Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Let's Talk about Two You

I haven't given much love to Kikkawa Yuu lately...

But I can't help it if I've found her musical output to be dull and uninteresting lately! I said in my year-end recap for 2012 that one of the idols I'd lot interest in was Kikkawa Yuu. Why? Because Universal Music Japan turned her into a Vocaloid! I kid, I kid, but Kikka's music is a big part of why I haven't really been following her as much as I used to. What I like about Kikkawa Yuu that made me want to follow her solo music in the first place was her voice. I love Kikka's voice and I was happy that her talent was finally being put to good use via solo career. But after Koko Kara Hajimarunda! came out I just kind of... stopped caring about her releases. I'd actually thought about reviewing the PV for Koko Kara Hajimarunda! but other idol groups with more interesting releases came along and soon enough, it was the end of 2012 and I realized I hadn't reviewed any post-One for You! material from Kikka. I think the decision for Kikka to handle more electropop-type songs was what lead me to caring less about her music. I won't say I hate her electropop singles but they don't jazz me. So here we are in 2013 and I've decided that it's about time I took a look at what Kikkawa Yuu has been up to lately. And what a better way to do that than to review her second album, appropriately titled Two You. Ugh, even I cringe at how pun-tastic that title is. What I'm hoping is that maybe by giving her second album a listen, I'll be able to rekindle the enthusiasm I formerly possessed for Kikkawa Yuu as an idol. Maybe I'll finally revive some interest in her. Or I could just keep on forgetting about her. Either way, let's take a look at Two You and find out!

1. Dramatic

So opening the album is a Vocaloid-type song in the vein of Kikka's past singles like Koko Kara Hajimarunda! And I guess that makes sense; the guy who composed those songs also composed Dramatic! Yeah, I hope you like electropop because there are a lot of little bleeps and other electro effects in the introduction of the song. It is kind of cool, even though I've heard it before. I was a little worried that Kikka's voice was going to be edited like it was in Koko Kara Hajimarunda! but for the most part, her actual vocals remained untouched. And she sounds nice in Dramatic; her voice is strong and she doesn't revert to that nasally singing that's plagued a couple of her other songs. I wouldn't say Dramatic is really my idea of a dramatic song though... I guess when I think of a dramatic song, I just think of sweeping instrumentals and over the top melodies. But overall, I think Dramatic makes for a decent album opener.

My Rating:

2. Darling to Madonna

So the first A-side on the album is Darling to Madonna, the second A-side of the Two You era. And honestly, when this song came out, I wasn't that impressed. It just sounds like a rehash of Koko Kara Hajimarunda! to my ears. Well, that was last year and this is 2013! I didn't pay much mind to Darling to Madonna back in 2012 so I think going over it will be good for me! So... I don't think this is a terrible song but like I said, it sounds so similar to Koko Kara Hajimarunda! I do like though that Darling to Madonna has much less vocal editing than the piles and piles of Autotune Koko Kara Hajimarunda! had. And I guess the instrumental does sound pretty neat with all the electronic effects going on (even though they sound similar to that other song...). Darling to Madonna is a fun and upbeat song though and I can't deny that it does have energy so... I guess my verdict is it's a fairly nice-sounding song. Yeah.

My Rating:

3. Zutto Zutto Zutto Kimi ga Suki da

The next new album track is this song with a very long title! Try saying it five times in a row! So my first impressions of this very lengthily-titled song was that it sounded a lot like an ending to some generic anime! Then again, that isn't necessarily bad since I do like Zutto Zutto Zutto Kimi ga Suki da! It has a very bouncy sound to it and I like the use of staccato notes in both the instrumental and the vocals. I think that gives the song a very fun and lighthearted tone to it! I feel like this is one of the more idol-y songs on Two You; I could actually see someone like Mano Erina or even Matsuura Aya performing this song. I feel like if I was in a bad mood, this wouldn't be a good song to listen to but when I'm feeling more energetic and hopeful about the future, I think I'd like listening to Zutto Zutto Kimi ga Suki da! Overall, I think it's a very fun song and while it may not be the most creative song ever, it still has a very earnestly happy feeling to it!

My Rating:

4. Renai Ebo

Helloooooo, best new track on the album! Yeah, I knew about halfway through my first listen of Renai Ebo that it was my favorite song on Two You. And why not? It's flipping awesome! Renai Ebo is a more pop-rock song that sounds like something you'd hear from Buono! or even Passpo. Actually, this song really sounds like it would fit in Passpo's discography; Renai Ebo sounds a lot like Natsuzora Hanabi but it's not so similar-sounding it's a straight-up rip-off! This is just a rocking song! There's a lot of guitar, Kikka's vocals have a lot of spirit to them, I just really love this song, okay? I feel like I had the same reaction towards Hako no Naka no Blue from her first album. My only gripe with Renai Ebo is that it's way too short; the song is barely three minutes long and I think this is a song that could have used a kickass rock bridge... Still, that's only a minimal complaint and doesn't lower my opinion of Renai Ebo!

My Rating:

5. Sekaijuu ni Kimi wa Hitori Dake

So the most recent A-side to be included on Two You is from Kikka's triple A-side released back in January. I guess the other two A-sides didn't make the cut because the producers really felt like they had to work in those acoustic covers. But I digress. So how does Sekaijuu ni Kimi wa Hitori Dake hold up? Well... I'm just gonna come out and say it: the opening of this song frightens me. Why? Because the song starts out with all these soft instrumentals and then suddenly Kikka's voice whispers "I LOVE YOU" in this really creepy voice that's just... it startles me, okay!? Beyond that, there's not really much I can talk about with Sekaijuu ni Kimi wa Hitori Dake. It's not a bad song but I don't think it's truly a standout song either. I mean, Kikka sings well in this song and the arrangement isn't bad but there's nothing about this song that puts it as a favorite of mine on the album. But I suppose it's an all right song!

My Rating:

6. Koko Kara Hajimarunda!

And so the oldest A-side on Two You is... Koko Kara Hajimarunda. Yay. Yep... as you can tell, I'm not a very huge fan of this song. Those of you who were able to get through my entire year-end post of 2012 might know that I had Koko Kara Hajimarunda! under my Worst Use of Autotune category for songs. And believe me, the Autotune isn't the only problem I have with this song, though it is one of the main problems. Koko Kara Hajimarunda! started the phase of singles and songs which were more electropop-oriented for Kikka, inadvertently started my decline in interest toward Kikka's music. While you all probably know I am a fan of electropop, I never liked Kikka taking an electropop direction with her music because she just doesn't have a voice for it. What I'm trying to say is I think her voice would work better in more vocally expressive genres. Koko Kara Hajimarunda! isn't a bad song, but I can't bring myself to love it.

My Rating:

7. To Be...

...or not to be. That is the question! This is the ballad of the album and you all know how particular I am about what I like in a ballad. So how does To Be... hold up? Well, I gotta say, I'm not really feeling it. The first misstep with To Be... is that it has a weak opening. Kikka pretty much singing acapella in the opening notes and her voice sounds awful. Well, by her standards, it sounds pretty bad. Kikka's voice can be very hit-or-miss and usually, I like the sound of her voice but every so often she'll switch to this really weak, almost nasally head voice. And for a ballad, that really doesn't help. I always think what carries a strong ballad is the vocals and how a singer expresses his or her feelings through those vocals. Kikka just sounds really soft and weak in this ballad and doesn't stand out. I wouldn't say To Be... is a terrible ballad by any means since it does have some nice parts but it doesn't stand out that much.

My Rating:

8. Kaze no Youna Melody

And after the ballad is thankfully, a much more upbeat and energetic song! It's not a terribly energetic song but after To Be... Kaze no Youna is refreshingly faster-paced. Still, this song didn't really grab me but it wasn't that bad either. It has a lot of the familiar electropop bleeps and effects you'd hear on Koko Kara Hajimarunda! Weird... it's almost as if all these songs were composed by the same person. I wonder if... can it be? It can! I did some digging around and found out that Dramatic, Darling to Madonna, Sekaijuu Hitori Kimi wa Hitori Dake, Koko Kara Haijmarunda! and Kaze no Youna Melody are all composed by the same person. What a twist! Honestly, that really shows with all these songs because frankly, they all sound very similar. Sure, the arrangements and keys are tweaked with each song but they all sound the same to me. So Kaze no Youna Melody just feels like a repeat of Koko Kara Hajimarunda! or Darling to Madonna.

My Rating:

9. Unmei

No, this Unmei is not the newest Tokyo Girls' Style song; we'll talk about that song later. This Unmei is a ballad! Yep, this album has another ballad. Because if there's anything this album needs, it's another ballad! I mean, that first was one just so invigorating. And Unmei makes To Be... sound like Secret Base ~Kimi ga Kureta ga Mono~. Unmei is probably my least favorite song on the album because it's really slow, even for a ballad the energy is at a low. The main problem with Unmei is that there's never a moment where the song really picks up, not even in the chorus. Never did I hear a build-up; the song pretty much stays at the same tempo and energy level and it's boring. I will say, Kikka's vocals sound a bit better but the arrangement of this ballad puts me to sleep. It doesn't help that the song is nearly six minutes long. Unmei is sort of what I have in mind when I picture a poorly-done ballad. This was such a snore on the album.

