Goto Maki’s final album before her show business hiatus, Aikotoba (VOICE), has been released! This album is incredibly comprehensive of her post-H!P career, showcasing much of her material since she joined avex. If you get the special 2-CD version, you get all her collaborative works, such as the SWEET BLACK stuff, as well! If Maki has to go, at least she is making her last release a really good one for her fans!
Maki has been one of my favorites since I got into Hello! Project over 10 years ago. While she was in H!P, I followed everything she did, every single, every collaboration, and while her solo career had its ups and downs (due to material given to her), on the whole I thought she was fabulous.
I was crushed when she left Hello! Project, but hopeful at the same time, because the biggest thing that I felt was holding her back was that her material was all over the place. I loved things like Ai no Bakayarou, Afurechau… Be In Love, Daite Yo! Please Go On, and the like, but her solo singles became more miss than hit after that point, and it wasn’t until Glass No Pumps and Some Boys! Touch that I felt they were really giving her stuff that she could rock.
And of course, after that, she left. Wonderful. I had high hopes for her with Avex, and liked a few of the things she did with Sweet Black, especially Lady Rise, however, somewhere after that I slowly found myself not paying attention to her releases anymore.
She piqued my interest again only when she announced that she was going on hiatus, and that kind of shocked me back to wanting to listen to her new stuff. The fact that this is a fairly comprehensive collection of her post-H!P stuff makes it perfect for someone like me that wants to try and catch up on any possible good material that they’ve missed. And you know what? Now that I have a chance to go through all of it at once, I seem to have a much better impression of it! There are a couple songs that I am absolutely in love with, and there were actually very few songs that I outright did not like.
Although a good portion of this album is previously released material, much of it is new for me, so I’ll be reviewing it as such. Starting with the first CD…
1. What Is LOVE
What is love? Love is this song. I love it. The pounding bass, the lows and highs of Maki’s vocals, the refrains and the vocal effects in the background, I love it all. If only all her material had been able to catch my attention like this! This song is catchy and cool, and has a more modern club-esque feel to it, while still being Jpop. It’s a great opening track and one of my favorites.
2. Get Your Way
This is another electronic-sounding song, but with more electric guitars. It keeps the atmosphere from What Is LOVE going, which is nice. I love the beginning of this song and the verses, they sound awesome! But, unfortunately, I feel like the refrain is a bit of a let down, and not catchy enough for the rest of the song, which is really cool. It’s still not a bad song, though, and worth listening to.
The club music is over, this one’s a ballad. I’m really not a ballad person. A ballad has to still be catchy, have excellent vocals, and most importantly, not bore me to sleep. This isn’t my favorite track, but it did meet all my criteria, and I didn’t hate it! Maki has the voice to pull off a good ballad, and this song worked for me.
This song continues with more of Maki’s calmer, slower material. Her voice is the star in this song, and sounds lovely against the lighter background music. Could it be another ballad I like? This song isn’t bad. I actually really enjoyed the calm feeling throughout.
This song is a chameleon, starting off slow and quiet, and changing into a rock song by the end! I love the progression, with the music getting more and more intense as Maki sings. The beginning is beautiful, the rocking end is cool, and her voice is impactful! The title track does not disappoint!
This song is my least favorite so far, it disappointed me. That may be a little harsh, because this isn’t terrible, but I don’t like the instrumental at all, save the bass guitar licks. The trumpets sound really awkward. I like the tune at first, and Maki’s vocals at the beginning are great, but I don’t like the refrain, and that combined with the trumpets kill it for me. If they had kept the song sounding cool like at the beginning, I would have liked it much more. I don’t like what it turns into after the first refrain kicks in. The thing that surprises me about this song is that it seems to be so well-liked among other Maki fans. I suppose I’m the lone dissenter on this one.
This song brings back the cool club feel, and I really welcome it after EYES. The layered vocals in the refrain are really cool and remind me of the vocals in What Is LOVE. There is a breakdown in the song about 3/4 of the way through that I really liked, too. I have really enjoyed the overall feel of the tracks on this album on the whole. This isn’t as good as some of the others, but I liked it about as much as Get Your Way.
This song is another standout! It carries on the cool feeling from Paradise and kicks it up a little more, with some delightful high vocals here and there from Maki. I love hearing her go up into her high register, especially since much of this album is in her lower one. Adding to the charm of this song is a fun rap that Maki does in English! Overall this is a very enjoyable track!
Coming down off the high of Scandalous, is Houseki, which starts off slow and pretty, and gets a bit faster until it turns into a pop song with a thumping background. The song gets slower again after the refrain, but keeps the bass going in the background, which keeps the song interesting. Overall it’s a pretty decent track, not as good as some of the others, but still good.
This was my least favorite out of the slow tracks on this album. As a ballad, it didn’t hold up for me. It wasn’t catchy, or pretty enough. Maki sounds typical, which is good, but not good enough to make this song special for me. I’d skip over this one on future listens.
