Monday, January 9, 2012

J-POP : Ayumi Hamasaki Top 10

In my first J-pop post, I covered Namie Amuro. In this post, I cover another huge, well-established J-pop singer but with a very different music style: Ayumi Hamasaki.

How I Discovered Her Music:
On Pandora when I first was getting into J-pop, she was one of the first artists I heard and liked. I was familiar with her name long before though.

Music Style:
Distinctively "J-pop" but not bubblegum pop. She often uses traditional instruments like acoustic drums, strings, piano, and electric guitar but with a pop sound. Her songs are often mixed 3/4 pop, 1/4 rock.

Additionally, she has a pretty good singing range with strong vocals and frequently uses vibrato when holding notes.

Interesting Trivia:
  • For her songs, she usually writes the lyrics and sometimes composes.
  • Her album "(Miss)understood" covers tracks from Sweetbox's songs.
  • She has become deaf in one ear.
  • Can be considered the "Madonna" of J-pop.
  • Her nickname is "Ayu".

DJ PJ's Ayumi Hamasaki Top 10 (2006-2011)

10. Sunrise (2010)

I like how the percussion starts off simple and then builds up to the chorus. The chorus melody is so theme song-ish. lol.

9. Step You (2006)
Ayumi often incorporates rock elements into her songs, and this is an example of it.

8. Lady Dynamite (2010)
With it's big beat like elements, this song totally can be OST music for a movie. I imagine the movie would be about a couple of guys trying to pull off a big heist. lol.

The video is like... a Japanese version of SF's Folsom Street Fair. heh.

7. Jewel (2006)
Aside from upbeat pop songs, Ayumi also does many good ballads so I threw one into my top 10. The background is simple but nice. I love the chorus melody; it gives me goosebumps.

6. Love 'n' Hate (2009)
As soon as I heard the first few seconds, I knew this was going to be an epic song. The string riff and heavy beats makes this an exciting song.

5. Is This Love? (2006)
A more rock-sounding song from Ayumi. Love the intro when the heavy electric guitar riff comes in. Also like the contrast of her soft voice coming in and the instrumental quieting down. Then it transitions back into an epic rock song.

4. Sparkle (2009)
Yowzers, she looks pretty hot in this video. =P Not so much the outfit but more the hair, makeup, expressions and poses. But anyways, about the song... lol. This song is a good change of pace and shows she can do electronic music too.

3. 1 Love (2006)
Another song with "love" in the title. lol. This is a rock track. The verses sound freaking bad ass with her vocals on top of the bass guitar. I also like the rhythm and progression of the chorus vocal melody.

2. Why... (2011)

There are two versions of this song, both are #2:

The "original" version. The style is more Ayumi-like.
Featuring K-pop artist Juno. I love when J-pop and K-pop artists collab!

The "remix" version. The style is more hip-hop.
Featuring Urata Naoya. I'm surprised the K-pop one wasn't the hip hop version.

1. Next Level (2009)

This song just makes me feel good. The chorus is so uplifting. Although I can't say for certain, the chorus seems like it has an Asian\pentatonic scale. I like how the verse and pre-chorus feels like one big transition for the chorus.

Lastly, this song reminds me of a certain someone, but I'll spare you the details. =)

Top 10 honorable mentions: "Fated" (2008), "My All" (2008), "Like a Doll" (2010).

I hope you see now why she's one of the top artists in Japan. Her style is a good mix of pop and rock. I'll end this post with a video of Ayumi that I like:

Asians don't have small eyes.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Recommended Show : "Misfits"

The plot in one sentence:
Delinquents with newly acquired super powers try to cover up a dark secret.

Why you should watch it:
- Mix of survival and serial story.
- Rude and funny humor.
- Frequent use of British slang.

How I discovered the series:
TONS of ads on Hulu during the summer of 2011. The commercial wasn't too appealing, but Hulu users gave the show 4.5 stars so I gave it a shot.

Possible themes:
- Having great power can lead to making great mistakes.
- You can always turn your life around.

Each character's crime that got them sentenced and superpower:
Alisha - drunk driving \ can make anyone sexually attracted to her
Curtis - drug dealing \ can turn back time
Kelly - fought with girl \ can hear people's thoughts
Nathan - stole pick 'n' mix \ unknown if he has a power
Simon - set house on fire \ can become invisible

(from left to right: Curtis, Alisha, Nathan, Kelly, Simon)

Favorite character:
I was originally going to say Nathan since he's the funniest, but I have to go with Simon. He has this misunderstood creepiness to him which makes his character fascinating. Later when he gains more confidence, he becomes a really cool character.

Girl who caught my eye:
Two girls. The first was Sally. She's introduced in the second episode I think. I really like the story line between her and Simon. She's like a teacher you have as a kid that you like but you're not supposed to like. lol.

Later in the series, Nikki catches my eye. She's introduced in a short scene after which, I was thinking, "Who's this girl? I hope she's in the series!" I can't say any more about her without spoiling the story.

btw... don't Google image search "Misfits" and these characters names; it will spoil the story.

What I didn't like about the series:
- The volume levels. The music is so freaking loud while the dialogue is so quiet.
- Too much shagging. The characters are always going for it, and it starts to feel silly and overdone.

Funny note:
This being a UK show, apparently some people on the net couldn't understand their English and watch with subtitles. lol. I was surprised. Sometimes the accent can be hard, but I never needed subtitles.

Final words:
The commercials gave me the completely wrong impression for the show, and it turned out nothing like I expected. Aside from the rude humor (which is hilarious), the characters have heart and there are good serial elements that keep you wanting to watch more. Additionally, the series is still going with a 4th season in the works.

Check out the first episode on Hulu!