a nice addition. BoA’s vocals are somewhat deep as she sings the verses, which serves as a nice contrast to the more powerful choruses. The English line “I can stay my gold” pops very nicely as it is surrounded by Japanese lyrics. The two lines that make up the third verse are fantastically sung, particularly the last line “stay my own gold” where BoA belts out and holds the final note wonderfully. Stay My Gold is a very nice addition to the album and shows off BoA’s vocal talents.

The album’s semifinal song is soundscape. The song starts off with the chorus, which is nice but a little bland. Her vocals are nice but the instrumentation is nothing particularly noteworthy. The verses are also nice but they don’t really grab the listener as much as they should. soundscape is a pretty simplistic song and not particularly grabbing to the listener so its inclusion as the semifinal song was not a very wise one.

The album closes with the fantastically cute, With U. She sings “sunshine with you” before starting the first verse. Her vocals and the instrumentation combine to create a certain personal element that just sticks out to the listener. The chorus really stands out as BoA steps up slightly vocally and she holds the ending note very nicely. The fun and breezy atmosphere really is spotlighed during the pure instrumental sequence before the chorus is re-introduced. With U is a perfect album closer that shows off BoA’s cuter side while still showing her vocal strength.

Album Ranking: A –

BoA’s 4th Japanese album, OUTGROW is a collection of great songs that show off a great variety. From the hot uptempo tracks such as Silent Screamerz and 抱きしめる to the sweet ballads like キミのとなりで and LONG TIME NO SEE, BoA’s strengths are really shown off nicely. OUTGROW is a very varied album that offers at least one song that the listener can appreciate.

 

Koda Kumi’s 2nd BEST album, entitled BEST ~second session,~ was released on 03.08.06. This album is a collection of the 12 Singles Project in which Kumi released a single every week for 12 consecutive weeks. The album also includes a new track, Love goes like…

This album’s introductory track is a part of Get It On, a digital release during the 12 Singles Project. The song is title Introduction to the second session. Opening the song is Kumi singing in all English with line such as “gotta gotta let you know” acapella before the song’s true sound arrives. The song features an Arabian beat that makes it so addictive. The song only features one set of lyrics that repeats throughout the duration of the song but it doesn’t feel repetitive at all. The song ends with some great vocalizing from Kumi and finally “gotta gotta let you know.” Introduction to the second session is a great interlude that introduces the album nicely and makes a good transition into D.D.D.

Kumi and SOULHEAD join forces for the addictive dance track. D.D.D. A hot beat with great music opens up the song before a repetiton of “turn it up” segues into the first verse. Kumi delivers her lyrics during the first verse with such attitude that it really stands out to the listener from the first line. The hook really stands out because of all the English phrases such as “naked body” and “we don’t need no spotlight.” The chorus is even more catchy as the vocals stand out with the music and the ending line “I just do what I wanna do, I do what I wanna do.” The second verse is memorable thanks to SOULHEAD’s ending section with the various sounds that are very addicting. The third verse features a rap of Jewels of SOULHEAD and once again, attitude makes it pop as well as the various use of English such as “you’re gonna miss me” and “you’ll be addicted.” D.D.D. is an excellent dance song and it fits perfectly on BEST ~second session.~ 

The beautiful winter ballad, you, is the next song on the album. The song starts off with a sorrowful instrumentation so that the song’s atmosphere is displayed right from the beginning. During the verses, her vocals are somewhat deep but they capture the sorrow of the lyrics perfectly. The chorus features some smoother vocals that are a perfect fit on the song. The small pure instrumental section does a nice job of maintaining the sorrow of the song and putting it to the very forefront. The following final chorus really blows the listener away as Kumi sings with her heart and the emotional presence comes to the forefront strongly. you is a great ballad with the sounds of winter to make the sorrow stand out to the listener.

