BENI - Covers (2012, Japan) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: Ti Amo, LA・LA・LA LOVE SONG, Suddenly -ラブ・ストーリーは突然に-
This was a request from a reader and I hope I do a good job of reviewing this album. Also, a small note, I haven't heard majority of the originals covered. "Ti Amo" was one of the promotional tracks for this cover album. Despite what people say, I think this cover is beautifully done. Beni's voice is just perfection and the music has this Latin and R&B mixture to it that makes it endearing and a bit sensual in the right places. "LA・LA・LA LOVE SONG" is sweet, upbeat track of infatuation. It has a nice melody and, of course, Beni's delivery is effortless. "瞳をとじて" falls into the usual ballad sound that Beni goes for, so this wasn't a stretch or anything super new for her or listeners. It's a pretty song, but nothing I would listen to often. "奏(かなで)" falls into the same category of piano ballad, love track, but has a little more punch to the melody. "One more time, One more chance" takes a step back to a softer tone that reminds me of something that would be in a music box. "ロビンソン" brings the tempo up with a slightly vintage feel in the composition and vocals. It's sweet and a bit uplifting. "Suddenly -ラブ・ストーリーは突然に-" has a hint of dancy elements to it, but tries to keep it under control musically. The music and vocals are very balanced with each other and creates a nice poppy song. "もう恋なんてしない" gives a lounge R&B sound and pushes the piano in the background to emphasis Beni's sweet vocals to charm listeners. "桜坂" is another piano ballad track with some added strings and heartfelt vocal delivery. "ここにしか咲かない花" keeps the tempo slow and I kinda wish that Beni took a little more risk with her vocals in this one. "今のキミを忘れない" finally brings the tempo back up to Beni's other safety net of pretty pop. "いとしのエリー" has more of an R&B flair to it that I enjoy a little more with her voice. It has an interesting melody that I'm not sure if I find weird or creative. "TRUE LOVE" closes out the album softly with piano and emotion filled vocals.
Jay Park - New Breed (2012, South Korea) Rating: 3.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Know Your Name, Up and Down, Star, 너 없이 안돼 (Acoustic Ver.)
"New Breed (Intro)" sets up the tone for this album...kinda. The beat is repetitive and the beeping or whatever is is a little annoying. The rap delivery is a little weak for most parts, but there are little shining places here and there. "Know Your Name" was one of the promotional tracks for this album and combines Jay's vocals with Dok2's effortless delivery. Hearing it now, I don't think this is the best of Dok2, but it works for the song. It's pretty catchy, confident, and a good club tune. "Girl Friend" pretty much recycles "Nothin' On You" melody with a seemingly freestyle deliver during the verses. Not the best of Jay Park's work, but I like the singing parts. Those moments are a little charming. Otherwise, the song is kinda annoying due to the recycled melody and cheesy due to the chorus. "Up and Down" is a little better collaboration between Jay Park and Dok2. The song is pretty catchy and fun. I can see this as a good dance track for breakdancers and holds the same confidence and charm as "Know Your Name". "I Love You" takes what we have in the States that borders between R&B and pop. It has a quirky, but kinda cool melody that highlights Jay Park's vocals better than the previous tracks. Also, Dynamic Duo's contribution is quite good. "Go" is a couple steps down from the previous track. It tries to carry the same mood as "I Love You" with an opposing message, but the rap is kinda awkward and the double layers of singing vocals is too much. "I Got Your Back" is a little more upbeat with some piano and charming vocals, but nothing stands out that much, especially since the chorus is the same as "Girl Friend". "Star" was another promotional track and I think there might've been a split among the fans with this one. I actually prefer Jay's singing over his rapping most times and this song is one example. It's vulnerable, controlled, and the vocal layers are utilized better than "Go". It's a sweet track. "Come On Over" is a softer track that has remnants from 90s R&B. It's kinda bland and the vocals feel awkward. "Turn Off Your Phone" carries the same vintage R&B sound and includes a speaking introduction too. It's a little less bland than the previous track. There's a lot of potential and, depending on the mood, I could learn to like this song more. "너 없이 안돼 (Acoustic Ver.)" was a refreshing take of the original and surprisingly, I like this version way more. The lack of music and acoustic work goes very well with Jay's sincere vocal delivery. I honestly should automatically love "Aom&1llionaire" because it features The Quiett and Dok2, but not really. It's a very freestyle track with freestyle-ish beat and booming bass. It's too cocky and unfitting to follow such a beautiful track. Since the previous tracks set us up for more cocky rapping, "Enjoy the Show" continues on those lines with The Quiett and Dok2. It's a little less annoying, but I think I enjoyed this when the album first came out. Listening to it now, I just can't deal. "Wasted" continues with the hip-hop sound, but gets a little gritty with the help of Bizzy's confident delivery. Between the three tracks, this one seems more successful and sounds a little more on the professional side. "Clap" closes out the album with khip-hop royalty Tiger JK and Tasha. It's very much a hype track and has a refreshing beat to it while still staying in Jay's comfort zone, so his delivery seems less strained compared to the previous hip-hop tracks.
