Friday, 10 August 2012

Top 5 People || Top 5 Songs

All opinions expressed here are my own. If you have a problem with that, then, shoo, I don't want you here! And if you have an issue with any obviously biased opinions then...what are you doing on a post that's just about loving things!
Also, please ignore the obvious crappiness of the banner. I'm a lazy git.

So, what is this post?
It's a Top 5 Ranking review, to put it simply.
I'll be looking at each of my Top 5 individual singers (so, no groups and whether or not they are in a group is irrelevant) and, then, out of all the solo songs they've produced, I will choose my favourite and write up a brief review on it.
The list of people who I will be looking at are (according to the banner from left to right);
GACKT, Kamenashi Kazuya, Yamashita Tomohisa, Takahashi Ai & Kim Hyun Joong

So, let's start, then~
I'll be dealing with this in reversed order of preference.

5. Kim Hyun Joong - Lucky Guy

This wasn't an easy one, to be perfectly honest! I was probably stuck between this, Please Be Nice To Me (from the SS501 Solo Collection) and Break Down (from the...uh...Break Down album, obviously). Eventually, I went with this one, just because of the pure love it got from me when it was released. I don't know if you know, remember or care, but I actually did a small review of this when it came out. It was actually my 2nd legitimate review on this blog ((the things before didn't count as reviews)). 

I do actually adore this song, though. It's extremely catchy and upbeat. I really like how it stands out from most male K-Pop artists' music in that it doesn't really have many electro elements to it. I admit I'm not good with genres at all, so I can't exactly place what it is, but, it's not electro whatever it is.
On top of having a catchy beat, the words are pretty catchy - the chorus has enough English and simple enough Korean even for people who can't remember Korean songs by the lyrics (I'm guilty of this, most of the time, though I can get this chorus - though, I have a habit of remembering the lyrics of the Japanese instead now -.-')

The song also has a really awesome dance routine. It's actually really fun to do, even if you're barely following it!! xD

Here's the PV for you to check out yourself (if you're interested, the song you can hear parts of at the start and end is Do You Like That?)

4. Takahashi Ai - Cosmos

This one was also quite hard because...for Ai, who had been a lead in Morning Musume for almost her entire Morning Musume career, she has a surprisingly small number of solos! It's worth noting that I'm trying to limit myself to CD-released solos, as, otherwise, I would have chosen her performance of Goto Maki's Sayonara "Tomodachi ni wa Naritakunai no" (which is the best thing I've ever seen her do, oh my god, it was perfect. It's such a beautiful and emotional performance). I was also discounting the Hello! Cover single - I don't think it would've made much difference, but her cover of Matsuura Aya's dearest. certainly had a chance.

So, in the end, out of the 4 songs I could choose from, this managed to stand out as a fairly obvious winner for me. This song, found on the Champloo 1~Happy Marriage Song Cover Shuu~, is a cover of Yamaguchi Momoe's 1977 hit. This makes me feel cultured, because now I know J-Pop songs from the '70s =w=

This song is a really beautiful ballad which, based on a translation, seems to be about a young woman, who is getting married, and has to leave her mum who is, evidently, alone. Ai sings the words with powerful emotion and her voice suits the song perfectly. I do believe that giving Ai this specific song is one of the best things UFA have done because the result sounds rather gorgeous. Actually, this sounds weird, but this song seems really befitting of a Summer's day with a slight breeze - I want to stand in the breeze while listening to this! Aren't songs that have this kind of effect on you the best~?

This song doesn't have a video, so I'll leave you with this. Quite embarrassingly, one of the first things that comes up on YouTube when you search for this is my dub of the song from a year ago -.-''

3. Yamashita Tomohisa - One in a million

I chose the blue cover cause I like his shirt best out of all the cover. That's the only reason.

God, that wasn't an easy choice. Seriously, I adore Yamapi's entire discography - okay, sure, there's the odd song I'm not crazy about, but, for the most part, I love it. So, there was a lot to choose from here, but, I managed to narrow it down to this track - One in a million. I mean, I could have shown off with my glorious knowledge of every solo track he has ever released on CD, but, nope, I'll go with a single. Because I'm not going to lie to look better or some sort of arsery like that.