Mr. Blistah joins Kumi for the traditional Arabian song, Candy. The song starts off with a looming arabian before the song’s true sound comes in. The chorus features some great vocals from Kumi and she holds her notes nicely, keeping with the music. During the verses, her vocals are somewhat deep but they match with the instrumentation perfectly. The hook features English lines such as “no, no, I’m not easy” and they really pop standing next to Japanese lyrics. After the chorus, Mr. Blistah comes in for a mini-rap and his voice actually sounds pretty nice here. Mr. Blistah’s full rap sequence is a nice part of the song and a nice change of pace and Kumi comes in again to deliver the chorus. Kumi and Mr. Blistah do a little segment at the end to bring the song to a nice close. Candy is an excellent song and is a great Arabian song.

Shake It Up is a great energetic dance song with Carribean influences. The song starts off nicely with the chorus, which is very catchy and features some great vocals. The “oi-oi-oi” that begins every line of the chorus really pops, catching the listener’s ear. A small section of pure instrumentation connects the chorus to the verses and they really do sound great. The verses are still catchy as the music steps to the background to focus on Kumi’s vocals. The lines are sung somewhat deeply but still sound great with the music. The complete section of pure instrumentation that follows the third chorus is fantastic as the Carribean influences are really spotlighted and the fun and carefree element of the song comes out beaming. Shake It Up ends with the echoing of “oi-oi-oi” to bring this memorable song to a great finish. Shake It Up is a wonderful part of BEST ~second session~ that should not be missed.

feel is the most intimate and relaxing song on the album, one of Kumi’s strongest songs in her discography. The song starts off with a gorgeous relaxing instrumental before the first verse. Kumi’s smooth vocals during the verses along with the music really help create a dreamy and intimate feeling. As the verse ends, Kumi sings “why, tell me why?” and it really pops. The chorus is sung in all English and although it might be somewhat hard to decipher, the lyrics are really sweet and move perfectly with the song’s atmosphere. The third verse features some great vocals before moving back into the sweet chorus. Pure instrumentation then brings the song to an excellent close. feel is the album’s strongest song for its intimate atmosphere that takes the listener into the story of the song

WIND, the upbeat and inspiring song, is the following song. The song starts off with the chorus, which is sung nicely with some great vocals that aren’t sung in a cute voice but have a certain kawaii element to it. The verses are very strong and there is a more mellow sound while Kumi sounds perfectly at home. As the verse comes to  a close, the instrumentation becomes slightly more energetic and it is these sections that really catch the listener’s ear for their fun nature. The pure instrumental section sounds great as a spotlight is put on the carefree atmosphere set forth by the music before the final chorus. WIND is a nice song with an inspiring lyrical theme and a fun sound that makes it a true part of the album.

Love goes like… is the only new song on the album but it definitely holds its own. The song begins with Kumi repeating “throw your hands up” over a hot R&B dance beat. When the first verse starts, Kumi’s vocals are somewhat low-pitched but they work with the music perfectly. As the verses come to an end, a slightly different feel is established. Kumi’s vocals sound slightly different and there are some vocalizing in the background that is a nice touch. The chorus is highly catchy as the English phrases such as “call me” and “show me” really pop. During a segment of Kumi singing “throw your hands up” in the background, Kumi speaks in English and the slight distortions in the instrumentation combine to make this part stand out. As the new song, Love goes like… is a perfect addition to BEST ~second session~ for its addictive chorus and hot beat.

No Regret, one of the album’s dance songs, appears as the ninth track. The song opens up with part of the booming chorus, in which Kumi shows off her vocals before a great beat and interesting instrumentation cmoes in with English being spoken in the background. During the verses, there is a certain attitude that Kumi delivers her vocals with and it really works in the song’s favorite. More of the beginning energy comes back in the chorus, the most addictive part of the song. It’s the ending line of the chorus that really stands out as it is sung lower than the rest of the verse, thus making the chorus really pop at the end. The pure instrumental section spotlights just how interesting and cool the music of the song is before the chorus comes back in. No Regret is one of the catchiest singles of the 12 Singles Project and it finds its home perfectly on the collection of songs.  

