Ultra Blue

by tomba on August 27, 2006 · 29 comments · AddThis

Ultra Blue Promo Artist: Utada Hikaru
Product Code: TOCT-26067
Release Date: 2006.06.14
Debut Ranking: #1
Label: Toshiba-EMI

It’s been 4 years since Utada’s last Japanese album, “Deep River”. During this time, she got and recovered from cancer, got married, released the overdue best album, the disastrous, disappointing, yet record breaking English album “Exodus”, and half a dozen singles.

“Ultra Blue” marks a few firsts for Utada – the first duet to ever appear on her album, the first time there isn’t a track that shares the album name, and the first time she released a Japanese digital single. For promotion of the album, Utada began on a 3 months tour, the “UTADA UNITED 2006”, across Japan. The tour has been much hyped about and was met with praise, with most tickets selling out in 2 hours.

Although the album debuted at the coveted #1 position, remained there for 2 weeks, and sold more than 500, 000 copies during the first week, sales dipped drastically and it has become the first Utada album to not reach platinum status. This could be explained by the 6 singles released beforehand, the album available digitally (and not counted by Oricon), and illegal downloads.

With each new album, Utada’s styles have changed and evolved dramatically. “First Love” was the pop-ballad album, “Distance” was the R&B album, “Deep River” was the pop R&B album, and “Exodus” was an R&B dance album. “Ultra Blue”, a more electronic and pop-rock oriented album, has the most sophisticated background music in the songs than ever (the only good thing learned from “Exodus”), and with Utada’s more matured voice, the material is the strongest ever.

 

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This Is Love
The album, sadly, starts with one of the weaker tracks here. Released as the first digital single, and the last single from this album, “This Is Love” reached the top of the online sales charts. What this song reminds me most of is a high-speed chase. The song is very fast, and the backbeat is amazing. For the above reason, this song doesn’t really feel like “love” though. Although at first listen, this song is quite catchy and fun, it gets annoying on repeat. After listening to the entire album, “This Is Love” does capture and set the mood for the entire album: the strong backbeat and the electronic-dance music. If only the “Exodus” album was like this.

Rating: ★★★½☆

 

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Keep Tryin’
The second track, “Keep Tryin’”, is unique on this album since it is the only one that actually sounds happy, and has Utada joking to herself. Utada has a very –weird- sense of humour – anyone who has read her recent blog entries would know (talking to her bear like a real person is NOT normal!). “Keep Tryin’” is such a quirky song; it almost seems like a little joke Utada wrote for her family. The electronic-piano beginning transcends into the drum-infested chorus which has Utada telling you that “she doesn’t care about anything”, and will “keep trying”. The standout parts of this song is the toy-piano part towards the end of the song, and the endtro, where Utada tells her dad and mom to keep trying. What is great about Utada is her willingness to use unconventional instruments to make this specific and special sound that fits her songs perfectly. The PV is also arguably the best since the “Kiriya Trilogy”. The entertaining value of seeing Utadas trying on different jobs; it’s hilarious!

Rating: ★★★★½

 

 

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BLUE
The best song of this album – no, of Utada, ever! OK, I lied, “first love” is the best. But “BLUE” is a close second best. In “BLUE”, Utadas shows her range and emotions – the only song on the album that combines both elements in a balanced fashion. Unlike “Be My Last”, Utada’s voice isn’t pushed to the limits at the high notes, and unlike “Dareka no Negai ga Kanau Koro”, it doesn’t make you weep nor does Utada’s voice take center stage. However, the beautiful music and the true emotional range of Utada shines in “BLUE” and that really shows her development musically in the last 4 years. This song seems to be “Be My Last” done right. The “whining” isn’t as high, and is therefore, actually expressive. The chorus, which Utada rushes through, makes it seem like Utada is angry about something, and she is “blue”. Hands down the best song on this album.

