Single Review: Nami Tamaki – “PARADISE”

This is Nami Tamaki’s second single under Teichiku Records. It was released October 10, 2012.

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Album Review: Nami Tamaki – “STEP”

Tracklist:
1. GIVE ME UP
2. Friends!
3. さよならしてあげる (Sayonara Shite Ageru; I’ll Say Goodbye For You)
4. (Uso; Lie)
5. キミノナミダ (Kimi no Namida; Your Tears)
6. 願い星 (Negai Hoshi; Wishing Star)
7. ゼロの空 (Zero no Sora; Sky of Zero)
8. もしも願いが...(Moshimo Negai ga…; If My Wish…)
9. 思い出になるの? (Omoide ni Naru no?; Will It Become a Memory?)
10. Happy Forever
11. in my life
12. 東京 (Tokyo)

This is Nami Tamaki’s fifth album overall and first under the Universal Japan label. It was released on February 24, 2010 and peaked at #55 on the Oricon weekly chart.

I like these covers; they’re not as great as the 思い出になるの? covers, but they’re nice. I like the CD only version more, though.

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I was TOTALLY skeptical about having GIVE ME UP as the starting song for this album, but now I dig it. Although perhaps not the strongest of Nami’s single since switching to Universal Japan, GIVE ME UP is a very charming song and definitely reflects Nami’s previous style. Although I didn’t really think this would be an effective starter for the album, I now see that it’s a bright, optimistic track that’s easy to get into.

Friends! was the other one of Nami’s more “cutesy” A-sides, but since it’s placed right after GIVE ME UP, the girliness of this track works in its favor. Similar to the previous song, it’s a simple song with electronic pop elements that mostly serves as something catchy to sing along to. It’s not an entirely shallow song but it’s not poetry either. If you liked MY WAY or 大胆に行きましょう!-Heart & Soul-, you’ll probably like this song too.

With さよならしてあげる, we move onto the type of song that makes up the bulk of this album: R&B tinged quasi-ballads, which for the most part are new to Nami from a style standpoint. It’s a well-produced song, with a strong beat, strings, piano and some really nice synths accenting it all. Unfortunately, Nami’s vocals don’t really measure up – it seems she was having trouble getting her footing in this new genre, and as a result, her vocal performance is lacking greatly in vibrato and just general control. It’s a bit of a shame; if Nami’s vocals had been better, this may have been a standout track.

is a more easygoing song than its predecessor, with a general breezy feeling that makes listening to it easy and enjoyable. The main problem with this track is, again, Nami’s vocals. On numerous occasions throughout the song, she sounds like she’s trying a bit too hard. If she can find a way to reconcile her higher ranger and her lower, huskier range, she’ll be on the right track.

In キミノナミダ, Nami does just that. A fast-paced R&B track with a syncopated beat and looping piano line, Nami keeps her voice comfortable and lightly controlled the whole time. When the synths come in during the chorus, the song becomes nostalgic and truly lovely. This is definitely a notable track on the album so far.

I’m just going to put it out there – I don’t care for 願い星 very much. I think it sounds very generic J-Dance, and I was hoping it wouldn’t make it to the album. However, as I listen to it in the middle of the album, it’s more tolerable. Although it’s not a spectacular song in any respect, it’s sometimes necessary to break up the more serious track with something like this. So I guess you could say that, although this isn’t my favorite song on the album at all, I can see why it’s there.

ゼロの空 is the perfect song for this album, and let me tell you why. Nami’s vocals, sweet and controlled, are supported by a dance-pop arrangement with a strong beat and light piano, and then take flight with the uplifting chorus. As one of the few songs on this album whose lyrics are not about love, it also has a nice, fresh message to offer. I think if Nami can keep doing what she does in this song – combining a neat vocal performance with music that balances her old dance style and newfound R&B – she can go really far.

In case you haven’t already read my review on もしも願いが..., I’ll clue you in – I absolutely love it. It’s one of the best songs Nami has ever made, musically, vocally, lyrically, what have you. It is just that good. Please, even if you only listen to one song off this whole album, make it this one. You won’t be disappointed.