My Rating:

10. Twinkle Days

So the only B-side included on Two You is from Darling to Madonna! Twinkle Days sort of has that same electronic pop Vocaloid vibe that Darling to Madonna does and I thought it was a decent B-side. Then again, that makes sense; the guy who composed this song makes a lot of Vocaloid music. Anyways, I didn't like the heavily Autotuned opening notes to Twinkle Days but luckily, the Autotune used in this song doesn't reach Morning Musume's One Two Three levels. But again, I do feel like the Autotune is very gratuitous, especially when it's used in the verses and the third verse. Kikka's voice sounds fine in this song so why does it have to be Autotuned? Twinkle Days is a pretty cheerful and upbeat song and I admit, after the dreadful borefest that is Unmei, Twinkle Days is a refreshing change of pace. It's not my favorite Kikka song but of the B-sides from her latest singles, I don't mind Twinkle Days making it onto the album.

My Rating:

11. Sayonara Namida (Acoustic Version)

The final two tracks on Two You are just acoustic versions of already recorded. Personally, I'm not so sure I really wanted two songs I've already heard before over two new songs, but I do think it's nice Sayonara Namida (or some form of it) made it into one of Kikka's albums. Sayonara Namida is one of my favorite Kikka songs and I actually think it made a better A-side than the actual A-side Kikkake wa You! It's a very pretty song and Kikka's vocals are well-done. The acoustic version is naturally, much more raw on the instrumentals and is much softer and toned-down than the original. It's not a bad redo but I still prefer the original version and the energy it had. But Kikka's voice sounds nice and she does a good job carrying the song. The piano sounds nice, the vocals sound nice, Sayonara Namida is just a nice song! As far as acoustic versions go, Sayonara Namida is overall pretty decent!

My Rating:

12. Kikkake wa You! (Acoustic Version)

Speaking of already recorded songs, the next acoustic version on Two You is Kikkake wa You! I guess that's fitting since this was Kikka's song she debuted with. Then again, this isn't really a song I enjoy a lot but I don't think it's terrible either. But honestly, I don't think I would have picked Kikkake wa You! to get an acoustic version. It works better as a more energetic and upbeat song to me. The acoustic version just kind of sucks all the energy out and while it's not as deadbeat as Unmei (then again, nothing else on this album is) I actually think I like the original song a little bit better. I will say though, the acoustic version of Kikkake wa You! does offer a different take on the original song. It's much more raw and slow and I think Kikka's voice does sound better in the acoustic version. Still, if I had to pick between getting an acoustic version of Kikkake wa You! or a new album song, I'd pick the latter. Even if it was a song like Unmei.

My Rating:

The Verdict

Wow. That was... not a good album. Okay, let me elaborate: in comparison to One for You!, Two You is not a very good or interesting album. Even if I wasn't comparing it to Kikka's debut album, Two You still wouldn't hold up very well. Is it a terrible album? No. But there's not a lot of material in this album that really stands out, save for one or two new songs. Actually, one problem I had with this album was the lack of new songs. Okay, only half the album consisted of pre-recorded songs but of the other six new tracks, I only liked half of those. My favorite new track on the album was Renai Ebo and that was because it was the most differently-styled song. I also liked Zutto Zutto Zutto Kimi ga Suki da and Dramatic but I doubt either one of those songs will every become my uber-favorite Kikkawa Yuu songs. The other three songs ranged from forgettable to hatefully forgettable. The worst song on Two You was most definitely Unmei; it's long and low-energy and monotonous and displays all the qualities I find in a poorly-done ballad. To Be... and Kaze no Youna Melody just didn't stand out for me. At least the new songs on One for You! had variety. Two You doesn't. Not much anyways. About half the songs on the album have that Vocaloid-styled electropop music that Kikka used in Koko Kara Hajimarunda! and Darling to Madonna. As someone who wasn't a huge fan of that style for her, obviously that doesn't settle very well with me. If you are a fan of that style though, you might like this album a bit more than I did though. Still, Two You isn't bogged down with bad songs but it doesn't have a lot of really good songs either. A majority of the songs on this album just don't stand out. So while there aren't a lot of songs that make my blood boil on Two You, it's still a very vanilla album. It's a shame that Two You is such a lackluster follow-up to One for You! since in comparison, I realize just how much more interesting that album was.

Well, of five apples, Kikkawa Yuu's second album only gets two and half. I'm sorry, but this just wasn't a very stand-out album to me. Half the tracks felt like filler and there were only a few songs that I really enjoyed listening to. So I guess my streak of not giving a shit about Kikkawa Yuu will continue. I'll keep waiting for the day she releases something that grabs me again, but I'm not expecting it to be for awhile now...

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