Rating: ★★★★★

 

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Nichiyo no Asa
Imagine a mysterious and slower “Keep Tryin’” with a stronger beat, and that is what “Nichiyo no Asa” is. “Nichiyo no Asa” means “Sunday Morning”, a reference to Christmas last year. Instead of sounding happy, Utada seems to be playing coy and not really conveying how she feels. Or maybe, she was so ecstatic that she doesn’t even remembered what happened that day, just a faint memory. The beat is also quite unique, since it doesn’t really sound like drums, more than whips or snapping. Also, she whispers things like “sunshine dreaming” and “ice cream toppings” throughout the song. It is just a weird song.

Rating: ★★★★☆

 

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Making Love
“Making Love” is to me, the fast and danceable song in this album. The fastest song and the most joyful, Utada seems to be very happy about… uh… making love. The nice and slow piano beginning sequences into a faster drum dominant bridge, until it reaches the even faster chorus. The speed doesn’t decrease for the next part, and it just increases at each interval. It’s the song that never slows down! It is like a combination of “BLUE” and “This Is Love”.

Rating: ★★★★½

 

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Dareka no Negai ga Kanau Koro
“Dareka no Negai ga Kanau Koro” was the second single released off this album, more than 2 years before the release of this album. This song was used for the end roll of Utada’s husband’s film, “Casshern”. This song just seems out of place here – the simple piano instrumental seems to be lacking when compared to the other multi-layered songs. But that is not to say that this song is not good – the emotions conveyed and the pureness of Utada’s voice; this is simply a masterpiece. What I remember most about this song was how people commented that they did not understand what the movie was about until they heard the song. Despite named like a happy song (When Someone’s Wish Comes True), “Dareka no Negai ga Kanau Koro” is about how people suffer despite others being happy. At the end, Utada’s voice seems to be about to break from tears.

Rating: ★★★★½

 

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COLORS
OK, this song REALLY does not belong here. Released 3 and a half, yes, 3 and a half years ago, and already featured on her best album, this seems to be just a filler. The background instrumental seems to be too pure next to her more “electronic” sounds now. Don’t get me wrong, I like this song, but it just doesn’t fit in here. If only this was on “Deep River”, sigh ~~.

Rating: ★★★★☆

 

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One Night Magic feat. Yamada Masashi
Yes, this is the first duet to ever appear on Utada’s albums. I was actually quite disappointed, as I liked the fact that Utada did everything by herself and herself only. This song sounds really magical – like something you would hear in a Disney movie. The popping sounds heard throughout the song even sounds like fireworks. The chorus makes it seems like they are flying and going somewhere magical. The only thing I don’t really understand is why this even had to be a duet. Most the parts featuring Masashi (and there weren’t a lot), had Utada’s voice on top of it. This could easily have been a solo instead.

Rating: ★★★★☆

 

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Kairo
I was actually quite disappointed by this song. It delivered everything it promised, but that seems to be the downfall. This song, as the title suggested, seems to sound like something you would hear on a sea route. Unfortunately, it also seems to be foggy that day, cause this song is quite boring. Populated with strings and fake wind sounds, this song just seems weak compared to the rest of the album. This song reminds me of something that would play in the beginning of some epic video game, the ones not many people pay attention to because they are too focused on the graphics.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

 

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WINGS
“WINGS” was the b-side to “Keep Tryin’”. Similar to “Keep Tryin’”, “WINGS” has this mysterious motive in it. Although there really is only just a piano as the melody, strings as the harmony, and just a few drums, there seems to be so much more. Utada’s voice seems to be uncertain of something, like she is just about to make a giant decision, and all that contribute to the atmosphere of this song. Also, Utada also seems to use her voice as an instrument; lots of OOing and AWing.

Rating: ★★★★½

 

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Be My Last
The love ballad of this album, “Be My Last” contains a quiet acoustic beginning that transform into an orchestral masterpiece. The high notes as Utada sings “be my last” in the chorus are perfect, but her whining afterwards is absolutely the most annoying thing she has ever done in her songs. Those notes were just too ambitious for Utada to reach. This song is also very emotional as Utada does seem desperate to find someone to love (although she already did, this might just be for the movie this song was featured in). Otherwise, a very nice winding down for the end.

