Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

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Christmas Blowout Part III: Covers

2009年 12月 24日

So this last section of my X’mas blowout is dedicated to Japanese/Korean covers of traditional/Western Christmas song. Since these songs are so varied and not original creations of the artists I won’t be ranking them. I know it’s already Christmas for many of you, but for the rest of us it’s still Christmas Eve. Merry Christmas everyone!

Love,
Aoliwa and Kowezhi

BoA: The Christmas Song
Yeah I know, this is probably the most ubiquitous Christmas song of the season and you’re probably all tired of hearing it by now. BoA does a great job with this song though, and her voice is very strong. I’d say this is a bit more of a cutesy rendition of the original IMO.

K: Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas is a mini-album of Christmas covers that was released this past December. All songs are done a capella (kinda reminds me of glee club stuff). K’s English sucks when he speaks *cough* first track *cough,* but when he sings it it’s great. He covers songs like Wonderful Christmastime and This Christmas. Also, the final track is an a capella ver. of Only Human. Pretty… but WTF?!

CHEMISTRY: Winter of Love
This Christmas album from CHEMISTRY features both original songs and covers of older Japanese Christmas songs. Some of the songs are a little dated, but CHEMISTRY does a great job at bringing them back to life for the holidays.

Ayaka Hirahara: AVE MARIA (+Schubert ver.)
Ayaka Hirahara is the queen of classical covers. Since last year she has released to different versions of the ever-famous, Ave Maria. The original version was the B-side to Shinsekai. It approaches the song with a melancholy jazz feel (she even scats). It is stunning. The Schubert version was released this past fall, and it’s much shorter and lighthearted. It bears no resemblance to the former.

TVXQ: Christmas Gift from TVXQ
I looove this mini-album. The boys did a great job at doing a capella covers of classical Christmas songs. Standouts for me were Silent Night and Angels We Have Heard on High. This stuff is very soothing and great for listening during the night.

Nightmare: Akahana no Tonakai (Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer)
I know what you’re thinking.. what?! But yeah, back in the day when Naito was a tiny little indies band they created a rock version of this kids’ classic. It begins with some charming xylophone, but it turns 180 degrees as soon as the guitars start up. It’s kind of a twisted version of the song, and despite the LQ sound, I still think this is sexy as hell. Plus at the very end you get a greeting from all the members wishing you Merry Christmas (and Ni~ya sounds a bit drunk). Enjoy =]

Merry Christmas!!!

Merry Christmas wotas... this is for you

Merry Christmas wotas... this is for you

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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.

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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