D - Dying Message (2012, Japan) Rating: 3/5
Favorite Tracks: Dying message, God bless you, 灰の雪
Finally found a D release that I can talk about and I'll try to put my grievances aside. "Dying message" seems like a borrowed sound from another band and stray away from their usual sound overall. There's still some D buried in there in the deep guitar and bass and vocal areas, but this upbeat tune isn't that bad...just different. "Eve(エバ)の系譜" mixes operatic vocals and this heavy sound that the band has adapted into their later material. It's a quick song that tries too many types of vocal elements. Echos, whispers, speaking inserts, vibrato, and slight growls. "God bless you" has a good start with electronics and a nice bass line. This sounds a little more like D, but Asagi's voice seems strained in a couple places and removing the screams or group vocals would make this song better. I really love the musical arrangement though. "灰の雪" brings in everything I enjoy about old and new D together in a nice little package. It gives me hope that the band can delivery something beautiful and fresh. It has a sprinkle of orchestral elements and piano, rock, and a good steady drum and bass composition that highlights Asagi's vocals.
SiM - Evils (2013, Japan) Rating: 4.5/5
Favorite Tracks: Blah Blah Blah, Same Sky
"Blah Blah Blah" starts off this single strong with some fast attacking drums and guitar work with slightly playful vocals. It definitely sounds like some sort of speed run, but the chorus almost counters its slight upbeat sound. "Same Sky" has a nice build up with the drums and strategically placed guitar, then softens up during the verses to show the vulnerability in the vocals. It's soothing, charming, and alluring. It shows that the band can handle softer material naturally. "F.A.I.T.H" is a short track of aggression that completely throws off the mood created by the previous tracks. It's okay, but I would've just left this one off or choose something else to close this nearly perfect single.
Big Bang - Still Alive (2012, South Korea) Rating: 2/5
Favorite Tracks: STILL ALIVE, MONSTER
This is probably a pointless review, but here it goes. "STILL ALIVE" received some attention and thus it was expanded to a full track than just a short intro track. It is a pretty good song and I'm glad they expanded it. It has a steady beat and gives each member some vocal time...like equally distributed to some extent vocal time. "MONSTER" is probably the main reason I even bothered with reviewing this recycled album. I loved the music video and the song, but together they do not work at all. It's a beautiful song with softened up electro-pop, piano, strings, and an impressive vocal arrangement. It has dynamic musical elements in it that doesn't sound like they're trying too hard. The lyrics are pure from the heart too. The only flaw I could hear is that damn auto-tune. Get it away! "Feeling" is from the Japanese version of the ALIVE album, but in Korean. I did mention that I really like this song, but ugh, I like it in Japanese more surprisingly. It doesn't sound that awkward to the ears, but I just like the chorus better in Japanese. I'm going to skip these supposed "Special Edition Ver." songs because I honestly don't hear any differences from the originals. "빙글빙글" is another new track and I honestly forgot this track existed until I had to review this album. That's saying something. I guess they were trying out the whole pop/rock thing, but meh. It's not a complete dud, but it's cheesy as hell in places. Once again, "EGO" is my favorite song from ALIVE and having it remade in Korean is just cringing to my mind. It just doesn't flow or something to me. Maybe if I came into with pure ears, but still...it seems awkward.
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