Rating: ★★★★☆

 

 

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Eclipse(Interlude)
Between “Be My Last” and “Passion” is the interlude, “Eclipse”. Unlike her previous interludes, this one actually fits the mood of the album. A giant improvement.

 

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Passion
The song used for “Kingdom Hearts II”, “Passion” is the continuation of “Hikari”. As Utada said herself, “Hikari” is day while “Passion” is night. An ethereal song that really fits the description of a “game song”, “Passion” ends the album on a high note. Throughout the song, there are backward messages and layers of vocals on top of eachother. Filled with drums and a guitar solo, this really sums up the theme of this album – it is not happy, but filled with hope. Utada wrote the English version, “Sanctuary” before translating it into “Passion”. However, it is without a doubt that “Passion” is superior to “Sanctuary” in every way. This is proof that Utada’s Japanese works are better than its English counterparts, and it would be a long time before Utada transverse into an English career again.

Rating: ★★★★½

 

Conclusion
A definite improvement over “Deep River” (which itself was very strong), “Ultra Blue” delivers what it claimed – an ultra strong and mellow album. Definitely worth checking out.

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

 

Ultra Blue

  1. This Is Love
  2. Keep Tryin’
  3. BLUE
  4. Nichiyo no Asa
  5. Making Love
  6. Dareka no Nagai ga Kanau Koro
  7. COLORS
  8. One Night Magic feat. Yamada Masashi
  9. Kairo
  10. WINGS
  11. Be My Last
  12. Eclipse (Interlude)
  13. Passion

Purchase this item: YesAsia US | YesAsia Global

 

Technically, i wrote “4 hot wave” during/on the anniversary of the “Channel-Ai Blog”, but i had always wanted to write a review on “Ultra Blue”, so this is the “real” one for the anniversary :P YAY!! Happy birthday blog :P

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{ 1 trackback }

dirty old man… « Gold Star For Robot Boy UNITED STATES
September 19, 2006 at 8:57 pm

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Normand Haymer UNITED STATES December 14, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Yeah, I like your blog Ultra Blue and have saved it on Digg :-) !

cyyyaaaa!!!
Normand Haymer

Reply

Yuna-chan UNITED STATES July 6, 2010 at 9:50 am

Wow you did a bad review on this because this is one of her best albums and I love listening to it and it doesnt matter if there was an old song in her new album she still manages to make things really great and overall rating should be better♥

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patrick AUSTRALIA February 10, 2010 at 1:11 am

Why don’t you like Exodus?

You always write bad things about it, but it’s really an amazing album. It’s experimental, but still good.

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Michy December 30, 2007 at 8:18 pm

i thought this whole album was perfect…=D .all the songs was awesome..i thought she did an AMAZING job..= ).no album can be perfect but id say this was close to perfect..i loved almost ALL the songs..: ) keep it up UTADA UR AWESOME..and my inspiration everyday for mee ^______^

MICHY

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Haruka Tenou November 23, 2007 at 1:55 pm

I think that you gave “One night magic” a harsh review. I think thats the best song there (Other than blue of course ;) ) but, you didnt write much about every individual song…..i was a bit surprised about that, but yea, i think that One night magic deserved a lil more credit, cuz its an awesome song that just makes you DANCE….your right that it sucks it was a duo, but guess wat, i LEARNED about it being a duet by reading this review!!! so, obviously not many people notice it…so yea, no need to complain aobout it, it was a great song, just get over it man…

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daisuke woojin July 27, 2007 at 11:02 pm

all song in this album was great! I think this is are the best hikki chan album ever, 2nd is deep river, 3rd first love, 4th distance, 5th exodus. ok good luck and I hope the next album wiil more best than ultra blue

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toothpick AUSTRALIA April 7, 2007 at 2:53 am

i like all of hikkis albums her music is so different… i think its great

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Cordai March 28, 2007 at 12:38 am

And I disagree with you FLARE.

