What constitutes a good album?
I currently pamper myself with three albums from three different genres, singers, and countries. One is a male rocker from U.S., David Cook’s second major-label album This Loud Morning. One from an insanely popular Japanese boyband group, Arashi’s tenth album Beautiful World. One from a Korean drama’s OST of Playful Kiss. One in English, one in Japanese, one in Korean. I’ve been replaying the albums for several times, trying to figure out if i like the album or if i have something to write about them. I’ll drop Playful Kiss from the discussion as i rarely like an OST as a whole, much less to rate it.
So… i go back to the opening question. What is it in an album that makes it stand out or receive favorable reviews? Is it the songs, the lyrics, the arrangement, or the vocal(s)? For me, it’s definitely the beat or the melody first before weighing other measurements. Since that’s the first thing that gets me into a song – a single that leads me to the album – especially when it is sung in a language that I don’t speak *grin*
THIS LOUD MORNING | David Cook’s second major-label album
Total: 12 Tracks
01 – Circadian
02 – Right Here, With You
03 – We Believe
04 – Fade Into Me
05 – Hard to Believe
06 – Take Me As I Am
07 – Time Marches On
08 – The Last Goodbye
09 – Paper Heart
10 – 4 Letter Word
11 – Goodbye To The Girl
12 – Rapid Eye Movement
Let’s start with This Loud Morning, arguably the much-awaited sophomore album of David Cook. His self-titled album was released back in 2008 and only two music videos, if I’m not mistaken. I listened to that whole album, yet apart from Declaration and Lie (that’s still on my playlist) it wasn’t great of an album, if not largely forgettable – in my opinion, of course. I cannot recall the songs anymore, but I think Archie’s self-titled album was better. Although rooting for Cookie, his didn’t really live up to my expectation.
I have checked Archie’s second and wondered when Cook’s gonna follow his track. Why the winner is a step behind his runner up? Move, Cook, move! Then, the answer came: the lead single The last goodbye was released, followed by the album. Though not really liking the mediocre song for Cook’s caliber, I decided to try the album after reading some positive reviews on it.
However, I am a bit confused with either Cook’s or the reviewer’s statement about the album. I guess it’s Cook that emphasizes that it is in fact an album, not a collection of singles. While some reviewers think of it as not a concept album per se, yet it indeed means more when listened as a whole. Hmmm… an album not a collection of singles. I don’t get it; wouldn’t most singers make an album first before releasing some of the tracks in single’s format? I don’t understand the meaning of a ‘concept album’ either – is it a jargon? If TLM isn’t, how would it “mean more when played together” then?
Move into the tracks. TLM consists of 12 tracks. Mostly set in mid-tempo with a couple of ballads. I was quite surprised to see that the lead single isn’t placed in the first or second track as many singles of an album are. The last goodbye is actually the eighth track. Whereas for the songs… I have to agree with several reviewers that the songs are so similar that it’s hard to discern them. Similar patterns, musical structures, and vocal range – Cook’s high notes don’t seem to deviate much in each and every song. This makes no song really tops the rest, giving little room for me to pick favorites. After many replays, naming a song before it hits the chorus remains hit-or-miss apart from the unique-music-box-overture of Circadian and the nearly-nonexistent-prelude of Time marches on and This last goodbye.
One particular comment of Brian Mansfield’s Track by Track review for USA Today got me to simper: that Right here, with you “builds to an anthem-sized roar, and all the music video needs is Bruce Willis and some asteroids, or John Cusack and an airplane.” Brian may refer to the epic-esque lyrics, the topic I won’t delve as you can read it there. However, I do reckon that most of the songs in the record fit into the description. It’s easy to visualize the background image of the above imagery, or of a superhero jumping off buildings and wrestling down villains when playing (almost) any chorus randomly. Because the songs – especially the choruses – somehow remind me of the likes of Hero or Don’t wanna miss a thing.
This may not resemble a review, but I just want to express my opinion about TLM as a whole: since the songs bear corresponding characteristics, listeners would pick a side. If one favors just one song, one’s sure to gloat for the rest of the play. If one dislikes it, however, well… I guess that’s the end of it. I myself am in on the favorable side. This may not be a sound judgment as I predominately fail to recall what the first album was like, but I suppose TLM is better.
