Aira Mitsuki promo photo for COPY
Artist: Aira Mitsuki
Product Code: VUCD-60001/60002
Release Date: 2008.09.03
Highest Ranking: #48
Label: D-Topia Entertainment
Limited Edition: Low price, different packaging, different tracks
Aira Mitsuki was discovered when she became the winner of the 2007 MEGA TRANCE Singer auditions out of more than 6000 applicants. She is being produced by Oonishi Terukado, who has worked with such artists like 80PAN (Harenchi Punch) and Aiuchi Rina. He had at one point expressed that he would like to turn Aira into the next big technopop icon in the wake of Nakata Yasutaka’s popular work with Perfume.
In August of 2007, Aira Mitsuki debuted with “Colorful Tokyo Sounds No. 9,” a song that was featured in the Japanese release of the blockbuster movie Transformers. Her next single, “China Discotica,” was advertised as having been recorded in both Beijing and Japan and was a “respect song” and “offering” to China for hosting the 2008 summer Olympics. Her next double A-side single “Darling Wonder Staring / STAR FRUITS SURF RIDER” was a special single sold only at Tower Records stores in Japan.
With her music and a string of small performances, she became a buzzworthy artist among electronic music aficionados. With contribution from several DJs, she released her debut album “COPY” a year after her debut single. The album came in a limited edition, a regular edition, and a separate special edition available only at HMV record stores. It made a respectable showing on Oricon and topped Billboard Japan’s independent releases ranking.
1. GALAXY BOY
“GALAXY BOY” starts the album off with a messy explosion of energy. It switches abruptly from a fun pop melody to a hard, dance style. Aira’s voice is so highly altered that at times her tone is lost, but for the most part the singing is enjoyable to listen to. It’s the instrumental track that continues to conflict throughout the song: while the chorus is structured and clean, so many parts of the song are messy and echoed with a multitude of sounds. The song certainly sets the tone for the album, but can’t seem to find a sound for itself.
“GALAXY BOY” was the album single used to promote COPY; although not released with the album, a PV was made for the song. It correctly describes the visual style Aira had represented for the better part of her debut: a futuristic robot girl who also embodies a retro 80’s feel.
2. China Discotica
“China Discotica” was Aira’s first major label single. The song is very catchy and despite the strong and loud instrumentals, it doesn’t clash and accompanies Aira’s voice, which is still heavily altered by the vocoder but not to the point of losing her vocal integrity this time. The tune is funky, as is the theme of the song. The refrain in the middle of the song is a bit creepy and out of atmosphere with the rest of the track, and the “eh” sounds at the beginning were extraneous and a little obnoxious, but overall this was a great song.
3. Colorful Tokyo Sounds No.9
What exactly is the Engrishy ninth colorful Tokyo sound? I’m still not sure, but Aira Mitsuki makes it sound good. This was her debut single, and it makes sense how this song helped generate a lot of talk about her. The instrumental track is poppy and catchy and not overpowering. Aira’s voice is not altered as much as it was in the previous songs, and it’s possible to get a feel of what her actual voice sounds like. The sliding-feel in the chorus paired with a fairly soft synth is quirky and pleasant.
4. Darling Wondering Staring
As the third A-side in a row on the album, this was the first A-side on her double A-side single. “Darling Wonderful Staring” starts with a pretty and ethereal synth melody. It’s an electronic ballad – there’s a slow and soft electronic beat to accompany the delicate vocals and melody. The tune of the song is sweet, the instrumentals are gorgeously soft, and the twinkly effects throughout sound terrific in here. Her voice sounds too roughly produced at parts to match the delicacy of the instrumentals, but as a whole “Darling Wonderful Staring” is complete package.
5. HEART LINE ALIVE
“HEART LINE ALIVE” starts off with a muffled motif that sounds promisingly catchy and the song increasingly comes to life – but it definitely takes awhile. The instrumental is an extremely repetition of a short sequence that gets easily annoying, and the vocal melody is easily forgettable at the few parts it can even be distinguished. Parts of the song seem to bear substance in the form of an interesting melody, but with almost the entire song sounding like a repetition of the same phrase, “HEART LINE ALIVE” just falls flat.
6. CHINA DISCOTICA (Substance Remix)
The remix of “China Discotica” has a gorgeous synth backing going throughout the song. It also has a considerable lighter beat and feel than the original. It’s a sweet song – but compared to the original, it just feels stripped of the personality and charm that made the original so enjoyable.
7. Fantasy Candy
If “Fantasy Candy” is lacking something, it’s definitely not spirit. The song is energetic and catchy, with terrific backing and vocal lines. The song changed to lower keys near the end, which was a fun touch. However, there was a small refrain in the instrumental that just sounded clashing and out of place that sounded increasing out of sync with the song as it proceeded. Although the song is good overall, it felt almost impossible to fully enjoy it with the out-of-tune sounding parts of the backing track.
8. High Bash (YAKENOARA ver.)
This version of “High Bash” started on a high note with an engaging opening. The instrumental was fine and parts of it had charming motifs. But the song as a whole is fairly bland with standard beats and, despite a great opening, the song became boring as pretty much anything innovative and special about the five minute track happened within the first minute.