Her voice is anything but HUSKY.

Maybe you’re referring to the very LOW NOTES that she can hit.

Believe me, if her voice was HUSKY, she wouldn’t be able to sing more than half of her songs if any at all but her vocal range extends beyond LOW NOTES (Or HUSKY as you put it) and she wouldn’t be able to hit those HIGH NOTES.

So yeah. Maybe you need to think about REPHRASING how you put things.

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flare CANADA March 27, 2007 at 9:00 pm

I disagree with some of your opinions. Kairo is such a mysterious deep song. The sound effects create images of mysterious, melodramatic things.

Her vocal range in all her songa are extravagant and beautiful. It’s very acertive and strong. I love her husky voice. Her song writing abilitity improved and it is can be queer sometime because you’re trying to understand what she’s saying. NO TO HIKKI SONGS ARE THE SAME! And that’s another thing I love about her.Originality!

I love this album.

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Loaniss UNITED KINGDOM March 26, 2007 at 8:41 pm

I like this album.
This album is perhaps my 2nd favourite after the beloved master piece Deep River.
The song list was pretty cool, but there was more mediocre songs that great ones, like Kairo and Making Love.
Though, a good thing about Hikki’s songs is that if you don’t listen to them for a while they come up it kinda adds life to them, so that why I still like it and is at number 2 in my list.

Oh, I think the Exodus was an OK album, there were just some off songs that made it less than amazing, like You make me want to be a man and Animato.
Some of the lyrics are pretty cool and some had really nice beats like the Workout and Devil Inside.

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Anjana CANADA March 11, 2007 at 10:29 am

This album rocks! even though Colours, and Dareka No Negai..was inluded they still sounded great on the album. This album was a certain change from her previous albums, & I think…this is one her best albums.

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Addy UNITED STATES March 5, 2007 at 5:17 pm

I love the song passion and simple and clean, I have played the game kingdom hearts at least 20 times at the beginning just to hear the theme songs! I’m a huge, gigantic, enormous, large, big fan of Utada Hikaru!

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christina UNITED STATES February 21, 2007 at 1:53 pm

i disagree with kairo i think its a pretty good song its seems short but its nice

AND OH YEA EXODUS WAS A REALLY GOOD ALBUM TOO!! i dont understand you people i guess everybody have thier opinons but i think this was her best album i like all the songs

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Maxis NEW ZEALAND February 18, 2007 at 2:41 pm

It is really a good review. I had listen all her songs of Ultra Blue. Very nice songs!! I encourage Utada Hikaru to continue her effort to produce very nice music.

All the best!!!

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Deena February 13, 2007 at 4:28 pm

Good review, although I also agree with others- the rating should be higher. That and I loved Exodus. It’s my favourite album out of all her albums.

I agree with Dunlap and Yukino!

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Matthew Ramsden UNITED KINGDOM January 27, 2007 at 1:46 pm

Great review!!

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yukino UNITED STATES December 29, 2006 at 12:03 am

^Dunlap, I am your new biggest fan. You have expressed my feelings for Exodus in a frank, cold-hard-fact way that I could never have managed. Yeah, all you Exodus haters, consider all the stuff in the above post to be a lethal dart aimed at you from my blowgun! BOOYAH! Bwahaha.

