Ken Hirai [FAKIN’ POP] (Seventh Album)

September 29, 2008

POP STAR
Kimi wa Su.te.ki♡ (君はス・テ・キ♡; You’re Won.der.ful)
Kimi no Suki na Toko (君の好きなとこ; The Place You Like)
Canvas
Pain
fake star
UPSET
Utsukushii Hito (美しい人; Beautiful One)
Elegy
Twenty! Twenty! Twenty!
Bye My Melody
Itsuka Hanareru Hi ga Kite mo
Shashin (写真; Photo)

The album starts off with the oddly infectious, POP STAR. I wanted to die when this song first came out, I’m like: ‘What is Ken thinking? He’s rnb, not pop’, I refused to like this song. I like this song. I really do, it’s so catchy, and I think that has something to do with the arrangement which is just really bizarre, because it’s almost cute in a sense. Ken’s vocal performance really suited this song I thought, he went with light tones, and that made the song really stand out, especially when he would sing the line, ‘I wanna be a pop star’. This track is really funny to me, because Ken Hirai as an actual pop star is just hilarious, but it WORKS.

The next track on the album is the warped, Kimi wa Su.te.ki♡ (君はス・テ・キ♡; You’re Won.der.ful). When this song first started, I literally had to double take, I have never heard anything this out there from Ken Hirai, because he normally sticks to a very straight forward approach when it comes to his vocals. I mean the speed of this song is crazy, and Ken Hirai’s sort of warp speed vocal performance was almost unbearable, since his voice was so high it sounded girlish. The arrangement is very, how do I put it? Futuristic. I can picture the video for this being very cyborg-futuristic-like. I don’t like this song, I think it’s terrible and annoying.

The next track is a song by Ken Hirai that I absolutely adore, Kimi no Suki na Toko (君の好きなとこ; The Place You Like). I’m not sure how I stumbled upon the video to this, but I think it was when I was looking for Ken Hirai videos one day, and I just fell in love with not only the lovely song, but the simple and very touching video. Kimi no Suki na Toko is just such a simple song, everything about it is just so slow-paced, from Ken’s vocals to the wonderful arrangement. It’s got this whole go at your own pace vibe to it, and it’s just one of those rare tracks that reaches your heart and puts a smile on your face.

Ken slows it way down with the next track, Canvas. As where Kimi no Suki na Toko was light and whimsical, Canvas is more serious and in-depth. It’s incredibly slow-paced, and the vocal performance is what I’m used to when it comes to Ken Hirai. It’s not so light that he sounds like a girl or too deep to make it seem like he’s trying too hard to be masculine, but somewhere in the middle. This song can come off as really boring, because there really isn’t any variety in it, and it keeps the same pace and tone throughout; but Ken puts a lot in this song, it’s really deep and in it’s own way incredibly memorable.

The next track continues along the down-tempo route with, Pain. A song that went completely over my head. Unlike Canvas that had the right amount of serious atmosphere and depth, Pain just comes off as too serious and trying entirely too hard. I felt absolutely nothing but boredom and disinterest while listening to this song, not even Ken’s intense vocal performance could save it from forgettable-ness. I however did like the, ‘I’ll never escape this pain’ at the very end.

The next track on the album, fake star is like a different take on POP STAR and I have to admit I like this one a lot more. The tone in this song is very light, and catchy, but it’s almost like he’s going against the previous song in this, like when he says, ‘he’s a pop star, but he’s a fake star’ it’s really clever. I love Ken’s vocals in this track a lot more than in POP STAR because they don’t sound so high, but just right. This song is really rather cute, and a lot more enjoyable.

Ken gets a little quirky with the next track, UPSET. Ken Hirai has some pretty weird songs, and this is definitely one of them. I mean he can take a song with such a simple title, and make it absolutely ridiculous. That is what he does with UPSET. It’s almost like a more up-tempo version of Pain, but a bit worse. I’ll cut it some slack, the arrangement is pretty sweet, since it has a lot going for it instrument-wise, and it definitely keeps your attention. It’s really Big Band and Swing style, back in the 30’s, and it’s really cool. Plus I really liked Ken’s vocals because he sung the verses mostly with a little attitude, the chorus however he drops the edge and starts singing in light tones and that not only ruins the chorus for me, but the song as well. I thought the, ‘I’m so upset’ at the end was really random as well.