This is another slow one. It’s better than the previous track, but I’m not really a fan. That’s a shame, because I’ve heard that Maki had written this after her mother had died… That it came from her heart makes me want to like it, but the tune just doesn’t stick with me.
This one starts out slow again, but I like the tune more than the previous two, and it builds up to a strong refrain. I also like the music and Maki’s gorgeous voice through this, so I don’t mind it, even though it is slow for the most part. Like Houseki, it’s not my favorite track, but it’s still pretty good.
It’s the last track on the album, and boy do Maki’s vocals at the beginning of this sound fantastic! After the slow start, this song picks right up as a medium-fast pop song. It’s catchy and Maki sounds great throughout! This song was a great, upbeat way to end the album, because it left me wanting more Maki!
Thankfully, there IS more Maki, if you have the 2 CD version with Maki’s collaborative works on it! I’m really feeling her material right now, so I’m gonna move right on to that!
This second CD, I am more familiar with, as I did listen to quite a bit of Maki’s SWEET BLACK stuff, but I’m going to go through it track by track all the same.
1. Queen Bee with Bigga Raiji
Argh, this song… I absolutely, positively LOVE Maki’s parts in this, but Bigga Raiji is just so annoying! But Maki is so damn good. I can’t not listen to it, it’s such a cool song, but I just wish I could cut his parts out, they are so not my thing. Really, though, the rest of the song is so awesome, I love it despite the rapping.
This was my favorite of Maki’s post-H!P stuff for a long time. It’s got a really cool rock-club vibe, and Maki’s voice is amazing. I love her vocals in this song so much. I know I say that about almost all her songs, but… She’s very dynamic in this song, sounding almost bare against the guitars in the background. I loved this when it came out, and I still love it. One of the best tracks for me!
This song actually sounds like it belongs on the first CD, it has a very similar feel to tracks like Paradise and What is LOVE. It’s an ok song, but not as catchy as either of those two. It’s decent, and worth a listen, but not a standout.
4. TEAR DROPS with KG
Maki sounds so sweet in this song. The dude doesn’t sound as good as her, but surprisingly I didn’t really mind his vocals in this song. The song works well as a whole, and although it had a few things working against it for me (male vocals, and it was a slow song), I still really liked it. Go figure.
5. Mine with KEN THE 390
Ooh, it’s another cool song with a nice bass beat. The male rapping in there works very well with the song, and is not annoying like the raps were in Queen Bee. I liked this track, especially the high pitched refrains.
6. Fly Away
This is another standout track. The layered vocals through the verses are just amazing, and the refrain is sweet and nice. There is a contrast between the styles of the verses and refrain, but the song still flows together nicely. It’s one of my favorites.
7. Plastic Lover
This song has a heavy electronic feel, and starts out slowly before building up in the first refrain. The music gets a lot more interesting after the first refrain, there’s a LOT going on in the background. By the time this song was getting to the end, I was really into it. This track has a different feel to it from the rest of the material, but it doesn’t stick out in a bad way. I actually like the change up, and this song on the whole is pretty great!
Uh-oh, another ballad coming up… It’s pretty and all, but ends up boring me. This one or Candy would be my least favorite of all Maki’s collaborative works, but it’s still not terrible or anything. It just doesn’t grab me enough. I do enjoy it to some extent, but I have to be in the mood for something slow.
9. Golden LUV feat. MAKI GOTO
Oh HELL YEAH. Ok, so I’m not sure if anyone else in the universe will share this opinion, but this is actually one of my favorite Maki songs of all time. This song is AMAZING and DISCOTASTIC. I love the beginning, leading in, and then I love Maki’s soft insistent bg vocals, and then the song just explodes into awesomeness. This song kicks so much ass. It’s just the kind of song I want to put on repeat and rock out to for hours…. Highly recommended.
10. CRAZY IN LOVE
This is a weird one for Maki. The tune sounds a little reggae, which is quite different for her. The refrain is odd, too, I can’t quite peg what it sounds like, but it’s pretty busy, with all the vocals going on. It’s definitely different. Not one of my favorites, but it might grow on me, because it’s definitely not easily forgotten.
The last two tracks are just remixes of Fly Away and Plastic Lover, which I won’t bother with. I’m not much of a remix person, and don’t really care for either. The original version of Fly Away was better, and Plastic Lover was just really drawn out.
But on the whole – WOW. Why did I stop paying attention to Maki again? These CDs were fantastic. So now I love her all over again, and she’s leaving me. Dammit. Well, I am still really glad for this release, because I don’t know if I would have gotten around to hearing all this stuff that I ended up really liking, otherwise.
I do hope that Maki returns to the entertainment industry eventually (rumors are flying that she may join Dream Morning Musume). But either way, I really wish I could thank Maki, for having made such great material for so long. If she’s going out, this was doing it in style. Thank you, Maki, and may your future be bright!