Album review: Angela Aki - Blue

Album review: Angela Aki - Blue | Random J Pop

Let's be real. Angela Aki is a talent. She has a great voice, she's a true musician and she has a level of musical integrity which you have to search for these days with so many pop artists fighting it out on the front lines of music. But her sound had been stale for many years. Something which begun to take a change when she fell pregnant. Her first post pregnancy release Songbook wasn't the best showcase of this change in sound given that a fair amount of the material was recorded long before its release. But it blew Life and White out of the water and showed many facets of Angela's vocal range; exhibiting a conviction and a raw power that none of her studio albums had really showcased up until that point. Blue sees Angela's sound take on a more playful timbre. Lavish productions complete with guitars, synths and Angela's new found interest in pop.

There isn't a single terrible song on Blue, but there aren't a great deal of amazing ones neither. Many of the songs have a sunny disposition about them and are sung almost like nursery rhymes, which are probably a result of her being a new mother. I love that Angela's new chapter in life is colouring her music in such a way. But if you are a fan of her darker, more sombre songs where she is singing with that heart-stricken longing in her voice, you won't get much of that here.

Blue puts two of Angela most potent elements on the back burner for near enough the entire CD. The piano and her vocals. Only on "Aeiou" does Angela strip everything right back and give you these two things, delivering what is one of the best, most poignant and outright stunning moments on the album. It's an odd and unexpected start to the album, but it gives you exactly what you want from Angela from the outset. The problem with this is that you want more of it, only for you to never get it. Everything from here on out is happy go lucky, bubbly and frivolous, up until the album closer "One family ~Uchuu no nagisa~".

Blue feels very much inspired by the 80s, in a similar way to which Songbook was. Most of the songs sound like themes to 80s cartoons and children's shows, with arrangements sporting synths, guitars and Angela's piano keys weaving in between this. It's Angela's most aurally coloured album to date. A complete contrast to Life which was pretty much entirely acoustic. But the heart Angela gives in these songs may not be in the vein of what fans of her previous material want. Even when Angela was singing about optimism, the highs of being in love, or just a pair of black glasses, there was always a longing in her voice and that element is what is missing here. I don't want to shit on Angela's happiness, as its clear the birth of her child has had a massive influence on this album and was a source of inspiration. But I miss that guttural element of her music. That crux which made Answer such an amazing album, made "Kiss me goodbye" such an amazing song and had "Tsugaru kaikyou fuyu keshiki" such a stand out on White. Angela works this balance perfectly on "Kokuhaku" and "One family ~Uchuu no bagisa" - delivering brightness, happiness and odes to being completely in love without skimping on that element of longing and true heart.
Angela has delivered a decent enough album which can be played from start to finish in any track order and provide a nice listen, and the richness and variation of sounds on this album is a nice change of pace after the sterility of Life and White. There is a real sense of newly breathed life into her music and her vocal delivery, but it comes at a cost - which is an album of songs which aren't that memorable. Answer and Songbook remain as Angela's best releases for me. Blue is a rounded look at Angela as an artist, but the elements she needed to push with this album she barely scratches the surface of in the ways she did with Songbook (the strength of dem vocals) and even White on selected tracks (covering Enka in ways your fave could never). I admire the direction Angela took with this album, but I needed more actual songs, less nursery rhymes and mo' vocals.

RATING: 5 / 10

Album highlights:
■ Aeiou ★ J's fave
■ Kokuhaku
■ Kokoro no tenkyohou
■ Factory
■ One family

Other Angela Aki album reviews: Answer | Songbook


Mel R said…
My favorite song off of this album was kokoro no kenkyohou. It was one of the few songs that had that classic Angela Aki sound, and it's one of two songs that I still play off of blue. AEIOU was love on a first listen, but as you said it was just too short. My proble with this album was the fact that after each song I was left wanting more. For example, I loved the instrumentation change during in my blood, and I wish I would have featured more of that. Overall, I think a 5 Is a little harsh. I would give it at least a 6.
David said…
Japan isn't having ANY of Angie's music right now. I miss the days of Home, Today, and Answer (and maybe even Life) when she made radio and commercially friendly songs.

I'm gonna come out and say what I've been thinking these past three years; I think she's run out of ideas. There's only so many catchy, truly successful songs she could put out with the same gimmick of her in front of a piano in black glasses. I love her to death and she's been my like fourth favorite artist since she debuted but her songs really don't resonate with me anymore like they used to. What's sad is I don't want her image to change, I just want her to make more music that has that single quality about it.

Also she needs to back off the covers for a second. Most of her albums/singles have like four or five covers on them; which takes the place of original material I don't think Angie can muster up. I don't think Blue had any covers, I THINK. But overall I would give Blue a 4/10 because I really only liked aiueo and kokuhaku. Everything else sounded forced like she was on a schedule to write something, ANYTHING, and Blue is what happened. Which may be the case because Sony.
moe said…
This album is crazy good and this score is crazy low. "Blue" is what brought me back to Angela after her last two bores of albums. Personally I think it's her freshest and most inspired work to date, and Kokuhaku just might be the song (or at least the chorus) of her career. Absolutely stunning song. Also while I'm here, unpopular opinion: "Kiss me goodbye" = boring, sappy over-rated j-ballad crud. Sorry!
moe said…
Also you need to do a post on this fucking slayage: