LOVE LETTER

LOVE LETTER was Ai Otsuka’s 5th studio album. It was released on December 17, 2008 and reached no. 3 on the Oricon Charts with 104,232 copies sold. The album was released in a CD+DVD edition and a CD-Only edition. There are a total of two title tracks on the album rather than the occasional one. There were a total of three singles released prior to the album but one day after its release, it was announced that one of the songs would be released as a re-cut single, providing the fourth and final single of LOVE LETTER.

LOVE LETTER - Ai Otsuka

Tracks:
1. LOVE LETTER
2. Rocket Sneaker
3. Bye Bye
4. Kurage, Nagareboshi
5. Ningyo
6. Kimi Fechi
7. Creamy & Spicy
8. Do☆Positive
9. 360°
10. Shachihata
11. One × Time
12. Pocket
13. Ai

Review:
The album begins with the very first title track of the album entitled LOVE LETTER. This beautiful opening song is an oh so sweet ballad. Although I have to warn you that this ballad sounds lovely, but it does seem to lack an array of instruments except for the piano, which is actually all it needs really. It’s not her finest ballad, I mean it’s nothing to fancy or grandiose, it’s just a very simplistic ballad. One thing did I notice was just how different Ai’s vocals were. Instead of being so soft and gentle, they actually had some power behind them and were a little louder than usual. And towards the last two-thirds of the song, things got more interesting as the piano started to play differently, giving it some variety. It’s a little generic, yet it’s still a fantastic opener.

One of Ai’s most up-beat and cheerful works in this era is still Rocket Sneaker. This snazzy ragtime song is sure to get everyone excited with it’s up-beat music and infectious melody. The piano is the main instrument and does it sound good, while it’s blaring the drums and guitar play too, creating an unrivaled feel good euphoria. And to top it all off, this song is catchy as can be. The melody doesn’t get annoying all that much and it’s incredible with Ai’s vocals. And Ai’s vocals are awesome, they sound adorable, but not that chibi-cute, I personally loved the “Thank you touch shite” so adorable!!! Anyway, this song is incredible and one of her bests in years.

Up next is Bye Bye, which apparently will be released as a re-cut single in February. This track pretty much continues somewhat where the previous track left off. It’s very up-beat and rock oriented, not to mention Ai’s vocals are pretty cute and sweet, they’re in between her ballad and cute voice. The thumping guitar riffs were nice for the most part, and they felt a little country like almost. The melody was incredible, and the chorus was so catchy and the ad-libbing was great! And the piano in the background was awesome, and the acoustics were just amazing! I see now why this will be a re-cut single.

Sure to be another signature ballad from Ai is Kurage, Nagareboshi lit. Jellyfish, Shooting Star. This summer ballad is one of her greatest works since Planetarium. And although it’s not nearly as epic as some of her earlier works, it’s certainly very lovely. The music is just incredible even though it takes a while before it gets really good. The music during the verses are gentle and quite soft. It’s not until the choruses begins that the music and vocals pick up and where Ai’s true abilities are shown. The vocals were just so powerful and so incredible, it’s too bad that they didn’t last all that long. This ballad is still such a beautiful summer song though.

The infamous Ningyo lit. Doll follows next. As most people know, this album was leaked about a full month before the release of the album, or the covers for that matter and all the songs were present but Ningyo. Anyway, this song is another one of Ai’s ballads. And to be honest with you, the only thing that ticks out about this song is the fact that it’s a traditional ballad, nothing more. The piano chords sound nice and all, but they’re so mediocre, nothing spectacular; the same goes for the strings and the vocals. This song is more of a filler really.

One of the more soft-rock tracks entitled Kimi Fechi lit. You Fetish, appears next. This song has caused some controversy, mainly over the title and translation, but music wise it’s great. It’s definitely soft-rock, similar to her LOVE COOK days, and the music is pretty sweet. It sounds innocent enough with the carefree gutiar playing away. And Ai’s vocals were surprisingly good here. They were soft and not too aggressive and went together well with the music. The drums and percusion, along with the gutiar madefor a soft yet amazing bridge! Much better than the previous track.

