Album review: Beni - Jewel

Beni - Jewel | Album review
I was super sceptical when I'd heard Beni was set to release an album not even 6 months after her last release Lovebox. But when you're a chick who struggles to push units and you somehow manage to land in at the number 1 out of nowhere, I guess it's only natural to want to strike whilst the curling iron is hot. And Beni made sure as hell to keep that curling iron red hot. Jewel is a warning letter to bitches to book those salon appointments with the quickness, because home girl is coming for those hair pieces.

I'm sick and tired of Beni dropping these hot intro's to albums which should have been full length songs. Lovebox's intro was crack. Jewel's intro is crack. The music is drenched in an 80's "Computer love" type sound that you could imagine Mariah whispering and throwing her pitch corrected whistles all over if a producer were to throw this at her titties in the studio. It acts as a nice bridge into the albums first full length song "2 face": a song which I could not stand the first time I heard it, but soon found myself Harlem shaking to whilst I was tidying up the crib. The production is fun, effervescent and wonderfully 80's. But Beni's vocals do not suit the song. It's difficult to pin point whether it's a case of Beni's vocals sounding too cold, lacking sass or if it's the lack of harmonies and vocal production - but she contrasts with the music badly. A solid opening to the album none-the-less.

After Daisuke Imai revealing that perhaps he has the ability to come with something new after all with "2 face", he reverts right back to the recycling with "Toki wa tomete", "Lovin' U" and "Smile". "Toki wa tomete" borrows elements from Bitter & sweet's "Stardust" and Lovebox's "Gimme gimme ♥". "Lovin' U" is just a re-working of Bitter & sweet's "Kira☆Kira☆". And "Smile" is pretty much just "Gimme gimme ♥". Good songs. And perhaps no bad thing if you like the jams they borrow from. But you cannot help but roll you eyes and think "Lawd, can this Daisuke Imai fella not stop recycling this shit like plastic bottles?!" when the beats drop.

Whenever ladies in the J-game want a banger from a dude who has his finger on the pulse of the urban soundscape, they go to Hiro. Kumi Koda, Namie Amuro, Iconiq and Crystal Kay have all enlisted his help for albums of theirs; so it was only natural Beni would go to him too. And the result of their coupling is "See U again". This has to be my favourite Beni song EVER! Hands down!! The song starts up and rolls along with twinkles and kicks in all the right places, which has you rock your head in approval to what you hear. But once that chorus kicks in, you'll be reaching for the rewind button. The bridge section to the song is a bit of a mess; with repetitive kicks unnecessarily cluttering the arrangements. But once the chorus comes back around, you're sprung again. Great song.

"First time" sounds like some throwback Janet Jackson with a bit of Cameo thrown in for good measure. The whole thing just evokes a mood of fairground, Ferris wheels and Rollerblades. Think Mariah's "Fantasy" video, but with a hotter looking chick and no crazed n***a shouting about babies and pacifiers. The breakdown is hotness, and I dare you to try and not dance once Beni starts commanding you rock with her. DARES you! "Don't let go" follows in the same footsteps, but dials down the tempo. If "First time" is the wild tea cup and bumper car ride, then "Don't let go" is the slow carousel and Love tunnel ride.

"Heartbreaker" is Jewel's faux pas moment. The song panders too much to the overly synthed out vibe which is both dominating and ruining the charts worldwide. The sound just feels out of place on an album which is so smooth on melodies and slickness. It's too abrasive, it's too anybody. It's too shoulda-been-a-B-side.

After failing to truly nail the ballads on Lovebox, Beni has managed to find a happy medium with them on Jewel. Smartly opting to leave the big, lavish orchestrated laden numbers to those who can reign them; and instead opt for more stripped down R&B lite affairs. First offering "Heaven's door" is an atypical J-drama theme-like affair, with bells, strings and guitars all spread generously. "Heaven's door" will not be remembered years from now. You probably won't even remember it once the follow up song on the album starts (the follow up song is "See U again", so you definitely won't). But it's nice for what it is, and is a worthy emissary for showcasing that when Beni is given the right music, she can hold down these types of songs nicely.

"Kimi to nara" is an uplifting Stargate inspired number, which plods along with it's common time kicks and then builds into a flourish of piano's and synth stabs for the chorus. Whilst album closer "Wasurenaide ne" is a concoction of dark, stuttered synths with hip hop undertones. This is a style which has become pretty popular within the J-R&B circles in Japan as of late. With the usual suspects all having a song on their album with the exact same style. "Wasurenaide ne" is forgettable. And the production just isn't big enough where it needs to be. The hook should be explosive and loud. But instead, it's tinny and undercut. The album should have closed with "Kimi to nara", as it would have bookended the album perfectly.

As I listened to this album, all I could think was "Wow! Beni got all the material Crystal's people should have been trying to nab!". It'd be unfair to say the songs on Jewel sound like carbon copies of CK's material, because Beni really comes into her own on every song and puts her stamp on them in a way she seemed unable to for Bitter & sweet and Lovebox. But you cannot help but think "If only Crystal..."

Beni sounds great on this album. She stays within ranges which suit her, and sounds much more vocally confident than she did before. The production on her vocals is also stepped up a notch, with every harmony and ad-lib perfectly timed and arranged. Jewel marks the first album where you finally feel you can take Beni's vocals seriously, as they really do stand out and showcase her nicely. Beni also gets big props for her pen game. Because the girl knows how to write a good song. Every track on this album has a hook on it which just refuses to quit.

A major part of what makes Jewel work so well is that the sound is so consistent. To be fair to Beni, her albums always tend to flow rather well. But Jewel feels right from start to finish, despite a couple of blips along the way. Beni is now an artist who knows what her sound is and should be. Lovebox was a bit of a disappointment, but Beni brought it back with Jewel in a big way. Whilst the album is not miles away from Beni's previous two releases, the whole album feels much more refined. Jewel is a fitting album title, because Beni shines with this release.


Album highlights:
■ Toki wa tomete
■ Lovin' U
■ See U again J's fave
■ First time
■ Don't let go
■ Smile
■ Kimi to nara

6 comments:

  1. J, I have learned that I should never rely on you to give an album above an 8. Unless it's your future wife Hikki. XD

    But as for your opinion on the album, it's spot on with what I think. I loved this album and thought it's one of the most consistent albums I have heard recently (along with Love songs, but I won't get into that). Beni works her English (the hook to Lovin' U is like heroin to me), and she's gotten so much more comfortable with her voice. Leaving slavex was the best thing she EVER did.

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  2. I was feeling this album so much I actually went and tweeted Daisuke Imai about it! (He tweeted back lol)

    But, this album is my favorite album from December, hands down. Not much I can add on to what you said, J! I hear BENI's coming out with an English-language album this year. She didn't sound that great in English on her duet with Tynisha Keli, so I hope she steps it up if this is true.

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  3. I'm not really a fan of her music, but I wouldn't mind dipping into her jewel box ;).

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  4. I feel like Daisuke Imai needs to be taken out of the picture. The girls voice deserves much better music production. Personally I think she should cross over to english, since she has no accent whatsoever.

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  5. BENI is an awesome singer (I know because I watched her in concert last year front row!) and your review is spot on! LOVEBOX was more experimental than B&S, but JEWEL finally sets her identity in the J-R&B genre. Great album!

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  6. @ Anonymous
    "JEWEL finally sets her identity in the J-R&B genre"

    120% agreed.

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