Kawaii Kumi comes onto the scene with the sugary and sweet, Birthday Eve. A twinkling and happy instrumental begins the song before the first verse starts. Kumi’s cute voice works perfectly during the verses and the phrase “happy birthday” really stands out as it is sung in English. The hook features a slight distortion of Kumi’s vocals to put an emphasis on the sweetness of the music and it serves as a nice segue into the chorus. The chorus is the most addictive part of the song as Kumi shows off a little more vocal power and the instrumentation continues to maintain its peppiness. The pure instrumental section is wonderful as the spotlight is put on the guitar before a cool sound before the sugariness of the chorus comes back in. Birthday Eve is the album’s cute song and Kumi does a great job of bringing the song’s spirit to life.

Lies is a catchy R&B song that really does take the listener on a listen through the story. After nice and catchy instrumentation, the chorus comes in. The chorus features some great vocals from Kumi and sung with such emotion that it catches the listener’s ear. The English phrases such as “you’re my special, you’re my bad boy” pop next to other Japanese lyrics. During the verses, Kumi’s vocals are strong at capturing the song’s overall atmosphere. The hook serves as a bridge as the instrumentation becomes slightly more varied and Kumi’s vocals pick up. The ending note in particular is held very well and makes a perfect transition into the chorus. The third verse takes the sound in a slightly different direction with a great instrumental and the final note of the third verse sounds great. The song ends with instrumentation as well as Kumi repeating “I just want you bad boy” to bring the song to an excellent finish. For its catchiness and attitude, Lies is certainly a track not to be missed.

One of Kumi’s dirtiest songs, lyrically, is next with 今すぐ欲しい.  The song begins with a smooth and sensual instrumentation that displays the atmosphere of the song perfectly. The vocals during the verses are nice as they very well capture the sexual energy of her words and the ending note is particularly strong. The chorus stands out as the instrumentation comes forward more and Kumi’s vocals are a little more smooth. The rap is a nice addition to the song as Kumi delivers her lines with a nice level of rapidity and althoug a little more attitude could helped the rap segment come alive, it still sounds. The English allows the listener to really realize the sexual atmosphere with words such as “lick me” and “climax.” The slow and smooth,  今すぐ欲しい, is a nice song to listen to if the listener doesn’t mind the dirtiness of the song.

Ishii Tatsuya and Kumi soar on the beautiful adult ballad, KAMEN. The song begins with a beautiful instrumentation that really shows off a romantic atmosphere. After a little vocalizing from the two, the first verse arrives. During the verses, Kumi and Tatsuya alternate singing their respective parts so that it really does feel like a duet. Tatsuya definitely has an excellent voice, letting him sing deep or powerfully and he holds his note fantastically. Kumi also does a wonderful job on the song, showing off her vocal power as well as holding her notes just as well as Tatsuya. The chorus features both singing at the time and appears twice during the duration of the song. It is mostly comprised of English so that the Japanese phrases really pop. KAMEN is an excellent ballad as both Tatsuya and Kumi sing their hearts out with such emotion that the listener is taken to the world of the song.

The album closes with the hopeful and upbeat finale, Someday. It begins with part of the chorus as Kumi holds her notes well and sings with enough power to keep the song going. After a great section of pure instrumentation, the first verse starts. Kumi’s vocals are very nice here and they really move with the music to show off the song’s atmosphere. The chorus is very upbeat and somewhat poppy. Kumi’s vocals sound great and it resonates with the listener strongly. The pure instrumental section is a nice fit with Kumi’s vocals pushed more to the background to spotlight the instrumentation. Someday is a great album closer and a nice song itself.

