Album review: Crystal Kay - Spin the music

Crystal Kay - Spin the music | Random J Pop
Fans had been waiting impatiently for a brand new studio album from Crystal ever since "Over and over" leaked, "Deaeta kiseki" featured in some dry arse coffee commercial and "After love -First boyfriend-" was released as a single. A Best release and a mini album later, and the inevitable brand new studio album comes: dressed up like a Christmas holiday album and a title which suggests everybody will be arching backs, popping their groinal area's and steppin' to the beat of Crystal's drum. Too bad the album is light on the new material and that Crystal be drumming that beat reeeeeeal slow for the most part.

"Journey ~Kimi to futari de~" is a stunner! Initially, it had very litle impact on me. But I soon found myself drawn to the beauty of the song. The sweetness of the music plays off of the tragic lyrics and Crystal's stunning vocal performance beautifully. This is not a Crystal song you may love instantly, but definitely a grower which you'll love in good time. It's a shame due to zero promotion that it as many copies as there are letters in Crystal's first and surname.

If "Konya ha no. 1" has the same effect on you as it did me, then it will surprise the hell out of you. You've never heard Crystal go in on a song the way she does here, and you'll wonder why she didn't tap into this style sooner - because she f**king owns it! I could certainly go for more sexy funked up Crystal. Brilliant song, and a complete blind sight as you do not see it coming. Ever since the amazing "History" from Color change! I was hoping Crystal would go a little guitar and funk driven on a song, and she answered the call with "Konya ha no. 1".

"Love or game" is cut from the same cloth as "Namida no saki ni" - an unadulterated slice of 80's glam pop. wonderfully produced and perfectly sung. Despite borrowing from a song Crystal had recorded years ago, the sound still feels new and refreshing. If Crystal laced this song in English, she could have a hit with this across Europe so f**king easy. A brilliant pop record. Possibly one of Crystal's best pop records in fact. It's such a shame this was not and will not be released as a single.

Many were surprised when Korean boy band 2PM's choreographer featured in Crystal's "Flash" video. But the Crystal and JYP crossover did not end there; as JYP produced a song for Crystal too and that song is "Goodbye". The song sounds a little outdated, feels a little too much like Color change!'s "Time goes by", and there isn't much to it. But Crystal sounds great on it, which is its saving grace. I love that Crystal's people did not limit her to purely Japanese and Western producers. After all, Crystal is in fact half Korean.

"Flash" is a hot song. Fact. But did we need it on this album? No. I would have much preferred to have had "Cannonball" in its place, as it keeps in line with the new style Crystal is pushing (but not hard enough) with this album. The song just feels out of place on this release. At least on Flash is was sandwiched between an epic intro and "Victoria". Here it's stuck at the tail end of the album between a mid-tempo R&B jam and 60's funk. Who the hell was in charge of this albums' track order!?

"Thank you for talkin' to be Africa" has Crystal hitting with that old skool stank in skip loads. The studio recorded version is not as good as when Crystal performed this live and took this song the f**k over like she was possessed by the Young, gifted & black spirit of Aretha Franklin. But it's still a cracker of a song which cements why Crystal continues to get so much love from fans outside of Japan, and that she has more soul than every act in the J-music game combined. Shit, she has more soul than half the faux R&B bitches in America!

Despite the title and what "Flash" may have implied earlier in the year, Crystal's tenth studio album is a pretty slow affair. It's Crystal's most downtempo album to date, generously (perhaps too much so) with songs which grind the album to a near halt in places.

"Kimi ga ireba" is really nice and one of the albums stand out songs. It's sparkly, Christmassy and sickly sweet - but all in perfect moderation. I'm rather surprised that this hasn't been commissioned as a theme to a J-drama - as it has that type of sound about it. But I'm sure a Fuji or Asahi TV airing drama will feature it in good time.

"Time of love" is the album's big ballad. And whilst it's no "Kitto eien ni" or "Kaeri michi", it is a really nice song which further highlights that Crystal can run rings around the ballads just as she does the uptempo's. She is really coming into her own with the slow numbers, and she now sings them with a confidence which she did not have four albums ago.

"I pray" was nice...6 months ago! The song acted as a great closer to Flash, made even more heartfelt with the outro which came after it. But on Spin the music it just feels thrown in for no reason other than to help make up the track numbers. Why "Hold on" was relegated to a B-side when it could have taken "I pray"'s position in the track list nicely is beyond me. Somebody at Sony Japan is clearly without clue.

"Hands up" is nice, but it's no "Cherish". The song feels very clichéd, which is never a term I've associated with Crystal's R&B efforts before. Heavy kicks, stuttering synths, hand claps and an anthemic chorus. The song does work, but I can't help but feel Crystal is better than songs like this. You'd expect a chick like Beni to be given this shit.

Album closer "I'll be there" is one of Crystal's most Western sounding slow songs to date. It's like throwback Whitney and Mariah in one song. Except Crystal comes better than anything these bitches could do nowadays. And vocally, Crystal has Whitney beat under a crack soaked sofa, with Mariah cowering behind it. Sony need to be selling this shit to labels and film studios in the West. Dare I say it, it's a better emissary than "Hold on".

Whilst I'm not completely in love with this album, and still deciding on just how much I like it. I do commend Crystal for trying a new style. The whole orchestrated strings, laid over the top of R&B beats she became synonymous with on songs such as "Konna ni chikaku de..." and "One" is long gone on this album. Her sound is much more mature, much more stripped down and a little more raw. But it seems to have put Crystal in a place where she and her superiors feel unsure of which direction to go in. Because whilst we have some songs which exhibit a completely new CK style, we have 70% of an album which is mid tempo, completely safe and nothing new under the rising sun.

