Artist: Otsuka Ai
Album: Ai am BEST
Musicians: Otsuka Ai (Vocals/Piano/Guitar)
Composer/Lyricist: Otsuka Ai (Lyrics/Comoposition)
Release Date: 28 Mar 2007
|Ai am BEST â€“ Otsuka Ai
01. Momo no Hanabira
*Bold Titles – recommended listening.
After four years in the music industry, Ai am BEST is pop star Otsuka Aiâ€™s first â€œbest ofâ€ album. Rising to fame in 2003, this album contains the thirteen best songs released since then. Or so we thought. In reality, what this album consists of are her first ten singles, in order, with two extra songs added. The lack in organizational insight is slightly disappointing, but, fortunately, does nothing to hinder the joyful experience that comes from listening to this album. A great introduction to this popular and versatile J-pop artist, twelve of the thirteen songs on this album deserve to be here. Despite several small shortcomings, Ai am BEST is truly the best of Otsuka Ai.
“Sakuranbo” is Otsuka‘s breakthrough single. An extremely up-beat song, bordering on pop-rock, itâ€™s cheerful and energetic. In it, she sings of two people in love, describing them like a pair of cherries, hence the title. The vocal work, while not terribly impressive, nonetheless adds to the upbeat, cute image that she attempts to convey within this piece. Her vocals are sweet and cute, while avoiding the Japanese clichÃ© of sounding as if she was 5. The chorus is of special note: itâ€™s one of J-popâ€™s most famous and catchy melodies. While it wonâ€™t have you on your feet dancing, “Sakuranbo” is one of those songs you can listen to and feel good immediately.
Arguably, this is her opus magnum. A slow, sweeping ballad accompanied mainly by a solo piano, this song marks a 180-degree shift in style from her more up-beat melodies. The difference is so great, in fact, that people donâ€™t even recognize this song as hers. In this song, she demonstrates a vocal range not seen in her more up-beat works. Itâ€™s not earth-shatteringly impressive, but she uses it to convey mood well. Instead of the hyperactive teenager we hear in “Sakuranbo”, Otsuka Ai in “Kingyo Hanabi” seems more like a soft-spoken adult, singing her love delicately through a song so gentle it could be a lullaby.
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The strange title of this song literally translates to â€œBlack-haired Japanese Beef Tongue Barbecue 680 Yen.â€ Itâ€™s a prime example of Otsuka Aiâ€™s twisted sense of humor: the song throws some not-so-subtle references at sex, complete with matching music and vocals. Written from the perspective of a piece of beef tongue on the grill, she supposedly confesses her love for the person whoâ€™s about to eat her. With lyrics such as â€œI get wet, change colorâ€, one can only wonder if this song has a double meaning. The vocals can only be described as extremely amorous. Her voice is almost a soft moan. This works to her advantage; she seems to sing better in this song than in most of her others. She still manages to make this song extremely presentable, and delivers four minutes of pure lyrical and musical enjoyment.
Like “Kingyo Hanabi”, “Planetarium” is a lovely ballad. Accompanied by a piano and a beautiful reed flute, Otsukaâ€™s outstanding vocals shine through. The second best track on this album after “Kingyo Hanabi”, “Planetarium” showcases all of her talents: singing, composing and songwriting. Virtually a one-man project, Otsuka does an amazing job, especially once one considers todayâ€™s J-pop world, where most singers have songs pre-written and pre-composed by other professionals. Easily one of her best songs, her gorgeous, soft voice in “Kingyo Hanabi” shows through once again. Although a rather simple, one-octave pop ballad, “Planetarium” nonetheless stands out as one of her best songs, with gentle, soft vocals and beautiful accompaniment.
Thereâ€™s only one word to describe this song: stupid. Otsuka, in my mind, always had a very redeeming quality as a J-pop artist: her avoidance of Engrish. However, this goes out the window in “SMILY”. She also tries to pass off â€œlalalaâ€ and â€œyay yayâ€ as legitimate lyrics. Her voice is grating and annoying; unlike “Sakuranbo”, she really does sound five in “SMILY”. This song exemplifies everything bad about J-pop: a singer who canâ€™t sing, bad lyrics, Engrish, and really, really bad accompaniment. Clearly one of her worst songs ever, this is one song that definitely should not have been on Ai am BEST.
The Rating: 9
Reviewed by: Akira