Archive for the ‘KAT-TUN’ Category

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Poll Results: Battle of the Boy Bands

2010年 6月 21日

In accordance with last poll’s survey on female groups, I’ve added the male counterpart. Honestly I was kind of surprised at the results. Let’s start with the Kpop boys.

Well I’m not too versed on male kpop groups… sure I know who’s who and all that, but not too familiar with the music. Big Bang and Epik High battled it out for a while, but the winner is clear… epic win for Epik High!

Epik High- 13 votes, 43%
Big Bang- 6 votes, 20%
SS501- 5 votes, 17%
2PM/2AM/One Day- 4 votes, 13%
Super Junior- 2 votes, 7%
MBLAQ+B2ST/BEAST- 0 votes =[

Since I’m basically only familiar with 2PM and a little bit of SS501 I guess I’d have to vote for them. I’m not too into Big Bang’s style though. Heh I kind of wanted someone to vote for MBLAQ because they’re Rain’s brainchild, but whatever. Good job Epik High!

So it takes a Korean band to win for the Japanese? (heh I would have voted for them too.) These results were astonishing…

Tohoshinki- 22 f*ing votes, 76%
KAT-TUN- 3 votes, 10%
Arashi- ”
NEWS- 1 vote, 3%
Hey! Say! JUMP + w-inds.- 0 votes =[

I really didn’t expect them to win by that big of a margin. Although they are on hiatus right now, I look forward to each of the member’s future endeavors.

So, was there a band or group that should have been on the ballot for “Best of the Best”?
Also, since I’m not too familiar with Kpop boy bands, what are each bands best songs?

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Kpop vs. Jpop: The Epic, Part I

2010年 6月 5日

As you all have probably realized Tsuki no Ai has begun featuring Kpop artists on the blog. There are a number of reasons for this addition. First, I am trying to learn Korean (along with Mandarin and Japanese) as part of my major for East Asian Studies. I’d like to attain complete fluency in all three languages so I can have the freedom of living in most places in East Asia (heh Vietnamese will have to come later). Listening to Japanese music has been instrumental in my progression of the language because it helped me become accustomed to its sound and nuances. I’m trying to recreate that same affect with Korean music. Secondly, I want to warm up to more Asian cultures, aside from my Japanese “comfort zone.” Even though I’ll be reviewing Korean from now on (in addition to Japanese and perhaps the occasional Chinese), my heart still belongs with Japanese music. Why is that? Well that’s an issue I want to explore in my first ever EDITORIAL (zomg yaaaaay O(≧∇≦)O). Let’s get started.

The Lyrics

The first major distinction between Kpop and Jpop lies in the lyrical content of a song. While there are exceptions in each case, let’s take a look at two “typical” songs (English translations). I tried to choose upbeat songs from two artists (after all it wouldn’t be fair to choose an upbeat song for one and ballad for the other).

Ayumi Hamaski- excerpt from “Rule”

I don’t want to be imposed on
By the same old stupid Rules
Let’s start first, you and me
By breaking the Rules

Since the moment my strength turned into tenderness
And my tenderness turned into strength
I have nothing to fear any more
I’m feeling so

4minute- MUZIK

Let’s move within the rhythm that’s drawing us in
Let’s move within the non-stop raining music
I like the music, like, like, like the music
Listen to my song, not that boring beat

More sexier and tastier, I like it, I like it
Add more booty and do it more stylish, I like it, I like it
Now let’s fire it up with me, party tonight

Noticeably difference right? Now of course there are exceptions… you will find slutty lyrics from Koda Kumi and touching lyrics from Younha. However, what I’m trying to focus on is the general trend of lyrics. Jpop tends to focus on life- love, pain, parties, depression, childhood, parents, a journey, being sexy, happiness, anxiety, nervousness, etc. etc. Kpop’s sphere, while it can embody all of those I just listed, usually encompasses sexiness, parties, and love. Now don’t get me wrong, I love me a good slutty song, but I do like a little variety in my music. Now you most certainly can find deep Korean lyrics (especially in the ballads), but here I’m just trying to distinguish between upbeat songs.  I’m not trying to stereotype either Kpop or Jpop, I’m just noting some observations I’ve made by listening to all sorts of Asian music for 5+ years.