The problem with Spin the music isn't that the songs are bad. In fact...there isn't a single bad song on the whole album! It's just that there are not enough of those kick arse songs that Crystal's previous albums are generously littered with. And the most glaring low point of the whole release, is that half the songs you've heard before, and they weren't all that amazing to begin with.

Spin the music does have some shining moments, but not enough for a Crystal album. Call me miss..., All yours and even Color change! had me spoilt for choice so much so that I just had to play the albums from start to finish. And then again on repeat. Had Crystal's people taken more of a risk with this album and tapped more into this new 80's electro / funk style that Crystal seems to be wanting to head in - then we could have had an amazing album. Because "Konya wo no. 1", "Love or game" and "Thank you for talkin' to me Africa" are brilliant songs which showcase a confidence, fire and swag which Crystal has never exhibited before. But the problem is that these songs are squashed between ballads and old material, which negates their impact greatly; and thereby causes a great deal of inconsistency.

This album feels as though it was a last minute executive decision in the vein of We've got about 8 to 9 tracks from Crystal already, let's have her hit the studio, record another 3 and just put out an album for Christmas. The track listing does not flow, there is no consistent style, and there are a handful of songs which really should not have featured on this album at all. The best thing Crystal could have done was to have recorded an album from scratch, and left the Flash material off of it. And don't even get me started on "After love ~First boyfriend~". It was clearly Sony trying to capitalize on the Christmas vibe of the song and the timing of this album's release.

Crystal Kay is an amazing talent, and one of Japan's best J-Pop / J-R&B vocalists. And she's yet to break her studio album streak by releasing a flat out terrible album. But Spin the music is not the amazing album that Crystal is more than capable of. I don't think the album is crap. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit disappointed in it. If you give it a few listens you will grow to love it. But the album as a whole doesn't have that instant likeability that her past 2 full length studio albums had.

Album highlights:
■ Journey ~Kimi to futari de~
■ Konya ha no.1
■ Kimi ga ireba
■ Love or game ★ J's fave
■ Hands up
■ Flash
■ Thank you for talkin' to me Africa


  1. I expected you to give this album a 6. I agree with your review; this album was definitely a let down. I swear who ever is in charge of dealing with crystal at Sony Japan is on crack. After love was not needed on this album; it's over a year old and it wasn't good then and it still isn't now. This album seems to be somewhere in between what crystal has done before and this new style that she is trying to create for herself. I liked the album, but after waiting two years for a new studio album release I feel like crystal could have come harder.

  2. I'm very slow in getting to new Crystal music. Maybe it's because I'm so content with STILL playing Konna ni Chikaku de...

  3. I've got one problem with the whole album. The magic that "All yours" had and the freshness that "Color Change" had is simply missing. I really forced myself to give it a listen. J totally nailed it...let's throw all the songs that didn't make it on "FLASH" and record some more fillers.

    Plus "Flash" wasn't as hot as everyone's claiming it was. She should have released songs like "I WANNA BE" or "It's a crime", those are the songs I love from Crystal. She should defintily leave sony, and try to get herself a western record deal. She has so much potential and she's totally wasting it in Japan.

    Or at least, sign with "AVEX". You can say whatever you want about that slave-fabric...but at least they know how to promote a singer. You might get brain damage after a while but at least you see them paychecks.

  4. I admire the fact that she's experiencing different sounds of music, but I miss the old "Hard to Say", "Anata no soba de" CK.

  5. JYP totally phoned it in with his production for "Goodbye". He's capable of making great tracks and Crystal Kay's voice is a gift for any producer. Still, I think it would be really cool if she could branch out into the K-pop market and work with JYP again, but only if he brings his "A" game.

    Most importantly, I wish her a fast and complete recovery. It's sad that she had to cancel her 2011 tour, but hopefully she will spend her future time healing her body and leaving Sony Japan for a company that appreciates her vast talent.

  6. i dont really like this album her past albums were way better than this hopefully her next ablum will be more R&B im still listen to All Yours and Color Change im not a big fan of Flash either the only songs i listen to on the album are Journey, Hands up, Goodbye and Time of Love i love crystal kay but she could have done better than this

  7. This album left me wanting more. I'm not satisfied with this album at all. I want Crystal to release some new material.... Although I don't think that will be happening anytime soon.

  8. This album isn't completely terrible, but it serially lacks that spark and character that made Crystal's past releases so damn good. This album feels by numbers and too safe. And it sounds like songs from about 3 different albums all lumped together to make a 10+ song track list. NO cohesiveness whatsoever.

    "Love or game" is my JAM! But the rest of the album is so 'meh', that its hotness is dampened pretty considerably. And as much as I love it, it won't be remembered for defining the whole release how "Konna ni chikaku de..." did for 'All yours' and "One" and "It's a crime" did for 'Color change!'.

  9. Out of all the tracks on this album, I only found myself paying attention to two or three. "Journey" is one that I've "spun" generously, and is probably one of my most favorite Crystal Kay songs. When time passes, it'll remind me of all the snow that fell this Winter.

    Other than that, you hit the nail on the head, J. I also felt that the chance to create a new sonic direction was missed here.

  10. Great review. I agree that it was irritating that FLASH and I pray were repeated on this album instead of adding new songs. But, love this album regardless.


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