Album Review: Matsushita Yuya – “I AM ME”

Tracklist:
1. INTRO
2. YOU
3. foolish foolish
4. INTERLUDE I
5. Mr. “Broken Heart”
6. LAST SNOW
7. 声にならなくて feat. Sista (Koe ni Naranakute; Can’t Say It)
8. Agitation
9. INTERLUDE II
10. ふたり (Futari; Two of Us)
11. 願いがかなら・・・-album version- (Negai ga Kanau nara; If My Wish Comes True)
12. Trust Me
13. first snow feat. Sista
14. その時までのサヨナラ (Sono Toki made no Sayonara; A Goodbye For Until Then)
15. INTERLUDE III
16. Hallucination
17. KISS ME
18. Honesty

This is Matsushita Yuya’s debut album, which was released on June 2, 2010. The album reached #15 on the Oricon Weekly Chart and sold 6,701 copies.

As a Broadway fan it warms my heart to see Yuya standing with Chicago and West Side Story in the background. If only I had known when he was in New York, I may have been able to see him! (A girl can dream, can’t she?)

~

The introduction for this album, INTRO (lol creative title), begins with some classical-sounding strings, which soon meet up with a gritty R&B beat and adlibbing from Yuya himself. The stylistic blend of this 34-second track is very interesting, but thankfully it’s not long enough for me to get bored of listening to it.

YOU comes right after, and the transition between the two tracks is damn near flawless. I am utterly in love with this song and its hard, sexy dance sound. Thankfully the lyrics are mostly in Japanese, but even the English parts (“What you gonna do tonight for somebody?“) and the rap are incredibly catchy. Great, energetic start to the album!

Does anyone else think the verse to foolish foolish sounds really similar to Ne-Yo’s So Sick? No? Let’s get on with the review, then. The thing I love most about this R&B quasi-ballad, aside from its immediate catchiness, is that Yuya is really in touch with his own voice here. He strikes an impressive balance with his vocals, equal parts smooth and emotional. It’s the mark of a talented singer, and with a hook as catchy as the one here, it makes for a winning combination.

The transition between INTERLUDE 1 and Mr. “Broken Heart” is truly exquisite, as the two songs use the same string element and the interlude acts as a brief introduction that helps the listener prep his or herself for the upcoming song. Mr. “Broken Heart” is a song much in the style of foolish foolish, with a distinct beat but also a laid-back feel. There are more awkward English phrases in the former than the latter, but they’re not so prominent that they detract from the song’s good points. I mean, yeah, “I am broken heart” isn’t very profound or grammatically correct, but I’ve heard worse and I’m sure you have too. So with this song, we have another winner.

LAST SNOW is the first true ballad of this album, and it doesn’t disappoint. Staying true to its title, this song has a very distinct “winter” feeling about it, and the billowing strings and piano help accentuate this. I found myself reasonably impressed with the buildup in the verses and bridge. Yuya’s voice handles ballad-type arrangements really well as well. All in all, this is a really well-executed song.

As much as I hoped there wouldn’t be a track that I didn’t like, there is: 声にならなくて feat. Sista. My reason for not caring for this song very much has little to do with Sista’s presence (I like the occasional featured artist) and more to do with Yuya’s performance. He doesn’t do much actual singing on this track; what he does do is this slow, rhythmic rapping in a low voice, and to be honest I think he sounds a little sketchy. The music itself isn’t anything bad, just nothing spectacular enough to compensate for Yuya’s creepy vocal. Ah, well. You can’t win ’em all.

Agitation is another dance track, and I’m going to just say it this time: I think it’s kind of boring. I mean, I love Yuya and he does dance/R&B-style songs really well, but even I got tired of hearing him sing “Ah-gee-tay-shon! Ah-gee-tay-shon!” after a couple times. So yeah, I didn’t dig this song very much, but it’s nothing I can’t handle.

INTERLUDE 2, a beautiful but melancholy piano piece, leads into this album’s second ballad, ふたり, which I still love every bit as much as I did when I reviewing the Trust Me single. That said, rather than devote unnecessary time and space to a song I’ve established my love for, I’m just going to say that I love it because it’s beautiful, and as far as ballads go, that’s a really good thing.

I found 願いが叶うなら・・・-album version- to be a refreshing return to Yuya’s beloved R&B style. It’s got a nice beat, a great melody and the chorus is superbly catchy. Those harmonies in the beginning, during the English part, are awesome too. The chorus melody tends to get stuck in my head, and to be honest, I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Ah, Trust Me. This is the first song of Yuya’s that I ever heard, and I loved it immediately. Now that I’m watching Durarara!!, the anime for which this song serves as the ending theme, I love it even more. Everything about it, too – the beat, the synths, the upbeat melody, Yuya’s voice and that awesome rap. The combination of these things is an offer that’s too good to pass up.

Okay, so, the thing about first snow feat. Sista. I really like how it incorporates the same melody from LAST SNOW, but here we go again with Yuya’s fucking creepy rapping. Can we just not and say we did? Thankfully, though, I really like the chorus to this song because Yuya and Sista sing it together in harmony, which turned out quite nicely. So even though I still think Yuya’s low-pitched rapping is sounds sleazy, I found this song just that much more tolerable than 声にならなくて.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold the phone. A rock song? That’s right, folks. その時までのサヨナラ, rather than being another R&B affair, is a light, pop-tinged rock tune. Even though this is the first song of the genre on this album, Yuya handled it very well and he didn’t sound out of his element at all. I mean, it has a terrific melody, and it’s not like he was tackling hard rock or anything (that’d be a different story). I do find it humorous that he managed to fit a rap in there, though. Ah well. You can take the boy out of the R&B, but you can’t take the R&B out of the boy, I suppose.