The Music

Now let’s focus on the instrumentation of each group. The vast majority of Kpop is sexy synth, aggressive hip hop, bubblegum pop, or moving ballads. Rarely are real, tangible instruments regularly used (with the exception of Younha, the TRAX and a few others). Japanese music on the other hand is much more diverse. We have acoustic goddesses like YUI, synth queens like Koda Kumi, pop mavens like Namie Amuro, techno bitches like Ami Suzuki, rock demons like OLIVIA… the list goes on endlessly. Japan suffered from a relatively stale music environment for quite a few years until X Japan (then just X) surfaced in the 80s. Now I’m not even concerning myself with Jrock here… purely Jpop. If I were to included Jrock into this mix the list of musical styles would expand enormously. The reason I won’t include Jrock right now is because there really isn’t a “Krock” scene to speak of. Yes there have been a few successful rock bands in Korea, but the charts speak for themselves. Korea wants pop, not rock. Now perhaps I’m not being totally fair here. The Japanese music market has had decades of history. Japan has had ample time to produce well-rounded artists of all different genres. Korean music hasn’t  been around as long (in terms of mass marketing), so it’s natural that the market is more limited. It’s not to say that Korea can’t produce talented artists, because it certainly can, it’s just that most of these artists belong within one or two genres.

Also of importance is song length. It is very rare to find a Korean song over 4 minutes long- even if it’s a ballad. In Japan it’s not unusual to see a ballad go for 5 or 6 minutes… X JAPAN’s epic, “Life of Art” rocks out for 30 minutes (ok yeah that’s rock, but you get the point). Personally I don’t think that you can make a well developed ballad in under 4 minutes… even upbeat songs need time for exposition, development, and recapitulation. Yeah Kpop songs are infectious, catchy, and dance-friendly, they’re just not long enough for my tastes. Often I find myself listening to a song and loving it but then feeling like “wait… it’s over already?” Now there are long songs that drag on, but for the most part the longer Japanese songs are well constructed.

The Vocalists
Here’s the trickiest category of them all- the singers that make it all happen. Koreans *tend* to have deeper, richer voices than their Japanese counterparts. This is especially true when it comes to male vocalists. I’m going to go right out and say it- Korean male singers a bit better. Sorry Japan =/. But here’s the thing… they know how to do vibrato, they’ve got pretty good intonation, they can phrase well. While Japanese men can certainly do all of those things, the tendency (particularly with JE boys) is to have a more nasal-y and higher-pitched sound. Japan has a much more difficult time promoting male artists that aren’t from Johnny’s Entertainment. I adore KAT-TUN and Arashi, but when you’ve got JE backing you up there’s no way in hell you aren’t going to chart well on the Oricon. Now we do get a breath of fresh air with Yuya Matsushita, who has done a superb job in the solo male department. Now you might say that JUNE and K have great voices… but remember, they’re KOREAN.

Now let’s talk about the girls. For the most part I’ll give this award to Japan (not including the travesty of H!P vocalists). There’s a lot of diversity in terms of vocal style for Japanese women… you’ve got everything from Rie fu’s soft spoken voice to Koda Kumi’s raspy vocals. Now Korean ladies can sure belt it out… my favorites being LENA PARK (phenomenal voice), Ivy (though I wish she’d do more ballads), and SeeYa’s Lee Boram and Kim Yeonji. Now I do think that Korea has a larger stock of female rappers, but I don’t think you can compete with Japanese veterans like SOULHEAD.

So this concludes the Kpop vs. Jpop Epic Part I! This was my first shot at an editorial so if you have comments or suggestions please, please, please let me know. Coming up next: international appeal, style, promotion, groups, triple threats, and more.

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KAT-TUN- Going!

2010年 6月 1日

I actually like the theme of this cover. You can see all the members clearly and in detail, which is an issue they’ve had on some of their other covers where they try to feature full body shots of all the members.

Aside from the obnoxious shouting in the beginning, Going! isn’t too bad. It’s not completely ground-breaking because it’s just like your traditional summer song. That being said it’s a decently fun song, but has too much autotune for my taste. Not a bad song, but I felt bored throughout its duration.

