She’s more like a lioness, really.
Kuroki Meisa‘s bedroom eyes should be banned from all countries.
Perhaps her eyes themselves should be banned, period.
You see, a hellcat, according to thefreedictionary.com, is:
hell·cat (hlkt) n. Informal
1a. A woman regarded as bad-tempered and evil.
1b. A woman who practices sorcery; a witch.
2. A person who torments others.
Now, we can’t have that loose on the world, can we? Her eyes are tormenting enough already, what with the lovely bouts of jealousy and lust they incite in others, and so I offer to you the less inciting cover above. Also, I just don’t like an abundance of hair, and she practically had a mane in the other cover that reminded me of Amuro Namie on a frizzy hair day. But if you need something to jack off to, then who am I to deprive?
Speaking of which, one of the biggest drawing points for many overseas listeners when it comes to Meisa seems to be her similarity to so many artists. The cold domination of Amuro Namie with the sensuality Koda Kumi thrusts at you, rolled into one attractive package.
Despite having two decent “single tracks” (term being used as loosely as Meisa herself, seeing it was more of a promotional video or two being aired a lot earlier than the album’s release date), the album itself is particularly uninspiring. SONY certainly knew which ones were winners, but unfortunately, it leaves the remaining 6 tracks out to dry.
o1/ Hear the Alarm?: If the title weren’t bad enough, this R&B track starts out with (and rides on) a series of synth beats that leads into the monotonous (if layered) chorus covered with some vocoding. Now… synth beats, monotonous vocoded singing, and a title with “ALARM”. Clearly Amuro Namie’s influence wasn’t over with after Like This. Add to that the fact that the song is essentiallly about a girl who is in an affair, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of the how this album is going to pan out. (No, really. The recurring themes in this album seem to involve “Bad girls,” “Sex,” and a shitton of English. Especially that last one. Every song is half in English.) While Meisa’s vocals don’t seem to have grown – in fact, she sounds strained during the chorus when there is no synth, though if she provides the random vocalizations, she sounds lovely there – this song gets to add to the pile of those that prove you don’t need to be able to sing well to have a singing career. This song, however, does grow on you if you let it. Intentionally or otherwise. Watch out for those alarms.
o2/ Like This: Laziness says I reviewed this once upon a time – say, almost a year ago, when its video first came out. So laziness also dictates I copy-paste because honestly, a year’s not going to change this song much.
I started hearing Amuro Namie. […] We should all know by now the Japanese pop industry is anything BUT unique. You can only stretch pop so many ways. And to give Kuroki credit, it’s a nice synth R&B/hip-hop song, the dance beat catches on fast, and her voice isn’t so bad in it, though it lacks power. It’s stereotypical of the genre as found in Japan, but I could give this more than a singular listen. But from the layering of the chorus, to the semi-rap of the bridge, to the attitude permeating the song… it’s all screaming Amuro Namie to me.
o3/ Bad Girl: Word on the street is, actual bad girls are a endangered species now that being “bad” is more “in” than Britney Spears’ non-existent panties are in her pants. Word on the street also says copy-pasta’s not part of a very fulfilling diet, but what are you going to do, cook me Kraft macaroni & cheese instead? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
Kuroki […] brings out all the sexy you ever wanted but were too afraid to ask for. […] Unfortunately her vocals don’t seem to have improved any, but fortunately the song – a heavily synthed R&B affair – is such that good vocals aren’t required to carry the song. It’s a fun listen, and that’s all it needs to be. […] And for those who can’t handle the imagery from the video, the song is sexy in its own right.
To Kuroki’s (or her management’s) credit, though, despite leaving us hanging after releasing Like This in mid-2008, we flocked just as quickly back to her 7 months later when this video dropped to announce the upcoming album, and it definitely kept us interested.
o4/ Criminal: With this song, we take an abrupt turn-around from the previous three tracks. Oh, don’t get me wrong, we’re still on the synth R&B, and we’ve still got the loads of “bad girl” English. (Hell, the term “bad girl” makes an appearance in the lyrics.) No, what happens is that with this song, Kuroki Meisa drops all pretense of being seductive with her vocals, with half of them being screamed and the other half at her usual singing ability. Actually, no, that’s incorrect. She’s been singing like that all along. This song just makes it painfully obvious. And to be honest, I was all prepared to hate this song for the scream alone – the chorus wasn’t too catchy, and it’s normally the winning point of a Kuroki song, so why ruin it? But then I watched the video, and dammit if Kuroki Meisa’s sexy looks didn’t win me over. It distracted me from the scream long enough to get sucked in by the snappy dance beat and the “Crimi crimi criminal” of the chorus, so I repeat my plea – can we ban her eyes?
