The Light of Hinoi Asuka?
While HINOI TEAM’s fate is left up in the air after Keika’s sudden announcement of wanting to return to school, 樋井明日香 [Hinoi Asuka] herself snuck in and released a solo single for the first time in three years. Her last two singles were bubblegum pop and an edgier rock-styled song, and featured a girl eager to shine.
After two years with HINOI TEAM, though, Asuka’s matured and ready to show it. Her producers, however, took the easy way out in doing it and gave her the pop ballad 明日への光 [Asu e no Hikari] .
Also the ending theme song to anime Seto no Hanayome, the song isn’t really a pop ballad, just a slower pop song. But it’s also considerably different from what Asuka was doing until recently. As with most ballads (or just slow songs), the focus is on her vocals. But the music, which stays light-hearted and takes an easy-going pace, is nice to listen to as well. I sort of wish the piano had more of a presence instead of just being mixed into everything, but it’s okay as it is.
VOICES, the first B-side, maintains a similar tempo though it’s more R&B in nature. I really think this sort of song suits Asuka’s voice – she sounds gorgeous in everything, though there’s a slight volume struggle between her and the music for the bridge. What I do love, though, is the guitar piece. It suddenly jumps out after the second chorus, but blends seamlessly into the music to give it an extra bit of power.
The second B-side, 君がいた場所 [Kimi ga Ita Basho], has lyrics written by Asuka – less of a surprise these days, but still an accomplishment. It’s a softer song than the other two on the disc, and Asuka handles it with an amazing versatility. After two years of para-para, it’s a bit hard to remember that she’s able to do a lot of other styles, but I don’t see anyone forgetting that after this.
What interests me most about this single is how the title and Asuka’s name correlate, especially as this is her first single in a while. It’s probably just a coincidence, but if this is the sort of road she’s going to take with her solo career, I can’t see anything but approval.