Album Ranking: A +

Utada Hikaru’s fourth Japanese studio album, entitled ULTRA BLUE, was released on 06.14.06. Claimed to be her most experimental album to date, ULTRA BLUE is a mix of fantastic songs that the listener can really fall into. The singles released before the album were: COLORS and 誰かの願いが叶うころ (both released in 2004) as well as Passion and Keep Tryin.’ This Is Love was released as a radio single in order to promote the album.

This Is Love is an upbeat number and a fantastic album opener. The keyboard opening makes for a nice transition into the chorus, which features some great vocals that Hikki reaches singing more with the higher notes. It ends with “this is love, this is love” before the first verse starts. The verses have a sort of dreamy feeling that really works with the beauty of the lyrics to capture the song’s atmosphere. The moments of pure instrumentation sound great as they take the listener into the world of the song. The third verse takes a slightly different direction as Hikki’s vocals remain smooth and the following chorus sounds brilliant as the focus is put on Hikki’s vocals rather than the instrumentation. This Is Love ends with some great adlibbing from Hikki, bringing a truly strong album opener to a strong close.

Keep Tryin’ is an uptempo number that is inspirational for the listener. The song begins with a magical instrumental before Hikki cheerfully sings the chorus. The opening line, “I don’t care about anything,” has a certain personal element of relatability that the listener is hooked from first listen. Her vocals sound great as she stays a little on the higher side and holds her notes well. She finishes with “keep tryin” and that phrase alone captures the atmosphere of the song perfectly. During the verses, the same magical instrumenation runs through as Hikki sings the lyrics very nicely. The hook is differentiated by a change in instrumentation which moves to being slightly more varied and Hikki’s vocals reach higher during this section. The small instrumental section is wonderful as a dream feeling is established. The song ends as Hikki lists people and tells them to keep trying. It’s a very nice finish to the song and fits with the song’s overall feel.

The third song is the interesting BLUE. The song begins with a smooth instrumental before Hikki does some very nice vocalizing. During the verses, the piano serves as the central instrument for the instrumentation and Hikki’s vocals sound great during the slower parts of the song. The chorus features a stronger energy as Hikki sings higher and the music picks up tempo. Although the two pieces are placed together, they don’t clash at all and sound completely natural as they protrude the other further. The pure instrumental section is very pretty and puts an emphasis on Hikki’s strength at producing songs. BLUE is an excellent song to give the album it’s name. In an interview Hikki stated that BLUE really reflected the direction of the album and the listener can see what she meant by listening to this song.

In an interview for ULTRA BLUE, Hikki stated that 日曜の朝 was her favorite song from the album and for its relaxing atmosphere, it’s no wonder why. The song begins with a somewhat uptempo instrumental before the chorus starts. There is a certain energy to it even though the overall sound is pretty mellow. The verses are nice as they capture the slower feel of the song with deeper vocals. The hook features a higher tone instrumentation in addition to some vocalizing from Hikki in the background and even some of the lyrics sung with a whispery voice. 日曜の朝 is a fantastic track and certainly one worth the listen on ULTRA BLUE.

Making Love is a great album track..The song opens up with a nice piano interlude before the song’s true sound comes in. Her vocals during the verses are smooth and move perfectly with the music in keeping with the song’s atmosphere. The hook begins to pick up the energy in time for the chorus. Her vocals during the chorus show a little more strength and when she sings “making love,” the listener really takes notice. The verse following the second chorus is interesting as her vocal strength seems to be pushed to the background in order to focus on the rapidity at which she sings the lines. There is a sort of comical effect created by this that keeps the listener interested, which is definitely a good thing. Making Love is an excellent album track and a noteworthy fit on ULTRA BLUE.