Now, this song came out after I'd gotten over the whole 'Ew no autotune is dead rubbish and ruins everything for everyone why do you hate me?' thing, which, quite honestly didn't last long - I mean, GACKT taught me otherwise with GHOST and Koakuma Heaven over a year earlier. Actually, at this point, I could readily accept that, granted it was used correctly, autotune could actually sound really quite cool. One in a million is one such song where the autotune sounds pretty cool. It works.

This song is pretty dancey - very electric and extremely catchy. Of course, there's some dodgy English from Yamapi in parts (his English has improved so much recently, though!). I really love this song. I actually often find myself forgetting that this is one of my favourite Yamapi tracks until I listen to it - that's when I remember it's actually my favourite of them all. I don't know why I forget, though. You think that'd mean it's not my favourite, right? But, really, when I do listen to it, I enjoy it so much. Honestly, I think it's good that I forget, because I'm kind of worried that if I listen to it too much then I'll get sick of it. I probably wont, but safety precautions, you know? Maybe it's dumb, but I have these worries! =~=

On top of that, the PV is pretty cool. Or, maybe, I'm just a sucker for black&red colour schemes because, really, I am. Honestly, I'm extremely grateful that the school I go to's colour scheme is black&red, even if there are so many other things I really don't appreciate about it. But, even so, this colour scheme makes the PV look that much cooler. Plus, Pi rocks sunglasses like no other, I swear. He looks too cool like that. And that's all I say there, because I think it's getting to the point where it's stopped being a review and suddenly become an opportunity to gush over Yamapi.

Here's a live performance of the song because I can't find the PV on YouTube o~o
Also, as a bonus, here's an English version by some Austrian singer and it's not nearly as good.

Kamenashi Kazuya - 1582

Well, here's a nice contrast to the openings of the three previous reviews - this was not a hard choice at all. I swear, this was almost painfully easy. Like, I don't even know if I'll be able to write this properly without just gushing and spewing fangirl liquids - keeping in mind I mean tears and drool and things. Basically, this song is up there as one of my favourite songs of all time. I could listen to it so many times and still not get sick of it. It has such a brilliant blend of sensuality, elegance, pain, sadness, hope and...argh...the list goes on. 

The song has a distinctively Japanese feel to it, though it isn't obvious - that is to say, we don't hear flutes and Koto in the backtrack. In fact, the backtrack is pretty electric and really not very traditional. A lot of that mood is brought in by the lyrics; take for example the use of 'watakushi' over 'watashi' in the chorus parts - 'watakushi' is still used in Japan today, but is very formal and rarely used in casual situations. Of course, such formal speech patterns are normally associated with a more old-fashioned way of talking, right? Also, a lot of the Kanji used in the song are less modern, such as the more formal Kanji for 'hitomi' (eye) being used, when the phonetic version used is clearly 'me', a more modern term with the same meaning, as well as the Kanji for 'izuko', an outdated version of 'where', being used for 'doko'. 
I really like the lyrics in this song for that reason. I also like the meaning of them - the story they tell. It's all a bit confusing, really, but beautifully written nonetheless. The lyrics seem to tie themes of sex and death together - the sexual referencing in this song is far from sleazy, though and is a lot more based around lust and romance. The impression of pain and suffering in this song is pretty strong, too. Just the words and the imagery used is so poetic and powerful, I've always thought that.

Another thing that draws me to this song is the ambiguity of it all, the theories behind it. First off, the lyricist is 'n' - this had been a mystery for a while and all that was known about 'n' was that they had also done the lyrics for Kame's solos 'w/o notice??' and 'SWEET'. Maybe n was Kame's assigned lyricist? Even so, n managed to raise a decent amount of questions in the fanbase. Eventually, it was revealed that n was Kame, big surprise. Thing is, though, he had actually hidden this fact so that fans wouldn't over-analyse 1582's lyrics. Apparently, it didn't stop them. So, did he have something to hide? Or was he just bored of the Akame fans ruining everything?
But, that's just one thing. There's also the discussions about what the real story of this song is. The most popular theory is a pretty interesting one, I have to say. Here, we assume that the title of the song refers to the year - 1582 AD, which would support Kame's description of it being a song with a Japanese feel. Why? Because 1582 is the year of a rather significant event in Japanese history - the death of Oda Nobunaga at Honno Temple or, simply put, the Incident of Honnoji. Now, it's no secret that Oda is Kame's most admired historical figure - he's said it enough times. Also, the fact that Oda died by way of committing Seppuku when he was trapped in the burning Honno Temple would explain the burning sounds at the beginning of the track. But, taking that into account, with these lyrics, from's who point of view was the song written? It is believed that Kame wrote the song through the eyes of Mori Ranmaru - the ever-loyal vassal of Oda. It's a bit too much to go into detail about in this review, so, maybe I'll write up another post on it one day, but, for now, I'll just say that whole theory made this song more interesting for me. But, don't get me wrong, regardless of that, this would still have been my #1 Kame song.

