Album review: Beni - Fortune

With Beni's albums getting a taste for what its like to sit within the top 10 and her career hitting a level where she's able to do tours and make that money, the title of Beni's fifth studio album has instant meaning. Even if it is a little predictable given her past releases bearing the names Gem, Lovebox and Jewel - to which we can probably expect a follow up with the title Jackpot. But despite Beni feeling like lady luck with her amassed fortune, the spoils of this album aren't as rich as the name implies; which comes as a disappointment given the polished gleam of Jewel.

The riches of Beni's Fortune begin to reveal itself as counterfeit very early on. An amazing Intro which is full length songworthy kicks off the album in style, as Beni always does. But then "Darlin'" plays and you wonder whether you accidentally put Lovebox on the player. "Darlin'" is a nice song, but we've heard variations of it over the course of Beni's last three albums. And it's hear-in that the album begins to unravel and Beni's fotunes begin to roll down the drain. The question many began to ask with Beni's last album once again surface: Is it time for Beni to kick Daisuke "D.I" Imai to the curb?

The D.I productions are pretty much what you'd expect. In D.I's defence, there are no complete duds. But as solid as his productions are, they are not progressive and he is running the risk of stifling Beni's sound - something you could argue he has already one. Daisuke Imai and Beni have crafted a sound together, and have a brilliant working relationship which translates into the growing confidence Beni shows from album to album. But he cannot keep giving her the same sounding songs, which he has pretty much done so for four albums straight. Daisuke has the talent to push the envelope of his sound, and Beni's work with other producers have shown she's more than willing to take the risk. So the two of them need to find a common ground where they can experiment together, instead of being comfortable and complacent in the comfort zone they seem to be stuck in right now. "Last song", "My world", "One in a million" and "Only one" are decent enough songs, but we've heard them before spread across several of Beni's releases under the guises of different names. It's even gotten to the point where Daisuke is now giving this same sound to other artists. I'm sure at some point Beni must have called Mýa and asked her for "Before U say goodbye" back. Beni needs to make a decision and make it now before Daisuke has homegirls' albums circle the drain.

As a slight result of Daisuke's sound in comparison to Fortune's secondary collaborator Lil' Showy, Fortune feels divided. The later half is where things take a complete sonical shift in favour of synth driven numbers and agressive vocal passes from Beni. Beni's vocal fidelity has come a long away. Three albums ago she would have been drowned out in these songs. But now, she rides the beats and tames them like a true songstress. "Crazy girl" is a club track through and through with its four on the floor kicks and strong synth lines which tear through the song during the hook. An ode to the club fare of the 90's. Some tighter vocal production wouldn't have gone amiss, as the vocals on the hook feel lacking and a little rough around the edges. But the beat is such a hit and Beni sounds so strong regardless, that the song still wins. "Yes or No?" goes back in time by another decade and throws it back to the 80's. Think Jewel's "2face", but with tighter production and better vocals. A great track, which would have done solid rounds as a single, tapping into the dance ready electro driven sound which has been a mainstay in the upper regions of the Oricon charts for the past year. "Oh yeah!" adheres to the overly synth hi-NRG sound which has been running rampant in the charts for the past year and even touches on (yup, you guessed it) a bit of a dubstep influenced bassline drop. These tracks are so wonderfully cool and fresh that the other songs feel as though they're coming up short in comparison; having you question whether Daisuke is in fact holding Beni back in some way.

The track order on Fortune doesn't flow as nicely as Jewel's. All of the high energy songs are placed in the later half of the album. "Crazy girl" should have been within Fortune's first three tracks, yet it's shunted down into being the albums sixth track. And the ballads "Koe wo kikasete" and "Suki dakara" just feel as though they're slotted in for the sake of saying the album has a couple of ballads. Because Yevon forbid a Japanese album which isn't from Perfume doesn't feature at least one.

Fortune is not a bad album. In fact, there is not a flat out bad song on the whole thing. But that typical Beni sound is beginning to wear thin now. And by Beni sticking with this sound for two thirds of the album and then showcasing a rapid departure from that sound for the remaining third - it creates a sonical rift throughout the whole thing. Beni's decision to work with Lil' Showy and the DIGZ crew again after their solid stint on Jewel ("The first time, See U again", "Don't let go") is to be applauded. But her reluctance to try and bring Daisuke along for the ride hurts this album and causes it to feel regressive. Jewel was such a brilliant album because it was cohesive from top to bottom and signaled more of the direction Beni should be going in. Where as Fortune feels as though Beni ventured out onto a new path, but then ran back mid-way.

Jewel continues to be Beni's best album, but Fortune at the very least shows that Beni is now a force to be reckoned with. And if she manages to truly nail her sound and then push it forward for a whole entire album, then we'll have something truly special. Beni has it in her, she just needs to surround herself by producers who are willing to make that jump. And unfortunately, that could mean limiting the involvement of Daisuke Imai, as he could be the tether which is holding her back from that perfect 10 album we know Beni is more than capable of.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Album highlights
■ Fortune Intro
■ Darlin'
■ Last song
■ Crazy girl
■ Yes or No? J's fave
■ Oh yeah!


  1. Your highlights are spot on, yer or no is my favorite as well. I'm also really enjoying unmei no hito. I find darlin' annoyng though.

  2. You can tell Beni's been getting some action lately after listening to "Secret"

  3. I don't think the problem this album was with D.I. The issue is that BENI albums always have so many damn ballads. If she had just two, and the rest of the album was split 5/7 between D.I's Pop&B sound and Lil' Showy and DIGZ' new sound, we wouldn't really have a problem.

    And, I agree, the new sounds should have come along more toward the beginning of the album. The track order is askew here.


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