Tamaki Nami – Realize

Release Date: July 24, 2003

Tracklist:

1. Realize
2. Hot Summer Day
3. Ashita no Kimi
4. Realize -Instrumental-

I’ve always loved Tamaki’s Gundam Seed songs, and Realize is one of them. The background music is like techo music; typical of Gundam songs. Her voice is strong in this song, and full of power. My favourite part is the chorus though; it’s so catchy (or maybe I’ve watched too much Gundam Seed).

The first B-side, Hot Summer Day, starts off with Tamaki’s voice (much more girly than the last song) singing with sparse accompaniment (sounds like game music). Her Engrish isn’t that great though, but when she sings “hot summer day”, is kind of addicting. The chorus’ melody is rather weird though, as if it doesn’t fit with the rest of the song.

Ashita no Kimi starts off with some beats before Tamaki comes in with the rest of the background music. The melody is more flowing in this song (compared to the last track), and rather unique, at least in the verses. Other than that, the song is rather boring.

Overall Rating:
3/5

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ayaka – Real voice

Release Date: July 19, 2006

Tracklist:

1. Real voice
2. Peace loving people
3. Real voice (instrumental)

Real voice begins with a ayaka’s voice (heavily fillered), before the instrumentals come in. The melody in the verse at the beginning is rather weird, in my opnion. Once again, ayaka amazes me with her versatile range, though the song in general is rather dull.

ayaka’s English isn’t that bad in Peace loving people, for a person who wasn’t raised in the West. Anyway, this song has an interesting name, and it takes the form of a slow ballad. The main instrument featured in the verse is the guitar (not acoustic, though). But like her A-side, this song is…well, boring. Even the bridge section before the final run of the chorus sounds like the previous track.

Overall Rating:
2.5/5

A major letdown from ayaka. *sigh*

Utada Hikaru – Distance

Release Date: March 28, 2003

Tracklist:

1. Wait & See ~Risk~
2. Can You Keep A Secret?
3. Distance
4. Sunglasses
5. Drama
6. Eternally
7. Addicted To You [Up-In-Heaven Mix]
8. For You
9. Kettobase!
10. Parody
11. Time Limit
12. Kotoba ni Naranai Kimochi
13. HAYATOCHI-REMIX (Bonus Track)

Wow, so many singles on this album; it reminds me of Hikki’s HEART STATION album.

First non-single song of the album is Distance (which is also the title track), the third track of the album. The background music starts off with a bubbly feeling, and Hikki ad libbing in the background. I wish I heard Distance first, instead of the FINAL DISTANCE (then I wouldn’t be so picky about this song). It just seems so weird to me to hear an upbeat version of it (though I am aware that some parts are different). The background vocals in Distance give off a dreamy feeling though.

Next is Sunglasses; its background uses a lot of synth. The overall feel of the track just screams of an American influence. with some Asian mix in there. Her vocals in this song don’t seem as strong as the last three tracks; Utada seems to strain on the higher notes in the chorus. The layering of the voices have a nice effect, and add to the off-the-wall feeling that the synth already provides.

Drama definitely gives off a very different vibe than the previous tracks. First of all, the background music is similar to a rock song, something you wouldn’t expect out of Utada. Second, her voice seems lower on this song. I feel that the instrumental overpowers Hikki’s voice though; it’s rather soft. Rock and Utada…not a combination you can hear everyday…

Unlike Drama, Eternally is a soft, calm ballad. It has a strong pop influence; a nice change from the rock-like track before it. Actually, Eternally reminds me of First Love. The strings that make a cameo ‘appearance’ are a nice touch to the song. Too bad Hikki’s voice seems to have some trouble reaching the higher notes in the chorus. The song itself is rather pretty though, or maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for ballads!

Another three tracks come before we get to hear the next album-exclusive track, Parody (interesting name). Thumping beats start off this track, with some DJ-like sounds before Utada comes in. I think we’re in for another Addicted to You-like song. Parody has a nice beat, and the chorus is pretty catchy, but it dulls in comparison to the other tracks.

Kotoba ni Naranai Kimochi starts off with some strong synth and ad libbing by Utada. This song sounds like her Ultra Blue material, right down to the melody (foreshadowing?!). Hikki’s voice seems to be experiencing some difficulties in this song though; her voice seems forced on the higher and lower notes. I like the effect the layering of the different voices in some parts of the song, despite a rather weak performance by Utada.

Closing the album is HAYATOCHI-REMIX, which is a bonus track (as stated). This song has been heavily mixed, to the point where I can hardly hear Hikki’s voice until almost a minute in. Unlike the original, the remix has a stronger pulse and more R&B feel to it.

Overall Rating:
4.5/5

I think I’ll go against popular belief and say this album is better than First Love, since all but one of the non-single tracks were excellent. Distance is an album you have to listen to a few times before loving it, I guess.

Otsuka Ai – Sakuranbo

Release Date: December 17, 2003

Tracklist:

1. Sakuranbo
2. Kaerimichi
3. Momo no hanabira (studio live ver.)
4. Sakuranbo (instrumental)
5. Kaerimichi (instrumental)

Sakuranbo starts off with some layered vocals mixed with synth, before the rockish instrumentals kick in. Otsuka, as usual, sound kiddy, but this takes kiddy to the extreme. This song is rather cheerful, with an addicting melody in the chorus. It sounds like a theme song to a children’s show or something. Such a cute song…though I’m sure I’ve heard the melody in the chorus somewhere before…

Some clicking and whisting begins the B-side, Kaerimichi. It’s starting sound like a countryside song to me, until Otsuka does some crazy glissandos in the bridge section. In contrast to the A-side, Kaerimichi is a calmer song, but still has Otsuka’s signature cuteness to it. Her voice seems a bit forced on the higher notes though.