All right, enough theatrics. Thanks for getting your opinions out in the open and, in the process, exposing mine as well. *salutes dunlap*

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dunlap UNITED STATES December 28, 2006 at 11:11 pm

OK I’m going to be upfront about this, and no one’s going to read my reply after I say it, but I loved Exodus. It was looping in my car for a month without skipping any songs (well, except for the occasional Easy Breezy ;p). Despite this, I recognize the CD’s weaknesses. The lyrics were silly enough at times to make me not want to play the CD for others, but maybe because I’m a big Hikki fan I was able to look past that and enjoy it in a guilty pleasure kind of way. The canned electronic instruments really turned me off, too. It would be forgivable for a low-end artist, but Utada’s the number one artist in Japan! She should be able to afford compiling some real mixes. To further beat on the album, a lot of the music was very repetitive, consisting of a basic catchy riff that repeated ad naseum without enough buildup and variety. The result was very catchy, yes, but it was easy to burn out on the music when there didn’t feel like there was much substance to it. Devil Inside’s constant guitar squeel almost grated on me as much as Sakura Drops’ bells. Perhaps due to these factors and others, the songs each felt much less polished than her Japanese stuff. It was, however, still incredibly catchy stuff and all of the songs actually felt like they fit together. I could listen to the whole album and like every song on it, and that went a long way for my respect for it. If I pop it in today I still find myself magically losing 54 minutes when I realize it’s over. The fact that it was a personal album in a language I could understand also gave it big points for me as a fan. It might not have lived up in polished execution to her older bests, but it showed a side of Utada that hasn’t been revealed in her Japanese releases and I fell in love with it.

Moving on to the actual album for this post, heh, I have to judge Ultra Blue from what her past albums have shown me, Japanese and English. The first thing that hit me as disapppointing was that this is (and feels like) basically a singles collection. From stuff up to 4 years old! While songs like Colors and Dareka no Negai ga Kanau Koro aren’t bad songs, they have no place among the rest of the tracks and become cheap filler here. Why was Passion the last track on this CD? It would have made a much better intro than the forgettable This is Love. The strongest part of Exodus for me was how everything fit together, and going from that to this really made it hard for me to take in this CD. At least the new stuff on this CD all had a similar airy flavor that brought them together (although that just increased the gap between them and the singles).

So how does the new stuff stack up to her old stuff? I wouldn’t call any of it bad. In fact, I think Blue is the strongest song on here and I really like it. But like the article’s auther tomba calls it a better Be My Last, I find myself thinking about Utada’s past work when I hear these new songs. This Is Love invokes images of Travelling, while Keep Trying’s video feels like a sequal to Travelling’s. One Night Magic takes me back to Deep River’s Letters. The music isn’t exactly alike, but I find myself thinking of older stuff when I listen to this album. And I liked the older stuff better. With Exodus, I was treated to a whole new, fresh experience. With Ultra Blue, I feel like I’ve been there done that.

In an improvement over Exodus, it seems like Utada’s got an audio staff back and has polished up these tracks a lot more, adding subtle atmospheric sounds and basically filling out the backing tracks. It’s not just the same one instrument hook looped over and over. But, hey, surprise, these songs also fail to have a strong hook to keep you in the song. I can’t say any of it’s bad, I really like the cold blue atmosphere that I get from these songs, but I have to try really hard to get into them. I find myself skipping a lot of songs halfway through because I’m bored of them.

Despite all this hate, I don’t hate the CD. When it’s on, it’s totally on. Keep Tryin’ and it’s coupling WINGS show Utada in top form. Passion is epic, as is Blue (and I melt at her kooing “darling”). Colors and Be My Last are totally solid tracks, they just don’t belong on this CD.

Overall, Ultra Blue has enough on it to enjoy, but as a whole I can’t hold it in as high regard as her previous work. When the CD’s at it’s best it’s really good, but there’s too much else dragging it down to ever warrant a full listen to the whole thing as a work in itself. For those unfamiliar to Hikki, you’d be best off getting Deep River to hear her at her most engaging. Non-fans would do better to go on iTunes and download the singles without the filler there.

Hey Jas, is that you? \:D/

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Chibi UNITED STATES December 18, 2006 at 1:23 am

I love Utada but I do think the rating is accurate, I dont know many of the other songs besides BLUE, COLORS, Be my last and Keep trying but I still like older Utada better.