The album’s true ballad arrives with 誰かの願いが叶うころ. The song opens up with the beautiful sound of the piano along with some vocalizing by Hikki. The verses feature some softer vocals that really do capture the song’s emotional presence. At points, it sounds as if Hikki is on the brink of tears while she is singing and it stands out to the listener strongly. The chorus stands out even more as the piano melody becomes stronger as do Hikki’s vocals. The singing of the title in particular is something that stands out to the listener. 誰かの願いが叶うころ is a very nice ballad and although it’s not her strongest ballad, it’s definitely a song to watch out for because Hikki communicates her emotions and sorrow very strongly from start to finish.

COLORS is one of the most unique sounding songs on ULTRA BLUE. After a beautiful instrumentation, the first verse comes in. The melody has its slower moments and its faster moments during the verses, which really stands out to the listener. Hikki’s vocals remain calm and somewhat angelic in time to let them fly freely on the chorus. The chorus and the following pure instrumental section stand out strongly and sound great. The instrumentation that closes the song is really a perfect finish, bringing COLORS to a close as one of the most unique and creative pieces of ULTRA BLUE that is definitely not worth missing out on.

Yamada Masashi joins Hikki for the addictive One Night Magic. The track begins with a sweet and enjoyable uptempo instrumental alongside some vocalizing from Hikki. The English phrase “all your time through all your days” during the first verse really stands out, surrounded by Japanese lyrics. Her vocals sound great here, especially as she finishes the verse when she reaches high. Masashi delivers the hook and sounds great before Hikki takes the chorus. Her vocals sound great and the background repetition of “oh baby give it up” really stands out. Masashi then repeats a line and takes Hikki into the second verse. The third verse really stands out as Hikki sings all of it in a higher register than she’s sung on the song before and it sounds heavenly. She hits her notes flawlessly, drawing attention to the overall atmosphere of the song. Masashi finishes off the song nicely after Hikki sings her chorus nicely. One Night Magic is one of Hikki’s few collaborations and one of the strongest songs on ULTRA BLUE.

海路 is a beautiful and heavenly song that puts a spotlight on the instrumentation. The song opens up with a dreamy instrumentation and Hikki is heard as she vocalizes a little. There are few lyrics in the song so that the song’s focus is really on the music and how directional it is. As the listener listens to the song, the music as well as some vocalizing from Hikki creates a journey that the listener is taken on. Her vocals are consistently strong throughout the entire song and the somewhat slow pace she delivers the lyrics works perfectly in the song’s favor as each syllable is pronounced and emphasized strongly. The lyrics, although there are few of them in the song, are powerful and are a perfect fit with the song’s overall atmosphere set forth by the sound. 海路 is a fantastic track that catches the listener’s ear from the first moment and takes the listener on a journey into Hikki’s world.

WINGS is a nice uptempo and uplifting song. The song opens with a piano interlude before the first verse comes in. Her vocals work well with the music to capture the song’s atmosphere of the lyrics. The song doesn’t really have a set structure and that connects with the free spirit of the lyrics. The sections of pure instrumental sound particularly nice as they spotlight the carefree attitude that the song evokes, keeping the listener following Hikki’s voice from start to finish. WINGS is a nice and mellow uptempo number that finds a nice home on ULTRA BLUE.

Be My Last, the album’s weakest song, is next in line. The song begins with the strumming of the guitar and the first verse. Hikki’s vocals are nice and they carry the emotions throughout the song nicely. While the desperation and emotion come across in Hikki’s voice strongly during the chorus, it doesn’t hook the listener as strongly as desired. Her vocals after singing “be my last” sound a bit whiny and are a bit off-putting. Be My Last does a good job of communicating the presence of the emotion but isn’t as strong at porraying them effectively.

The album’s interlude is Eclipse (Interlude). The song picks up with a nice uptempo energy that runs throughout the song. There isn’t much to say but Eclipse (Interlude) really is enjoyable and makes a nice transition into Passion.

