Archive for the ‘Namie Amuro’ Category

h1

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.

Advertisements
h1

Best of 2009: Album Artwork

2010年 1月 8日

I’ve been looking forward to this part of the “best” awards. This will probably be my last installment of the “best of”s, because I’m going to have a gigantic “worst” of post out this weekend. So here, in all their glory, are what I thought were the best album covers of 2009.

RURUTIA: Seiros
For a while I thought that this release was part of 2008 because it was released so long ago!. Anyway, RURUTIA’s music is very ethereal and reminiscent of Final Fantasy music. This cover reflects the magical element so present in her music. This cover is like a cross between reality and fantasy.

Namie Amuro: Past<Future
Plagiarized or not, this is one hot cover and it represents Namie’s moving forward with her musical career. The cover came under suspicion when it greatly resembled an image in a Korean magazine. Although it seems like the case is valid, it probably wasn’t Namie’s idea. In truth what really makes this cover amazing is Namie’s coy expression. Even if it wasn’t her idea, her cover is ten times sexier.

alan: Gunjou no Tani
This cover is one of alan’s finest. She looks so peaceful. She dons traditional garb, and it really pops compared to the dark background behind her. In this cover we have tradition and nature- the two most important aspects of alan’s music. I hope we see more of this soon!

OLIVIA: Sailing Free
Everything about this cover is so “OLIVIA.” She’s just kind of floating there, looking completely serene. Although it’s a lot of pink, all of the detail keeps this cover from being boring.

Koda Kumi: Alive/Physical Thing
Regardless of what you think of the single, I think its cover is astounding. Kuu-chan’s covers have gotten progressively better over the years. She went from looking almost like a trashy porn star to looking like more of an artist. I love the juxtaposition of this cover: Kuu looks like an angel while the environment around her is clearly rugged. Her outfit looks really high-fashion and her make up looks class. This cover is sexy without being over-the-top.

Nana Kitade: Tsukihana
Not only was this an outstanding musical feat for Nana, but its cover is a work of art too. Nana looks great in a traditional kimono. Since Nana is a model for a lot of lolita clothes, she knows how to wear an outfit. Her posture and expression make this otherwise traditional setting a little more modern.

Tohoshinki: Stand by U
The reason I like this cover so much is that it makes the boys look more “real” to us. They usually wear flashier clothes in staged and tempered environments. Here though, things look a little more candid and realistic. This kind of comforting image fits the A-side as well because the song projects a kind of intimacy.

Ayumi Hamasaki: Rule/Sparkle
This is one of my favorite Ayu covers to date. The tight-fitting outfit, silver high-heels, and bold covers give this image a futuristic look, perfectly representing the songs on the single. This single came out with many cover editions, as is common for Ayu nowadays, but this one was my favorite. Her makeup looks great too… not overdone, but still foxy. =]


Minami Kizuki: Shiroi Tsuki
I discovered Minami’s music kind of late in the year. For those of you who don’t know her, she has a voice uncannily similar to Hajime Chitose’s (she did the 4th ending to Blood+). This single happens to be a ballad, and the cover kind of reminds me of something alan would do. Minami really stands out from the black background. I really do think of the moon when looking at the cover.. maybe it has something to do with her reflection.


Miliyah Kato: WHY
This single represents one of Miliyah’s strongest releases to date. This cover lacks the glamor of a lot of these others on the list, but it perfectly reflects the raw emotion of the song WHY. Miliyah is known for her more “Diva-esque” covers, so this vulnerable side from her is something to look forward to.

h1

Best of 2009: B-sides and other stuff

2010年 1月 3日

Here’s the 3rd part to my 5-part “Best of 2009” installment! This time I’m focusing on B-sides and album-only tracks.  There are a couple more bonus categories I didn’t know where else to put (best collaboration and such). Again, nothing is in any particular order.