Another one of Ai’s unique titles is Creamy & Spicy. One of the first things I noticed about this song was just how up-beat it was, that and that Ai was singing in some cute vocals, cute but strong. But besides all that the song does have a bit of a rock vibe with the acoustic and electric guitar. And although it took a while, the song did get pretty good. The chorus is pretty cute especially when Ai sings in English and then ad-libs. And it was catchy too, especially the drum beats in between. Such an interesting title for such a great song, that reminds me of food.

The first of the three promotional tracks appears next as Do☆Positive. Besides having a PV, this song is pretty rock driven. The song is a bit faster paced than the previous song, and yet it’s just as catchy. Her vocals are a bit different in this song, well range anyway, she seems to try to use some variety which does work for her. The electric guitar is pretty strong and pretty dominant for the most part but it does prove to be good in the end. However despite this song being catchy it’s a little repetitive at times, it’s as if it just repeats after a while except for the end. It could be a little better, that’s all I’m saying.

Out of all the new songs, 360° has got to be my favorite! It’s the second of the promotional tracks and as far as PVs go, it’s the most abstract. It’s also one of the more surreal songs too, it has such a unique feeling. The piano serves as the main instrument, and a pretty great one at that. The overall effect is pretty calm and ambient. Ai displayed her mature vocals in this song, as well as some great lyrics. I personally loved the Merry-Go-Round being repeated, so amazing, and her English was pretty good. And when the song picks up and gets faster it continues to get better! And there was even a hint of rock in the song, very impressive and such a superb song.

When I first heard Shachihata lit. Self-Inking Rubber Stamp I thought it was a mistake. I mean this song is a blast from the past. Although Ai doesn’t sing in Japanese she does do that scat singing like back in the roaring 20’s in the US. Not only that but the music is heavily jazz oriented with the brass. And if things couldn’t get any weirder, they do. Ai’s vocals are low, and I mean low, which is normal for this type of song. A little confusing to hear it on her album but nice nonetheless.

One of her songs released prior to the album is One × Time. This song is a wonderful, classical ballad. The snaps with the strings, and the acoustic guitar, makes such an interesting combination that works for this song. And initially I wasn’t all that thrilled about this song but after listening to it more I began to love this song, and with it being so catchy it’s not that hard. The strings definitely give is such a classical feel that really gives it life. As far as vocals go Ai can handle the song pretty well.

The earliest work on the album as well as her winter ballad is Pocket. Truthfully, this song sounds a bit depressing in the beginning, but it does get better. On the bright side, after the first chorus things begin to get better with the addition of the guitar and the strings, and Ai’s vocals become stronger. Not only that but the songs becomes a little more up-beat and catchier. One of her best ballad to date really.

The final song on the album, as well as the final promotional track, is the second title track entitled Ai lit. Love. But besides being the second title track, this is also her longest song to date at over six minutes. Initially this song is pretty simple in the beginning as the instrumentals are minimal except for the acoustic guitar, but her vocals are sweet and genuine. And then when the twinkling begins, things seem to get so much better, not to mention that her vocals sounded very powerful. Following that the strings entered along with the drums adding some variety and power to the song. After that the song takes on a more defining role as a true ballad from Ai, and one that is quite memorable as well as spectacular. This was an excellent way to end her newest studio album.

Overall Review: LOVE LETTER was mature beauty and excellence. This album just goes to prove how much Ai has grown as an artist in five years. This album might not have reached no. 1 on the charts, but it’s no. 1 in my book. The singles of this era were some of her greatest too, although not her highest selling or charting, they were still fantastic. I was really blown away by this album and just how good it was. It contains some of her most vibrant songs to date, as well as her most beautiful. I can’t wait till her next release!

Final Grade: 97A

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Comments
4 Responses to “LOVE LETTER”
  1. bucebucethecaboose says:

    Ningyo and 360° are my favorite tracks. I love the lyrics to Ningyo, now those are really depressing D:

  2. bestcritic says:

    Nice review. But Ningyo means mermaid not doll.

  3. It’s a very good review. Very specific, critical and decorated with beautiful photos 🙂 I mostly agree with your views, although I can’t really agree with your opinion that ‘Ningyo’ is mediocre… Have you watched ‘LOVE LETTER’ DVD concert? Watch carefully Ai performing this song to discover that such a simplicity is sometimes a key to a real masterpiece 🙂
    Keep writing! 🙂

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