LOVE COOK was Ai Otsuka’s 3rd album. It was released on December 14, 2005 and reached number 1 and has sold more than 835,333+ copies, making it her highest selling album. Not only that but all of the singles in this era were, and still are, her most successful singles. Now for some interesting stuff, the song Cherish was already released in the soundtrack of NANA, LOVE for NANA ~Only 1 Tribute~. And finally, most of the songs featured on the album were used in CMs, effectively promoting the album. This album included the singles, SMILY / Biidama, Neko Ni Fusen, and finally Planetarium.

LOVE COOK - Ai Otsuka

1. 5:09 a.m.
2. Haneari Tamago
3. Biidama
5. U-Boat
6. Neko ni Fusen
7. Cherish
8. Ramen 3-pun Cooking
9. Tokyo Midnight
10. Planetarium
11. Birthday Song

The album begins with one of the most unique opening tracks I’ve heard to date, this one entitled 5:09 a.m. Now initially I thought it was going to be an opening track, much like Mirror, or even INTRODUCTION. But I was shocked and thrilled to find out it was a full track. Now initially it begins as a soft, and southing track, and for some reason I think of space or stargazing. But that’s besides the point, the music is very lovely, and so gentle, and so are Ai’s vocals. I did like how one by one, more instrumentals would be added, like the drums, followed later by the guitar. And despite the song being so calm, it suddenly turned into a fierce, roaring rock song. That was when it got really exciting, and it was pretty nice. But after that the song began to revert back to its original state, just a little more energetic. This song was quite the opening track, overall very enjoyable.

And after that wonderful opening the ballad Haneari Tamago lit. Winged Egg begins. Now I’ve already reviewed the live version, but since it was so long ago, I’ll review this one too. This song has somewhat of a solemn tone with it. The instrumentals sound very heart wrenching, especially with the violins, which sound so sad. As for the guitar and drums, well they don’t sound all that bad either. The verses could use some work I’ll say that. But the chorus is so beautiful, despite it sounding so sad. It’s very easy to forget what you just did after listening to this lovely little number.

If that song has got you down maybe Biidama lit. Marble will cheer you up. Along with SMILY, it was the first single in the LOVE COOK Era. This song is one of my personal favorites from Ai. It’s laid-back, mid-tempo, and just plain fun! It features Ai’s signature cute and adorable vocals along with some great music. The melody was so catchy, along with the song overall. The verses were so awesome, and the chorus was uber cute!!! That and catchy, but Ai’s vocals really make it.

Oddly enough SMILY follows right after Biidama. This up-beat track is easy to get into. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s soft rock. The percussion was great in this song, and all of the background vocals were a nice addition. The song flowed together very smoothly, which is very good. The verses weren’t really all that exciting, but the chorus was. It had that rock feel to it, along with some nice tambourine instrumentals, that and that it was nice to hear Ai sound so happy when she’s singing. I still think Biidama is better though.

Another new track on this album was U-Boat. I originally remember seeing the PV of this song on the album LOVE PiECE on the CD+DVD edition, which made me wonder why was it there and was it good. It turned out that it’s a rather fast paced, up-beat tune. And it’s very rock oriented, drums and guitars. The verses were very interesting with the background vocals singing “Yeah!!” The song’s chorus was rather catchy though, but not too catchy. To be honest with you, I’m still wondering why a PV was made, but that’s my opinion. The only thing that seemed to make this song worthwhile was Ai’s vocals.

We now come to the track Neko ni Fusen lit. Cat with a Balloon. This is little tune was originally released as her second single in the era. It’s your average laid-back song, with some great vocals. While the song might not scream exciting, it certainly screams awesome and cute vocals! The acoustic instrumentals of this song weren’t bad either. And the mid-tempo atmosphere wasn’t all that bad either. It’s actually a sweet song once you hear it a few times.