  • Gunjou no Tani (acoustic ver.)- alan (Gunjou no Tani)
  • SYOUKUBENI (shot in one take)– Dir en grey (Hageshisa to, Kono Mune no Naka de Karamitsuita Shakunetsu no Yami)
  • mute– Mihimaru GT (Torokechau Dandy)
  • Pied Piper– Plastic Tree (Sanatorium)
  • I– salyu (extension)
  • KISSES– stephanie. (Pride ~a part of me~)

  • Shiroki Yuu Utsu- the GazettE (DIM)
  • suki– Rie fu (Urban Romantic)
  • Akizakura (cosmos)– Ikimono Gakari (Hajimari no Uta)
  • Driving– Koda Kumi (Trick)
  • Drella– alice nine. (Vandalize)
  • COPY THAT– Namie Amuro (Past<Future)

There were a number of new artists this year… but as the title suggests I’ve only considered the artists who had the strongest debuts (I chose 5). I don’t consider artists like alan to be “new artists” since her work was well known way before her debut album. Artists like Mao Denda (who apparently released stuff about 9 years ago) are eligible because they made themselves known in 2009.  It’s a bit confusing, but it makes sense in my mind ._.

  • JASMINE
  • MiChi
  • Kana Nishino
  • Kizuki Minami
  • Lil’ B

Those where my three “main” categories. Here are the other ones (basically I was just too lazy to make graphics for categories with only one or two winners).

Best Collaboration: Ima Demo Aitai Yo– Yuna Ito feat. Spontania

Best Revival: UnsraW
Best appearance on anime: Again– YUI
Best Instrumental/Interlude: —anten.– Plastic Tree, Tenyou ~Interlude~– alan, INTRODUCTION FOR TRICK– Koda Kumi
Best Remix: romantic (strings ver.)– Rie fu, Days 8-bits of tears YMCK remix– Ayumi Hamasaki

h1

Best of 2009: Albums

2010年 1月 1日

Best albums of 2009 (not necessarily in order) from left to right

  1. alan- Voice of Earth
  2. Yuna Ito- Dream
  3. Ayumi Hamasaki- NEXT LEVEL
  4. the GazettE- DIM
  5. alice nine.- Vandalize
  6. Namie Amuro- Past<Future
  7. Nothing’s Carved in Stone- Parallel Lives
  8. rie fu- Urban Romantic
  9. Mai Fukui- My Song for You
  10. Girugamesh- Now
  11. Younha- Growing Season (Honorary Korean Masterpiece)

Honorable Mentions

MiChi- UP TO YOU
Ikimono Gakari- Hajimari no Uta
Koda Kumi- Trick
Ayaka Hirahara- My Classics
Perfume-

h1

Best of 2009: singles

2009年 12月 31日

Well I haven’t been reviewing on account of I’ve been on vacation =]. Anyway, now that I’m back and Kowezhi has decided to go party without me (<_<) I’ll spend my New Year’s Eve writing “best of”s. I’ll do singles holistically. I may add a category for b-sides or album-only tracks. None of them are in any particular order… just whatever comes to my mind. Also, no commentary since that would take way too long. Feel free to comment if you agree/disagree. It’s quite possible that I forgot some of the best. Mouse over the album pics to see the name of the artist/single.

Singles

Alright I really wanted this to be a “top 10” sort of deal… but 11 never hurt anyone =] If I *had* to pick a “number 1” I’d have to go with alan’s Kuon no Kawa. I mean come on.. that thing is EPIC (even if it rehashes the same two songs over and over). Also, even though I gave some singles better reviews than others I gave my top 10 based on musicianship, not necessarily the rating I gave. For example, although I enjoyed Miho Fukuhara’s Nande Nakitaku Nacchaun Darou tremendously, Hanabi Sky was clearly a more musical feat.

Honorable Mentions
Kana Nishino- Dear…/MAYBE
Onitsuka Chihiro- X/Last Melody
Lil’B- Tsunaida Te
Mika Nakshima- Overload
Salyu- Corteo ~Gyouretsu~
BoA- Eien


h1

Namie Amuro- Past < Future

2009年 12月 16日

It’s about damn time we got another release from Namie. I love this cover… Namie looks classy and her expression is coy, setting up a feel for the album itself.

First up we have FAST CAR. It opened up with some interesting brass themes, but quickly morphed into a jazzy pop song. The album uses more traditional instruments instead of synth, so the song is a bit unconventional for her. That doesn’t mean it’s bad though! I thought this was a great way to open up the album.