Around the time when 思い出になるの?was released as a single, fans were starting to become skeptical about the quality of Nami’s upcoming album. Granted this isn’t the strongest of her singles, but it’s worth listening to nonetheless. Nami’s vocals here are impressive, and the music, though not as well-produced as もしも願いが..., fits the emotional tone of the lyrics. Not a flawless song, but it’s got a lot to offer.

Like 願い星, Happy Forever was a song I wasn’t expecting to make it onto the album, and so when it did, I was really surprised. I suppose, though, that this is exactly the kind of song the tracklist needed – joyful and cheery, with an upbeat pop instrumental and Christmassy bells. There are a number of other things that make this a really nice song, like the cute way Nami sings happy forever and the really well-executed key change. I think it’s safe to say I like this song more on the album than I did on the Friends! single.

Generally considered one of the worst of Nami’s B-sides from this era, next is in my life. I can see how this song got its reputation now. For one it’s super long at 4:56 minutes, and for another thing, Nami’s vocals are totally lacking energy and inspiration. Back when I reviewed this song as part of the GIVE ME UP single, I praised Nami’s pronunciation during the small English sections, and that still holds up. However, it’s not enough to save this song from being mostly boring.

When I think of Tokyo, my mind calls upon images of a bustling neon capital of constant sights, sounds and motion. 東京 certainly does not have that effect. However, I think this song does succeed in offering up a different Tokyo than the one most of us know – the everyday Tokyo where people live their normal lives, evoked by piano, a gritty urban beat, and nostalgic strings. Probably the best album-ending songs of all of Nami’s albums.

Summary: First reactions from Nami fans regarding this album were brutal across the board – it sucked, it was the end of her career, she should have never switched to Universal J, etc. I definitely shared in these opinions and held off from listening to it for a while because of this. However, now that I’ve given the album several full listens, I can tell that it definitely has the effect of “growing” on you the more you hear it. The album is rarely bad, and it certainly has its shining moments. In the end, it still ranks as Nami’s weakest album so far, but I think it was good for getting her foot in the door to a new genre. Hopefully, from now on, Universal J will put more time and effort into promoting Nami, because after all, she was at the top of the scene for a while. There’s no reason why she can’t get there again.

Album Grade: B+
Recommended Tracks:
キミノナミダ
| ゼロの空 | もしも願いが...| 東京

Single Review: nami – “思い出になるの?”

Tracklist:
1. 思い出になるの? (Omoide ni Naru no?; Does It Become a Memory?)
2. 愛しさのゆくえ (Itoshisa no Yukue; Love’s Whereabouts)
3. 楽園 (Rakuen; Paradise)

This is Nami Tamaki’s 19th single, released on February 17, 2010. The single failed to chart on Oricon.

Such a pretty cover. What a shame. ;__;

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The first, and so far only, single released under Nami Tamaki’s new stage name, nami, 思い出になるの? has polarized a great deal of Nami’s fanbase, and it’s easy to see why. Like her previous single Moshimo Negai ga…, it’s a foray into the R&B genre, but unfortunately it’s a step down. The music, while nice, is clearly lower on the totem pole in terms of production quality, and it can’t be denied that Nami’s vocals are not truly meant for R&B. It’s a nice song, but after Moshimo, I was expecting something spectacular.

愛しさのゆくえ is a lot like the song that precedes it. In fact, I liked it, to be honest. For the most part, this song is R&B a fast beat and synths. The production quality is still low and the vocals are still sort of iffy, but it could be and will get worse.

Last and certainly least is Nami’s cover of Ken Hirai’s breakout hit 楽園. Nami seems to really have taken to making covers lately, and up until now they were pretty good. However, she’s hit a wall with this one. The most obvious factor that makes this cover inferior to the original is the discrepancy between Nami’s singing ability, or perhaps lack thereof, and Ken Hirai’s. The two are clearly in different leagues vocally, and through an amazing lack of self-awareness, Nami somehow thought she’d be able to pull off a cover of this caliber, which ultimately was not true. This song is boring, lackluster and just plain poor.

Summary: It’s really quite a shame to see an artist I’ve been listening to for five years fall so deep into the hole, so to speak. And I’m not just talking about this single; Nami has lost almost all of her popularity, and this new musical style she’s trying to break into is causing a great deal of her fans to turn her back on her. I’m not ready to do that just yet, though. With only two of the songs on this single being worth listening to, this is a decent release, but it still leaves much, much, much to be desired.

