Sunday, 15 November 2009

'LOVE JAM' - Review

Have you even been in a situation in which you weren’t able to state clearly your feelings? Like you couldn’t definitely say whether you liked something or not. When you felt that it was a must to make up your mind, you would rather say that you hated it than to admit dishonestly that it was fabulously excellent. When it comes to me, this kind of irritating confusion happened to me at least twice. This second time got me a few weeks ago. I can remember the disturbing feeling of uncertainty that filled my mind and delicate whispers of the little white-winged LOVE-chan on my shoulder telling me to finally decide... Willing or not, I had to face it.

‘LOVE JAM’!... First time, it left me puzzled and amazed – starting from the booklet. The cover – it sure is unusual. You can see it here. Nothing but a cute Japanese girl with her face decorated with spots of colourful jam all over her cheeks and nose. One might say: ‘Delicious!’, meaning not only the funny side of this make-up. Personally, I find it not only original and amusing, but also subtly suggestive, especially with some of her lyrics ('Kuroge Wagyuu Joushio Tan Yaki 735 Yen' for example). However, Ai’s sensual hints in her looks and in her lyrics aren’t serious and nasty – they are more about fun and innocent enjoyment. Moreover, they don’t appear often, I would say that they are a kind of little sweet enhancement to her music, which fits her perfectly. Ai is definitely an attractive girl, who likes to highlight her natural feminine charm, but it’s not enough for her. When she feels like it, she can wear comfortable loose clothes with heavy boots and she still looks cool. Both styles make a wonderful combination, which we can admire looking at her ‘LOVE JAM’ photos.

Ai-chan being super cute...

...and less cute :P But still she looks much better in those clothes than Avril Lavigne...
Let’s move on to the music now. What’s striking about Ai’s second album is the diversity. I guess this was the main factor that put me off at the very beginning. I just imagined that a CD must be consistent within a genre, which means no experiments. Apparently, I haven’t known enough albums to judge that yet. It seems that mixing rock, j-rock, pop, j-pop, electro and moving ballads can give a surprisingly nice effect. It was hard to chew over at the very first listening, but in time, all pieces together created a wonderful whole.

The album starts with two energetic j-rock songs (‘Superman’ and ‘Happy Days’). The first one always puts me in a good mood, even though I can’t stand Ai’s EngRish attempts in it (to my great surprise, ‘I see love you’ as I heard, turned out to be ‘I think I love you’...), while the second song is really hard for me to listen. ‘Happy Days’ was released as a single, but I think that there were better songs on the album than this one. Since this piece was recorded in an extremely kawaii j-rock style, it can’t be called the most mature Ai’s song. On the CD there is one similar number - totally insane ‘Pon Pon’. It’s such a weird song that it’s inexplicably fascinating. I’d rather not to wonder what mental state brought that to be :P No, it’s a joke...

Promotional photo from 'Happy Days' single

‘LOVE JAM’ is not only about j-rock and j-pop. Luckily, Ai gave us a beautiful bunch of great love songs with a deep message. Believe me or not, she is able to change your mood – from fresh and playful to nostalgic and loving – without noticing. She punched us with two upbeat numbers at the beginning, then she performed slower and more classical ‘Strawberry Jam’ to finally strike with the wonderful love ballad called ‘Daisuki dayo’. It was the song that opened the career’s doors to Ai. She won the Avex Trax audition with this piece and I think that she fully deserved it. People say that this touching song about a died boyfriend belongs to her top-class numbers. The other outstanding ballad included on ‘Love Jam’ is truly original and extraordinarily mature ‘Kingyo Hanabi’. It takes your breath away just from the first piano notes and keeps you speechless to the very end. It’s one of the songs that are called masterpieces from the first listening. This song was so popular in Japan that there was not only a regular videoclip shot, but also a short movie, with the plot based on 'Kingyo Hanabi' lyrics. You can find it on the ‘LOVE JAM’ DVD additional disc.

I could talk hours and hours about the rest of the album, but I’m afraid it would be too boring :) I want to mention about 2 more songs that I find especially interesting – first of those is ‘Sensu’. Slow, but with a catchy melody, relaxing and beautiful... I love it. The second song is ‘Mousou Chop’, which is crazy, but not as much as ‘Pon Pon’, luckily... :) Nobody could stand two similarly weird songs on the one CD. ‘Mousou’ is a kind of an experiment, because this song is totally different from the rest. I like to think about this songs as 'R2-D2 song' xD It starts from electronically distorted sounds and leads us to Ai’s voice, but... sounding like an astromechanical robot! Surprisingly, this effect isn’t bad, however, I’d rather listen to Ai’s natural sweet voice. In spite of that, I like the chorus, as it feels like recorded in the space.

Now that I made up my mind, I can say strongly that ‘LOVE JAM’ will become one of my favourite albums of all times. Mostly, it’s because it’s freshness and energy that it gives me everytime I listen to it. Even though I thought that I wouldn’t listen to it again at the beginning, I’m very glad that I decided to do this. Definitely, it was worth trying. They say that many masterpieces are appreciated only after a very long time... I find it true. At this moment the end of this review has come... and I can’t wait to play ‘LOVE JAM’ out loudly! :) ‘Daaaaaisuki yo...’

If you are interested in Ai Otsuka's music from her 'LOVE JAM' album, here you have a handful of videoclips from YouTube:

'Daisuki dayo' 

'Kuroge Wagyuu Joushio Tan Yaki 680 Yen'

The very last clip is the single version of the song, which seems to be better than the album version.
Read carefully the translation of the lyrics to see my point about Ai being suggestive and sexy :)


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