COSMICOLOR me pleased.
I know I’ve gone on about my lack of attention span when listening to music, regardless of how much I like the activity itself.
Generally, the ideal environment for me to listen to music and actually have me focus on it is during a commute where I am by myself. During that specific time period, however long it actually is, I have nothing else to actually do or distract me, and so my mind centers on the music blasting from my earbuds and weakening my eardrums. (I am also of the generation that likes their music loud; sorry if you happen to be of the generation that waves walking canes at mine for doing so.)
So I’m not sure what it was that made me sit down and listen carefully to m-flo‘s latest (and last in their “loves…” series) album COSMICOLOR during a time period where I had plenty of distractions, but I’m glad it did.
It really seems like their sunglasses are getting weirder by the album, though. Really. In ASTROMANTIC, it was a goggle-shaped thing. BEAT SPACE NINE was more normal wraparounds, and Taku Takahashi looked a lot more comfortable in the glasses. But then you look at the print on VERBAL‘s pair and… is that a leopard print? (Actually, no it isn’t, it’s some shiny dashes-and-dots thing, but that’s not much better.) And now, with COSMICOLOR, we have what looks like a three-eyed alien’s visor. …yes, I’m not going to ask whose choice this was. Neither should you. And in case you’re wondering, the glasses for the other cover aren’t much better.
Since this is the last album in their m-flo loves… series of collaborations, every song on the album has the word “Love” in the title in some form. Yes, “Luv” counts.
o1/ Issue No 5
It seems it’s popular to include interludes in hip-hop albums. m-flo is clearly guilty of this. And okay, sometimes they’re fun, but other times they’re boring as heck. While it’s interesting to hear what filler lines the lady gets to say (involving body-produced chemicals), this is basically telling you it’s m-flo’s fifth studio album.
o2/ Love Don’t Cry (m-flo ♥ Crystal Kay)
m-flo started off their “loves…” series with Crystal Kay back in 2003 with the REEEWIND!/I Like It double singles, and decided to end it with Crystal Kay as well. The PV for this song reflects as much, opening with a similar colored star outline and switching sequence as the PV for the aforementioned double singles.
Unfortunately, after m-flo/Crystal Kay and that PV opening, that’s where the similarity ends. Last time the song was a fully backed pop piece with synth melodies and things popping in and out of that. This track is more hip-hop with the bulk of the melody being provided by Crystal Kay’s singing – any instrumentation clearly plays second fiddle. It’s not a bad track, just… different. When I first saw the video I hated it because I was expecting a rehash of REEEWIND. But Kuri’s grown up since then, m-flo has swerved in a slightly different direction, and this song isn’t bad for what it is. (I admit it. I like the opening vocal switch and the “Time To Get The Party Started” line.)
o3/ Luvotomy (m-flo ♥ 安室奈美恵 [Amuro Namie])
Amuro Namie’s collaborated with VERBAL once before, but this time it’s under the m-flo name. (I confess to never fully listening to Lovin’ it beyond the opening, by the way.)
The song is a fun mixture of tempos and beats. You have the verses in an almost woozy background track, and Amuro herself sounds half asleep. Then she belts out the last line and we get a futuristic set of synth beats with some catchy rapping by VERBAL (and Amuro) for the bridge. The chorus ends the sequence as a power hip-hop strut focusing on Amuro’s singing once more. Lather, rinse, repeat. I love this song for the verses and the bridges, because it’s easy to join in as they chant “This, that, this, that.”
o4/ STUCK IN YOUR LOVE (m-flo ♥ melody.)
Out of the new tracks on this album, this is my favorite song. I don’t know, this might even be my favorite song on the album, period. It’s a hard contest.
melody. jumps in right from the beginning with a monotone rap of her own, which explains the story for the song along with setting the slightly dangerous mood perfectly, though she spends the rest of the song keeping her day job as a singer. The music behind this song is half R&B, half hip-hop, focusing on beats and handclaps with the occasional synth chord that keeps the song and melody’s light vocals flowing, both of which are a nice contrast to VERBAL’s sharper voice. And it’s in English, making this a great song to play on American airwaves. Hint, hint.
o5/ Current Affairs
Boo to this interlude. Repetitive dizzy falling sound, light Japanese female announcer, beat setting tempo, bah. Doesn’t matter. There’s nothing really good about this interlude except for the fact that it breaks the smooth hip-hop/pop tempo set by the last three songs so the next one, a more upbeat pop piece, is a lot easier to transition into.
o6/ Summer Time Love (m-flo ♥ 日之内エミ [Hinouchi Emi] & Ryohei)
The first of the singles off this album saw the return of both Hinouchi Emi and Yamamoto Ryohei, who had also collaborated with m-flo for the first “loves…” album, ASTROMANTIC. It’s been around for 2 months short of a year, there’s not much to say about this that hasn’t been said before.
