Archive for the 'Mika Nakashima' Category

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-“).

Mika Nakashima: ORION

ORION, Mika Nakashima1. ORION

2. FOCUS

ORION is Mika Nakashima’s twenty-seventh single, released on November 12th, 2008. It reached #6 on Oricon and has sold 27 046 copies. It was used as the theme song for the drama Ryuusei no Kizuna.

ORION took me a while to like, because of the very little tension there is, but in the overall, after the Daishi Dance version of Sakura – Hanagasumi -, it’s the best single of the VOICE era. She puts a lot of emotion into her singing, but not too much, since the music itself isn’t all that sad, which does create a warm winter feeling. The use of guitars for this song was very nice and a good idea.

The B-Side is a bit on the retro side. FOCUS opens with an interesting synth-based arrangement before Mika’s voice really sets the mood. I didn’t think she could do it, but Mika pulls off another genre which isn’t her typical jazzy stuff: it’s a funky, retro techno song that has really grown on to me, and is arguably better than the A-Side.

MICA 3 CHU: I DON’T KNOW

I DON'T KNOW, MICA 3 CHU1. I DON’T KNOW

2. SHUT UP

I DON’T KNOW is Mika Nakashima’s twenty-sixth single, released on July 23rd, 2008. It reached #11 on Oricon and has sold 14 538 copies. Gosh she looks horrible on that cover.

I DON’T KNOW is so… not Mika Nakashima, but she did pretty well. It’s a solid rock song with some pretty good vocal work, and she seems suited to it better than I thought with that voice. It’s pretty stupid, though, when it comes to the overall of the song. Mika is one of the more refined in my list of artists, so I wasn’t expecting her to scratch that title away with just one single. And it’s even on her upcoming album. No! Oh well, at least it was something pretty good.

SHUT UP is in the same style as Mika Nakashima (with that title, how could it not be?), but with even more provoking lyrics and vocal work. I didn’t really like the music this time because it’s just plain boring, but otherwise, it’s a presentable B-Side.

Mika Nakashima: Sakura – Hanagasumi –

1. Sakura – Hanagasumi –

2. Sakura – Hanagasumi –
    (Daishi Dance)

3. conFusiOn

Sakura – Hanagasumi – is Mika Nakashima’s twenty-fifth single, released on March 12th, 2008. It reached #9 on Oricon and has sold 24 297 copies.

Sakura – Hanagasumi – (cherry blossoms – flower drops -) is a pretty nice ballad, and Mika’s voice is a lot nicer. It picks up slightly toward the end, but for most of the song it’s a straightforward ballad with no particular catchiness, just beautiful vocals and a great strings ensemble. Had this song been driven a bit further, it would’ve been much nicer, but I have to admit I’m sort of disappointed.

The Daishi Dance “remix” of Sakura – Hanagasumi – is much, much better than the original, and I easily fell in love with it. This version is actually catchy and varies more from verses to chorus. It reminds me of Ai Otsuka’s Ticket or FLOW’s DAYS because of the organization of the rhythm. The vocals come along with a more low-key rhythm, but it’s still so much better. Just the simple addition of a beat and more solid rhythm made this song many times better. But the song retains the great strings section and the gorgeous vocals.

conFusiOn is more of a pop song. I really like this song because of the catchy chorus, and the vocals, which I have a hard time dealing with, are absolutely fantastic here. It’s interesting, diverse, and catchy. Frankly, it’s better than the original of Sakura – Hanagasumi -. This song is actually quite worthy of placement as an A-Side.

Mika Nakashima: Eien no Uta

1. Eien no Uta

2. You’d Be So Nice to Come Home to

Eien no Uta is Mika Nakashima’s twenty-fourth single, released on October 3rd, 2007. It reached #4 on Oricon and has sold 24 146 copies.

Eien no Uta (song of eternity) is a calming ballad with an island feel to it. The man speaking at the beginning was really unnecessary, but it doesn’t damage the rest of the song that much. The greatest virtue of this song was by far the vocals, even though they sounded kind of bad when she hit higher notes. The reggae-jazzy instrumentals were soothing and calm, and make this song into a very enjoyable, ambient song.

You’d Be So Nice to Come Home to is a cover of Cole Porter’s song. It sounds more jazzy than her work, of course, but she pulls it off pretty well, and her accent isn’t that bad, singing it with relative ease.

Mika Nakashima: LIFE

1. LIFE

2. LIFE (Ballad)

3. It’s too late

LIFE is Mika Nakashima’s twenty-third single, released on August 22nd, 2007. It reached #2 on Oricon and has sold 139 987 copies. It was featured as the theme for the drama movie of the same title.

LIFE is more mainstream, but has this 90s feel to it. It opens as a ballad, but develops into a well-rounded pop song, with a solid beat in the background. Getting used to Mika Nakashima’s dry voice was quite the feat for me, but I guess somehow I overcame it. It’s not all that good, but it’s enjoyable.

LIFE (Ballad) makes a soft song even softer. The vocals sound like they can’t keep up with the instrumentals, and the song is just too slow. The chorus this song used to have becomes nothing in this version, and it really does destroy it.

It’s too late is an interesting combination of electric guitars and jazzy instruments. Frankly, this song is better than LIFE, even though it sounds moderately Western. The bridge is really perky and fun, and just makes this song a lot better.