Creepily enough, at the end of the music video, despite the feline eyes (still sexy), she looks more like a vampire instead of an anthropomorthic hellcat. So let me put this out there – Meisa. You are hot. Not amazing enough to join my list of girlcrushes, but I’d still tap you. Really I would. As long as you stay away from the vampire image. I deal with enough vampire crap from the popularity of Twilight already.
o5/ No, no, no: Okay, now the Amuro influences are getting blatant. This sounds completely like something Amuro Namie would have put out around the time of the STYLE album. The kicker? Kuroki actually sounds like a good singer in her own right here, playing mix-and match with some amazingly seductive low in pure Namie’s Style and the sweet highs that form the two ends of Kuroki’s vocal spectrum, then weaving them through a series of beats that intend on drumming themselves into your head. While like the rest of the album, this isn’t an amazing track, it’s a perfectly decent piece on its own that perhaps suffers mostly because I insist on making the comparisons. (Yeah, Amuro totally could’ve done this. Better.)
o6/ SEX: Darren Hayes, formerly known as half of the Australian pop duo called Savage Garden, released a song on his debut album Spin titled Dirty. First it opened with the sounds of a girl making noise like we’d just started a cheap porno, and then had Hayes making breathy noises and sharp vocalizations much like he was actually in the middle of the act too. If you didn’t have an idea of what the song was insinuating by the title alone, he made sure you realized pretty quickly.
SEX has similar intentions – if you had no clue what this song’s about after reading the title, even if you don’t understand Japanese, the song definitely plans on clearing that up. From the start the synth is both ominous and dizzying, and Kuroki vocalizing to the beat doesn’t lighten things up any. The song keeps at a slow pace, with only the singing adding any variety, effectively forcing you to pay attention to it. And with lines like “It hurts so good,” “夜を制御不能な 出来事で満たして” [Satisfying the night with uncontrollable events], and that purely English rap, you can’t miss the meaning. Speaking of the rap, it and her spoken lines (“Going crazy, cause I’m thinking bout SEX”) end up being the best part of the song, partially because her half-scream singing method ruins the feeling. Leave the sex crap to Akanishi Jin, Meisa.
o7/ Lost: Okay, so perhaps not every song can be about sex and sordid love affairs that aren’t supposed to happen. Lost tries to be the requisite love song, which means toning down the attitude-filled R&B, and leaning towards a lighter musical background. Unfortunately, this fails in two parts – Kuroki doesn’t stop that half-scream, leading to disastrous pain when you hit the chorus; and an inordinate part of the song brings on her higher range to make her sound less sexual, and that sounds rather strained. Luckily, there is no video and no bedroom eyes from our hellcat, so this song isn’t going to grow on me. It’d be hard-pressed to grow on anyone, and would be much better off, well, lost.
o8/ THIS IS CRAZY: Someone at SONY was smart enough to include only one of the above, because the final track on Kuroki’s debut album brings us back to the formula that won interest in her singing career to being with. I have a fondness for homonyms being used in lyrics – part of the reason why V6’s Tokonatsu VIBRATION got anywhere with me – and the lyricist has a bunch in the bridges of the song, such as “watashi ga STOP (gotta stop)”/”oshiemashou (must show).” There are times when this song feels like it’d be better placed near the beginning of this album, possibly switched with Criminal (which sounds like a great album-ender), but while it’s fitting with the first half of this release, it’s also as mediocre as the rest of the songs in the half this is located in.
Anyone who listens to this album is sure to agree – Kuroki Meisa is out to paint herself as a bad girl. Considering her ability and the genre she’s working in, this album could’ve given her that reputation in more than one way. It starts out catching, but declines soon enough considering this album – mini-album, really – is only 8 tracks and 30 minutes long. If you expected any better, then that might have been your fault as much as it was her inability. The one thing you can’t fault this hellcat for, though, is that perfect face.