Hai Fidelity w-inds: Seventh Ave.
by Rachael Carothers,
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Despite officially debuting in 2001, w-inds was already fairly popular in Japan. The previous year, approximately 8,000 people came to Shibuya to see a live street performance by the dance group. As a matter of fact, their first album hit the top of the Oricon weekly charts on the first day of its release. Seven years later and they are still as popular as ever with concerts not only in Japan, but all over Asia. On July 2, 2008, the trio released their seventh studio album, Seventh Ave.
The first song on the album, “Spinning Around,” is pretty catchy. However, the chorus is so much more forceful compared to the verses that, unless you are paying close attention to the song, it seems like it is repeating endlessly. Of course, this could have been avoided if the chorus didn't begin each of its eight lines with “You got me.” While the verses are very danceable, the chorus just gets annoying about halfway through the song.
“RELOADED” picks up the pace a little to give us an interesting song with slightly bluesy guitar and drum lines. With the addition of a horn section, it's the vocals and a strumming guitar overlay that keeps the song from moving straight into the blues section of your record store. It's really a surprising combination. You can hear that it wants to be a dance song yet the blues feel gives it a bit more funk. I'd love to see it performed live.
Things slow down with “Hello,” the first ballad on the album. A sweet song, it keeps the background dance-type beat but it has been softened enough that it doesn't take over the vocals. There is a piano in the instrumentals that gives the song the perfect ballad feeling. It's rather surprising that some drama hasn't picked it up as a theme or insert song.
Getting back into a dance groove, “TOKYO” gives us just a little boost. It's not a fast song by any means but there is an awesome beat with vocals that make you want to get up and move. Yet, just as you were starting to wonder where all the real dance songs are, “New Day” jumps in to fill the void. However, this is just a warm up for things to come later.
Another adorable love song, appropriately titled “LOVE,” slides into the sixth spot on the album. Much like “Hello,” all of the sounds here are softened, giving the song a very romantic feel. Don't get too used to ballads though. “Urban Dance” gets back into the funky grooves. However, it still has a rather soft sound for a dance song. Generally, in dance songs, the backing beats have a very harsh, overbearing sound. Here, the song is definitely intended for dancing but it's not as loud as you would expect.
While “Rock It” has a bit more of the harsher dance tones I mentioned, the vocals are still typically pop. It almost sounds like the singer, Keita Tachibana, wants to be a ‘bad boy’ but just isn't capable of it. Admittedly, I like this song a lot better than “Urban Dance.” Even though they are similar, “Rock” has bit more oomph behind it.
The seventh ending theme for the anime Katekyo Hitman Reborn! comes up next. “Ame ato” isn't particularly interesting as a whole. If you take the parts individually, they are all very nice. Once you put them together, you are left with a bland pop song. There isn't one single stand out moment in the entire four and a half minutes.
“LOVE IS THE GREATEST THING” is another catchy tune. Luckily, this one isn't quite as annoying as “Spinning Around” was. While the title phrase is repeated rather often, it still manages to keep you interested. Unfortunately for most people, that means that this song will get stuck in your head and you will have to live with it for next couple of days. Sorry.
For a group that is popular for dancing, there seem to be an awful lot of ballads on this disc. “Stay” is another example of this. There is a decent beat and the vocals are pretty, yet the song isn't exactly danceable. It's a good thing that doesn't distract from the beauty in the song.
After all of the ballads in we've been given so far, “Don't Give Up” shows that w-inds is capable of a good dance song. The beat is strong enough to keep you moving while allowing changes in order to keep it interesting. Keita's vocals are smooth, catchy and a perfect match for the background music.
Musically, “Hand in Hand” is fairly different from the previous songs. A slight Spanish beat led by an acoustic guitar trickles its way into the tune. Separating that sound from the vocals leaves you with a rather typical pop song. Somehow the two mix to form a romantic song that one could probably use to dance the flamenco.
Nearing the end of the album, “Beautiful Life” appears as a fast-paced dance/pop mix. There is definitely a dance beat in the background but it is expertly joined with horns and the strong vocals. Amazingly danceable and completely gorgeous, “Beautiful” is easily the best song on the album.
The final song is titled “Summer Days.” It starts out somewhat slow but then it picks up to turn into a sweet end-of-summer tune. There's a bit of nostalgic feeling amid the various sounds. This probably would have been a better album if more of the song were like this.
When I first heard of w-inds, I thought they were a typical boy band. Seventh Ave proves me wrong. I was expecting more of a pop sound from them. When I found out they were classified as a dance group, the album surprised me even more. There are a lot of ballads, which makes me hope that their other albums had a bit more of a dance sound to them. I can't say Seventh is a terrible album. However, there isn't anything really good about it. If anything, all it accomplishes is mediocrity.
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