Posted by: 愛撫 | 03/12/08

Single review: KOTOKO – BLAZE

Spiritual successor to KOTOKO’s first-season Shakugan no Shana opening theme ‘being’, BLAZE replaces fan-favourite Mami Kawada song JOINT as the opening theme for the second half of Shakugan no Shana II. The single has some big shoes to fill, being both KOTOKO’s first single since the amazing Real Onigokko as well as the replacement for a much-loved anime opening theme. So, does this latest KOTOKO release ultimately live up to expectations? Well…

KOTOKO – BLAZE (2008, Geneon)

 BLAZE single cover

Tracklisting:

1. BLAZE

2. Sociometry

3. BLAZE (Instrumental ver.)

4. Sociometry (Instrumental ver.)

The review:

Before Real Onigokko came out and showed the world that Kazuya Takase had not, in fact, completely forgotten how to make good music (despite what previous artistic failures such as the abominable ‘scene’ may have led fans to believe), I was just about ready to give up on the man. Time and time again the I’ve logo made its way on to horribly uninspired dreck thanks to his lazy production “style”, and even when he provided the music for Mami Kawada’s beautiful ‘triangle’ the song seemed to have worked despite Takase instead of because of him.

But then Real Onigokko came out, and it was like all those other failures never happened. Once again, Takase was back to making music that sounded like personal care and attention were both integral parts of the creative process instead of extraneous details to be tossed to the wind. And, to paraphrase that famous verse in the Bible, the fans saw that it was good.

But just like how shortly after that verse God buggers off and lets Adam and Eve eat from the tree of knowledge, thus damning humanity to never again walk the hallowed grounds of Eden, Kazuya Takase had to go and get lazy again right after Onigokko. BLAZE, his latest half-assed money grab of a KOTOKO single, doesn’t quite reach scene’s astonishing heights of horrible, lazy songcrafting, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t sound like he’s giving it his best shot. Every aspect of BLAZE’s production reeks of a lack of effort, from the endlessly looped synthesizers (which sound for all the world like a keyboard preset) to the song’s ‘upbeat’ switch for the chorus that does nothing save for robbing the song of its only distinguishing features – it’s just all bad.

KOTOKO’s vocals go a little way towards saving the song, but it’s largely a case of ‘too little, too late’. Either way, her pseudo-denpa vocals during the main verse sections are at the very least more interesting-sounding than those in the chorus, and that alone gives the song an edge over its similarly uninspiring predecessor ‘being’. But once again, Takase’s laziness results in the squandering of the song’s only good point, as the second verse section is wholly indistinguishable from the first and KOTOKO’s denpa voice has never been enough to carry a song on its own. And besides, no matter how good a vocal performance may be, it’s still nothing when the arrangement behind it is this fucking worthless.

And things only get marginally better on the B-side.

Sociometry, Shakugan no Shana II’s second ending theme and C.G mix’s contribution to the single, represents a key difference between C.G mix and Kazuya Takase. While it is true that Sociometry isn’t really any more creative or original than BLAZE, C.G mix on autopilot is still far more entertaining than 90% of the other J-pop producers out there. Every aspect of Sociometry had been done before (and better) in C.G mix’s Prism Ark theme songs Genzai no Reqiuem and Ketsudan no entrance, but especially as a follow-up to BLAZE the song seems quite pretty in its own way. It’s not something you’ll find yourself going back to terribly often in the months to come, but at least it’s not as awful as its A-side.

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Responses

  1. In my opinion, Maiko & C.G seem to be doing the best arrangements lately. After JOINT it seems that Tomoyuki & Takeshi are going the same thing with Mami. I mean doesn’t portamento sound like something we’ve heard before? I think it’s time for I’ve to bring in more singers and composer/arrangers or the original group needs to step up their game.

  2. I agree with Same. Iuchi, C.G mix, Nakazawa and Ozaki are the ones doing better as of now than the “King of Sound”. I think his flops started on Mami’s “Get my way!” song because before that, “Hayate no Gotoku!” and “Proof/no vain” are sounding much better. I’m not saying that “Get my way!” is terrible but the drum-machine-like beat of the song is a bit untolerable. I don’t know but I’m appreciating more of Iuchi’s works better now than Takase (specially “La Clef”).

    In fairness of BLAZE, it still got the #11 debut spot last night in the Oricon daily charts despite of its uninteresting sound. I like Real Onigokko much better. (NOTE: I will monitor the movement of BLAZE in the Oricon daily in the next days. I’m just wondering in which spot it will position next wednesday. I hope not lower than Kirei na Senritsu)

  3. As I have mentioned in other reviews of Takase’s recent works back on the ive_sound LJ, I really think Takase has fallen into a rut where he writes a fairly decent 90 seconds to use in the anime, then just copies that two or three times for the full version. Oddly enough, the same thing happened with kicks! despite that track being a B-side.
    Over the past few weeks as various sorts of previews and promos popped up, I listened to the 30-90 seconds quite a few times and eventually, the song did grow on me. There is something there in most of Takase’s arrangements that is comfortably familiar, but that “wow” factor has slipped once again. At least KOTOKO tries to make up for it, though I don’t think it’s “too little, too late” as much as it is “overshooting the mark.”
    Speaking of which:
    “KOTOKO’s denpa voice has never been enough to carry a song on its own.” I feel like I entirely disagree with this statement, but nearly all denpa songs succeed or fail by virtue of the arrangement, with a minimal prerequisite from the vocalist(s). What I’m basically saying is that though I’ve rarely fails in arranging denpa, when they do fail, there’s nothing the singer can do to save it. The only one can think of at this late hour is Omamagoto.

  4. Same: We’ve heard, what, 30 seconds of portamento? I wouldn’t be writing off Nakazawa quite yet – his body of work is still the most impressive of any I’ve arrangers’, and a few unimpressive songs here and there (Akai Namida, anyone?) aren’t going to change that anytime soon. Also, I will never understand your obsession with Maiko Iuchi. Ever.

    Fred: #11 debut? Didn’t being debut at, like, #6?

    Hikaruhoshi: The fact that vocals aren’t what makes or breaks a denpa song is the reason things like VOCALOIDs can succeed with that particular style. Other forms of music might be hurt by a creepy, semi-real computer system singing the lyrics, but denpa’s alright with it.

  5. My “obsession” is that she never ceases to amaze me. I’m not sure about you, but the fact that a woman composed seduce surprises the hell out of me. Other than Maiko, Kazuya is my favorite I’ve composer, but the fact that he’s been slipping leaves me nowhere else to turn for now. Nakazawa’s slower stuff bothers me to no end sometimes, other than that I like him. I hope that helps you understand my “obsession” with Maiko Iuchi a bit.

  6. ahh yes “seduce”. I thought Iuchi weren’t able to compose/arrange that. The song amazes me but I’m afraid it gives me head cramps whenever I listen to that song. It’s so noisy and… loud.

    @aibu>> at least it didn’t debut like the Chasse did. Still not bad. But not comparable to her “being” which was her most successful single to date.

  7. this single really blew… but Sociometry sounds like her old stuff… C.G didn’t let her burn in hell, at least..

  8. Agreed! Sociometry does sound better than BLAZE. I find BLAZE just too dull.


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