If all that wasn't really enough, the song also has one of the best live performances I've ever seen. No. Really. No biased involved, trust me. It's just so beautifully...well, over-the-top. The extravagance of it all is simply stunning - the stage production is mind-blowing. Okay, maybe I'm getting a bit too excited now, but, really, it helps that Kame is an amazing performer. He has such stage presence and he really makes this performance special. The live version of the song also had different lyrics, which add an extra level of depth to the song's meaning!

Here's the album version of the song;

And here's the glorious live performance;

The difference in lyrics is the only real reason I provided two videos.

1. GACKT - Mind Forest

Hardly the most flattering picture of GACKT, I admit, but I don't care

Oh, god' sake. If I said the ones before were hard to choose then I was wrong. This was the hardest. I was really drawn between this, FLOWER, In Flames and Rain. But, I think I'll let Mind Forest win due to the fact that, out of all of those songs, this one was the first I ever owned on CD. It was on the first GACKT CD I ever owned, actually, so it probably has the most meaning to me. Basically, I love all four songs equally, but I'm only allowed to review one, so, for discussion's sake, I had to choose one of them.

First off, I adore the use of traditional Japanese instruments in the backtrack of this one - the way they're blended with a much heavier and more modern selection of guitars and drums and stuff (I'm so smart-sounding when it comes to musical terms). The constant switching between soft and heavy is very effective, too. It adds to the mood of the song beautifully. Also, the flute (or whatever it is) is a brilliant instrumental - it sounds so sad and lamenting. It adds a really tragic feeling to the song, while that fluctuation of strength and tone adds a sense of emotional instability. It's brilliantly done. Also, did you know that GACKT songs are some of the only songs where I find myself going 'Oh, the instruments sound amazing, I mean, listen to those drums'? I guess I appreciate the whole package more often with his songs, somehow.

The backtrack builds emotion all on its own, of course, but GACKT's voice itself is packed with so much power and emotion. Listening to his songs, I always just find myself caught up in how beautiful his voice is. His voice is amazing and he does have a fantastic vocal range, but the emotion he can transmit in his single is just overwhelming sometimes. Especially pain - he conveys pain and sadness so well, I've found my eyes just watering at the sound of his voice often enough. I also forget how amazing I think his voice is and end up getting really caught off-guard by it. Ah, damn, that's stupid of me.

Of course, as is the way of many GACKT songs, the song appears to have a tragic tale behind it. Due to the fact I can't understand Japanese, just reading the translated lyrics doesn't allow me to understand the full story (maybe if the lyrics had some kind of footnotey guide or if they were on a subbed vid it would help. I can't be bothered looking, though). The real issue is that most GACKT songs are very poetic, so plain translated lyrics alone don't sum up anything about the song's true meaning. He has a tendency to use words with double meanings, or that, with a change of Kanji (but same phonetics) the line has a whole new meaning, that still relates to the song's story as a whole, but also adds extra insight. I've always been fascinated by his clever application and manipulation of the Japanese language in his lyrics, so, as I said, until I know the full details of this song, there isn't much I can really say about the lyrics as I will surely be missing something.

Here's the song;
There's also an English version of the song by GACKT's now-defunct band, YELLOW FRIED CHICKENz;

Personally, I prefer the Japanese version, but that's just me.

All right, that's all of the songs - sorry for going overboard with the Kame song. I think, out of all the songs I chose, it was definitely the easiest to right about. I apologise if it bored you, though! xD
I think my next post will be something other than song reviews, considering I'm being constantly reminded about how little I actually understand music. I'll go for another opinion rant or drama review or something. Or that 1582 summary I mentioned earlier.

Well, anyway, thanks for reading~! I'm going try and up the activity levels from here on out.