I made a promise to myself that I will contribute my thought on Mai Kuraki’s 7th album to the online community back in March this year. Her albums don’t come cheap. The RRP are S$72 (USD 52) and S$52 (USD 38) after discount. And you can’t pick a random Japanese album to sample in HMV. So what I usually do in situations like this is to take out my wireless phone and Google the albums, at HMV. Reviews written in English are not common. In desperate times, I would perform an online translation of the Japanese pages and learn more about the album. After all, it is a rather heavy investment.
I do agree with the online community that Mai Kuraki’s voice is sensual, and that works well with her R&B / Pop genre. I do however find it difficult to tell if she plays her limitation to her advantage. Mai Kuraki has a feather light voice, which is good to communicate emotion. But her voice does at times sound out of breath. It has become rather obvious when I viewed one of her live performances on one DVD of mine.
Her first four albums are commercial success. Unfortunately I don’t own them. What I do own is her compilation album “Wish You the Best” (2004), which is just as good I reckon, and her subsequent albums – “Fuse of Love” (2005), “Diamond Wave” (2006), and “One Life” (2008). I think Mai Kuraki sings better in her recent work. But her earlier work has better melodic hooks, and hence the success.
So, what about “One Life”? I certainly put it above the rather forgettable “Diamond Wave” and for those who already love “Fuse of Love”, “One Life” is certainly not a disappointment. In fact, “One Life” is quite possibly her spiciest piece of work. The opening track “One Life” is an upbeat memorable R&B song, accompanied by interesting musical tracks. “I Like It Like That” is a good follow-up. More groovy, less edgy. For those who like ballads, “Silence Love ~open my heart~” is a decent effort.
I am an oddball and my personal favorites could be quite different from what fans prefer. I like “Everything” because of the hook, the variation of the bridges, and the music arrangement. “Season of Love” has a similar feel and it is well harmonized by male vocals. An emotional piece of work. “Wonderland” comes with a simple beat and some pretty unusual melody and timing. There is one part that I constantly ask myself: How did she sing that?! Very soulful. And I like the upbeat pop song “Be with U”. A fun piece and I think the hook lies in the percussion arrangement.
You may like her interpretation of the English song “Over the Rainbow”. But I think no one can sing that better than Katharine McPhee.
In terms of technique and being soulful in the genre of R&B, I would still vote for Utada Hikaru. Having said that, it is always good to have varieties in life and Mai Kuraki does have a decent number of well crafted songs to offer.
Below is her single “One Life”. The video kind of sucks. Probably working on low budget. You may also wish to check out the ballad “Season of Love”.