Passion, one of Hikki’s signature songs for overseas fans, appears as the album’s closing number. The song begins with some smooth adlibbing over a heavenly instrumental. The song’s true sound comes in and the first vocals are of the chorus, which really make the song come to life. Her vocals are smooth and she holds her notes effortlessly. The whistles and the guitar during the pure instrumental sections sound absolutely great. The verses feature some deeper vocals from Hikki that are still smooth. The lyrics of the song are really beautiful and the combination of the instrumentation and Hikki’s vocals allows the listener to be taken into the world of Passion and experience the song’s magic. The final group of lines are sung with even more energy and with even more vocal strength. Passion is an experimental song but one that is very successful. The beauty of the instrumentation as well as the smoothness and strength of Hikki’s vocals open a magical world up to the listener and it is one of Hikki’s best songwriting qualities that comes full force.

Album Ranking: A

ULTRA BLUE is Hikki’s most experimental album to date and features many gems that are fundamental listens such as the album’s opening track This Is Love as well as the album’s closing song Passion. Tracks like One Night Magic, Keep Tryin’ and COLORS are great uptempo songs while 日曜の朝 and 海路 are glorious songs. One of Hikki’s best albums, it’s certainly worth listening to.

Koda Kumi’s 5th studio album, entitled Black Cherry, was released on 12.20.06. Her best selling studio album to date, Black Cherry is a great collection of songs. The album was loaded with singles released before the single: 恋のつぼみ, 夢のうた (ふたりで… was left off the album), 4 Hot Wave and Cherry Girl / 運命.

The album’s introduction is INTRODUCTION, a flawless introductory track with a hot dance beat. It begins with Kumi speaking in English over a mysterious sound echoing in the background. A few English phrases that come up are “one nation” and “one unity” and once a guy in the background counts down to one “let’s go!” opens up the song’s true sound. The dance beat is absolutely addictive and the English fits perfectly as she sings “rock the party, work your body” and after that sequence is repeated a few times, another part comes in. She continues to sing in English and the final line she sings is “I know really you want, tell me how you’re like…” followed by her breath. INTRODUCTION is a perfect introduction for Black Cherry and makes a perfect transition into the next song.

Get Up & Move!! is a hot dance song that makes a flawless transition from INTRODUCTION. It opens up with the addictive hook with the English line “booty shakin’ like what!” and the chorus is one of the catchiest part of the song. The hook features all English lyrics and ends with “this is for the party people” before going into the first verse. Each verse begins with an English line and the one in the first verse shows off a certain sexiness element “everytime I look into your eyes…you’ve got me really horny.” Her vocals during the verses are fun and carry the perfect amount of power to really make the listener pay attention to. The pre-chorus features some smooth and slick vocals as she holds her notes well. The chorus features both English and Japanese lyrics and is one of the most catchiest parts of the song as Kumi’s vocals demand focus. The song ends just like it began with the hook going until the very end. Get Up & Move!! is an excellent dance track and the perfect first full track.

Kumi comes strongly with the aggressive rock track, 人魚姫. A more aggressive rock instrumentation opens the song up before the first verse starts. There is a certain element of roughness to Kumi’s voice that works perfectly with the sound to create a full atmosphere. The chorus stands out strongly as Kumi has that flare in her voice that makes the listener really pay attention to her voice. The final phrase of the chorus, as she sings the title of the song followed by “tired,” really pops and brings the section to a great finish. The pure instrumental section is absolutely worth checking out as the coolness is spotlighted as the guitar is showed off powerfully. The song is a great aggressive rock song and although it’s not as strong as previous rock song, Selfish, it’s definitely a standout song on Black Cherry.  

夢のうた, the winter ballad, is the album’s fourth track. The emotional presence in this song is incredible and it really does stand out. Piano instrumentation opens the song and soon the first verse starts. Kumi sings with smooth and soft vocals that express emotions perfectly and move with the music to capture a perfect atmosphere. The chorus really stands out as Kumi shows off more vocally and the instrumentation becomes more varied and stands out. It’s the third verse in particularly where all the emotions reach a climax as Kumi sings her heart out with powerful and effective vocals. Kumi adlibs her way very nicely to the end of the song with the sounds of winter bringing the song to its finish. The song is the album’s standout ballad for capturing the emotions so strongly and effectively.

