Album review: MiChi - Up to you

MiChi - Up to you | Random J Pop
MiChi is right on cue with her studio debut. Slickly produced pop. Catchy hooks. A sweet vocal with an edge to it. A bit of an underground hustle. A look that goes beyond being your average Japanese or white girl. Yep! MiChi will fits right in. But whilst everything seems all nice and A-okay on the surface - the real test is of course: the music. And once again, MiChi is right on cue. Her music passes the test with flying colours.

I've not heard a J-Pop artist drop an album of this style and pull it off in a good while. Quite a few of the songs remind me a little of the kind of songs that featured on Ayumi Hamasaki's Next level. Only MiChi pulls them off better because she has more sass and a vocal that doesn't warble, is much sharper and she doesn't hang on every note as Ayumi can do when it's not needed.

The easiest category to file MiChi's album under would be pop. But that's a bit too general given the sounds the album encompasses and spans. So to be more specific let's say Up to you is a pie that consists of slices of synth pop, rock, acoustic pop, club dance and a slice of an acoustic ballad. Up to you has a very consistent sound. Something you can often rely on with Japanese releases. Which is usually down to albums being produced by a select few producers and not a different producer for every single track as can be the case with Western releases. Songs on Up to you do bare striking similarities to one another. So you can expect to hear one song and think "Wait, that bit sounds like thingy-ma-jig!" But the songs aren't worse off for it - because most of the songs on the album are so bloody good that you honestly won't mind half the time that one song you love sounds like another song you love just as much.

Much of MiChi's album consists of the pop / rock sound that been popularized again by songs such as Kelly Clarkson's "Since U been gone", Katy Perry's "Hot 'n cold" and pretty much everything Max martin, Shellback and Dr. Luke have had a hand in producing over the past 2 years. This may not sound like the best sales pitch of MiChi's music. I'll even admit as much. But this is the best way I can describe it to you without the aid of throwing up embeddable videos and links to the songs. Trust me when I say MiChi's music is more substantial and of more lasting quality than anything Katy Perry has done and anything Max Martin has given Kelly Clarkson.

"Promise" is a song that I'm sure many MiChi lovers (full on lovers and potentials) have heard. It's was certainly 'the one' that turned me into a fan. The song is such a fun, feel good song that it's impossible to hear it and not feel lifted and chipper. It really does move you. I played it to one of my friends at work and she immediately asked me to do her a mix CD with it on there. A great song. "Change the world" takes things down a few notches from "Promise", but still has that 'feel good' vibe about it. If you like "Promise", you'll like this. "Kiss kiss xxx" sits nicely in-between "Promise" and "Change the world" sound wise. It has a nice thrashing chorus, but retains the easy breezy sweetness of "Change the world". The chorus just has this beauty about it that's almost enchanting. The same goes for "Hey girl" - which has a chorus that throws you through a loop, because it takes on a vibe you would not expect given how the song starts off and the way the verses are structured. The almost reggae like swag the song has is really nice. Very No doubt-ish. I can't believe I hated this song when I first heard it on the "Change the world" CD single. "Something missing" is my favourite song on the album. Thrashy, edgy, catchy and a chorus that doesn't quit. This most definitely should have been a single. Bloody amazing. Everything about it is perfection. My only niggle is that it ends. Closing the album is the title track "Up to you", which I won't lie about: sounds exactly like "Promise" only with vocoded vocals, a bridge section of "La, la, la, la" thrown in and a key change at the end. Still, it's a great song and a nice way to close the album. Especially after the albums ballad "You".

Whilst MiChi is down with the trashy light pop, rock - she truly lets go and comes alive on the electro funked songs. These are the songs where MiChi's edginess and affinity with the underground scene start to show in spades. The first time I heard "Madness vol. 1" I thought to myself "Why was this not made a full length song!?" It's so catchy that it's a shame it only lasts for 1 minute and 46 seconds. "Why oh why" is all about the 80's. Blips, synths, stamps, hand claps and a head nodding hook. The song is frivolous, fun and sounds like something Tommy february6 would want to snatch with both hands. The song takes on a dance inspired twist at the end which is strictly for the clubs. You don't see it coming. But when it does, you're glad it did. "Shibuya de punch" is crazy and sounds like something off of MiChi's pre-debut album Michi madness. The song is about some guy getting beaten up, mugged and nobody doing anything - all to a backdrop of glam pop. Gotta admire the art. I wasn't keen on this song at first, but I f**king love it now. The song is sung entirely English, so us non-Japanese speaking folk can actually sing along! As with "Why oh why" the song goes on an extended run of vocaless sections and club bounces which are brilliantly produced and adopt a very Oriental-esuqe vibe, which again: you do not see coming.

As is a current trend around the world: MiChi's album features the dreaded auto-tune. And on quite a few songs too. If MiChi's vocals aren't auto-tuned, then they're heavily filtered and vocoded. In MiChi's defence, It works because the songs her vocals are effected on are so frenetic and energetic that it helps her vocals merge almost with the music itself. "Promise"'s pre-chorus sounds much better when MiChi's vocals are filtered than not (as on the 'Smart sports version' of the song). But there are a couple of occasions when it feels like it's too much and unnecessary.

MiChi's debut album is bloody awesome. It came as a real shock. I figured that the singles and B-sides were so good, that there was no way the album could match the quality of them consistently. Boy, was I wrong! If you've heard any of MiChi's singles and liked them, then you'll love this album. Brilliant. MiChi is officially in my list of J-chicks I love.


Album highlights:
■ Madness vol. 1
■ Promise
■ Change the world
■ Why oh why
■ Hey girl
■ Kiss kiss xxx
■ Rain
■ Oh oh...
■ Something missing ★ J's fave
■ Wonderland?
■ Shibuya de punch
■ You
■ Up to you

All about the girl: MiChi in the spotlight

2 comments:

  1. You did it again, J! She had me at hello. You should be A&R at some J-Pop label.

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  2. ;P

    I'm just glad you took on board my review and decided to check out the album. MiChi is seriously underrated. 'Up to you' has to be one of the strongest debut's I've heard in a good while, and I've not stopped playing it since I got it.

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