FALL DOWN is much more my style. If you’re a fan of KAT-TUN’s more aggressive rock tunes then you’ll definitely love this song. Not only is this song extremely well done, but it could actually pass for a real rock song (not just that synth rock stuff boy bands usually do). The chorus is sexy as hell; I thoroughly enjoyed this song.

With kind of an abrupt change of pace, we have SMILE, the obligatory (?) slow song. SMILE begins with a beautiful piano intro, which cascades into a mid-paced R&B song. KAT-TUN is very comfortable with this style of song, and it shows. My only complaint is that it reminds me too much of “boy bands” as opposed to “KAT-TUN.” This was my second favorite song on the single.

Overall: FALL DOWN should have been the a-side, by a long shot. SMILE isn’t bad either… my only real issues with this single were with Going!
Rating: 6.5/10

Track list:

1. Going!
2. FALL DOWN
3. SMILE
4. Going! (Instrumental)
5. FALL DOWN (Instrumental)
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KAT-TUN- Love Yourself ~Kimi ga Kirai na Kimi ga Suki~

2010年 2月 26日

Ok I know I’ve enlarged this image far beyond its capacity, so if you have a HQ scan of this single it would be GREATLY appreciated. Anyway, the guys look slick and trendy as always.

It’s been a while since I’ve gotten anything new from KAT-TUN (the most recent thing being “Rescue”). There are a lot of great things going on with this single, but also a lot of things that I find very frustrating. The best thing about this single is the musical interpretation and variety of the songs. Unfortunately, this is often eclipsed by the ubiquitous use of  voice killer autotune. Let’s get started.

The beginning of Love Yourself ~Kimi ga Kirai na Kimi ga Suki~ is a bit ominous, reminding me of an old spy movie (not that I’ve seen many, but…) For me it felt like this song was a mix of metro and modern. The synth gives the song some vintage flair, but the chorus reflects the infectious nature of today’s songs. I thought this song was fantastic except for the over, over use of autotune (a trend that persists throughout the rest of the single). The boys of KAT-TUN have great voices, why try to hide them with vocal distortion? Nevertheless, KAT-TUN fans will adore this track.

The next song, written by Jin, THE D-MOTION is the promotional song fro DOCOMO phones (can I has one??) This song has even more autotune than the title track. In fact, there is more autotune than natural voice in this song, and that is never a good thing. If you must use autotune then use it sparingly or it will lose its effect (unless you’re using it to correct poor intonation, and in that case you’re just faker who shouldn’t be in the music industry). Also, I felt like this song, although catchy, was perhaps too tied to the item it promotes.

Things slow down with HEART-BEAT. Personally I’m not too much of a fan of KAT-TUN doing softer songs like these. I prefer the high energy sings like Rescue or Real Me. The song itself is very sweet and uplifting. Clearly the most romantic song off the single. The strings make this song stand out.

Next is my favorite track, A PAGE. Although I don’t understand the significance of the title, this somber R&B track is extremely catchy. If you liked TVXQ’s Darkness in my Heart then chances are you’ll enjoy this song. The darkness of this song is captivating, and best of all the autotune is kept to a minimum.

Lastly is Aishiteiru kara, another romantic track, but this one taking on more of a ballad structure. The piano and strings remind me of one of my favorite KAT-TUN songs of all time, White X-mas. Things are pretty slow in the beginning, but the song gains momentum toward the end of the piece.

Overall: KAT-TUN either leaves me addicted to their music or wanting to gouge out my ears. This single definitely reflects the former. I wonder why I haven’t been keeping up with them lately? All autotune debacles aside, this is an impressive single.

Rating: 8.8/10

Track list:

01 Love yourself ~君が嫌いな君が好き~
02 THE D-MOTION
03 A Page(赤西 仁ソロ曲)
04 HEART BEAT
05 愛しているから(亀梨和也ソロ曲)

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Christmas Blowout Part I: Ballads

2009年 12月 2日

Christmas music wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t have those sweeping ballads. So here I’ve compiled some of my favorite Christmas ballads. I’ve tried to pull from different genres so that there’s something for everyone. Just a note, not all of these are Christmas songs; I’ve included some songs that I associate with snow/Christmas etc. So here we have it, Aoliwa’s top 15 Christmas ballads.

