|1. pretty voice
11. Always Together
LOVE PUNCH, Ai Otsuka’s debut album, was released on 2004.03.31. This album debuted at #3 on the Oricon album chart, which is an impressive feat considering that she had only been in the industry for 6 months, and was also facing strong competition from more experienced artists such as L’Arc~en~Ciel (their album SMILE debuted at #2 on the same day) and Utada Hikaru (her single collection debuted at #1). So far, over 660,000 copies of LOVE PUNCH have been sold, according to Oricon sales figures. For people who enjoy first press extras, the LOVE PUNCH first press CD only version comes with a 60 page booklet thick with drawings drawn by Ai herself.
1. pretty voice
I think “pretty voice” makes a rather good intro for the album because it’s lively, upbeat, and fun at the same time. It’s a song that will brighten your day, especially if you listen to it early in the morning before starting off the day. If you are new to Ai Otsuka, you might find her voice rather squeaky and high pitched in this song, but that’s just the way she sounds in most of her rock songs. It may takes a while to get used to the unique Ai Otsuka-ish rock sound, especially for those die-hard ballad lovers.
2. Momo no Hanabira
This is Ai’s debut single, a very lovely mid-tempo ballad that started her music career. One of those traditional Japanese “guitar” was used in this song, which gives the song a nice Japanese touch. Despite the fact that this song is only a debut (which is usually considered as an artist’s weakest song, such as Ayumi Hamasaki’s “poker face”), the song really shines with its catchy chorus, making this song a well loved one among the fans.
“Sakuranbo” has become Ai Otsuka’s signature song after the great success of this single, staying on the Oricon single chart for 85 weeks (almost 2 years). This song features a really simple melody with a unique Ai Otsuka touch, as a lively guitar accompaniment comes together with Ai’s cute lyrics and voice to make this song an instant hit in Japan. Not only are the single sales an amazing achievement for a new singer who had released only 2 singles, “Sakuranbo” also helped Ai Otsuka winning several best new artist awards in 2004.
Honestly, there’s nothing too special about this song. This track simply screams filler as there seems to be no actual meaning or theme behind this song. It sounds like a toned down version of “pretty voice”, meaning it’s less lively and less interesting. The chorus has a catchy “skippu skippu skip lalalalala” part, which some people might find boring and repetitive.
5. Ame no naka no melody
This is a slow and neutral song. The translation of the song title reads “Melody of the middle of the rain”, which ties in with the feel of the song. It’s a slow ballad, those who like melancholy and slow songs will find themselves liking this song. A beautiful piano solo connects the 1st and 2nd chorus perfectly.
The song title reads “bubbles”, while it may sounds like a happy title, it actually isn’t. This song is slow and melancholy. The song lyrics are very dark and meaningful, for example: “Stumbling about, we hurt each other and vanished.“, this cleverly uses the bursting of bubbles to depict the conflict between lovers.
An interesting fact about this song is that it is one of the two non-a-side songs so far that has its own music video. The music video can be found in the LOVE PUNCH CD+DVD version, and features a dark and serious PV that might scare away some of the Ai fans that prefer her happy, catchy songs.
7. Ishikawa Osaka Yuukou Jouyaku
This is one of the typical funky songs that defines Ai Otsuka’s unique style, featuring awfully simple lyrics and melody that is so catchy that many may find it disturbing. The chorus is just a simple line of “Ishikawa Osaka wow yeah”, giving you no choice but to sing along with Ai-chin even if it means pulling your hair out of your stupid head.
8. Kataomoi Dial
“Kataomoi Dial” is another non-a-side song that has its own music video, starring the female bunny that Ai created herself called LOVE. The song is lively and unique using phone tones as one of the background sound effects. This song definitely shows Ai’s creativity when it comes to song arrangement and I think most people will find this song interesting, especially after watching the cute CG music video starring LOVE.
A lot of Ai fans seem to hate this song, probably due to its boring arrangement. The song is a waltz, which is a rare sound for Ai, however, the not-so-creative melody destroyed this song. Luckily, the song is quite short, only 2:18 long. The reason why Ai put this song after Kataomoi Dial and before Amaenbo should be quite obvious: it’s not very interesting.
This track, Ai’s third single, is a very nice ballad that talks about a girl’s feeling about a guy she admires, and her desire to be loved and treasured like a spoiled child. It’s a very girlish song, with a nice melody and simple lyrics, a song that can only be expected from a cute girl like Ai Otsuka. This song is for you if you enjoy slow ballads and love songs.
11. Always Together
This song starts with a nice piano intro, then other instruments set in, and finally Ai’s soothing voice ties it all together. The melody is slow and beautiful and it gives you a “goodbye, my friend” kind of feeling, which is very suitable as the last song of the album. When this song ends, it leaves you with a sad feeling that you have just finished listening to such a wonderful album. ;_;
Conclusion: Being a debut album, this album really surprised me and it clearly shows you what Ai Otsuka is capable of, and that is creating music as diverse as”Sakuranbo”, which is upbeat, lively and happy versus “Shabondama”, which is dark and slow with a deep meaning. For an Ai Otsuka newcomer, I would say “LOVE JAM” (Ai’s 2nd album) is definitely a better album, but you shouldn’t missed out on this album too, because after all, it shows Ai’s progress as a singer and composer.