Next is COPY THAT, my favorite song on the album. Although we start the song with a surfer vibe we transition into a fast pace pop song reminiscent of her older songs. The song is just plain infectious… verses and chorus. It also appears that Namie’s English has improved too. This song is just sexy =]

LOVE GAME has a more techno feel to it. In the beginning she sings “Lovin’ lovin’ you,” and I can’t help but think it’s reminiscent of “I like to move it move it,” xD. Strong beats and synth dominate this song. It’s a catchy song and the highlight is in the bridge.

Bad Habit continues the the same vibe as the previous song, but a little more flowy in the synth. We have a clapping rhythm throughout the song, not unlike LOVE GAME. The song is pretty short since it’s’ just over 3 minutes. There’s some autotune in the background at times, which killed this song for me.

Wow, more clapping in Steal my Night. This reminds me of something that would be off her previous album, PLAY. The chorus is pretty catchy, but I was kind of bored in the other parts of the song.

I thought I would hate FIRST TIME feat. DOBERMAN INC, but in truth the song isn’t that bad (with the exception of the autotune). There’s a lot of rapping in this song, obviously, but it fits well with the heavy synth and Namie’s layered vocals. Although this song errs on the side of hip-hop, it incorporates some unconventional melodies (just like she did with Dr.) Sometimes the vocal editing can get a little annoying, but a solid song overall.

Wild was one of two A-sides featured on this single. Wild is definitely techno themed and incredibly catchy. It’s easily one of the strongest songs on the album, but it pales in comparison to its companion A-side..

Dr.! Dr. is one of Namie’s most innovative songs to date, also opting for a techno feeling. The problem with a lot of techno is that at times the melodies can become stale and static. That is not the case with Dr. This song has a story to it (just listen to the robot at the beginning and end) and uses a number of different melodies to keep it interesting. Amazing song!

Ok, back to new tracks! Shut Up has autotune as part of the instrument… but I think this is one of the few instances where it can help a song. This song is catchy as hell and full of attitude. This is Namie like I know her… employing the best of pop, synth, and hip-hop. Loved it =]

MY LOVE unfortunately has a beginning reminiscent of something you’d hear in the States. She repeats “You’re my love love love….” a rehash of the chorus to come. I would have rather she skipped the intro and gone straight into the song. The song has a Western feel to it, and I find it a bit static.

Now we have the only “ballad” off the album. The Meaning of Us has a gorgeous piano opening. This song in particular shows Namie’s mature side, and I only wish this song was a little longer. I would consider it the equivalent of Should I love him? off her previous album.

Lastly we have Defend Love. It has a dark and ominous opening, but it soon unfolds into an upbeat dance track. Yup, lots of synth in this song, but it was used creatively. The song gains a lot of depth in the bridge. This was a nice way to end the album.

Overall: Namie’s on a role with her albums… a couple weak songs here and there, but overall pretty solid.

Rating: 8.5/10

Best Songs:
FAST CAR, COPY THAT, Dr., The Meaning of Us, Defend Love

Track List:

  1. FAST CAR
  2. COPY THAT
  3. LOVE GAME
  4. Bad Habit
  5. Steal my Night
  6. FIRST TIMER feat. DOBERMAN INC.
  7. WILD
  8. DR.
  9. Shut Up
  10. MY LOVE
  11. The Meaning Of Us
  12. Defend Love
h1

Christmas Blowout Part II: Upbeat Songs

2009年 12月 5日

Yay now we’re onto part II of my Christmas Blowout Series (and there’s still one more part to come!) This time I’m focusing on the more upbeat songs. There aren’t nearly as many of these as there are ballads, so I’m only doing a “top 10.” More male artists/bands will be featured this time, and there are even some jrockers! Again, this might feature a song or two that is not especially “Christmas” or even winter… but any song I associate with this particular season is eligible. So, without further ado, enjoy!

10. Jingle Bell- 雅-miyavi-

Hah so if you first listen to this song you won’t believe it’s a Christmas song. We definitely see what miyavi calls “happy hardcore.” So we have heavy guitars paired with a major melody. Honestly the song just makes you want to dance or something. You don’t see much variation in miyavi’s voice throughout the song, but I think the emphasis is on the instrumentals anyway.

