Mika Nakashima: VOICE

VOICE, Mika Nakashima

LIFE

Sakura – Hanagasumi – (Daishi Dance)

FOCUS

Eien no Uta

ORION

Anata ga Iru Kara

MY GENTLE MAN

TRUST YOUR VOICE

It’s too late

I DON’T KNOW

SHUT UP

conFusiOn

FLOWER OF TIME

Koe

*****

Songs in bold are previously released singles. Songs in blue (with a link) have already been reviewed. Those songs will, however, be reviewed in context of the album once more.

*****

VOICE is Mika Nakashima’s sixth album, released on November 26th, 2008. It reached #1 on Oricon and has sold 156 000 copies.

When I first heard LIFE I was really bored, but it’s grown on to me so much that it’s better than Sakura – Hanagasumi – (Daishi Dance). The reason: I have come to love that beat in the beat, even the chorus is still below par. With its low-key-but-not-too-low sound, it makes for a promising album opener.

Yes! Thank you, Mika, for choosing the Daishi Dance version instead of the regular Sakura – Hanagasumi -. I really love the catchiness on this song, even though it ends up dragging on for too long.

I’m really happy she decided to add some B-Sides on this album, because she had some great ones. With its retro/dancetune, FOCUS is a really good song, and its positioning after the catchy Sakura – Hanagasumi – is great. “My focus is on you”!

Although I thought it was the best of the VOICE era, Eien no Uta (song of eternity) has fallen to the level of worst single on VOICE; but remains the fact that it’s a nice, relaxing song after FOCUS. But how about removing that Jamaican guy at the end. It’s annoying.

It feels like I’ve praising Mika Nakashima too much, and I probably have, but ORION is just great. I love the heartwarming winter ballad thing this song has going, and the bittersweet tone.

Finally, we’re out of our pre-released territory! Anata ga Iru Kara (because you are here) does disappoint, a little, with a pretty typical love song about “because he’s here”. The song does pick up later, but it’s not enough to make this song particularly memorable or enjoyable.

MY GENTLEMAN sounds a lot like some of the Easy Listening stuff I heard when I was younger, but Mika does manage to make a pretty nice song, at least better than the previous one. It’s sort of like a cross of LIFE and ORION, with the bittersweet tones or ORION and hints of LIFE’s instrumentals. But, Mika, you’re better off singing lower notes. That high note broke my ears.

TRUST YOUR VOICE provides a little bit of flavor after the two ballads we heard before. I really like the chorus on this song, with the gospel singers in the back, singing “TRUST YOUR VOICE!” An original, fun track which has the honor of being on the inside of Mika’s right hand.

And after three tracks, we’re back to a cluster of old songs, beginning with the B-Side on LIFE, It’s too late. I remember being pretty skeptical about this song, but back then I was skeptical about Mika. It’s another upbeat track, in the same style of TRUST OF VOICE, but without those great gospel singers.

Why, oh why did I DON’T KNOW have to make it onto this album?! I suppose that after It’s too late, which does have hints of rock, it would be the only track to make it, but still, why did this joke of a single have to go on an otherwise impeccable album?! And it’s followed by its B-Side, which just sounds like ridiculous. SHUT UP is just too brusk, even as a title, on such a soft album.

At least now we get a good song, namely conFusiOn, which shares common points with both SHUT UP (the more intense instrumental) and FOCUS (the retro sound and the catchiness). Here’s another song I’ve come to like even more over the time.

FLOWER OF TIME sounds very much like modern soul music, without becoming R&B. It’s ballad with an emphasis on a steady beat and a gentle guitar strumming in the background. The chorus was too gentle for me to really like it, but otherwise, it’s a decent track, despite being the weakest on this album.

Ending this album is a gentle ballad and the title track of this album, Koe (voice). Whereas the beginning inspired the fear of a very bad song in me, the song improved over its almost six minutes, proving to be a fitting ending to this great album. The escalating chorus is one of the things that always succeed with me, especially here.

I’m sure everyone remembers the last album I reviewed, Supreme Show. I really liked that album, I won’t hide it from you. It did get five stars. But I have a far deeper joy in pop, especially in ballads, and this album is the fulfillment of my dreams when it comes to what I was expecting from VOICE. In the list of November released, this album was one of my lowest priorities, but now I realized the mistake I was making by underestimating Mika Nakashima. Perhaps more songs could have made this album better (now it stands beside Sowelu’s “Naked”, Ken Hirai’s “Fakin’ Pop” and misono’s “Sei -say-“).

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