This is easily compared to miss you off the aforementioned first “loves…” album, as the only member missing would be melody. – but it shouldn’t be. Not only are Hinouchi and melody.’s voices different (Hinouchi has a slightly more nasal, but also stronger voice), but the atmosphere of the song as well. This is a flighty track, the sort that flits about your head without any intention to really stick with you, but it does because before you know it, your mind has grabbed hold of the beat (whether you wanted it to or not) and smoothly slipped you into a pool under the summer sun with lots of skimpy sexy bodies. …Yeah. I blame the music video.
o7/ Simple & Lovely (m-flo ♥ 倖田來未 [Koda Kumi])
I was going to say “If there’s a song I hate on this album…” but it’s not this one. I don’t know. I can’t say I hate it – it just lacks the catchiness of the songs that surround it. I swear this has nothing to do with the apparent stigma surrounding Koda Kumi. I mean, for the most part, it doesn’t even sound like she’s singing in this song. Either that or her voice has really changed in the year I stopped listening to her.
Then again, this song really focuses on VERBAL’s rapping, and most of Koda’s vocals are found in the chorus, which are set at a higher pitch than her usual. Surprisingly, this is also the closest to a slow song that we get on this album – but this is actually more mid-tempo.
o8/ Picture Perfect Love (m-flo ♥ MONKEY MAJIK)
“I can’t believe I was so blind…” – or would deaf be a more fitting term? When this came out under the guise of a “MONKEY MAJIK meets m-flo” single, those who listened to it were raving about it. It was catchy, it was upbeat, it was fun, it could do no wrong.
…I am ashamed to say I didn’t listen to it until recently. That is, when I suddenly decided to sit down and listen to this album. It lives up to the hype in full pop-rock glory. Yet another song in perfect (mostly) English, I’m beginning to think if m-flo decided to attack the international (and especially American) market with an album full of their English-only songs, they’d have a pretty good chance.
o9/ Music Monopoly
As far as interludes go, this one’s definitely amusing whether or not you understand Japanese. A radio DJ from 2017 announces the top 10 songs for the week and they’re all by a guy called Johnny Tachydero – a portmanteau of VERBAL’s alias “Johnny Astro” and Taku’s record label Tachytelic Records.
If you listen closely, you can hear that the tracks announced are various m-flo singles, or warped versions of them, such as HEY! (m-flo ♥ Akiko Wada) and “T.O.T.” (actually “L.O.T.(Love or Truth)”). I really like the announcer’s voice, sounds like the guy who was the announcer on Minna no Terebi. Chris… something. “The sweet number one… OH MY GOD for the fourth straight week,” haha.
10/ she loves the CREAM (m-flo ♥ DOPING PANDA)
Originally released as the B-side to the Love Song single, and then again on the Amazing Nuts! animated collaboration. This is a slightly shorter version of the song. Well, by a full minute. But it’s still over 5 minutes, who am I to complain?
Actually, my favorite rendition is the 6-almost-7-minute version on the Love Song single, so I guess I might. But you can’t really tell the difference and the bottom line is, it’s a fun dance track with some interesting vocals. Also, the lyrics are pure amusement. But they’re in English, you can make out what VERBAL and DOPING PANDA saying/singing/rapping. This is a song where the point is clearly to just let yourself loose, so do it. Unless the odd vocals from DP throw you off, in which case, go away. You fail at appreciating this track’s amusement factor.
11/ Love Me After 12AM (m-flo ♥ Alex (CLAZZIQUAI PROJECT))
Featuring Alex Chan, male vocalist for the CLAZZIQUAI PROJECT, VERBAL has another go at injecting a semi-Korean song. And like his collaboration with Wheesung (unlike his collaboration with BoA), this is another R&B-flavored dance piece.
The Korean isn’t really dominant, mixed equally with English. But there is a telling lack of Japanese, if that’s what you’re looking for. I’m not really knowledgeable on male Korean vocalists, but Alex has a nice voice to listen to, soft without losing energy. Well, even VERBAL’s rap sounds a bit softer in this song, surprisingly. It’s a smooth song that’s nice to listen to, even better to sing along with, and just plain excellent dance to. Or you could, you know, set it as ambiance music on a date or something.
