2NE1 - To Anyone (2010, Korea) | Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: Can't Nobody, Baksuchyeo, Try To Follow Me, Nan Bappa
It's been quiet for awhile, but the girls have been plotting world domination. This album is the first step and I believe it's a very good one. "Can't Nobody" is probably one of the best openers for an album, especially a first one and after the silence. It's strong, catchy, and empowering in a fierce, sexy way. It's easily addicting. So, they keep their new found electro-pop sound in "Go Away". It took me awhile for me to accept this song and actually enjoy it. It's kinda slow, but still upbeat, even though the subject matter is serious, but inspiring. "Baksuchyeo" (or "Clap Your Hands") was what got me pumped for this album and it was my favorite for a while, until I got hooked to the first track. It's fun and more hip-hop than electro-pop like the previous tracks. More electro-pop! But I think this next track has a little hip-hop sprinkled in there too. So, we jump from upbeat, electro-pop to a smooth R&B ballad that you might have to bust out the tissue box for. The next track is also slow, but has a totally different, beautiful arrangement. "Try To Follow Me" is a fun hip-hop, electro-pop fusion that's easy to get stuck in your head and I love the video for it. The girls take one of their older songs, "I Don't Care", and give it a slight unplugged, reggae twist to it that makes the song more mellow and exotic. The last group track is "Can't Nobody" once again, but in English! My mind is so used to the Korean, that I hardly bother with the English version. I'm just picky like that. In addition to great tracks, the girls added some solo/duet material. "You and I" is Park Bom's electro-pop love song that's pretty sweet (but it's not my cup of tea). Don't know if it's my bias, but I wore out "Please Don't Go" by CL and Minzy. It has a nice hip-hop flavor, but it's catchy and kinda dancy with attitude. Lately, "Kiss" by Dara featuring CL has been getting the repeat button abuse. It's fun, upbeat, and just right to balance everything out as far as solo/duet stuff go.
Pay money To my Pain - Remember the name (2011, Japan) Rating: 4.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Drive, Deprogrammer, Relieve, Picture
I must admit that the jrock scene musically was getting pretty dull, so this album was very refreshing. "This life" brings us into a calm, emotional, and smooth side of PTP that some people seem to forget they can do. They keep the tempo consistent and add a little more fire and anguish to it as they progress through the album. "Deprogrammer" was the highlight of the album for me. Before Remember the name was released, I saw this PV for this song and I was in awe. It reminded me why I loved these guys. They experiment a little with sound distortions and levels and the arrangement was genius! "13 Monsters" takes a small step down melody-wise, but the aggression returns a little harder in the following few tracks. I believe "Greed" was the first to make it's appearance on YouTube. It's definitely a headbanging, moshing song. We touch some sorrowful vocals and acoustics in "Hourglass" and "In the blink of an eye". A little breather from the previous track. "Gift" picks up the pace once again and flows into a song from the previous mini, "Picture". If you purchase the regular edition of this album, you get to hear another soft, acoustic song called "Dilemma". The perfect way to end this masterpiece that has easily stolen my heart.
Meisa Kuroki - Magazine (2011, Japan) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: LOL!, CELEBRATE, 5-FIVE-, LOVEHOLIC
When I heard that Meisa Kuroki was releasing a new album, I was really excited. I'm still fairly new to her music, but I really enjoyed her previous work. The intro was pretty simple with little bits of her voice, then it leads to her first promo single for the album, "LOL!". It's a decent song and still maintains that element of being catchy to the ears, but unfortunately, doesn't quite stick to the mind as permanently like other songs I have enjoyed by her. Nonetheless, it is a fun song. "SWITCH <=>" has that nice dance beat to it and definitely has elements that made me like Meisa's music. The vocals aren't quite dancey like the music, but it works in some odd way. The follow track featured the same elements, but became a little more bland to my ears. "CELEBRATE" came at a slightly different angle and got my foot tapping to the deep bass surrounded by the cheeriness of the melody. I was really surprised that "SHOCK -Unmei-" was on this album, since it had been out for a while. I'm not complaining. It fuses orchestral sounds with deep bass and Meisa's signature pop flavor. "Say Good Night" and "Why" are nice Meisa style R&B/pop songs. "As I Am" is more electronic than usual and felt awkward for me. "LOVEHOLIC" is an acquired taste. It mixes a lot of different musical elements together that can sound either odd or creative. "WASTED" is a pop/rock/dancey song...that I didn't particularly liked. It seemed very unnatural for her. Unlike "LOL!", "5-FIVE-" actually stuck in my head and stayed. It's very upbeat and you can't help but bounce around to it. MAGAZINE leaves us with a soothing R&B track, "Somewhere...", that really showcases the beauty in her voice. Overall, I didn't believe this album was as strong as her first album, hellcat, but it was decent.
Koda Kumi - Pop Diva (2011, Japan) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: Pop Diva
So, I haven't fallen under Koda Kumi's spell, but occasionally I find something good from her. "Pop Diva" is a strong dance track that has a definite empowering sound emanating from your speakers. It has become a bit of an addicting track for me (along with "Hot Stuff", "TABOO", and "show girl"). I think she has accomplished that she's the top diva. "Black Candy" kinda threw me off with all the guitars and the slow tempo. It's, I suppose you can say, darker pop. It flows through your ears like molasses. It's a bit of a hit or miss track depending on the mood, but it's okay. The remaining tracks are instrumentals of both songs.
BORN - DOGMA (2011, Japan) Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: SIX DAMIAN, RED DESIRE, Dammit!!!!!!
One after another, BORN has been doing good releasing amazing things since they've joined PSC. So, my worries have definitely disappeared. "dogmanism" is definitely one of those intro songs that you think you would hear when the boys are stepping on the stage for the first time, before the show kicks off. Brings back some great memories~ "SIX DAMIAN" opens up with a strong bassline and distant/megaphone/distorted vocals throughout the verses. The chorus definitely gets you pumped up, especially if you're actually there and in person to yell along. I really liked that they kept their signature bridge style. "Dammit!!!!!!" reaches deep down to BORN's roots and keeps the energy pretty high up there. With spit fire delivery and a great guitar melody, this song screams BORN in every way. From the music and lyric delivery, you can't deny that the boys haven't lost touch of what got them to this point. "RED DESIRE" is a little more upbeat, quick, and catchy. It has high energy and pure Ryouga chaos. "Toge Zakuro" also has bits and pieces from their roots and mixes it up with their new sound. If you pick up the regular edition, you gain two additional bonus tracks. "Gurou" is a chaotic, but very melodic song. "Dazzling Mob" is also a bit chaotic, but more intense than "Gurou". As much as I'm diggin' the new BORN, I agree with some fans that I miss the Ryouga only choruses. I hope they use that element for future releases and keep the momentum going.