9. Swallowtail D.A.N.C.E. (Cherryboy function ver.)
“Swallowtail D.A.N.C.E.” is like a club mix – there’s no vocals for a whole minute, and when Aira does start singing, the vocals are fairly sparse. But this is pretty good – the strong dance beat is accompanied by quirky sounds that mostly work. I also like the vocoding of Aira’s voice in this – it sounds smooth and mysterious, matching the atmosphere of the instrumentals, and even the robotic rapping parts complements the overall song.
10. Beep Count Fantastic (Terukado)
“Beep Count Fantastic” starts off on painfully heavy bass that persists for more than a minute, and by halfway through that sequence I feel bored already. It’s heavy, loud, and grating – and though I do like strong and aggressive songs, there is a line where heavy electronic sound crosses the border into just noise. “Beep Count Fatastic” crossed that line, and then some.
11. Yellow Supercar
“Yellow Supercar” starts off on a midtempo synth beat, suddenly speeds into a faster and aggressive beat, then finally settles itself as a quick-tempo hyperactive song; it takes about a minute for the song to find its general direction. There’s some tempo and mood changes in the song that make it interesting, but ideally this song would be half as long, because towards the end it becomes extremely repetitive and tedious.
12. Happiness land
“Happiness land” is a midtempo with a mellow pop-synth beat. What struck me first was how good and clear Aira’s vocals sounded with the vocoding work and light synth backing – after several songs of highly distorted and aggressive beats, “Happiness land” is like a tropical vacation and a breath of fresh air. A lot of the melody is boring, but the song overall has a good mood and is a pleasant listen.
13. STAR FRUITS SURF RIDER
This was the second A-side on her double-A-side single and is also a cover of the same song by Cornelius. Aira’s cover is a sparklier, cuter, and poppier version of the original. The song is smooth and solidly produced, but unfortunately that’s all it can boast, because there’s not much substance. The vocals sound even more robotic than usual, not to mention there is an unengaging melody and a standard beat. Aira did a good job with the cover; this was just a poor song choice. The original benefited off its simplicity by some unorthodox effects and sounds; Aira’s version, while calming and pretty, is so cleanly packaged that it becomes boring.
14. Rock’n Roll Is Dead
This is a cover of a Lenny Kravitz song. I’m not too familiar with Kravitz’s version, but Aira’s version is not bad. The repeating electric guitar sequence through the synth is a great touch. Aira’s voice is not of focus here, and in fact her singing is forgettable. It’s the blending of rock guitar with the techno synth that is the star of the song. That’s not quite enough to hold my attention for the entire song, and the good parts of the song are probably more to the credit of Lenny Kravitz than to Aira Mitsuki, but it is an innovative cover.
15. ROMANTIC ROPE
“ROMANTIC ROPE” starts off with an intriguing melody paired with something that sounds like electronic reggae mixed with retro dancehall strains. It’s slower, laid-back, and different from anything else on the album with its distinct lack of a central dance beat and play with sounds and singing rhythm. At a few parts it feels unfinished or repetitive, but as a whole its quirky uniqueness make it one of the more interesting songs on the album.
16. Darling Wondering Staring (PLASTIC FANTASTIC remix)
It seems like it would be a good idea: “Darling Wondering Staring” and “Plastic Fantastic” were both great songs, why not put them together? But unfortunately, it just doesn’t work. It just sounds like a generic club mix of “Darling Wondering Staring” with nothing much to add to the song except that it’s more dance suited now. The remix loses the delicacy and charm of the original without gaining the quirkiness and fun of “Plastic Fantastic.”
Conclusion: Aira Mitsuki is an artist without a musical direction or identity. From the songs on the album, you can tell the direction her company is going with her. Her first single “Colorful Tokyo Sounds No.9″ is a technopop song on the scope of Perfume’s music – electronic based production but with pop composition. Her other songs, though, delved deeper and deeper into robotic electronica. Her voice is decoded to the point where it sounds different from song to song – there is no style or trademark to her music.
Some songs are amazing stand-outs that show endless potential for Aira Mitsuki to become a mainstream electronic artist; others suggest that she might be stuck within her niche audience. A lot of her album would do well played in a dark club with a thumping bass, but the individual songs themselves are often too heavy and dance-oriented to be distinguished. As a debut, COPY has established that Aira has the ability to suit several types of electronic music. Whether Aira and producer Terukado’s intent is to follow the sound and mainstream success of Perfume or to become a big name in electronica, she still has yet to find a distinctive sound for herself in either path.
- GALAXY BOY
- China Discotica
- Colorful Tokyo Sounds No.9
- Darling Wondering Staring
- HEART LINE ALIVE
- Fantasy Candy
- High Bash (YAKENOHARA ver.)*/(Original ver.)**
- Swallowtail D.A.N.C.E (Cherryboy function ver.)
- Beep Count Fantastic feat. Terukado
- Yellow Supercar
- Happiness land
- COPY YAKENOHARA MEGAMIX*/STAR FRUITS SURF RIDER**
- Rock’n Roll Is Dead**
- ROMANTIC ROPE**
- Darling Wondering Staring (PLASTIC FANTASTIC remix)**
- L0n1eyBoy L0n1eyGirl***
*Limited edition only
**Regular edition only
***HMV special edition only