15. Stay With Me- Koda Kumi
Kuu looks so pretty in this cover… and it’s perfect for winter. Be sure to check out both versions!
I love how this song opens with strings, harp and piano… all these musical elements are what make the ballad so stunning. We soon transition into a consistent ballad beat that continues for the rest of the song. The verses are pretty, with Kuu-chan alongside strings, piano, and even backup vocals. She really shines in the choruses and bridge though. The orchestration during the bridge is some of the best work I’ve seen in Kuu’s ballads. There’s so much power in the last chorus, but Kuu calms it back down when she utters the final, “stay with me.”

14. Harmony of December- KinKi Kids

This is one of my favorite winter ballads. This was actually my first KinKi Kids song, and I happened to listen to it on a whim. I’m so glad I got it though! We have a lot of traditional elements… the beginning opens up with an erhu (or some variation of it). The verses aren’t my favorite, as I’m not too much of a fan of KinKi Kids’ vocals, but the choruses are heavenly. I’d recommend this song to anyone looking for a new, ethereal, take on a Christmas ballad.

13. Yuki no Hana- Mika Nakashima
Despite Mika-chan’s poor makeup, I like this cover because it reminds me of a Northern aurora. Plus that dress is way ahead of its time =D
All you hear in the beginning is a melancholy xylophone, and you’re ready for something like Hitori. However, once the piano kicks in you get this sad, yet hopeful ballad. For a while all we have is Mika and piano… but it’s a beautiful combination because of her smooth voice. After the first two choruses we get the full affect of Mika and strings. We have the strength of a ballad paired with the delicateness of Mika’s voice… just perfect. By the end you can just imagine “snow flowers” falling from the sky.

12. Itsuka no Merry Christmas- Gackt and Ayumi Hamasaki
Yes this crappy pic is the only one I could find of the two together… and I didn’t feel like doing screen shots xD.
I was surprised when I first heard the combination of Ayu and Gackt. As a whole Gackt’s vocals are MUCH stronger than Ayu’s (still love her though ^_^). We’ve got Gackt and his intense vibrato and Ayumi’s “choppiness.” The two actually make a good pair on the B’z cover (you can also hear “Silent Night” duets from them as well). Unlike the B’z version, however, we just rely on piano to accompany the vocals. Good idea… because with such strong artists you don’t want the music to overpower them. Very delicate song… makes me think of sitting by the fire place by Kowezhi (baaaah he’ll kill me if he sees I wrote that xD).

11. Forever Love (Bell ‘n’ Snow Edit)- Tohoshinki
Anyone who’s a fan of THSK has probably heard this song. While I love the original very much, this edition is just flawless. Even if you’re not a fan of THSK, I’d recommend this song anyway because of the unique orchestration. The boys opted for a “church” feel by using church bells and an organ to accompany their seamless vocals. We also have some faint soldier-like drumming in the background throughout the song. Overall the feeling is romantic and gracious. Although this was a B-side to Together, this truly is strong enough to be a single on its own (buuuut no one likes re-cut stuff so…)

10. Winter Love- BoA
I’m a BoA fan in a loose sense of the world… definitely not die-hard or anything. I actually tend to find the majority of her vocals a little nasaly. She can, however, sing a damn good ballad. I don’t think this single got much reception when it first came out, but I instantly loved it (one of the B-sides, Candle Lights, is also nice). This is reminiscent of Kuu-chan’s Stay With Me, but about 10 times more epic. There a lot of chime-y bells, strings, and background guitar (which is what gives it so much power). BoA slows it down during the verses, but totally lets loose in the chorus. One of the strongest Japanese winter ballads IMO.

9. Konayuki- Remioromen
Taking a  diversion from Jpop land we have a classic ballad from band Remioromen. I’m not an experienced Remioromen fan, but I know enough to say that this ballad is amazing. Meaning “powder snow,” Konayuki creates the atmosphere of freshly fallen snow by using soft and progressive guitar rifts. Strings are gradually integrated into the chorus, but we never lose sight of the fact that this a rock band. You can definitely feel the “Asian-ness” of the ballad in the choruses. By this I mean that kind of subtle mix between sweet and sad… and no one creates that mix like the Japanese.