Overall Rating:
4/5

Otsuka Ai – Momo no Hanabira

Release Date: September 10, 2003

Tracklist:

1. Momo no Hanabira
2. Himawari
3. Momo no Hanabira (Instrumental)
4. Himawari (Instrumental)

Momo no Hanabira starts off with a bubbly feeling to it; this song is so happy and cheerful. Otsuka’s vocals in here are so cute (hehe), and yet so strong too. She has quite a range. Well, this song gives off the impression that it is a children’s song to me. It’s just -so- happy and bubbly! I guess Momo no Hanabira is one of the only happy, bubbly songs I’ll love. Anyway, Ostuka’s voice has a rather wide range, and is pretty good in this song.

Himawari begins with a mystical beginning, and then speeds up to another -happy-, game-like background music. Maybe it’s the quality of the mp3, but Ostuka’s voice seems rather muffled in this song. She does a good job of spouting out fast lyrics though. Himawari, like the A-side, gives off a happy, childish feel to it.

Overall Rating:
4.5/5

ayaka – melody ~SOUNDS REAL~

Release Date: May 10, 2006

Tracklist:

1. melody
2. Blue Days
3. melody -Live Version-
4. Sha・la・la -Live Version-
5. Blue Days -Live Version-

melody has a pretty melody, with some edge in ayaka’s voice that I haven’t heard of in her previous single. This song has a more rockish side to it than her older songs, and she sings embraces this genre quite nicely. ayaka’s vocals have so much passion in this song, especially in the chorus. My favourite part has to be the guitar solo before the chorus comes back for the final time.

The B-side, Blue Days, has a calm guitar introduction. In contrast to melody, this song is more of a ballad; calm and sorrowful. ayaka’s vocals are beautiful here, especially when she does those glissandos in the chorus. Blue Days have a soothing feel to it, and it’s a very pretty song, to say the least.

Overall Rating:
5/5

Hoshimura Mai – Soup

Release Date: July 9, 2003

Tracklist:

1. Stay With You
2. Love is trouble
3. GET HAPPY
4. a day in the life
5. Futari
6. Maibenshon
7. VACATION
8. Cherish
9. Koi no Chikara
10. Maifonia
11. Kazoku
12. Story

The introduction to Stay With You sounds like some excerpt from a classical piece, until Hoshimura starts singing. From there, the song transform from classical to rock in a split second. This is my first time listening to her sing rock, to be truthful, and she has a very strong voice for it. The chorus has a fast paced, and interesting melody that instantly catches one’s attention. While retaining the rock side of the song, Stay With You also has a jazzy piano accompaniment beneath the thumping beats.

Synth-ed guitars and thumping beats start off Love is trouble, the next track. Hoshimura’s voice has a really edgy feel in this song, and is a bit more ‘girly’ here than the last song. Too bad she uses Engrish instead of English (luckily it was only 2 phrases). The background music slightly overpowers her voice at times though, but it’s the main source of entertainment anyway.

GET HAPPY has a really nice melody, accompanied by strong beats. Like the last song, Hoshimura is slightly covered by the background music, but not as much here. The piano glissandos are quite enjoyable to listen to though; very pretty!

In contrast to the previous tracks, a day in the life has a soft beginning, with only a piano as accompaniment *turns up volume*. This song is a nice change from the rock we’ve been getting for the three tracks. It has a gentle melody, but still packed with power. The bridge part near the end of the song has an urgent feeling to it, powering up the song for the final run of the chorus. The vibrato in Hoshimura’s voice in the last line was an added bonus.

Futari‘s beginning sounds like something out of a Mario game, to be truthful. Hoshimura’s voice in this song sounds a bit muffled, but still bearable, though she does strain a bit on the higher notes. This song has a brassy feeling to it (maybe because of the trumpets that come in sometimes). The melody is the best thing in this song though; it’s really, really catchy.

I seriously went ‘WTF?’ on the opening of Maibenshon. It’s all synthed up and weird (in a good way maybe?). Oh, it turns out that it was an interlude…

The opening of VACATION is similar to the earlier tracks, with a strong piano accompaniment and beat. Unlike the previous tracks though, Hoshimura’s voice seems rather weak, or maybe it’s just the quality of the mp3 here. The melody of the chorus is really weird though, but the piano interlude is quite virtuostic (I know I spelt this wrong…).

Cherish starts off quite soft, before the everything else comes in. This song bores me, because it sounds a lot like the previous tracks, but as usual, Hoshimura’s voice is quite strong.

Strong vocals start off Koi no Chikara. Finally, a song that features Hoshimura’s voice, and doesn’t cover it. I love how she jumps an octave at times in this song. In general, this song is a playful song, with a jazzy piano accompaniment (lost of jazz chords and scales).

A light piano accompaniment introduces the next track, Maifonia. The beginning interlude is quite pretty; it reminds me of neo-Classical music, with a mix of Debussy and Mozart to it. (Turns out that it was an interlude too.)

The next song, Kazoku, has a more keyboard-like sounding piano accompaniment. This song is a calm piano ballad, and contrasts nicely with her piano rock selections earlier in the album. Hoshimura’s vocals really shine in this song; the melody has a wide range, making it quite are to sing.

Story, the last track of the album, has a synth-ed up accompaniment, with some happy beats in the background. The vocals seem a bit strained on the higher notes, and the music overpowers them anyway. Not my favourite song from her.

Overall Rating:
4/5