A J-pop Album Review Triple Whammy

Sora no Sphere
Artist: Akino Arai
Year: 2009

61uVrkZ5Z1L._SL500_SS500_As I made abundantly clear on this blog, Akino Arai is one of my all time favorite J-pop singers. It was not until recently her stuff was available as iTunes downloads, and that was when I finally picked up Sora no Sphere (ソラノスフィア). Overall, I would say it was a good album, but somehow not as strong as Eden. Some of my favorite songs were Haleakala, Terminal, and Orient Line. However, the album overall is hampered by songs like Mizu (oddly enough, sung entirely in French). I wish the album maintained more of the energy overall by songs like Terminal.

Score: 3.5/4

Ultra Blue
Artist: Utada Hikaru
Year: 2006

UltraBlue_Album_Booklet_CoverI’ll admit that despite her being one of the most popular J-pop singers (at least here in the States), Utada Hikaru was a bit of an acquired taste for me. I found her music a little bit Americanized for my liking, and that makes sense as she was actually born in the United States. However, it was upon hearing her song Making Love playing in the background of a Japanese restaurant I frequent that I found I took a liking to her. It was upon hearing it again on Pandora that I decided to buy Ultra Blue. I was pleasantly surprised by what I picked up. I still really liked the track Making Love. Other songs I included (in no particular order) were Nichiyo no Asa (Sunday Morning), This is Love, and Keep Tryin’. Overall, it is representative of very good modern Japanese pop.

Score: 4/4

Gems
Artist: Mari Iijima
Year: 2004

gemsThe anime Super Dimension Fortress Macross did to me what it did to many Japanese music listeners, and that is making me a fan of Mari Iijima. For that reason, I decided to buy Gems, a 2004 greatest hits album. What I already found curious was how much of the album (with exceptions) were actually songs Iijima sang in English. As Iijima demonstrated herself to be a very successful singer-songwriter on both sides of the Pacific, she had absolutely no reason to cop out by just making an album out of Macross tunes like “Do You Remember Love?” As Gems features songs that Iijima sang more recently, you can definitely detect that her voice is not what it used to be, but that is not at all a bad thing. Mari Iijima proved completely capable of adapting herself to the modern music scene. My personal favorite song was Us. D very much felt like a modern American pop song, despite her fairly audible Japanese accent. As greatest hits albums go, Gems is a good one to pick up if you are new to Mari Iijima and you need a guide for what studio albums you would want to buy. I just wish it was a more expansive collection.

Score: 3.5/4

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