Single Grade: C+

Single Review: Nami Tamaki – “もしも願いが...”

67966079 Tracklist:
1. もしも願いが...(Moshimo Negai ga…; If My Wish…)
2. 好きやで ~愛しい人へ~ (Suki ya de ~Itoshii Hito e~; I Love You ~For My Darling~)
3. MAGIC
4. もしも願いが...~Instrumental~

Nami Tamaki’s third single under the Universal Japan label was released on October 14, 2009 and reached #16 on the Oricon Daily Chart. The A-side was used as the theme song for the video game Valhalla Knights: Eldar Saga. The single was released in a regular version and two limited edition versions, one normal and one CD+DVD version.

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The only thing that can really be said about these covers is NAMI, YOU ARE GORGEOUS. Prettiest single covers this year? Quite possibly.

As her first venture into the R&B genre, もしも願いが...has restored my faith in Nami Tamaki. This charming love song features an unassuming piano riff and several layers of electronic drumbeats,  not to mention Nami’s strongest vocal performance in a very long time. It’s a bit long by typical Nami standards but thankfully it never grows repetitive or boring. Also, as with most of her more recent songs, the English sections really stand out because her pronunciation has improved significantly. This is an absolutely fantastic song,  and I really hope Nami decides to stick with this genre because she’s never sounded better.

好きやで ~愛しい人へ~, the answer song to the original by ET-KING, is a rather diminutive pop song and sounds a bit like a throwback to Nami’s Greeting-era B-sides. Nami does a rather cute, charming job of introducing a female sensibility to a rough-sounding hip hop song. The male vocals, copypasted straight from theecdaoriginal, are pretty cool since they provide a direct contrast to Nami’s feminine vocals. I’ve been very impressed with the B-sides on Nami’s singles lately and this song is no exception.

The theme of this new album has got to be nostalgia or something, because I’ve never seen Nami take such an active interest in covers. MAGIC is a cover of the 1999 single by Tina, and although Nami’s version sounds similar enough, it’s a great cover because it brings Tina’s rather dated-sounding original into the 21st century with layers of synth. Nami also exhibits a high degree of control over her voice when switching between the lower register in the verses and higher register in the chorus. I’m not even going to comment on her English anymore since it’s been sounding consistently great and I’m just going to assume from now on that this is her new standard.

Summary: After two slightly disappointing singles in which the B-sides exceeded their A-sides in just about every way imaginable, I was seriously beginning to doubt whether Nami Tamaki’s move from the Sony music label to Universal Japan had been a wise one. However, this single introduces Nami to a genre that’s entirely new to her and, in my opinion, just might be the one that sticks. The technopop and bubblegum were cute, and the attempts at rock and hip-hop were admirable, but R&B brings Nami to a whole new level both musically and vocally. In case you can’t already tell, I highly recommend this single to anyone and everyone.

Single Grade: A+

Single Review: Nami Tamaki – “Friends!”

namifriendsclrg Tracklist:
1. Friends!
2.  願い星 (Negai Hoshi; Wishing Star)
3. Happy Forever
4. またね (Mata Ne; See You Later)
5. Friends! (Instrumental)

Nami Tamaki’s 17th single was released on July 29, 2009, in three versions: Type A, Type B, and Type C. Each version had a different cover and slightly differing tracklists. This review will include the B-sides from each version.

First off, Friends! is nothing short of charming. It’s sugary, energetic pop to the Nth degree, with layers upon layers of electronic synths and drum machine beats. I must say that I was very impressed with Nami’s vocal performance – she really has learned to control her voice much more easily, especially in the high sections of the chorus. So she gets an A+ in that field. However, I can’t help feel that this song is a bit young-sounding for Nami at this point. It’s practically dripping cuteness and artificial sweetener, the audial equivalent of diabetes. It’s a lot to take in. I have a tendency to forget this, though, when I realize how catchy the hook is XD.

I find it ironic that 願い星, originally a digital single on its own, is now a B-side on a physical single, since when I first heard it I thought it sounded more like a B-side than a real single. I pretty much still feel this way, as there’s nothing terribly special about this track. It is, once again, an overpoweringly artificial and cutesy song and the only outstanding or praise-worthy thing about it is Nami’s voice. Other than that, I can’t bring myself to do anything more than label it as average.

