Album Review: Kana Nishino – “to LOVE”

Tracklist:
1. Prologue ~What a nice~
2. Best Friend
3. Summer Girl feat. MINMI
4. Hey Boy
5. もっと… (Motto…; More…)
6. love & smile
7. このままで (Kono Mama de; Like This)
8. MAYBE
9. WRONG
10. Come On Yes Yes Oh Yeah!!
11. Dear…
12. 会いたくて会いたくて (Aitakute Aitakute; I Miss You, I Miss You)
13. You are the one
14. Epilogue ~to LOVE~

This is Kana Nishino’s second album, which was released on June 23, 2010. The album reached #1 on the Oricon Weekly Chart and sold 290,048 copies (those are AMAZING sales by the way).

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Single Review: Kana Nishino – “会いたくて 会いたくて”

Tracklist:
1. 会いたくて 会いたくて (Aitakute Aitakute; I Miss You, I Miss You)
2. LOVE IS BLIND
3. Grab Bag

This is Kana Nishino’s 19th single, which was released on May 19, 2010. It reached #2 on the Oricon Weekly Chart.

Of all Kana’s blank-stare-fish-lipped covers… this one is the worst.

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I really enjoyed Kana’s last single Best Friend, but 会いたくて 会いたくて has proven to me that Kana’s true strength lies in sad love songs. Despite the anguished, melancholic mood of this song, Kana keeps her vocals strong but never overbearing. That said, I enjoyed this song, but I can’t say I’m absolutely in love with it. The chorus gets a bit repetitive at times and that’s mainly what kept me from liking it as much as some of her other songs.

LOVE IS BLIND takes the opposite route. A trendy dance song with bouncy synths and simple lyrics, I found this track enjoyable simply by virtue of the fact that it was very catchy. It’s no masterpiece, but it has a cute hook and I’m a sucker for well-executed dance pop.

What in the name of hell is going on in Grab Bag? This song is hideous from start to finish. It begins with Kana trying to sound sexy in what sounds like English (but I can’t really tell because her accent is pretty bad), continues with the gross chorus and the random yelling in the background doesn’t improve the situation. Ugh. My God, Kana. What were you thinking?

Summary: Well, let’s start here – this single, on the whole, is very good, if a bit flawed. Kana Nishino handles her pop numbers with class, but she managed to sound very youthful and fresh even so, which is what makes songs like 会いたくて会いたくて and LOVE IS BLIND so pleasant to listen to. The main problem with this single is its second B-side, which is utterly atrocious in every sense of the word. However, not even the horridness of Grab Bag was enough to detract from the other two tracks, which are quite good.

Single Grade: B+
Recommended Tracks:
会いたくて 会いたくて | LOVE IS BLIND

Single Review: Kana Nishino – “Best Friend”

Tracklist:
1. Best Friend
2. ONE WAY LOVE
3. 今夜はPARTY UP (Kon’ya wa PARTY UP; Tonight We Party Up)

This is Kana Nishino’s tenth single, which was released on Feburary 24, 2010. The single peaked at #3 on the Oricon Weekly Chart and has sold a total of 42,021 copies so far.

Everything’s pretty, I like it. But gurl needs to learn how to smize.

~

The first time I heard Best Friend, I pretty much thought it was a generic pop song and I didn’t think I’d like it very much. But after giving it a few more listens, my opinion has made a total 180˚ turnaround – I ended up LOVING this song and now it’s one of my favorites that Kana has ever made, right up there with 君の声を. The music is simultaneously pretty, upbeat and nostalgic, and Kana seems more in control of her voice than ever before. I tend to question Kana’s proficiency as a singer whenever she isn’t releasing a single, but songs like this remind me of why I like her.

Speaking of 君の声を, ONE WAY LOVE lifts its title from a prominent lyric from the aforementioned song, but instead of overtly ripping it off, it makes the line into something new and interesting. I’m really pleased with the way Kana managed to match her vocal performance with the mood and genre (R&B) of the song. It shows that she’s really improving as a performer.

今夜はPARTY UP is a bit of a vintage 90s/80s style pop dance song, and I like it. It combines a carefree sound with music that’s part R&B, part electro. Her vocals are very in control, and even English sounds pretty good. Like I said before, I am frequently impressed with how Kana improves by so much with each release. Your versatility is showing, girl!

Summary: Best single from Kana so far, wouldn’t you agree? There isn’t a song on this single that I didn’t like, and that’s really saying something. Kana is shaping up to be a superstar in the world of J-Pop because of her ability to improve on her weaknesses by leaps and bounds in a very short amount of time. All I can say is, way to kick off the new year and GREAT job!