Thanks a lot for the mp3’s.

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Matthew Ramsden UNITED KINGDOM October 21, 2006 at 9:47 am

Hello Tomba!

How are things? I like this album and I like the artist – even though I’m a H!P fan, I do listen to other groups outside H!P like Zone and others..

Anyway – this album sounds like a really good album and I like the second song on the album.. the album cover looks good and eye catching it makes me think about the girl I used to like but.. I don’t wanna talk about it! :)

This album is good keep up the good work Channel-Ai!

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Cordai October 15, 2006 at 8:40 pm

I just got this Album and I love it. It’s one of those rare Albums where you can go through the whole thing without skipping any songs because they are all good.

I can do the same with Deep River as well.

I liked this review and I disliked it. Some stuff that were said were acceptable enough and others I disapproved of. But that’s just the differentiation of opinions.

Good Album Overall and very informative review. I enjoyed reading it.

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Fariz Pradipta INDONESIA October 8, 2006 at 12:08 am

This is very very great album, I think this is Utada Hikaru best album. all song in this album was great specialy BLUE, and I think BLUE is the best song from all Utada song

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Jas MALAYSIA September 17, 2006 at 12:28 am

I still prefer her previous songs “First Love”, “Can You Keep A Secret”, “Automatic” and “Up In Heaven” and I don’t know she tries to change her singing style.

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Solus UNITED STATES August 31, 2006 at 7:21 pm

I agree with you on most points of this review – most notably the fact that COLORS shouldn’t have been included in the album – and I also agree that a 4/5 rating overall is pretty accurate. The only point I disagree with (strongly!) was your assessment of “Be my Last.” Since I got the album after it’s release, this has easily become my favorite song. The MV (while a tick corny) was also just as powerful as the song alone.

Whatever the mistakes Hikki has made along her career, you’ve got to admit she’s certainly matured.

Anyways, good job on an informative review!

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Leanne August 29, 2006 at 8:49 pm

Eh, Hikki, where do I start?

Well, I liked this album AS A WHOLE, but it irks me in a lot of areas. Hikki seems to break those unspoken rules that actually have purpose. such as: Don’t put a 4 year old song that has been on a best album on your latest album. That’s just not done, and for good purpose. It seems to me that she just wanted COLORS and dareka no negai ga kanau-koro just to fill the album up. So not cool.

I didn’t know “This is Love” was a digital single. Quite interesting. I actually like that song. And of course, Passion was excellent, and I actually liked the duet.

I might buy this album, and I may not. I don’t know, it’s an improvement over the EXCELLENT DEEP RIVER, I agree, however, that album is also excellent as a whole because it does have weak songs and transitions.

Great review. :)

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melissa August 28, 2006 at 1:15 pm

I never really like Utada’s music, they all kind of sounded the same, melanholic and sad with her mid pitched voice. With lots of “ahhh~” “woo~” s. I didn’t particuallary think much of this album either, but I’m glad some things were mixed up a bit. Wouldn’t want an album with all the same stuff. But I rather enjoyed the song Dareka no Negai ga Kanau Koro. I want to watch the movie now. Hmm.. I still prefer Ayumi, but Utada definitely has equally strong lyrics, that’s probably the only reason why I listen to her stuff. Good review though! very thorough!

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yukino UNITED STATES August 28, 2006 at 12:44 am

^ Well, the overall rating is an automatic add-up of all the songs reviewed, so that can’t be helped.

Anyways, tomba, GREAT review. I always thought Keep Tryin’ was cute, hehe – glad to see I’m not the only one :P I can see you’re a big fan of hers. I couldn’t say the same about myself, but I AM still a fan, albeit a less zealous one, and I have to say I really loved this album. It doesn’t beat Deep River (my favorite), but it comes pretty darn close.

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R_Hikki August 27, 2006 at 7:38 pm

I pretty much agree with everything except Kairo. Overall rating should be higher!!

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