To end this, let me quote a conclusion made by Jim Cantiello In his review for MTV.com: “Maybe the overarching theme of This Loud Morning isn’t love or dreams, but rather inevitability. Whether you like it or not, all things must come to an end, be it a day, a dream, a relationship or a life.” After learning the gist of the album through the lyrical depth, you’ll view TLM more positively.
BEAUTIFUL WORLD | Arashi’s tenth studio album
Total: 18 Tracks
01 – Rock This
02 – Mada Minu Sekai E
03 – Love Rainbow
04 – Always
05 – Shake it! (Jun’s solo)
06 – Niji no Kakera~no rain no rainbow~
07 – Dear Snow
08 – Hung up on (Ohno’s solo)
09 – Joy
10 – Doko ni Demo Aru Uta (Nino’s solo)
11 – Negai
12 – Lotus
13 – “Janakute” (Aiba’s solo)
14 – Morning Light
15 – To be Free
16 – Kono Mama Motto (Sho’s solo)
17 – Hatenai Sora
18 – Tooku Made
Next, Arashi’s latest album. Whose title answers the previous album’s title – Boku no miteiru fuukei (The scenery that I am seeing): Beautiful World. ❤
Aforementioned, for songs sung in foreign languages, my judgment is based solely on ear-catchiness factor – meaning the melody alone. Unless I look up for the translation – which I rarely do. I leave out the previously released singles that are included in the album – I don’t listen to them either so as to give myself a more objective impression of the album.
Eighteen tracks: 5 singles, 5 solos, 8 new songs. If I can summarize Beautiful World in one word, it will be: dance. Lots and lots of dance number tracks with barely any ballad – I can foresee lots of dancing for the upcoming concert tour *drool*. The most ballad-ish song will be Niji no kakera. But for the real mellow ballad song, check out Nino’s solo.
~ Doko ni demo aru uta: I personally think it is the background musical instruments that do wonder to the song. The orchestra-esque grandeur spares me the agony after coming in after the first chorus. It’s a beautiful song indeed and I have read the lyrics translation, but if the song doesn’t pick up I’d have pressed the next button. And, yes, the high-pitch notes for the last few lines give me goosebumps (Me wonder if Nino needs to catch a breath afterwards).
~ Shake it!: Just like any other song he’s sung. I have to admit that the “Shake it! Shake it! Shake it the body” part is quite addictive and the rhythm is nice, but MatsuJun’s pinched voice is a serious turnoff for me. (For fairness’ sake, I indeed listen to his solos for several times.)
~ Kono mama motto: Hmm… I don’t know why I don’t think this type of song suits him. Probably because the sexy husky voice of his doesn’t fully shine. (I guess I really have a soft spot for male singers with deep-sexy-husky voice *simper*) Even with his signature rap part I still see it as an okay pop song; but I like it (my bias! xp). Talking about rap, I was elated to finally watch an Arashi’s PV with rap part in it – Mada minu sekai e – it’s been more than two years since Believe!
~ “Janakute”: Sounds soo… retro. It also sounds like a song they would play for a staged theatrical or musical performance *wild imagination going on*. Magical song started to grow on me right after I watched the live concert, so maybe I’ll have to try the same method for Janakute. Surprise me again, Miracle Boy!
~ Hung up on (– what?): Ohno is really the man. He can belt out whatever song types he’d prefer and still sound as gorgeous as ever. He’s the leader, arguably the best singer and dancer in the group – how would the rest keep up to him in terms of quality? Anywaay… one burning question: I noticed that Sho wrote the rap lyrics for this song, yet after numerous spins I still cannot spot any rap part. Somebody helps me.
My favorite? Niji no kakera, hands down. (I can only name one for now). I believe I’ve heard the rhythm somewhere, especially the whistling tune (flute?). It reminds me of other song(s) – The Corrs’ most likely.
I don’t really have much to write about the album. However, I do wonder if the boys have enough rest and sleep. Beautiful World is released less than a year since Boku no miteiru fuukei. Their Scene tour has just ended and they’ll soon start another round of concerts for the new album. Keep up the good work, guys! Just don’t tire yourself out.
note to self: need to update the ratings.