SMILES was Hitomi Shimatani’s 30th single. It was released March 4, 2009 and debuted at no. 24 on the Oricon Charts. The title track was used as the theme song for the movie Parallel which Shimatani starred in.

SMILES - Hitomi Shimatani

2. Stay with me
3. SMILES (Instrumental)
4. Stay with me (Instrumental)

It’s seems like it’s been such a long time since Hitomi Shimatani’s released anything. But she’s back and better than ever with SMILES. It’s not her strongest song, but it’s certainly refreshing and expected. It’s filled with the sounds of the strings and the acoustic guitar, along with some brass, she’s channeling something, not sure what it is, but she’s doing it. The song is really ethnic, and the Spanish guitar clinches it. In this song her vocals are surprisingly vibrant and happy, like a breath of fresh air. The up-beat mood is just perfect for the chorus, which is surprisingly catchy and actually memorable. The verses were a little dull at times, but that’s to be expected I guess.

I’m sort of surprised by the title Stay with me because it’s been used by countless artists, just to name a few: Kuu, ayaka, melody., etc. But instead of this song being a ballad, it’s more up-beat but still romantic and lovely-dovey. There’s a hint of ethnic flare like her previous song, it might be due to the piano, percussion, acoustic guitar, or strings, either way it’s good. And while the song isn’t all that catchy it does sound remarkable and splendid. Again her vocals were just lovely and refreshing.

Overall Review: SMILES was jolly ethnic splendidness! Hitomi is back finally, and this time she’s returned with some amazing material. I wouldn’t go as far as classifying it was crossover, but it’s still amazing and features the strings; although some channeling Shinku wouldn’t hurt. Both songs were up-beat and just really marvelous. It’s much better compared to her previous singles. Still it wouldn’t hurt if it was more modern or more pop, but I guess that’ll be on the next release. I still have to say that this is overall an improvement that still holds true to her ethnic music. And she looks amazing, much better with long hair. She’s giving Ayu a run for her money now in the looks department. An outstanding way to begin the new era.

Final Grade: 94A-



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