8. Bokura no Love Story- WaT
Look at that (poor quality) cover… tell me that’s not cute! I want one of those sweaters ._.
It’s a shame these boys aren’t too active anymore, because they have some of the best harmony I’ve heard in the Jpop world. Bokura no Love Story is WaT at its finest. Unlike many other Christmas ballads we actually get a little bit of brass in the beginning and during the choruses. Wentz and Koike have a great understanding of each others’ voices, and it shows in the way they can trade of verses, line-by-line. The chorus (surprise) is what makes the song shine. They don’t try to be bombastic or show off-y, they seem like they’re trying to tell a story after all (fitting eh?) Also, my favorite part of the song is the string run just into the final chorus… it’s the sex.

7. Meri Kuri- BoA
I love this cover so much… even the tulle skirt xD.
Ok… everyone knows that this is THE classic BoA ballad, and a Christmas ballad stable. Admittedly I didn’t like this song when I first heard it (I wasn’t too keen on “happy” ballads then). Now I’ve grown to appreciate what really makes this song so timeless. BoA’s vocals are actually quite nice in this song. While I still stand by the fact that BoA never really reaches full potential with her vocals during this song, she still shows a good deal of control over her voice. The electric guitar in this song works well to give this that “pop” factor. The background chorus gives this song a special “holiday” feel.

6. JEWELAyumi Hamasaki
Baaah this is one of the prettiest PV’s I have ever seen… please go check it out.
Anyway, the only reason why this song stops at no. 6 is because it’s not “technically” a winter song. This is probably my favorite Ayu song of all-time, though. Ayu stands alone with just a piano by her side. This song doesn’t have a sweeping climax like the other songs, but that’s where JEWEL gets its strength. The subtleties of the song give its finesse. It’s a very sad song, but extraordinarily beautiful. I don’t want to say to much because this song truly deserves a listen.

5. Cherish- Ai Otsuka
Like JEWEL the only reason Cherish doesn’t get a higher ranking is because it still isn’t a Christmas song. However, I remember this song was released on a tribute album for “Nana” and I discovered it back in December 2006. I don’t see how this song couldn’t be a winter one… we have these synth elements in the beginning that totally mimic winter wind. Harp is very prominent in this epic song, as is a strong drum beat. This is Ai-chin’s best song because it has some of the best orchestration I’ve ever heard in the Jpop world and Ai’s voice is very diverse. A sad song… but one of the best I own.

4. CAROLS (acoustic string ver.)- Ayumi Hamasaki
Ok I dislike this cover… sorry. I love that sky and I love Ayu on the swing… but the two images just don’t mesh well for me. The regular version of CAROLS is pretty, but this string version is just awesome. The orchestra in the background makes a good ballad great. The thing I love about Ayu’s string versions is that the orchestras always show a lot of variety (not the same string loop played over and over…) This is one of the more depressing songs here, but beautiful all the same.

3. Yume no Uta- Koda Kumi
I love these covers so much… looks like she’s getting married ._.
This song, and Unmei, are Kuu-chan’s best ballads of all time. This is around the time when Kuu started taking much more control over her music, as she wrote the lyrics to Yume no Uta and the other A-side, Futari De… Both songs revolve around the same melodic motif, but Yume no Uta, although the “sadder” of the two, is better. We open up with piano, which is present throughout the song. Drum beats, a chorus, and strings dominate the choruses. Yume no Uta also has a quartet version, which I highly recommend as well.

2. Ashita e no Sanka- alan
Baaah beautiful cover… her coat looks so warm… kinda reminds me of the wintery highlands.
Again… not technically a Christmas song, but I still think it works. For some reason this song (and the Orchestral Ver.) make me think of snow. Despite this being alan’s first single, it’s her best. Most people have heard alan by now, and if you haven’t just know that her vocals are jaw-dropping. Her Tibetan wailing dominates the choruses, giving this song an especial ethnic feel . Nothing much can be said about this song, except for “go listen now.”

1. White X’mas- KAT-TUN

Pretty cover, I love how it looks like snow is falling.

Yeah I know some people will probably bitch at me for putting a boy band first here, but honestly KAT-TUN deserves the hype with this song. It’s catchy and delicate (uses harp, strings, etc). The harmony during the chorus is so great. The lyrics are also easy to learn and understand. This song doesn’t appear outwardly “Christmas-y” but still manages to give off that kind of vibe.

Yay I’m done -_-“

Please comment… this took so much longer to do than I thought it would xD

–Aoliwa