9. Winter Winner- ORANGE RANGE

Listening to this song it’s no mistake that this is a winter song! We open up with some Christmas bells, but soon transition into a positive guitar melody. The song is very upbeat, and it makes you want to go out and have a snowball fight or something. Also, this is one of ORANGE RANGE’s older songs, so many of you will appreciate the style.

8. I Wish- L’arc~en~Ciel

This is a classic winter song for any jrock fan. We have a progressive beat in the beginning of the song, but the chorus is super cute. Why? We have kids singing =D. Haah I’m a sucker for kids singing. The chorus features alternating English lines, so you can understand some of the song if you don’t speak Japanese. This song features Christmas bells and brass, making it a perfect precursor to another jrock song on this list!

7. Nichiyou no Asa- Utada Hikaru

Meaning “Sunday Morning,” this song was featured on her album “Ultra Blue.” Knowing Utada, we get a nice hip hop influence. A xylophone beat follows us throughout the song, giving it some variety. The song structure is a bit unusual, because between each verse and chorus we get Utada speaking, saying different aspects of a Sunday morning. Not a traditional winter song, but good for any Utada fan.

P.S. This is my favorite Utada cover of all time!

6. Christmas曲(櫻井ソロ)- Arashi

Haah this is definitely just a random image. Anyway, this is a solo by arashi singer, Sho. My version of this song is pretty low quality, but I love it all the same. It’s very laid-back and features acoustic guitars, faint background synth, brass, and bells. Sho, being the rapper of the group, raps throughout the verses, and it’s surprisingly relaxing. The rest of the group joins him for the chorus. The chorus is sooo cute too if you listen to the lyrics (but they are in Japanese, so beware). I love this song so much that I’ll listen to it year ’round.

5. Hitoiro- Mika Nakashima

This is not a winter song, but it was released for Nana so I will always associate it with winter. Anyway, while I don’t think it represents Black Stones at all, this is one of my favorite songs of all time. Since it’s for Nana we know it will have some rock influence. The verses feature some piano in the background, and they’re very calm. The chorus however, is amazing. The strings in the background are what give it its power. It’s too upbeat to be a ballad, even if it has many ballad elements. IMO it’s Mika’s best song.

4. Hurry X’mas- L’arc~en~Ciel

Remember how I said the brass would prepare us for another jrock song? Well this is it! Hurry X’mas is much more of a jazz song than a rock song, but it’s a new taste on Christmas songs. We have an especially wide range of instruments… even an accordion. The PV is cute too… and HYDE wears a Santa hat xD. This whole single is Christmas themed, because it features another rendition of “I Wish.” The song also features some English for those of you who don’t speak Japanese!

3. White Light- Namie Amuro

You all knew it was coming… this is one of the more famous jpop Christmas songs. I love the cover… pretty gold wreath is a nice spin on a traditional Christmas symbol. White Light is easily a love song with some very cute lyrics. We have a nice R&B beat, but also some bells in the background. Namie’s English in this song is pretty good, even if it sounds like she’s singing “silent night, hory night.” Everything about this song is winter love themed, making it a timeless winter song.

2. Actuality- Kou Shibasaki

Actuality is Kou’s first Christmas single, and if you like this song I’d suggest getting the whole thing because the b-sides are lovely winter songs too. We have bells throughout the song and lots of strings. The song is a bit slower paced, but definitely not a ballad (for example, this song always reminds me of ice skating). Like many of Kou’s songs, there’s a faint jazz influence. The end of the song ends nicely with Kou gently fading into a winter day scene (shopppers, church bells).

1. So Merry Christmas -take 06- -Mihimaru GT

To me this is a classic Christmas song. Unfortunately it was just a b-side, and it could have totally been an a-side. Anyone familiar with Mihimaru GT knows that they combine singing and rapping, which they do here. This combination along side bells and chimes gives us a new sort of Christmas vibe. My favorite part of the song is the bridge when we hear a choir that leads into Hiroko’s solo against piano. This song is a different style for Mihimaru GT, but to me it makes the perfect upbeat Christmas song.