Ken Hirai [Life is…] (Fifth Album)

March 4, 2009

Strawberry Sex
REVOLVER
ex-girlfriend
Ring
Come Back
somebody’s girl
I’m so drunk
Missin you ~It will break my heart~
世界で一番君が好き (Sekai de Ichiban Kimi ga Suki, (Am I Your Favorite in the World?)
メモリーズ (Memoriizu, Memories)
LIFE is…
大きな古時計 (Ōkiina Furu Tokei, Great Old Clock)

The album starts off with the rather odd Strawberry Sex. This is definitely one of those songs I’d be embarrassed to have any one, definitely people I know hear me listening to, because it is so ridiculous. This is not a bad song, not in the least, I actually really like the variety and on a good day I can actually tolerate it, but no. The arrangement is a bit funky, I loved the horns, trumpets, saxophones? Whatever, I liked, but it seemed awfully clunky and out of place in a sense. Ken’s vocals were high, like girl high or he had just been kicked in the balls before recording high, I was actually quite speechless. The arrangement seemed pretty solid, but it clashes jarringly with Ken’s high vocals. Then the ‘strawberry sex’ of the chorus is just painful. I mean maybe I was expecting this song to be more sexy and less colorful? I don’t know. Its not a bad song, its just not one I too much like by him. Interesting start to the album, though.

The next track on the album is REVOLVER. I don’t get this song, not even a bit, but I like it. I wonder who the guy is talking at the start and end of the track? The arrangement is fitting, the synth making it flow at a nice pace. Ken’s vocals are nice in this as well, not high, but a bit low and rather sexy, I really liked his vocal performance in this. I mean at one point all I kept hearing was, ‘oh my god’ well, I think that’s the line.

The next track on the album is the somewhat catchy ex-girlfriend. I think I have a new favorite song after listening to this. The arrangement is heavy in the rnb and soulful as well, but that’s mostly because of Ken’s really good vocal performance. I mean the high, girl-like tone of his voice was there, but I hardly noticed and the chorus was definitely the high-light, I’m actually humming it as I write this.

The next track on the album is the down-tempo Ring. Hmm? I really think this song has grown on me, because I thought it was just really boring when I first listened to it. The arrangement is typically slow and somber, just what you’d expect from a song like this. Ken’s vocal performance was also pretty good, except sometimes he really sounded like he was whining and that sort of brought the song down a notch. This is definitely for those who like there ballads nice and slow.

The next track on the album is the slightly mid-tempo Come Back. I was so close to not liking this track, because Ken’s high girl vocals were nearly intolerable and making me a bit uncomfortable. The arrangement is pretty plain, but interesting in the oddest of ways, it suited the song too. Ken’s vocals like I said were very high and girly, especially during the chorus and it threw me off for a bit and then eventually it just grew on me. Its a pretty catchy song.

The next track on the album somebody’s girl keeps the same pace as the previous. I honestly don’t get where Ken was trying to go with this song: ‘do what you want, somebody’s girl’ is this suppose to be another version of TABOO because I am clearly confused, but not entirely if that makes sense. The arrangement was just like in the previous, plain, but fitting. Ken’s vocals weren’t so high in this, thank goodness and I liked how he sounded a bit aggressive with the mild bass in his voice. The only part I didn’t like was the random chick rap, seemingly thrown into the song.

The next track on the album is the easy-going I’m so drunk. This is quite the fun song, I mean it doesn’t seem fun, but I’ve always thought this to be a rather humorous song and something that Ken can pull off. The arrangement is very quirky and a bit experimental, because it doesn’t sound like his regular rnb, soul, funk or gospel material. It was a bit refreshing to hear the change in pace. Ken’s vocals were cute, but serious and I love when he says: ‘i’m so drunk, i’m so drunk, i’m so drunk’ kawaii!

The next track on the album brings the pace down with Missin you ~It will break my heart~. This is one of my new favorites, I’m going to be listening to this song a lot now. Ken returns to his rnb roots and brings us a song that is very similar to Baby Face’s ‘When Can I See You Again’, I mean it really reminded me of my favorite Baby Face song. Ken’s vocals were just so good in this and when he started ad-libbing towards the end and really getting into the song I got such a Boyz II Men vibe. Ah, I want to listen to it again…

The next track on the album is the quirky 世界で一番君が好き (Sekai de Ichiban Kimi ga Suki, (Am I Your Favorite in the World?). I really like what this title translate to, its so cute. This song really surprised me, I actually thought it was going to be pretty down-tempo, but Ken flipped the script on me and made it a bit show tune, I heard nothing but tinkles it was so refreshing. Ken’s vocals were just the love, it was like this whole stop and go type theme and it made me think of ‘dancing in the rain’ or a song from a musical, it just plays like one of those random burst into song, its great and quite different.

The next track on the album is the hit or miss メモリーズ (Memoriizu, Memories). I was really expecting this song to be more down-tempo, so I was a bit disappointed that it was more around the mid-tempo range. That’s not why I dislike the song, I dislike it because it sounds way to much like another one of his songs, just how he chose to sing this it just sounds way familiar and the song I’m thinking about but can’t really name, sounds better. I also don’t really favor Ken’s vocals, they aren’t bad per say, but they really make this song a chore, he seemed pretty bored.

The second to last track on the album is the down-tempo LIFE is…. This is I believe my favorite Ken Hirai song and one of the first I heard of him. The arrangement is a lovely piano melody that really puts you in quite a reflective and somber mood. Ken’s vocals are quite good in this, I love the sheer depth of emotion in his voice and how it rose during the chorus and would sort of fade or break off, it just really always touches me every time I hear this. I mean it really makes you think, ‘life is… what?’ Its a hard question to answer, but in truth life is simply what you make it.

The last track on the album is the chiming 大きな古時計 (Ōkiina Furu Tokei, Great Old Clock). This is another song I like, but I really just find my interest in this waning whenever I hear it. Its sounds like an old nursery rhyme, but I do like the clock sounds throughout. Ken’s vocals were nice as well, though I felt a bit detached from it. I would have liked ‘life is…’ to end the album.

-GRADE: A
Rating: *** stars

Ken Hirai’s fifth album Life is… is such a good album. Its like gaining through losing all over again. I mean I never really paid attention to this album or cared for it and the only song that really mattered to me was Life is…, but this is really a top-notch album from him. I’m fast becoming a fan of his, well an even bigger fan and I really love his solid and genuine approach to rnb, soul, funk, jazz and gospel. The only problem I really had with this album besides Strawberry Sex and Memories is Ken’s often times high girl-like vocals, they honestly rub me the wrong way. I’m glad he kept them a bit under control and they didn’t ruin the tracks too much; I do like his voice, but the girl-ish highness of his vocals sometimes are really off-putting. I also want to give a shout-out to ex-girlfriend and Missing You ~It will be break my heart~, new favorites of mine.

4 Responses to “Ken Hirai [Life is…] (Fifth Album)”

  1. wjohns Says:

    ‘strawberry sex’ was hilarious but annoying; i have yet to listen to the rest.

  2. wjohns Says:

    i just downloaded this album today, i’m like so happy since i like ken’s vocals and ‘ex-girlfriend’ happens to be one of my favorite songs from here, along with ‘revolver’ and ‘missing you’ – ‘come back’ sounds exactly like DOUBLE’s song ‘U’ from her second album ‘double the japanese version’ in my opinion.

    • memoriesoflove Says:

      don’t you just love this album? i love the songs you said as well, especially ‘missin’ you’ but my favorite track is without a doubt ‘life is…’ its just beautiful and really sad.


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