I think this title is begging for a spanking joke.
It’s really quite ironic.
If you don’t know this by now, Raid and I are big fans of Urata Naoya. We were waiting for the release of his solo album, TURN OVER, for ages. Since it was announced that he’d be working on a solo project, at least.
Somewhere along the way, it went totally wrong, and based on the web reactions (for example, Brett over at Kurayami Monogatari and Noah at stylejapan), there are definitely people out there who love it. Us, on the other hand? We’re not entirely impressed. Or maybe that’s just me. Raid’s the one you want for lines like “OMGAH THIS SUCKS”, after all.
To be honest, probably some of the disappointment is my fault. The instant I read that he’d be working with TinyVoice Productions, my mind immediately leapt to the sound of Miura Daichi, who’s also worked with them and has yet to churn out anything falling even a bit short of stellar.
But Urata’s voice and Daichi’s voice are completely different Pokemon, and asking one to do well in the same environment as the other isn’t entirely fair. Then again, who ever said I was fair?
o1/ intro: At just over a minute, this track is exactly as the title proclaims – an introduction. A steady beat with the consistently threatening monologuing by a muffled deep voice. I keep expecting the voice to go “Luke, I am your father” – because even without the hissing sound of the breathing apparatus, this could be Darth Vader. I can’t entirely say it does set the mood for the album, nor can I say it’s a track I’d listen to given the choice, but it would make for a very dramatic concert opening.
o2/ TURN OVER: The first track where we get to hear Urapapa’s vocals (because if the intro voice was him, he’s been hiding a pretty low register all this time) is a mellow R&B track where, beyond a change in tempo as dictated by the melody, everything centers on the singing. And as much as I hoped otherwise, with the exception of a line just before the chorus and the chorus itself at a pitch just under it, he spends most of it in falsetto. It isn’t a bad sound, and the song really wouldn’t work if he had sung as normal, but my head has already begun to hurt. I just don’t like falsettos.
o3/ Baby Bang! feat. SPHERE: Because I’m slamming this in before I head to my MU110 class (where we learn to listen to music “intelligently” – ironic, isn’t it?), I’m just going to quote my comments on the video post for the same track: “I must give the song its props. It’s a dance track so it’ll make perfect use of Urata’s dancing chops, and based off the group dance shots in the video he’ll have a good performance to show us with this song. It grows on you too, if you haven’t outright decided that you hate it. Urata spends most of the track in a falsetto and his higher range, too, so when SPHERE makes his grand entrance it makes a perfect contrast. All the same, I’m hoping that the rest of the album doesn’t keep him in this area, because it will hurt to listen to within the first three days.”
o4/ I think I’m in love: Thankfully, despite the last line of that quote up there, Urata doesn’t stay in falsetto. A R&B ballad with a clapping beat combined with Ura’s voice is a soothing mix, as proven by this song. It’s not a standout track, but Urata’s vocals here, emotional but not overpowering, is pleasing to the ear along with being a much needed break from that falsetto.
o5/ Ecstasy feat. YUKALI: For the record – YUKALI is not the same girl in HALCALI (who apparently prefers it spelled YUCALI). Another track where the “music” is nothing little more than a series of varied beats to surround the vocals, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this song. On one hand, Urata whispering is pretty damn sexy, especially when he starts on the rapid-fire bit in the pre-chorus bridge. On the other, YUKALI’s whiny voice when she’s begging for it (“Kiss my ear, kiss my lips” etc.) negates the sensuality of its surrounding sections. With the exception of that one bit, it’s a pretty sexy song.
o6/ Too Late: Can I be honest? The trilling harp strum with makes me think of one Kamenashi Kazuya’s w/o notice??. And that wasn’t entirely pleasing to my ears. Luckily this doesn’t run the gamut of eardrum killing, other than the return of Urata’s higher register at times, but as a lazy R&B track it’s surprisingly bland.
o7/ HOT LIKE FIRE: This track marks the debut of Urata’s strong vocals (their prior cameo in Ecstasy was marred by the backup vocals), holding their own against a quirky combination of beats and notes, just barely hinting at influences from the seductive sounds associated with Arabian music with a distinct hip-hop attitude. While the vocal melody of the stanzas are a nice listen, the chorus (consisting only of “HOT LIKE FIRE” repeated as necessary) takes away just as quickly. If Hidaka had a solo project, this song belonged on there.
o8/ voice of mind: A slow piano opening marked the entrance of this track, and in my mind, I noted we’d hit rock bottom. Luckily, I was proven wrong. While this slow song, like every other song, is engineered to allow Urata to show off, there’s something about it that makes it unique. Perhaps because it’s a refreshing break from the computer beats and attempted hip-hop. For Urata’s part, he delivers passionately, and while we’ve got a few high notes, it’s an easy piece that’s not too different from the duet ballads he shared with Nissy as AAA.
o9/ anything about sex: We return to the R&B attempts here, with another ballad and a snappy beat that features Urapapa’s higher voice once more. If you didn’t realize by now, I’m not a fan of the high, and while not a bad track, it’s again nothing standout.
1o/ Starting all over: This was originally going to be the promotional track off the album, and much like the final result, there’s a dance beat that intends to grow on you. It didn’t become the PV, and while it would have been a lot less odd than Baby BANG! (well, I’d like to think the blue bukkake wouldn’t have happened with this song), this song has the potential to become boring very quickly, with the same series of beats over and over and the only real variation (just barely) deriving from the vocals.
11/ Like a tatoo: Surprisingly, we don’t get to the sort of sound I expected from Urata on this project until… the next-to-last song? Considerably more upbeat and club than everything we’ve heard so far, but still retaining the seductive attitude this album is trying to push, Urata keeps pace with the electronic music and displays his variety of tones (sad stanzas, sexy soft bridge, and normal at the chorus). Also, please note that I’d desperately like to insert a “[sic]” into that title.
12/ White lie: The final track is representative of every other song on the album, with minimal music and a focus on Urata as a singer. It’s also my favorite, which is a damn shame, because if I hadn’t chosen to review this album I might never have listened to it. This shares a lot of elements with the experimental ethereality of my favorite Utada Hikaru period, with a hazy synth accompaniment to Urata’s layered vocals over a variety of beats. Unfortunately, it ends with an English spoken bit – presumably by the same person at the beginning – and while it makes for a full-circle closing, it detracting.
In the end, because I had such expectations for Urata’s solo efforts… it was decent, and that’s all it was. Even with a few months’ break to grow accustomed to the songs between starting and completing this review, none of them – with the exception of Baby Bang!, thanks to its accompanying video – stuck with me enough to make any sort of impression afterwards. And unless a sophomore effort comes along, I’m ready to declare this project a flop for me.