It’s time for the song Cherish, which was featured in one of the NANA movies. That being said, I’m sure it’s a lot better than U-Boat. The opening sounds mystical with the calming background vocals, then with the harp and drums. And for once, Ai’s vocals don’t sound all that innocent and cute, they sound more mature. But I can’t help feel that this song is sad, the tone is just to sad and depressing. Even the chorus sounded sad, despite it being so catchy, it was way to depressing. I think it was Ai’s vocals that gave it that feeling. The guitars and drums were a nice addition during the chorus, even though they made it sound so sad. Honestly, despite all of that I really like this song, it’s a nice change from all of Ai’s songs.

And now for the song that makes me a little hungry and makes me think “what an unusual title” it’s none other than Ramen 3-pun Cooking. I’m pretty sure we all know what Ramen is, if not shame on you!!! Anyway the rather unusual beats are nice and all but it sounds so weird. And the whole Ramen at the beginning was so hilarious, especially how Ai sung it. Actually throughout the song I couldn’t help but want to laugh, it sounded so funny. I really don’t think this song is all that great, just funny. But the piano playing was a nice touch though.

I wasn’t too sure just how Tokyo Midnight would sound, but it took me by surprise. From the piano playing in the beginning I was sure it’d be a ballad, but after the drums, brass instrumentals, and up-beat mood replaced it, I began to think of a more pop song. Well pop in only the sense it’s not a ballad, it’s not all that pop either, well not like her newer songs anyway. I couldn’t get enough of the instrumentals as they were rather addictive, mostly due to the piano. And Ai’s vocals were actually very good in this song, especially during the chorus. The only problem was that sometimes the brass instrumentals got a little too loud and annoying a few points. Overall this song was just too mediocre for me.

Mediocrity is good and all but I personally prefer the sounds of the phenomenal ballad Planetarium. It was the final single in the LOVE COOK Era, and in my opinion they saved the best for last. I still hear fans praise this song, and it’s no surprise. While it’s extremely depressing at times and often sounds sad, you still can’t help but love it. Ai’s vocals have hit a new level of maturity in this song, and the instrumentals are simply beautiful; to top it all they make one unique combination, beautiful nonetheless. The melody of this song, and everything else basically was so catchy and so memorable. If you listen to one song on this album, better make it Planetarium.

One of the more unique songs on the album is Birthday Song. I’m not sure what Ai was thinking when she made this song, but this song is just so unique. From the very short lyrics to the children saying “Happy Birthday” at the beginning, this is one memorable song. But maybe not memorable in the sense that it’s good. It sounded way to country for my liking, that and the fact that it sounded so weird.

Closing the album is LOVE MUSiC. It’s not your basic average track for once, and that being said the song is actually good. Although it does take a while for the song to get good, it’s well worth the wait. The music has that solemn tone, much like Planetarium, it tends to have a sad feeling with it. The instrumentals were very rock oriented, and ballad at the same time, well the piano anyway. I liked this song and all, but it sounded so sad, especially with the violins. But it was a beautiful final track on Ai’s LOVE COOK album.

Overall Review: LOVE COOK was a cutesy sensation! And I saw cutesy because most of the songs featured her signature cute and adorable vocals! Now despite all of her awesome, amazing vocals, she does prove that she can handle other songs like Planetarium and Cherish, which feature stronger, more mature vocals. This album is really a big step for Ai. She’s still cute and everything, but she’s began to take on more mature songs that are more emotionally demanding. it’s kind of hard to explain, but this album is good, that’s a fact. I also loved the album scans and booklet, they looked amazing! And I loved how she got the title COOK, for that click here. Anyway I can’t imagine a better album from Ai, although i still love LOVE PiECE just a little more.

Final Grade: 95A

2 Responses to “LOVE COOK”
  1. amaiyume says:

    hahaha, we agree again!!
    I just would like to say Haneari Tamago is just one of the best Ai songs!!! I love it to pieces 🙂

    And the ending picture is just too adorable for words!!

  2. Die says:

    I like it too, but I think that Kurage, Nagare Boshi is better, that and Planetarium.

    And I love it too, I decided to use that as the final picture because it looked so cute! Much better than the other picture on the same page xD

    that and that it’s cuter, and she’s so happy!

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