月と太陽 is the cute midtempo song on Black Cherry. A twinkling sound and some strings start off the song before elements of the chorus, English lines such as “love me” and “every day, every night” are sung by Kumi. The first verse starts and her vocals are sung somewhat in her cute voice but they carry a certain emotion that stands out to the listener. The chorus features mostly English phrases along with a couple Japanese phrases and although simplistic, it is catchy. The third verse has a dreamy-like atmosphere set by the instrumentation and Kumi’s smooth vocals only add to this atmosphere. Her adlibbing on the final chorus is a nice effect that shows off the emotion and the string instrumentation finishes the song just as beautifully as the song began. 月と太陽 is a cute track that is a strong addition to the album.

Puppy is an amazing and catchy kawaii song that finds its home on Black Cherry. The song begins with a cool and slick instrumentation and Kumi singing “I just love you.” The first verse features some nice vocals that aren’t sung with Kumi’s cute voice but still have that element of kawaii. The hook features the repeating “I just love you cause I feel so good,” which really stands out and catches the listener’s ear. Kumi brings more vocal power on the chorus and the ending of the chorus is sung with such spunk that it really does pop. The pure instrumental section spotlights just how both cool and cute the music of the song is before the chorus arrives for one more spin. The repetition of Kumi singing “I just love so good” is adorable and a perfect way to bring the song to a close. Puppy is one of the best new songs on the album for its fun atmosphere and cool approach.

Kawaii Kumi comes out for 恋のつぼみ. The song starts out with part of the chorus, which automatically hooks the listener from first listen. The verses feature Kumi singing her cute voice and make the perfect atmosphere. The hook has a slightly different instrumentation that evokes the feeling of stars before the chorus starts. Kumi’s vocals during the hook are nicely shown off as she reaches a little higher. The chorus is extremely catchy as Kumi sings with even more sparkle and cuteness that makes the listener fall in love. The pure instrumental section is a nice breakdown on the sugariness of the song before the final chorus goes in and pure instrumental finishes the song nicely. 恋のつぼみ is a happy song that is a wonderful addition to the album.

The solo version of Kumi’s collaboration with EXILE appears as WON’T BE LONG ~Black Cherry Version.~ It begins with a member of EXILE saying a few English phrases before Kumi comes in with the catchy hook. The English in the hook “the uptown Tokyo slammin’ night” pops nicely and segues nicely into the first verse. The first verse features some nice vocals from Kumi that works with the instrumentation well. The chorus features the repetition of the title in a return to the song’s true catchiness. The song’s close features a cool sound from Kumi before the hook closes the song. Although the song is somewhat repetitive, it’s a nice listen.

JUICY is the song’s sexiest and hottest dance number. The song opens up with a hot instrumentation with little looming bits of Arabian influences that make the song really pop. The verses are sung with a slickness that keeps the listener interested and with a deepness that sounds great with the instrumentation. The English used throughout the song are nice additions and really stand out on the hook with phrases such as “kill me now” and “love me tonight.” Her vocals during the hook are wonderful and she holds her notes with a sexiness that only adds to the song’s overall atmosphere. The chorus is addictive as Kumi maintains that slickness strongly and the little lines that are rapped really do the song justice. The third verse consists of her singing English phrases that keep the sexiness oozing such as “you make me hot…and wet.” Kumi’s breaths end the song over the hot instrumentation as well as her saying “I’m juicy.” JUICY is the album’s strongest track and is one of her most memorable ero-kakkoi songs.

