Released: July 27, 2016
Minmi isn’t the most recognizable name in the J-Pop industry, mainly because her music isn’t really J-Pop. Her music is inspired by ska and dancehall music, a real complete division from the appeal of Japanese pop music (hah bloody segregation in my eyes). But that’s what makes some of these artists in Asia special, offering something completely outside of the box and doesn’t sound like a repetitive cycle of sounds like doing a 360 in a hamster wheel (honestly, it can get a bit frantic and raise slight paranoia lol). But in 2015, Minmi handed herself over (not entirely) into the EDM market by releasing “Hologram”, which is easily one of her best tracks, but made sure she didn’t completely let go of her signature sound in the album Ego, a slick and stylish mix of reggae and mainstream pop music.
I can’t really say the same with her eighth studio album Life is Beautiful, released on July 27, because she has literally thrown in her sound for some generic Western EDM (please take note Ayu), basically another victim in the cause. But that doesn’t make the album bad in any way. To be in fact, it’s a pretty solid effort, considering that she’s the album’s producer, songwriter, arranger, composer, and only vocalist; that’s pretty massive as it is right there. But let’s get along with it shall we. The album opens with some catchy entries, including the poppy and disco-fied anthem “Friday Night”, the ska-influenced dub beat “Run”, and the glimmering drum-and-bass song “En-Chau”. Out of the lead three, “En-Chau” is the most satisfying, and by all means one of her best songs in recent years, showcasing a diverse performance of Minmi’s vocals with complimenting basslines and EDM elements.
A lot of the album is situated in the bassy four-on-the-floor beat with hard drums, which is evident in the songs like “Taiyou” and “Circus”. It’s a good sign of exploration, but the problem that arrays with tracks like these, and the second half of the album, is that they aren’t really exciting by their build up or not exactly fulfilling to its potential. “Circus”, as much as it is a floor filler with a likeable chorus, sounds slightly dated and doesn’t pack in the finishing punch it needs and deserves (the title is circus god damn it, BIGGER). And songs like the downtempo “Mermaid” and the go-happy pop song “Homeless” need a bigger and better brush up, because they sound flat and forgettable. But the albums worst offender is “Life is Beautiful”, which literally sounds like a messy sequel to the social-media iconic production of “Me!Me!Me!”; ugggh the revelation of dated EDM and dubstep drops, with slightly off vocals during the verses ain’t that pretty.
The production of the album isn’t the most polished element on the album, but knowing many J-Pop stars don’t produce their own records (in recent years to be exact), I’mma give my girl Minmi the benefit of the doubt here. Plus, she manages to add a bit of traditional pop folk-realness in tracks like the slow summer jam “Bad Luck” and the sweet pop ballad “Yakusoku”. Another tune to listen to is “Warai ga Tomaran wa”, a track that explores a nice blend of trip-hop and jazz music, something completely different from her discography.
Overall, Life is Beautiful offers an extremely mixed amount of sounds and beats that don’t completely compel or place itself in the EDM realm subtly or timidly. Some tracks sound a bit off, while some don’t exactly satisfy an overall listen. But as each individual track is played without a coherent run next to their sister songs, it starts to penetrate more and the hooks begin to take over. A messy, yet danceable and catchy effort that can easily be explored more on a future effort, but this still works well enough.
Track list (Bold means best tracks)
- Friday Night
- En-chau ~Liam’s favorite~
- Bad Luck
- Warai ga Tomaran wa
- Life is Beautiful