Rina Aiuchi’s “MIRACLE”

Rina Aiuchi / MIRACLE / May 03, 2006

When I first heard Rina Aiuchi’s music, it was with the release of Koi wa Thrill, Shock, Suspense in conjunction with Detective Conan. With complete disregard to the whole anime tie-in (seriously, what popular artist from Japan hasn’t been affiliated with an anime?), I really liked the song. It was bubbly, upbeat, and fit the whole dance-pop genre like a glove. I bought her first album and was a bit disappointed. One year later, in 2002, I swallowed any preconceived notions I might have had, and purchased her second album POWER OF WORDS basely solely on the beautiful shiver-inducing ballad “NAVY BLUE” and the trancey “Run up.” Once again, I was disappointed; beside two or three songs that were beautifully arranged in retro pop sentiment, the album was no good and I was tired of seeing her emulate the covers of Ayumi Hamasaki’s own first two album covers to the point of embarrassment.

I decided I was no longer a Rina Aiuchi fan. For two years, I continued listening to her sugary pop music because of her voice, but two years was enough and Aiuchi could no longer rest on those laurels alone. Aiuchi’s voice is the quintessence of soprano, but with just the kind of smooth timbre and feathery air to bring out the most heartfelt of ballads; but not pop music. It seems that although her vocals are one of her strongest features (it’s certainly not her speaking voice however; think Alvin & the Chipmunks meet helium), they’re actually more of a hindrance when it comes to the pop market: her voice is much too frail to do powerful songs like “OVER SHINE” the justice they deserve. And although Aiuchi consistently puts out singles and albums, and has even hosted her own television show, the public agrees: she is just mediocre. And when in doubt as to why and scared of fans’ massacres in bloody protest to one’s opinion that the music isn’t all that great, blame the record company: GIZA sucks when it comes to promoting their artists (but c’mon, the music really isn’t all that great and that’s the biased truth!)

Since the release of her second album, I’ve been a light switch follower of her music. Off and on I’ll give a song a random listening chance or try out a new album to see what she’s up to and how those vocal chords are doing, but often I’ll just like one or two songs off an album and remain uninterested and disappointed in someone who has potential to be someone who is and does so much more and isn’t and doesn’t, instead focusing on much more important things like designing fake nails and posing for kooky fashion photo books.

However, it’s that time again; the final single before her new album DELIGHT is released at the end of May. I figured it was time to check in with Aiuchi and proceeded to give in to the rainbow challenged cover art and give MIRACLE serious consideration. Then again, scratch that; it’s hard to take anyone riding a huge disco ball in what appears to be a jean skirt but could just be a handkerchief seriously. “MIRACLE” is a happy, happy song. I mean…it’s pretty happy. Ai Otsuka happy. That’s pretty fucking happy. It even has the synth beats and typical Engrish chorus amidst some mediocre harmonies. Upon hearing “MIRACLE” I was struck with the fact that nothing about Aiuchi’s music has evolved or changed and I’m left wondering how she’s managed to stick around this long. Maybe it’s the double haircut she’s sporting? The only saving grace about the A-side is, as usual, her vocals. As a final note, that psuedo guitar solo is a joke.

The second song on the album is “ESPECIAL THANKS.” In the world of Jpop, I have come across strange titles like this countless amounts of time, and yet, I still can’t help wincing. I think this is due to years and years of education and the moment I stop flinching is the moment I’ve gone stupie for good. So in retrospect, this wincing is nothing if not reassuring. This song is more of a ballad. It’s pretty simple and serene, employing stereotypical elements of any slow pop number; that cascading xylophone/bell sound I forgot the name of (OK, I just made myself look dumb, it is not good when an actual song drops your IQ) and the appropriately placed acoustic guitar. And god damnit, stop it with the psuedo guitar solos already. They are a joke.

The only saving track is the final track, “MIRACLE-ALLEGRO VIVACE.MIX-,” and you know the other songs are bad if I am calling this one a saving grace. It’s basically a dance version of the title track and doesn’t detract too much from the original aside from some extra beats to get the party started. Which it wouldn’t, ’cause my party would start throwing stuff if I played this single. Like rocks, or other heavy objects that can break things, like human bodies, and probably through windows, or better yet, at my radio. Also, I’m shocked Aiuchi has not yet caught on to the CD+DVD release phenomena, rendering this disc even more completely useless.

‘Nough said. Disappointing. And that sucks, because this is the third Jpop review I’ve done in a row that wasn’t worth my time. The album will probably suck and I’m still not sure if I’m nice enough to give it a listen. I think our relationship has to take another route; if this album sucks, it’s over. No more second or third or fourth chances. This is your fifth. Get it right or get a new writer.

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