Saturday, March 28, 2009

Review: Hoshi ni Negai Wo -> "Wish Upon a Star"

Artist: flumpool
Single: Hoshi Ni Negai Wo / 星に願いを
01. Hoshi Ni Negai Wo /
02. Kaitenmokuba (Merry-go-round) /
回転木馬 (メリーゴーランド)
03. Harukaze [No Reply] Unplugged / 春風 「no reply」unplugged
04-06. instrumental tracks of the above songs. No reviews for these ones.

01. Hoshi Ni Negai Wo
Another very flumpool-ish song, which is by no means a bad thing. These guys have a lot going for them. Anyways, this is the title track of the single as you can see, and as that, it serves very well. It's a catchy, fast-paced rock ballad (much like their previous works). The lyrics are quite sweet - something about chasing down your love under a starry sky - who doesn't like that kind of thing?
Its strong point is, as always, I think, the singer's voice. He's very listenable and he conveys emotions very well. The band backs him up very well. It's nothing special as an instrumental, but in collaboration with his voice, it's gold. The weak point of the song is that you forget you're listening to it after a while. It's a little too repetetive throughout and it doesn't stand out that much. There are only so many times you can hear "Ikanakucha!!!!!!" ("I have to go") before it becomes mundane.

02. Kaitenmokuba (Merry-go-round)
This one, unlike Hoshi Ni Negai Wo, fails to leap the pole for me. Flumpool is a bit of a one-trick pony, and that's okay, when the song is a really good one; but this is just too much of the same without enough shine for me.
The only thing really different about this song is the use of some synthesizer flutes in the background that are desperately trying to belong to higher technology. Other than that, it contains the same high-energy style of a typical flumpool song. So if you absolutely love that style, then this is another great song for you. If not...well, for me, I'm pretty bored by it. And the flutes are trying to brainwash me with their trilling existence.

03. Harukaze [No Reply] Unplugged
This is actually a remake of a song off of their debut album, and one of their best songs, in my opinion. This is, as the title suggests, an acousitic version on the original. Instead of the usual flumpool instruments, this song uses a guitar, a piano, and some soft drumming.
I don't think it quite marks up to the original's level, but then, I don't think it's meant to. I think this is just an alternative version of a very pretty and meaningful song for fans to enjoy. As that, it works. It really does.

Watch the Hoshi Ni Negai Wo promotional video on YouTube!

Review: WILD / Dr.

Artist: Amuro Namie
01. WILD
02. Dr.
*please note that the CD single does contain instrumental tracks for both songs*

Goodness, her English has improved! I understood all of the English lyrics just by listening.
Well gosh, what a fun track. It starts off with some electric noises that sound like a chipmunk being thrown through space and then Namie makes her entrance with "Work the middle, work the middle, work the middle like I do..."
After that the main 'song' starts. It switches between an energetic chorus in English and Japanese that will probably be stuck in your head for days on end and softer vocals in between. They work very well together and this is an excellent new single from her. Definitely my favorite dance track by Namie Amuro, right behind Violet Sauce (Spicy).

When I first heard this I thought it was kind of a strange song. Now after hearing it a few times, I really like it. There are a bunch of different melodies in it. Some of them are unexpected and very high energy, but for the most part, this song is slow and beautiful. (It's 5:40 long).
So, it starts out with a computerized voices speaking some typical English computer commands ( the kind you might hear in most science fictions films ) and some sinister strings. Then it turns into a bouncy electric beat and stays that way for most of the song. There's a very short part in this song near the end that I really like.
This actually sounds much more meaningful and surreal than a lot of Namie's more recent songs. It's certainly much less shallow than (admittedly, very fun) songs like New Look. Her voice is also very pretty in this song (slower songs, generally, do give the singer more time to show off their vocal grace).

All in all I give this new single 5/5, and in a nutshell, I would say it's AWESOME!!

Watch the beautiful WILD promotional video on YouTube!

Watch the distracting anime-style Dr. promotional video on YouTube!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Review: Come Back to Me

Artist: Utada (Utada Hikaru's US alias)
Track: Come Back to Me

Mm. Well, if you're a fan of her Japanese songs, you probably won't be into this one. If you're a fan of songs contain a lot of variety, you probably won't be into this one.
This is her first major U.S. release in the way that her first English album was a bit too experimental to gain any real favor in the U.S.. This song, however, is so mainstream that you almost drown in it.
It sounds just like any other song you'd hear on a typical American pop radio station.
It starts out with a stream of classical piano that sounds like it should be the entrance theme of a Disney villain - say Cruella De Vil - and really has no relevancy to the rest of the song. It's like they're trying to show off Utada's piano skills or seem artsy by putting it into the song. I don't even know if Utada can play piano very well or not. Her fingering certainly looks very suspicious in the music video, so I doubt it.
After that, your typical pop beat kicks in and she starts singing. Her vocals are okay. In my opinion, Utada's high notes have always been a little weak, but her voice is sweet, so she pulls it off.
The song is called "Come Back to Me" because in the song, she's cheated on her boyfriend, and she regrets it, so she describes her loneliness and pleads with him to come back. Maybe her boyfriend would think about it if she was only a bit more articulate. This song contains 52 "Come back"s, 22 "Baby"s, and a total of 3 verses in every chorus ("Baby come back to me / I'll be everything you need / Boy you're one in a million"....four if you want to count the time she takes the "boy" out of "you're one in a million,").
Some good points in the song are that she manages to sound vulnerable and apologetic, and sure - it's catchy, although it will eventually drive you insane with its repetitiveness. There are basically 3 itty bitty melodies in this song that repeat over and over again.
Clearly, Come Back to Me is just meant to garner popularity in the U.S.. I hope that her other songs on the upcoming album "This is the One" are more interesting and reveal Utada's true songwriting talent.

Watch the promotional video on YouTube!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Review: Maboroshi

Artist: Joe Inoue / 井上ジョー
Single (Maboroshi only): Maboroshi / 幻 / Illusion / Vision

Joe Inoue's 3rd single, Maboroshi, is by far his best and prettiest song. It's his first ballad, and I hope he does more because this song is the most beautiful song I've heard in 2009 so far. I was excited when I discovered Joe Inoue several months ago, because he is Japanese, but grew up in California, and is therefore fluent in English.
However, I was underwhelmed by his earlier songs. They just didn't work for me. Maboroshi, though, has stunned me with its elegance.
The song is illustrated with violins and cellos in the background, and Joe has switched from the electric guitar to the acousitc, played with assuming softness, which together with his soft, gentle vocals has really won me over. Joe manages to keep his voice emotional and soft without losing strength or coming across as whiny. I also really like the melody! I can't say much about the lyrics at the moment, but from what I can understand, I'm touched.

Watch the beautiful promotional video on YouTube!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Review: LEECH

Artist: The GazettE
Single: LEECH [Auditory Impression]

03. HOLE (available only on the Auditory Impression version of LEECH.)

The song starts off very strong, with powerful chords coming from Aoi, one of two guitarists, and it stays just as strong for the entire song. It's fast-paced song, with extremely energetic drumming. Just as with some songs on their last album, Stacked Rubbish, and on the Guren single, this song contains some female vocals. I think they work nicely with the chorus and the general feel of the song. They sound kind of bitter and sour.
I'm impressed by the guitars in this song. They're not only busy, but they're both interesting. (Aoi's guitar comes out of the left speaker, and Uruha's out of the right. So if you want to listen to just one of them, all you have to do is concentrate on one speaker.)
LEECH reminds me a little bit of their earlier works, except that all of the members have gotten much better since then. Vocalwise, the song has a mix of everything - from what almost sounds like rap, to screaming, to a slow, powerful chorus.
The lyrics are a mix of Japanese and English and if you listen very, very hard, it's possible to make out most of what Ruki is saying in English. (Usually this is very difficult if not impossible because he switches from proper English pronunciation to simplified Japanese pronunciation. Or he just doesn't pronounce things as they're meant to be at all.)
The bass is also good in this song, although I don't notice it as much as the other instruments. In terms of production I think this is the cleanest track on the single.
Overall I'd give the song four and a half stars out of five. It's not their greatest work, but it rocks.

Another very strong song. It starts off with a guitar, then the drums are added in, and then finally the bass and guitars, signaled by a short scream by Ruki. This song is almost entirely in English, but it's hard to understand. The word that sticks out the most is "Coward", which is repeated in the chorus (and admittedly one of the high points in the song).
There is more screaming and less singing in this one. Once the song starts, it doesn't let up until the end. I love some of their older, heavier songs, but this one I'm not too fond of. Two and half stars out of five.

First of all this song is only available on the Auditory Impression version of the single (which is, as you can see, the one I am reviewing. The Optical Impression contains only two songs and the music video for LEECH).
I almost like this song better than the title track LEECH. I like the melody over the entire song a little better, but the main reason is the bass. It's definitely one of the best bass lines they've ever written (I'm assuming Reita writes them, but I don't know that for a fact).
The song starts and ends with that stellar bass line. In fact, it's so good that I give this song five stars out of five. And it's because of this song that I highly recommend the Auditory Impression over the Optical Impression. If you're a fan of Reita, then you'll really enjoy this one.

Watch the LEECH PV (Promotional Video) on YouTube!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

About Bubblegum Heaven

The Paradise of Bubblegum! It's Bubblegum Heaven.

The point of this blog will be simply this: Review music from Japan and Korea ( and occasionally Taiwan or maybe even the U.S. ), manga, books, movies, or whatever I feel deserves a review. I am passionate about Japanese music in particular, and I want to share my passion by writing about it. I may decide to post news about upcoming music in the future, but for now, I'll be sticking to reviews.

I hope that if you're looking for information on the songs I review, this will be useful to you. Personally, I love reviews. If I can help you to decide whether to buy a CD, manga, or book or not I'll be delighted.

So....please enjoy!! Questions, comments, or feedback are always welcome.

Sometime in the future, I will create some drawings to embellish this blog layout with. =^^=

Review: Bolero / Kiss the Baby Sky / 忘れないで

Track List:
01. Bolero
02. Kiss the Baby Sky
03. 忘れないで (Wasurenaide / Don't Forget)
04. どうして君を好きになってしまったんだろう? (Why Did I Fall in Love With You?) -Royal Mirrorball Mix-
05-07. Instrumental tracks for 01-03.

The main track of the single. It's going to be used in an upcoming Japanese movie called Subaru, which is about a ballerina and based off a manga of the same name.
This song is unlike anything else Tohoshinki has done before. It still contains the same feeling as other Tohoshinki songs, but the closest track to Bolero in their previous works would have to be Forever Love (from their album "T"), and even that doesn't resemble it that closely. This, I think, is a good thing, because if they started to have a lot of redundancy in their songs I would be upset.
Their vocals are, as always, stuning. There's an especially nice rift in this song in which Micky Yoochun hits a very long and high note. Xiah Junsu and Hero Jejung also shine in this song, although it gives all of the members their own time to impress us.
The song is very slow and peaceful, with a sense of underlying tension. Personally it isn't one of my favorites, but it can't be denied that it's beautiful. The song is driven by stirring strings and classical instruments such as claronets (I'm pretty sure) and a harp. If you can imagine it, the best way to describe Bolero in a nut shell would have to be it sounds like winter.

Kiss the Baby Sky
Well, first of all, I think this song deserves a nod because Micky Yoochun wrote everything himself, including the lyrics...perhaps especially the lyrics. This song showcases, once again, Micky's atrophied English. Still, the way he's lined up English with Japanese sounds kind of charming, and whether you're a fan or not, you should be able to look past the odd title and enjoy the gem of a song that this is.
Firstly, I love the pre-chorus melody. It flows very easily and Jejung and Junsu's voices are sublime in it. The chorus is interesting, because all of the members are singing falsetto. Doesn't happen too often, huh!
One other vocal note is that Micky talks throughout this song. An example of what he says is: "How you guys doin' so far? You guys with me?"
What really impresses me about this song is the instrumental. It works perfectly with the vocals and is interesting in its own right. It's simple, but I like it.

忘れないで / Don't Forget
The music was written by Hero Jejung and a Korean man who, I am ashamed to say, I do not know the name of. The lyrics were written by Jejung.
Another slow ballad...which is what we'll mostly be seeing from Jejung, I think. This song is very heavy on the strings, almost annoyingly so. They're pretty, but a bit too present I think. The melody is pretty, simple, and a bit melancholic, with a nice emphasis on the word "Wasurenaide" at the end of the chorus. ("Wasurenaide" meaning "Don't forget")
I don't like this song nearly as much as the other two, mainly because of the strings. They almost resemble the stirngs in "Balloons" (from their third Korean album), but they're out of place in this wistful song.

どうして君を好きになってしまったんだろう? / Why Did I Fall in Love With You? -Royal Mirrorball Mix-
I don't understand what the remixer was trying to do, or if he understood Japanese at all. The lyrics to this song are quite sad, as they're about being unable to tell the person you love that you love them, and finally giving them up as they're going to get married to someone else.
But if you don't understand Japanese, and you're unfamiliar with the (beautiful) original song, you might think this song was about catching butterflies in the park. It's upbeat, with joyful piano, harp, and other sparkly sounds. This also resembles "Balloons"!
I don't even enjoy the irony of the happy sound with the sad lyrics. It's just completely out of place ( and the remix itself isn't even that great, regardless of the lyrics! )

All in all, I very much enjoyed this single. If you want to buy it, it's available on (although if I were you, I'd buy their upcoming album, The Secret Code, instead, because all three original tracks will be on it...those cheapskates!)

Watch the Bolero promotional video
on YouTube!