Album review: Iconiq - Change myself

Iconiq - Change myself | Album review
Iconiq's real name is Ayumi and she's also signed to Avex Trax, which probably explains the stage name and the hair cut. There can be only one Ayumi that exists in the J-game. Period! So going the stage name and Ripley from Alien 3 route was probably a requirement from Avex, along with working a music style that couldn't be further from the original Ayumi if they shot a ho out of a cannon. But it works in Iconiq's favour. Because the buzz cut is working for me, and her debut album is pretty smokin'.

The album kicks off with "I'm lovin' you" which has EXILE's 20 man strong boy band lend one of the only 2 members with vocal ability to the song. The song is very 80's R&B throwback. It has an instant sense of familiarity to it, acts as a really nice album opener and a taste of what's to come from the rest of the album. Iconiq and Atushi sound great together and their vocals intertwine perfectly with the aid of soft layering and some neat vocal filtering. Great song. Short, sweet and nice. The more I listen to this song the more I like it.

"Change myself" utilizes a drum sequence style which was popularized with Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack" and everybody and their grandmother has run with like Usain Bolt ever since. The song is also a heck of a lot like Beni's "Stardust" - but it is a really nice song. It features the dreaded auto-tune which song producer Hiro seems to like smattering across songs unnecessarily (just as he did to Namie's "My love").

"LoveShineMagic" had me hesitant to listen to it, because my first thought was Dear God, this is going to rip-off Ciara and Justin. But the song couldn't be any more different. The song is very Kumi Koda. It's the type of song she often went for in the past for a reason to look a ho in a music video, show off her new hair highlights, press-on's and how her bikini wax game is air tight. Hot song.

"Bye now!" is one of my favourites on the album. T. Kura laced Ayumi with one hell of a beat, and Michico did not drop the ball for a second with the lyrics and vocal production. The song has a very Namie Amuro vibe about it. No surprise. Given that T. Kura and Michico have worked closely with Namie on her past few albums, and have had their style be heavily defined purely on their work with her. "Bye now!" has a great summer vibe about it and a hot reggae carnival style bounce on the hook which makes you wanna go limbo under a pole, drop a 2-step and then go grind some random person down to the floor. This should have been a way bigger single than it was. But the Oricon charts being based on how popular the artist is first and foremost and not the music; this never really stood a chance. A real shame.

"I.D" sounds like BoA's "Lazer" with a much darker tone and an other worldly vibe about it. It wouldn't surprise me if this song was intended for her - given the name of the song, that they're both produced by the same person, and the ladies are both signed to the same record label. "I.D" is not as hot or as catchy as "Lazer", but it knocks nice 'n loud.

"No distance" is the albums' slow jam, and boy does Iconiq come correct. We get every R&B clichĂ© thrown up into this song. The Timbaland style vibe, filtered auto-tuned ad-libs, tight harmonies and some miscellaneous n***a providing additional talkbox vocals. In a word? "No distance" is slick. Even with Ayumi's Engrishy ♪ I pwomiss, never ret'choo go ♪ the song is still super polished. I'm not shocked at all at just how good an R&B track this is, because Japan has been giving US R&B a run for its money for a good while now. This right here would make a good emissary for that case. The song is hot to death.

"Crystal girl" is that dark electro-pop crack. The gritty bassline which swings back and forth during the hook helps give this song a really visceral sound, and Ayumi's soft vocals compliment it nicely, creating a perfect clash. Everything about this song is tight. I just love the bridge section where the keys change in ways you wouldn't expect and then go right back into the original hook melody. This definitely should have been bigger when it released as a single. The song is on complete point.

When I peeped Change myself's track list and saw "Like a virgin" I thought to myself Nah, that's gotta be some new song and not Madonna's. But lo and behold, a bitch went and covered Madonna's classic. I wasn't big on the original. I thought "Angel" and "Dress you up" were much better. But Ayumi really does do the song no justice. The production is top notch, and the new vocal arrangements are nice. It's just a bloody shame it wasn't spent on an all new song and not a cover. Because take it or leave it, love it or hate it - "Like a virgin" is one of those songs that should never be covered. And if it is going to be covered, you need to make it clear it's purely in homage and keep shit as close to the original as possible. It's safe to say that "Like a virgin" is the worst song on this album. A blip on an otherwise near perfect debut set.

Iconiq doesn't have the greatest prescence vocally. There isn't a great deal distinct about her songs, because for every song on the album you could name an artist who has a song out just like it. But she has a nice voice which has enough to it to make songs work, yet not so distinct and pigeon holed that she can sing on anything and become a musical muse for whichever style a producer wants to channel. And it's this matched with the incredibly tight production on every song that makes Change myself work so well. The real challenge will be if she can hone her vocal style so that she has unique and distinct sound on future releases. Otherwise she may find herself just being another pretty face in the crowd, and the high quality of her music won't even matter.

Change myself is incredibly polished for a debut and is consistent in its sound (aside from the awful "Like a virgin"). A shame that 2 out of the 10 albums track are an intro and an outro and one of the 8 full length tracks is an iffy cover of a Madonna song. But this is still a hot bit of an album, if a little on the short side. One of my favourite J-R&B-ish efforts of the year so far.


Album highlights:
■ I'm lovin' you
■ LoveShineMagic
■ Bye now! J's fave
■ I.D
■ No distance
■ Crystal girl

Watch the music videos: I'm lovin' you | Bye now!

1 comment:

  1. I'm feeling the hell outta this album. It's like something brand new, yet so familiar that I feel as though I've known it all along... like she's covering leftover tracks from artists we already know, but it's still quite a treat. The producers came correct, especially on "BYE NOW!".

    For some reason, "BYE NOW!" reminded me of Destiny's Child for some reason, and "Crystal Girl" made me think of Leona Lewis' "Danger Made Me".

    I'm looking forward to playing Change Myself over and over again... aside from the Madonna cover.

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