12/ Love Song (m-flo ♥ BONNIE PINK)
While I’ve been listening to this song for about the same amount of time I’ve been listening to she loves the CREAM, I’m surprisingly more likely to skip this song than I am that one. I don’t know why.
Another slow-seeming-but-actually-mid-tempo song, BONNIE PINK features this time around. I confess I expected this to be a fully-English song thanks to BONNIE PINK’s bilingualism, but apparently not. In contrast to the Koda Kumi song, BONNIE PINK features heavily, so if you don’t like her nasal voice (or nasal voices in general), best to avoid this. I think she plays off well against VERBAL, though.
13/ Love Long and Prosper (m-flo ♥ STAR TREK)
Considering m-flo’s fourth studio album was called BEAT SPACE NINE (and then the remix album, DOPE SPACE NINE), who can say they didn’t see this coming? Or perhaps I just hang around too many geeks since I actually got the Deep Space Nine reference without ever really watching Star Trek.
The main focus of the song is clearly the music, and ☆Taku shines, bringing forth a great dance beat mixed with a heavy synth background. I love this song in generally, but what I really like? The repeated sung vocals where the singer is crashing. It’s really nice to hear (not the topic of the lyrics, the vocals) and is mixed into the song really well. I’d actually rather that VERBAL hadn’t even made an appearance here, but he does break up the song’s flow when it gets too monotone.
14/ LOVE ME, HATE THE GAME (m-flo ♥ Chan, THAITANIUM, Edison Chen, Ryohei)
How, m-flo, and why? From a great dance track straight into something pure hip-hop, and really American in essence – but it becomes more understandable when you realize Chan, THAITANIUM, and Ryohei are Asian-American, Edison was partially raised in NYC, and VERBAL needs no explanation. Not that I mind since it’s really funny to listen to, especially when you have the lyrics to look at while listening to it. It’s almost overdone in its theme as the Asian BLING! Hip-Hop anthem.
Even if you don’t like hip-hop, it’s worth noting that m-flo touched pretty much every aspect of the Asian hip-hop scene with this track. You have the Korean MC (Snacky) Chan, the Thai group THAITANIUM, the Japanese-speaking Korean MC working in Japan VERBAL, Japanese Ryohei just to smooth the track a bit, and then the Chinese guy Edison Chen.
15/ Lotta Love (m-flo ♥ MINMI)
I could go on and on about this song. How it is amazingly catchy. How MINMI and VERBAL have both tackled this dance tempo ridiculously well. How the fluctuations keep this song from ever being boring. How MINMI’s vocals, strong but accented, play wonderfully against VERBAL’s raps (though most of the vocalists m-flo has worked with have the same trait). And hey, even how the elongation of this song (by a full minute in the beginning) is good because the build-up into the song proper is much needed after a full blast of hip-hop like the last track.
But let’s face it, the main reason this song is awesome is the music video – where kids have taken over completely, even the roles of VERBAL, ☆Taku, and MINMI. (The girl who plays MINMI is oddly familiar, the kid who plays VERBAL is ridiculously adorable in his attempts to lip-sync the rap.) So go watch it.
16/ People of Cosmicolor
The final interlude on the album. While the background music is odd and a bit annoying, it provides nice closure and works as a companion track to the opening interlude. And what the lady has to say is a bit interesting.
17/ Love to Live By (m-flo ♥ Chara)
Here’s a quick warning for you: Chara’s voice is childish, varies between wispy and raspy, and very distinctive in the realm of Japanese vocals. If you weren’t expecting it (like I wasn’t expecting it), it can be very shocking and even more grating when she starts her version of belting out vocals.
But they’re also fitting for this jazzy track that could easily be a Broadway piece or used in any revue. VERBAL’s pace-keeping in the background during the chorus is fun to hear too, never mind his MCing at the end where he really gets into it and screams out. Once it grows on you, this becomes one of the most interesting songs m-flo has put out without LISA, and maybe one of the most interesting songs m-flo has put out, period.
I’m really regretting that this is the last of the “m-flo loves…” project, ignoring any potential remix album because I have a hard time trying to decide what I think of those. It’s been a great introduction to various artists (Kahimi Karie and Chara, for example), a way to hear other artists in styles they’d never work with alone (CHEMISTRY), and just plain fun.
But at the same time, I can’t deny that over 4 years, this has also fully run its course, and all that’s left is to see what VERBAL and ☆Taku delve into next. With any luck, it’ll be as good, or maybe even better than these. And hopefully they’ll ditch the tacky sunglasses.