Candle Light is a sweet and soft piano ballad that holds a lot of emotion. The beautiful sounds of the piano open the song before the first verse starts. Kumi’s delicate and fragile vocals fit the music perfectly by capturing the emotions of the song. The chorus stands out as Kumi sings a little higher and you can really hear the emotion in her voice. At some points, it sounds as if she has to take a breath as she is crying. The second verse allows her to show off a little more vocally before the final chorus starts. Her vocals on the last note of the verse make the transition perfect. The emotions come to a climax on this chorus as she sounds like she is on the brink of tears while she is singing it. Piano instrumentation brings the song to a close, making Candle Light a very pretty and soft ballad that carries emotion well.

Cherry Girl is one of the uptempo tracks that keeps the listener hooked from the opening instrumentation. Following is the chorus, which is catchy and Kumi shows off some nice vocal flare and attitude in her singing. The lyrics of the verses are delivered with a certain rapidity that make them stand out and a deeper voice that draws attention to her words. The third verse is a nice change of pace and the way she holds out her notes makes a certain sex appeal and the ending vocal is very strong. Following the chorus is a section consisting of complete English adlibs with phrases such as “juicy for my life” in powerful vocals that make them stand out very nicely. Cherry Girl is a fun uptempo track that keeps the listener interested throughout the entire song.

I’ll be there is a sweet relaxing midtempo number. The song begins with Kumi singing the chorus alongside the strumming of the guitar. The ending line, which is sung in English “I’ll be there for you,” really makes a nice impact and pops very well. The verses are the most enjoyable part of the song as they really capture the song’s atmosphere and Kumi’s vocals are beautiful. The hook features Kumi singing “I’ll be there for you, only for you” in the background, which is a very nice touch. The pure instrumental section is one of the song’s strongest points as the atmosphere is really shown off. I’ll be there is a nice and mellow midtempo song that definitely belongs on Black Cherry.

運命 is a beautiful ballad that the listener can really enjoy. Piano instrumentation along with the sound of a few string instruments open the song up before the first verse starts. Kumi’s soft vocals project emotion well and the beauty of the instrumentation really is enjoyed. The chorus is very pretty and Kumi shows off a little more vocal power that stands out strongly. The first word, the title of the song, opens the second verse and the way she sings it really does stand out. The third verse stands out particularly as the instrumentation takes more of a presence in the song as it becomes louder and Kumi’s vocals are shown off strongly. 運命 is a very pretty ballad with emotions coming through strongly.

One of Kumi’s best kawaii songs to date is With your smile, which is cute but also has a fun dance beat. The song opens with part of the chorus, which features some fun English lyrics “I just want kiss you, smile me, touch me.” The first verse has a certain relaxed summer feeling that really stands out to the listener and is something that is so addictive. The hook serves as a bridge as elements of the uptempo and fun instrumentation begin to be introduced in time for the exciting chorus. Her vocals during the chorus carry the energy and excitement to make the song just so loveable. The pure instrumental section spotlights the summery atmosphere of the song before the hook comes in nicely. The same words that began the song are what end it, making With your smile an awesome semifinal track and one of Kumi’s best cute songs ever.

ミルクティー, a cute song that Kumi composed herself, closes the album. The song begins with Kumi singing in her cute voice over a pretty simplistic instrumentation so that her words and vocals are in the forefront. Soon, a beat comes in more strongly and Kumi shows off a little more vocal strength. The following sequence stands out mostly for the “la la la” and the “oohs” that capture that kawaii atmosphere perfectly. Kumi sings her way wonderfully out, making ミルクティー a somewhat short song but a nice and relaxing finish track.

Album Ranking: A +

Koda Kumi’s 5th album Black Cherry features a variety of songs that show off her sexy side to her emotional side to her cute side. The dance songs such as Get Up & Move!! and JUICY are really her forte and she sounds completely natural singing them. She really connects with the emotional songs like 夢のうた and 運命. The cute element really does stand out with songs such as With your smile and Puppy. Black Cherry is a great collection of songs from Kumi and is an album no Kumi fan should miss.