The next is a weepy little down-tempo ballad track, that I really dislike. Utsukushii Hito (美しい人; Beautiful One), is just boring in every sense of the word. There is no arrangement really, just a lilting piano playing sadly in the background, and Ken Hirai’s own wilted vocal performance. It’s not all that bad, I’m sure a few people will appreciate it’s charm, for it is a touching song, but for the rest of us, it’ll most likely put you to sleep.

The next track is the rather powerful Elegy. This song is very reminiscent of Canvas, they both have the same vibe to me. I really liked Ken Hirai’s vocal performance in this song, but a lot of the time, (the most glaring thing about this song and it really brought the enjoyment value down with this track) is that it’s so long-winded, and seems to go on longer than it should. Also we get back to the trying too hard, which is what brought Pain down in the end. The arrangement is very atmospheric and dark and I thought that suited the song. Elegy is a great track, but it’s one of those songs you’ll easily tire of, since it tries to do too much.

The next track is a mix between mid and up tempo, in my opinion. Twenty! Twenty! Twenty! is a fun song, I’d have to admit. It’s not the kind of song I would go for, the arrangement is way too airy, but it’s warm. Ken’s vocals weren’t anything spectacular, but it was almost like he was having fun with this song especially during the, ‘twenty! twenty! twenty!’ part of the chorus and I think that’s all that matters. This song is rather metro-sexual, but I don’t care, I think I’m one of the few people who wishes he actually was gay, or would step out the closet already.

The next track on the album is so forgettable I really can’t stand it. By My Melody, is just an amazingly boring and forgettable song that goes clear over your head, no matter how many times you listen to it. I actually can’t recall anything from the song; verses, chorus, vocals, arrangement, nothing! and I listened to this song twice! It’s just album fodder, and I wonder why it was included at all.

The second to last track on the album has an absurdly long title. Itsuka Hanareru Hi ga Kite mo (いつか離れる日が来ても; If Some Day a Day Comes Where I’m Separated from You) is honestly one of the most boring-est songs I have ever heard. The title is rather sweet, and it starts out nice enough, and then Ken starts singing, in the most boring tone he can possibly muster. It was almost like listening to someone tell you something who is completely uninterested in the conversation you are having. How pointless is that? It really felt as if Ken Hirai himself was bored with this song, and wanted to convey that by singing in the same tone, throughout the whole song. Amazing. I can not believe he actually released this bore-fest as a single, who bought this?

The last track on the album is the smoothly down-tempo, Shashin (写真; Photo). I read on a blog a while back that this song was written from a picture he had saw of his father, and really how touching is that? The song is quite emotionally moving, Ken’s vocal performance sounded almost painfully sad, and heartbreaking. It really made you connect with the song and Ken Hirai’s feelings concerning his dad, a wonderful song to end the album on. It really stays with you.

-GRADE: B
Rating: ** stars

I have to admit my positive feelings towards Ken Hirai’s latest studio album, FAKIN’ POP has diminished quite a bit, but even so, it’s still a solid album. I thought the whole contrast between POP STAR and fake star was really clever, and honestly only Ken Hirai can pull something like that off. I really enjoyed the down-tempo Kimi no Suki na Toko, which is officially one of my all time favorite Ken Hirai songs; Canvas is an incredible and very intense song, that showcases some nice vocals from Ken, as well as Elegy which would have been even better had he not tried so hard to top Canvas. Twenty! Twenty! Twenty! is a fun song, and the album ends beautifully on Shashin. The rest of the songs however are either painfully bad, painfully average, or painfully boring. FAKIN’ POP has a nice metro-pop feel to it, but he also stays true to his rnb roots, and I admire that. I don’t want him to ever become an actual pop star, it doesn’t suit him, but for satire’s sake? I can accept it.

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