Chanmina: harenchi / #2021reviews
Ever since the previous generation of Great J-Pop Divas either retired (the one-and-only Namie Amuro), became a shadow of their former self (Ayumi Hamasaki), became increasingly boring (Utada Hikaru) or just not as much in the spotlight anymore as they used to be (Koda Kumi), people are looking for the Next Big Thing and when they talk about the possible future queens of J-Pop Chanmina‘s name pops up very often. Born in 1988 and debuted in 2016, making waves with her unique, edgy blend of hip-hop influenced pop music, she was almost immediately signed to a big label and got fairly popular very fast. And even though soon afterwards she started to do more generic mainstream pop stuff, including ballads and so on, her best tracks were always the ones that returned to her angry diva roots. After two full-lengths, a few EPs and a long line of singles she dropped her latest album, Harenchi (which translates as shameless) this October and… well, while it has its moments, unfortunately, this definitely will not be the one that gets her a spot anywhere near that vacated pop throne.
The opening Taiyo starts out as a very generic ballad, but towards the end it uses a drum’n’bass-like beat in the background that shakes things up a bit. Angel is a mid-tempo pop tune with a latin flair, which is then exchanged for a jazzy touch for the next two songs, kimikarano okurimono and harenchi, which sound so much alike, that they could be easily be mistaken for just being different takes of the same track. Voice Memo No. 5 still keeps the same tempo, but with more of a modern R&B feel to it, then things slow down even more with the somewhat childish Whitekick to near ballad-like speed. Then, at long last, we climb out of the deep pit of mid-tempo pop with Period, an edgier hip-hop track, followed by Picky, a fun and slightly twisted pop song, which is actually not much more then a follow-up to her excellent 2018 hit Doctor, but still, it’s a great tune and also one of the album’s highlights.
The hip-hop influence remains, but we slow down again for Sozoryoku, another ballad, while with Tokyojoshi we return to mid-tempo territory, again with a jazzy touch, this time in a more fun and playful manner. Distance is somewhat similar, but instead of the playfulness we have an xmas / bar jazz feel. Morning Mood is another one with R&B influence, while ^_^ is finally something new and interesting, a somewhat more up-tempo song with latin parts, built around a house beat. It serves as a good lead-up to Bijin, a previous single cut more in line with the Doctor and Picky sort of tracks and even though this one isn’t as good as those it yet again proves that this is the style that works best for her. However we quickly leave that behind again for Hanabi, a rather generic modern J-Pop tune, then it all ends with a ballad (what else), in the form of the acoustic version of Never Grow Up, the the title track of her 2019 album. And while I’m not at all into ballads usually, this one turns out to be an interesting new take of a proper, well-written song and it actually works better than about 90% of the album.
While the album (which admittedly was also made to break her more into the international market) did fairly well on the domestic charts, it is quite a bit of a disappointment. She’s still got that unique touch, her voice and singing style is still easily recognizable and there are a few good tunes, but musically the album is painfully generic, an often tedious experience with not much to offer. At those jazzy parts it almost sounds like a knock off of Shena Ringo‘s lesser albums, while most of the other stuff is just basic J-Pop done not-that-well. Too bad, as Chanmina has tremendous talent, so I kinda hope that this one just got her on a bad spot and next time she will eventually do something that showcases her true potential.
2021.10.13 / cd, digital
03.君からの贈り物 (Kimikarano Okurimono)
05.ボイスメモ No. 5 (Voice Memo No. 5)
16.Never Grow Up (Acoustic Version)
A year in reviews: in 2021 I was somewhat neglecting the site due to the lack of free time, but now I try to make up for it as much as possible, reviewing several important / good / interesting albums that were released this year. One for each day throughout December, from a very wide spectrum of genres. #2021reviews