1. 言葉なんかいらないほどに (Kotoba Nanka Iranai Hodo ni; So Much that I Don’t Need Words)
2. Changin’ feat. Roma
4. 禁断のKnockout (Kindan no Knockout; Forbidden Knockout)
7. Pride ~A Part of Me~ feat. SRM
9. キズナ (Kizuna; Bond)
10. A Song For You
11. 大好きなみんなへ。feat fans (Daisuki na Minna e. feat fans; To Everyone I Love feat. fans)
Stephanie’s second album was released on June 17, 2009. The album peaked at #102 on Oricon.
Stephanie brings the album to a nice start with 言葉なんかいらないほどに, an uplifting love song. The music can be described as a passionate R&B ballad, with no shortage on strings or piano. Stephanie’s voice, as is to be expected, is showstoppingly brilliant. She starts out gently on the first verse, but build up in passion and intensity after the halfway mark. This song definitely sets high expectations for what the rest of the album has in store.
Changin’ feat. Roma is a ballad in a more traditional sense. I don’t feel like I need to comment on Stephanie’s performance, and Roma does a pretty good job, although his voice doesn’t compliment Stephanie’s very well. They sound great in unison during the chorus, although you can hear Stephanie a bit more. When combined with the grandiose arrangement, complete with cascading strings, it makes a very beautiful ballad to say the least.
FUTURE brings us to the first real pop song on this album. It’s very upbeat and Stephanie sounds passionate and earnest in her performance. The instrumental is fast and dramatic, if a bit unoriginal. By this, I mean that it sounds like the same song every J-Pop artist has made at some point during their career. This part I’m not too happy about, but I can’t bring myself to complain about Stephanie herself.
Those who are fans of music in the style of Avril Lavigne will love 禁断のKnockout, a mid-tempo rock number. It’s a song that’s got both sweetness and sass, not to mention acoustic and electric guitar. The power in Stephanie’s delivery during the chorus is pretty much standard for her at this point, but the distortion of her voice in the phrase AFTER the chorus is a great touch. The fact that it brings the track to a close just makes it that much better.
At first I thought Together was just going to be another ballad. On the contrary, Stephanie actually does a little bit of experimenting with jazz on this one. All I’ve got to say is that it’s very impressive how easily she can slip in and out of different genres. I really dig the jazzy keyboards and how smooth they sound against the guitars and background vocals. Sometimes, a simple and relaxing love song is all you really need.
Forever takes things up a notch, a fiery dance track and also the obligatory all-in-English song. It’s got a lot in the way of club beats and a shining, sexy set of lyrics to go with them. The electronic vocal distortion works brilliantly with the disco-tinged arrangement. Long story short, catchy song is CATCHY.
Feeling in the mood for another ballad? Say no more. Pride ~A Part of Me~ feat. SRM has got you covered. In terms of arrangement, it’s eerily similar to the last ballad we heard, which incidentally also had a featured artists. Although SRM sounds great and often tends to sound like Stephanie herself, the song never lets us forget who the real star of this show is. Another masterful performance from Stephanie.
KISSES is a different song. It alternates between soft rock and electronic pop, giving the listener the best of both worlds. This makes me, a fan of both genres, happy. Stephanie’s voice is great, blah blah blah, is it just me or are the gospel chorus-style background vocals starting to sound a little overused? On this album, at least. Other than, that I have very little to complain about. The music is so relaxing, especially toward the last minute, that I forget anything I had to gripe about. Well, until the gospel choir comes back. orz
I have a soft spot for キズナ because it makes wonderful use of the orgel. In addition, it’s one of those R&B-styled-not-quite-ballads that I just can’t resist. The chorus is mesmerizing in its beauty, especially when Stephanie almost goes up into the whistle zone but keeps it toned down. Very nice. There are a couple times in the bridge when there’s a male singer in the background, singing in unison, which is a bit distracting. The song on the whole, however, compliments the previous track nicely and I like it very much.
A Song For You is a ballad. Whoohoo. Okay, that’s unfair of me. It is a very lovely song as far as ballads go, which may not be that far after you’ve heard four of them already. I guess I wouldn’t be so sore when it came to this song if it didn’t follow the formula of all the other ballads on this CD so closely. You could listen to any one of them and know what A Song For You sounds like. I must say, though, the English sections, which are most of the song, are beautiful.
What to say about 大好きなみんなへ。feat fans? Well, let’s start with the obvious – it’s a big fat THANK YOU from Stephanie to all her fans. It’s great that she would address all her supporters in such a direct fashion, going so far as to include them in one of her songs, and I’m sure they must have appreciated it. Rather than going the typical, weepy, emotional route, Stephanie chose to make this track as upbeat as possible. The only thing I don’t get is the feeling that any fans were actually involved with making this song. Seriously, where are they? Someone point them out to me, please. Anyway, minus that point, it’s a nice track and ends the album on a high note.
Summary: After a spectacular and highly promising debut album, Stephanie pulled a Yuna Ito and included just one too many ballads on her sophomore effort. This isn’t to say that the aforementioned ballads aren’t good – they are – it’s just that they are good in a way that is too similar-sounding to one another. The more energetic numbers, on the other hand, are outstanding pieces that showcase Stephanie’s undeniable talent in a way that’s sure to get your attention. I wasn’t blown away like I was by her first album, but I felt reassured that I had found a very special artist.
One final note: Stephanie. What is going on with these covers? What in God’s name are you wearing? And why are you holding a pineapple? Please, for all of our sakes, fire whoever is designing these covers immediately.
With love, Daniella.
Album Grade: A