The melodic INTERLUDE 3, with church bells heard in the distance, melds superbly into Hallucination, which was Yuya’s solo song in the second of the Black Butler musicals, in which he starred. In comparison to the other two ballads on this album, I ended up finding this one kind of slow and slightly less interesting. It’s quite lovely, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t as captivating ふたり and LAST SNOW. Still give it a listen, though. I wouldn’t pass this one up.

You know what genre we haven’t heard from Yuya yet? Disco. Oh, wait, I lied – we have KISS ME. I have to be honest: I loved the happy, bouncy feel of this song and the way Yuya sounded on his vocal. Even the way he sings “Come to me baby sweet my love” was just so cute. So, yeah. Good song.

Honesty has more of a pop feeling to it than the majority of the songs on this album, which I think make it an interesting choice for the last track. It’s bright and bouncy, and Yuya’s voice is pretty charming throughout. I didn’t find this to be the strongest closing track, but it got the job done sufficiently.

Summary: As far as debut albums go, Matsushita Yuya has done one hell of a good job. The amount of good songs on this album is really remarkable, plus the tracklisting (which was good to begin with) is given an extra boost by the 3 interludes, which help give the album amazing flow in terms of transitions. The fact that Yuya performs hot dance songs, laid-back R&B numbers, ballads, and rock songs with equal finesse is also very impressive. Basically, I can’t recommend this album enough. Even if the number of tracks (18, although four of them are interludes) seems intimidating, this is truly one of the best Japanese albums that’s come out recently, and you won’t regret investing time in it.

Album Grade: A+
Recommended Tracks:
Trust Me
| foolish foolish | LAST SNOW | YOU | その時までのサヨナラ

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Single Review: Matsushita Yuya – “YOU”

Tracklist:
 1. YOU
 2. Hallucination
 
3. YOU (instrumental)

This is Matsushita Yuya’s fifth single, which was released on May 5, 2010. The single reached #18 on the Oricon Weekly Chart and sold 4,849 copies. The song Hallucination was used as Yuya’s solo song in the musical Black Butler: The Most Beautiful Death in the World – A Thousand Souls and the Fallen Grim Reapers.

What can I say? I love him. This cover is stunning.

~

Hey, remember that hot song Yuya released back in February, Trust Me? Well, take everything in that song, magnify it, and there’s YOU. The two songs share a lot of things in common – the danceable R&B beat, the catchy English lyrics, and the rapped bridge – but the thing that sets them apart is that YOU is much more aggressive across the board. The Japanese lyrics are similarly romantic, but everything else is harder and stronger, establishing Yuya as a true R&B artist. Also, I love how he fits a rap in there, and he sounds like he knows what he’s doing. Long story short, if you liked Trust Me, there’s almost a 100% chance that you’ll like this song too.

Hallucination is a ballad with one of the nicest melodies I’ve heard from a male artist in a while. Yuya’s graceful voice compliments the somewhat melancholy instrumental very nicely. Although this song doesn’t exactly sound like a musical theater piece, it’s both intricate and understated enough to fit snugly in between the genres of theater and pop.

Summary: Oh, Matsushita Yuya. Most of the male artists that I listen to on a regular basis are Korean and come in groups, but he is one of my favorites exceptions. I can really appreciate that, although Yuya clearly has a great production team behind him, he doesn’t leave all the work to them – he has genuine talent to support himself, as a singer, dancer and actor. Yuya knows what kind of music he’s good at singing and he never lets his listeners forget about it. I can’t wait for Yuya’s album in June; I’m about completely convinced it’ll be brilliant.

Single Grade: A+
Recommended Tracks:
YOU | Hallucination

Single Review: Matsushita Yuya – “Trust Me”

Tracklist:
1. Trust Me
2. ふたり (Futari; Two of Us)
3. Trust Me (Instrumental)
4. ふたり (Instrumental)

This is Matsushita Yuya’s fourth physical single, which was released on February 17, 2010. Trust Me was used as the ED for the anime Durarara!!.

That’s one good-looking man. Looks like he took a trip to the tanning salon, too.

~

There’s been an influx of really hot dance songs coming out lately.  I dunno what it is, but I don’t want it to stop, ever. Trust Me is an upbeat urban song and certainly one of the catchier J-Pop singles I’ve heard in the past month or so. The music is very danceable, with cascading synths accentuating the syncopated beats – it’s catchy stuff. Incidentally, this was the first time I’d ever heard Yuya singing pop, and it just reaffirmed what I had already known: this guy has range, rhythm, and very nice tone. Oh, and he can rap, too. Who knew? I have to say that I was really impressed by this song and I definitely recommend it to anyone who’s interested.

I’m pretty used to hearing ballads sung by Japanese artists – it’s kind of their thing. Normally, though, those artists are female. So imagine my surprise when ふたり turned out to be a grandiose ballad that pulls out all the stops. Not only was it cool to hear a legitimate ballad sung by a solo male singer, I also loved that it really showcases Yuya’s voice and how perfectly suited it is for pop music. As a person who takes singing pretty seriously, I was really able to appreciate the control he has over his tone and vibrato. Long story short, I guess you could say I was impressed, yet again.

Summary: I’m so glad I finally got around to reviewing Matsushita Yuya, because he’s a really special artist. And I know I may say that a lot, but I always mean it. It’s not terribly often that you come across a release that shows a singer’s versatility like this, which makes this single a rarity in itself. Furthermore, although Yuya is not the most well-endowed on the vocal front, he has a great deal of talent – certainly more than most of the singers at Johnny’s Entertainment, at least in my opinion. Yeah, I went there. So in conclusion, I’m incredibly glad to finally be enjoying Matsushita Yuya’s music, and I strongly urge you to do the same.

Single Grade: A+