The next B-side, Happy Forever, is exclusive to the Type-B version of this single. I was about to gripe about how omgwtfcutesy this song is when I heard the good qualities of it and changed my mind. The chorus includes some English phrases, including the title of the track, and although Nami needs to improve her pronunciation of the word forever, it definitely sounded nice in tandem with the music. I especially liked the inclusion of Christmas-style bells in the instrumental, a unique touch. Still another cute track, but easier on the ears than the previous one.

またね, a ballad, comes in and saves the day. I always love it when Nami does anything remotely R&B-sounding and that’s basically what this song is – a sentimental love song with smooth beats, piano and acoustic guitar. Simply lovely. Another thing I was relieved to hear was how perfectly Nami’s vocal performance fit with the music, not sounding too loud or too quiet, using vibrato at only the appropriate moments. This is, without question, the best B-side on this single, if not the best song period.

Summary: Well, where to start? I’m not a big fan of the overlying “cute” theme in this single, to be honest. I think Nami is past the point in her career where cuteness can be considered fitting or appropriate. However, the sheer enthusiasm and quality of Nami’s performance manages to nullify some of the negative sentiments I have towards the title track, not to mention the brilliant B-side またね. I’ve been a fan of Nami’s music for a long time, and I want to be able to say that I still am, so I think she’s got to start stepping her game up a little.

Single Grade: B-

Single Review: Nami Tamaki – “GIVE ME UP”

 Nami Tamaki’s 16th single and first release since leaving Sony Music and moving to Universal Japan, GIVE ME UP, was released on March 25th, 2008. The A-side was used as the ending theme for the Yatterman anime. The single debuted at #12 on Oricon. This review will be covering not only version A of this single, but also songs exclusive to the B and C versions as well.

 At first listen, GIVE ME UP gives the impression that, although Nami’s changed record companies, not much has changed in her musical style. However, I now beg to differ – rather than forcing herself into unfamiliar genres like hip-hop and rock, Nami is right back where she’s comfortable with this happy, cute, fun song. While still airy and carefree like the bulk of Nami’s music, GIVE ME UP has a very hip quality to it, which is refreshing to hear as her singles were beginning to all sound the same after a while.  Overall, this is a fun and uplifting song.

イチズナネガイ (Ichizu na Negai; Whole-hearted Wish) is the B-side that appears on all three versions of this single. This song incorporates a lot of retro-sounding synth and guitars, which makes it a style Nami has never tried before, and I’m always open to change. Although not the most memorable song she’s ever done, Ichizu na Negai is certainly worth hearing, even if it won’t stick with you after the first, second or third listen.

I can honestly say I’m not a huge fan of Nami’s ballads – or, at least, not all of them. However, in my life, which is included only on the Limited Edition version B of this single, surprised me pleasantly. Calm piano chords are played over a mid-tempo R&B beat accompanied by soft synth and charm elements. The thing I like most about Nami’s vocal performance on this song is the lack of vibrato, which reinforces the pristine, pretty arrangement. Like on the A-side, the  improvement in Nami’s English is very apparent; her accent while singing In my lifetime you’re always in my heart is barely noticeable, a welcome change.

彼女 (Kanojo; Girlfriend), available only on version C (normal version), has got a lot in common with in my life – they’re both similarly mid-tempo and feature notable English phrases. The song opens with a simple music box-type sound which loops throughout. Nami’s voice sounds very pretty in the higher register, and again, her English is great. I’ve really got only positive things to say about this song so I’ll just cap it off by saying that it’s really good  and the best B-side on this single. GIVE ME UP (Instrumental) is the final song on this single.

Summary: As Nami Tamaki’s first single since switching to Universal J, GIVE ME UP shows a lot of promise for the great music we have to look forward to hearing from her in the future. The A-side shows a return to the type of music that made Nami famous, and the two B-sides are not bad at all. Also, the more frequent use of English phrases that actually make sense shows that Nami’s skills in that department are improving. I only wish that you did not have to purchase all three versions of the single in order to get the other two B-sides. But other than that, I really have nothing to complain about. From what I can see, Nami made the right choice moving to Universal J.

Single Grade: A