Archive for the ‘Remioromen’ Category

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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

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