Album review: Hiromi - Rainbow

Album review: Hiromi - Rainbow | Random J Pop
J-R&B is big, and it's here to stay. And alongside the likes of Namie Amuro, Crystal Kay, BoA and Beni amongst others: Hiromi is the new girl on the block to stake her claim in the J-R&B game. And d'ya know what? It's a damn strong game. Bitches better start sleeping with one eye open.

From the off-set Rainbow hits big. "Yes" is pure un-saturated summer banged out hotness! The song should be straight up annoying. But the beat and chorus is so infectious that you can't help but fall for its charm. It has a very Namie Amuro-esque sound about it. Especially where the vocal production is concerned. But Hiromi puts enough of a stamp onto the song that she makes it her own. "I'm with you" did absolutely nothing for me on a first listen. As soon as it started I thought to my self "Here we go. Another Japanese producer trying too hard to come with the US and Urban sound..." But when I actually sat and listened to the song, and the B-section came in, "I'm with you" got slung onto the iPod with the quickness. "Colorful world" is the song that hid from Crystal Kay. If Hiromi hadn't had snagged this song first, you can bet Crystal Kay's A&R squad would've lobbied for this. Hard knocking drums, strummy guitars, strings and a twinkly piano to sweeten proceedings.

Hiromi doesn't avoid the bandwagon completely though. Auto tune and electro pop manages to sneak it's way onto her debut. "Dr. Angel" doesn't give the best first impression. Between Hiromi speaking in an auto-tuned voice and an intro that's about 30 seconds too long - the song seems like it's on a mission to make you want to hate it. But on repeated listens the song does manage to grow on you. It's a nice bubbly song with a real old skool Fatback band feel to it. I kept expecting it to mix into "I found lovin'". "Vanilla" is in the same vein as "Dr. Angel" with its auto-tune and old skool vibe that once again had me thinking "Them Fatback peeps HAVE to come in soon!" The song sounds like one too many popular R&B cliché's got thrown into the production melting pot, to the point it the whole entire song sounds like a four minute mess. Synths, finger snaps, stuttered 808's, record scratches and sections that sound like the power's gone out on a turntable whilst the song is playing. It's all too much.

Hiromi slows things down for half the album, where she fully shows her love for R&B. "Your song" is just 5 minutes of crack. Hiromi needs to be shooting a PV for this song and releasing it as a single. The production is off the chain - which we can all thank the hot and in demand J-producer U-Key for. Dude could teach some dudes in the US a thing or two. Hiromi's vocals are a bit shaky and too thin for the belting and ad-libs she projects towards the end of the song. But the song is so hot as a whole, that by the time Hiromi comes in to wail out of her register you're already in love with the song and reaching for the repeat button. "Ikari hoshi", "Making love" and "Recover" are Rainbow's definitive slow jams. Smooth sensual production, laced with Hiromi's sweet vocals. All three songs are really nice and highlight Hiromi's vocal strengths. She certainly makes breathless vocals sound nice and welcomed. Much unlike Mariah, who sounds annoying and like she's on life support with a terminal disease. "Why" is a really nice song, which again; showcases Hiromi's vocals nicely. Whilst she sings in her upper register for most of the album, she takes things down for this song and sounds stronger for it. Whilst the rest of Rainbow is very much R&B and Pop done US style - "Why" has a very distinctly Japanesey sound to it.

Hiromi straddles the middle between uptempo and slow with some really nice mid-tempo's, which really do highlight how pretty a voice she has. "Rainbow" and "My everything" are both beautifully uplifting songs. "My everything" sounds like a song I've heard before, but I for the life of me can't figure out which song it is. (If anybody has an idea, let me know! It's been bugging me for a while now!)

Hiromi doesn't have the best voice. Crystal Kay certainly trumps her in the vocal stakes. But Hiromi's strengths is knowing (for the most part) her limits and what works for her. And that is to highlight the lightness of her vocals and intertwine them with perfect layering - as done to great effect on "Ikari Hoshi" and "Making love". Hiromi also gets props for writing her own songs. The girl clearly has a knack for it, because every song on the album has an insanely catchy hook. She's like a Japanese Keri Hilson! Only without the horrendous weaves and a debut that doesn't suck. Even with the language barrier you can appreciate how well constructed the songs are, and take on board that the chorus to every song is memorable. Even though you don't know what the hell you're singing, you'll be singing in your own gabbledegook Japanese and humming along.

The production on Rainbow is air-tight. U-Key has to be one of the hottest Japanese R&B producers in the game right now. He has his finger on the pulse of what makes hot R&B jams. I really hope he hooks up with Crystal Kay, because there's no doubt he'd lace her correctly. Nao'ymt also does a great job, exhibiting a smoother and more soulful sound we don't often hear from him. Producers in Japan aren't often put at the forefront of the songs they produce. Hopefully that will change. Because it would be a shame for such hot talents to go under the radar and not get spotlit.
I've found myself playing this album so many times right the way through and just loving it. The sound is likeable, listenable and varied. On a couple of occasions it does sound as though the producers are trying over-hard to push that US R&B sound. But these moments are few. And these songs are so well produced and catchy that they'll win you over eventually anyway. Hiromi delivers an album that you can play from start to finish without skipping and then do all over again. This is certainly a better R&B album than several of the US's more popular artists claiming to be R&B have released over the past couple of years. Definitely worth checking out. A stunning debut.

RATING: 8.5 / 10

Album highlights:
■ Colorful world
■ My everything
■ Rainbow
■ Dr. Angel
■ I'm with you
■ Your song ★ J's fave
■ Aisaretai
■ Why
■ Ikari hoshi
■ Recover
■ Himitsu


  1. Hey, is it possible that "My Everything" sounds like "Not Anymore" by LeToya? I started listening to the song and as soon as I heard it started singing "Not Anymore". Very similar.

  2. Nah... That wasn't the song I was thinking of. Or 'trying' to think of. Although I can hear the similarities! :)

  3. I'm listening to it right now. "Yes" is a keeper. I bet the others are great, too. The production is no joke so far.


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