Single Grade: A+

Single Review: Kana Nishino – “Dear…/MAYBE”

Tracklist:
1. Dear…
2. MAYBE
3. Yours only, feat. WISE ~maison de m-flo~

This is Kana Nishino’s eighth single, released on December 2, 2009. The single reached #7 on the Oricon Weekly Chart and has sold 17,258 copies.

Pretty much your typical cute wintry single cover, although Kana is literally thisclose to making the Ayu blank-eyes-fish-lips face. Oh, brother.

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I’m just going to put this out there: I think Dear… is great!  A lovely winter R&B song, I really find this song to be an improvement over Kana’s previous single. The arrangement puts Kana’s lower register into plentiful use, making her voice sound distinctly more mature and confident, and although the music doesn’t exactly sound “wintry” per se, it has a very sweet atmosphere which works well for Kana. There are some strings and a piano somewhere in the mix, lending to the song’s ballad-esque feel despite the song not really being an actual ballad. Overall, this is a very strong winter track and I really like it.

MAYBE is such a strong song, and so straight-up R&B I almost couldn’t believe someone like BENI wasn’t singing it instead of Kana Nishino (no offense, Kana, but hear me out). It starts out sounding much like a ballad, then bursts into life with rapid beats and synths. The two things I really appreciated in this song are as follows:
1. The muffled backup vocals during the verse. I found them really unique and they made me want to listen to Kana even closer.
2. Kana’s English. Her pronunciation has improved a bit since もっと..., although the lyrics themselves could still use some work.
And so, another strong A-side from Kana Nishino. Keep ’em coming, Kana!

I’ll be honest here – I wasn’t really looking forward to Yours only when I saw it was 6 minutes, 17 seconds long. That’s a long song by anyone’s standards. And sadly, I was right. Not only did they drag the whole song out too long, but it just didn’t have the same dynamic feel as the two preceding songs. Kana’s voice sounds a lot better, I’ll admit, but everything else sounded really kind of uninspired – including WISE’s section, which was boring as all hell.

Summary: Well, I guess two out of three ain’t bad. Back when I reviewed Kana’s single もっと..., I was still a little iffy on whether she measured up to the hype, you know, in my eyes. All of those doubts have been more or less dispelled by this single, the two A-sides of which are actually very good, well-produced and well-executed R&B tracks. As for the B-side…well, I simply didn’t feel it was very special. At least it’s only a B-side. As I listened to the songs on this single, I realized that I tend to like Kana more as I hear more from her, and it honestly left me feeling happy and anticipating any future singles she’ll be releasing.

Single Grade: A-

Single Review: Kana Nishino – “もっと...”

Tracklist:
1. もっと...(Motto…; More…)
2. missing you
3. Dear My Friends

Kana Nishino’s seventh single was released on October 21, 2009. It reached #6 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 17,956 copies.

~

Nice covers! Her facial expression looks a little blank and deadpan, but the rose and flower petal accents are pretty.

もっと...is a really nice midtempo R&B track that features some classy strings and piano. I was still getting used to Kana’s voice back when I first heard this song, but she does a really good job of keeping the nasal-ness to a minimum. It sounds like she’s singing in a more comfortable key and it really makes a difference on the song as a whole – in fact, she sounds more mature. The music really suits her as well. This is a very classy single.

Even despite its flaws, missing you is just the kind of charming and pretty song a young girl like Kana should be singing. It’s obviously a ballad, with piano and strings to last for days. The piano intro is arguably my favorite part of the song – before Kana comes in of course. It tends to stay on the predictable side and even sounds kind of dated, although Kana herself sounds nice. I do think she should stick to Japanese, though, because about 90% of the English lyrics in this song sound very accented. At least she’s trying, though.

Dear My Friends serves as the requisite cute, girly track on this single. There are some blipping, bleeping synths in there and Kana gives an honest effort at delivering a solid vocal performance, but there was no magic spark to connect the two and make a memorable song. Also, the English. Her accent sounded better but it was the actual words that were the problem.

Summary: I’ve hopped on the Kana bandwagon! xD
All right, in all seriousness, I am starting to really take a liking to Kana’s style more now that I’ve heard  a few more songs by her. She has a very polished, well-produced sound and her vocals are beginning to sound a little less girlish and a little more womanly. This gets a thumb up from me. However, I do think she needs to work on her English more before she continues to use it as much as she has been (her talk of “frashbacks” produce more stifled giggles than she’s probably aiming for). She’s definitely on the right track, though, and I can appreciate that.

Single Grade: B