Kurayami Monogatari

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Mai Kuraki – Smile February 23, 2017

Filed under: Mai Kuraki — solarblade @ 6:21 am

smilemai

Track Listing

  1. YESTERDAY LOVE
  2. Mystery Hero
  3. Garasu no Bishou
  4. OPEN L♡VE
  5. SAWAGE☆LIFE
  6. I Like It
  7. MY VICTORY
  8. Serendipity
  9. Make that change
  10. Tell me why
  11. My way
  12. Kimi e no Uta

CD2

  1. I Like It (Remix)

1. YESTERDAY LOVE

Opening the album is the only kind of actual single released (even if it was a DVD single).  I do appreciate that it does sound like an opening track just from the intro too!  Now getting past that, I wasn’t surprised that YESTERDAY LOVE is more on the fringes of delving into EDM as Mai-K has been kind of toying around the genre for quite some time now.  I always love Mai’s lower range as it’s more wispy and just soft to listen to and then adding the sort Eurodance flow is just an interesting combination.  Definitely a good way to kick the album off.

2. Mystery Hero

Kind of surprised that after the first track, we’d immediately go into a ballad with Mystery Hero and boy it starts off slow with just Mai’s light vocals with some piano melody.  I was wondering throughout the song’s length if there was going to be any changes or additions to the arrangement, but no, Mystery Hero is entirely what I described above…a VERY simple ballad.  We just went from cool opening track to sheer boredom the next, I’m kind of worried now lol…

3. Garasu no Bishou

Luckily, things pickup a bit with our next track and acoustic guitar is added to the piano in its intro before the beats kick in.  Now, this song actually feels like something from her pre-“DIAMOND WAVE” days in which Mai was focused more on R&B and the soulful side of things.  For as softspoken the song comes off as, it feels ultimately short, but has a nice fade-out ending (which is rare for me to enjoy songs that close out that way to begin with).  Still, kind of generic, but also not entirely without merit as it’s soothing and Mai normally suits this style perfectly.

4. OPEN L♡VE

Oh?  We’re using heart symbols now?  Talk about random right?  The tune kicks off with plucked strings and turns into a little more urban R&B, but only a smidge more than it was in “Garasu no Bishou”.  I feel like this was a song that was left of something like “FAIRY TALE” that focused on more of mixing her R&B elements into something a bit more funkier.  I do like how cute it’s coming off and once again, something Mai has done before, but at least here it’s a somewhat decent track!

5. SAWAGELIFE

Then comes the 2nd Digital single she released (July 2016) and another Meitantei Conan theme, SAWAGELIFE is a pretty different direction for the album to take by heading more for a rock n’ roll type of track (something I haven’t really heard since “Ichibyou Goto ni Love for you”) and it’s a welcoming change of pace and trying to push away from the norms this album has churned out already.  I do feel like her voice had been uplifted to actually stand out from the arrangement (because normally her voice isn’t quite loud enough to handle guitars and drums and all that).  I do like the catchiness of the track and she’s having a blast, but some of the notes in the chorus are rough and the spelling in the bridge is a bit campy for my tastes lol.

6. I Like It

I’m going to assume that this was promoted (since there’s a whole 2nd disc surrounding its remix).  I do enjoy the kind of latin vibe I got from it, mixed with some saxophone thrown in for kicks.  There’s something about the song is screaming fun and Mai is definitely in her space and she’s throwing a little more spice (especially how she tackles the chorus).  I dug this track quite a bit and has a lot of passion and fire to it!

7. MY VICTORY

Oh hey, we’re going back to EDM-ish tracks now?  Well, MY VICTORY might not have the flow as “YESTERDAY LOVE” did, but it does have a nice beat and Mai is once again showing a bit more fire in her delivery of the lyrics (even some small rap).  It is a little formulaic, but I found the song to be decent enough to stick out on the album.

8. Serendipity

Then we have what technically kicked the era off with the 2015 digital single, Serendipity.  Considering it’s about 2 years old, this song is kind of chintzy just like “OPEN♡LOVE” and it tries to come off as light and breezy of a song and while I give props to Mai’s adorable syncopation of saying ~serendipity~, the tune otherwise kind of feels bland to me.  Meh…

9. Make that change

Oh?  Two rock songs on the album this time?  Yup, unlike “SAWAGELIFE”, Make that change sounds a bit more like garage rock and a LOT more like “Ichibyou Goto ni Love for you”, but a smidge anison and also a bit more powerful.  I REALLY enjoyed this performance though and Mai let her hair loose and just having a fun time with this song and I ended up rockin’ out to it.  Great song!

10. Tell me why

Next up is Tell me why and just like “Garusu no Bishou”, it’s a bit of a nostalgic kind of song for her fans as it goes back to her earlier days as a full-time R&B artist.  Going from the amount of layering going on in her vocals to the simplistic arrangement.  Not a bad song persay, but nothing I would really come back to for another listen.

11. My way

As we’re getting towards the end of the album, I wonder why My way wasn’t chosen as the end song because it’s another ballad from Mai.  Luckily unlike the boredom I had with “Mystery Hero”, My way at least has strings to try to alleviate some of my first impressions.  Though midway through the song, it adds some R&B beats and then it kind of jumps back to being a snoozefest…not quite as much as the aforementioned track but still boring nonetheless.

12. Kimi e no Uta

Yeah, chosen as the ending of the first disc, I suppose Kimi e no Uta suited being the last track, but not quite as fitting as “My way” does.  Unlike the other mid-tempo/ballads of this album, Kimi e no Uta has a nice boom-clap-boom kind of sound going on and a positive feel going on.  I do love the addition of the guitar present and Mai’s wispy vocals are nice to hear here.  Nice ending though, a bit better than what I was expecting.

CD2

1. I Like It (Remix)

I really hate that Mai is doing it again with the 2nd disc being only 1 TRACK!  Waste of plastic if you ask me.  So taking a song that I really liked on the main disc, the remix of I Like It takes the latin-fusion and replaces it with some beats and a bit more like something Koda Kumi would appreciate.  It’s OK, but didn’t really deserve its own disc (couldn’t fit that on the main album???).

Tracks Recommended

  • Make that change
  • I Like It
  • YESTERDAY LOVE
  • Kimi e no Uta
  • MY VICTORY

Song of Avoidance

  • Mystery Hero

Wow, has it really been over 5 years since her last studio album, “OVER THE RAINBOW” was released?  It definitely didn’t feel that long ago (then again, she did have a best album between the space of the two albums).  Smile is her return to the scene and I’m kind of in the middle here.  It surely didn’t have the magic that her last couple of studio albums had, but there were some gems.  It kind of feels like how I felt with some of her albums after “delicious way”…kind of there, but it’s listenable…also just not sure to put a bland ballad as your 2nd track…a little goofy decision.

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2 Responses to “Mai Kuraki – Smile”

  1. jinhwa Says:

    Thanks for another good review. I like this album better than her last album, “OVER THE RAINBOW”. The 2 bland ballads are fine with me, they calm me down that is why i like them.

    • solarblade Says:

      It feels like it’s been forever since OVER THE RAINBOW it feels like, I hadn’t even noticed the best album until recently before the album review xD.

      Her ballads are nice, but she like so many other artists feel like they have so many to choose from that does similar things…maybe it’s just my bias against ballads in general x.x;


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