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[Album Review] Utada – This Is The One

March 12, 2009

Utada - This Is The One

Artist: Utada

Album: This Is The One

Genre: R&B

Release Date: 2009-03-14

Information

Japanese singer Utada Hikaru’s long-awaited third English album is finally released! Utada has described this as a mainstream album with heavy R&B influences, akin to her first Japanese releases. The album is already out in Japan, and will be digitally released in the US on March 24. The CD will be released in the US on May 12.

Review

Utada has not disappointed fans and critics for 7 album releases in a row, and this album is no different. She retains excellent control over her voice, and her English is very clear and easily understandable, which is rare for a Japanese artist, and unfortunately seems to be becoming rarer in the US music scene.

While the album is, as described above, a mostly R&B album, it’s still possible to find sprinklings of other genres like techno, rap, jazz and even hip-hop in her songs. However, all her songs can still be traced back to their R&B roots, which is both a plus and a minus for the album.

On the plus side, her songs are mainstream enough to be accepted by the American public, and I will personally go out on a limb here in saying that this will be THE album made by a Japanese artist to truly break through the Billboard charts. On the minus side though, fans of Utada’s more experimental pop sound found in albums like Ultra Blue and Heart Station will find there’s just a little something missing. All of her songs sound wonderful of course, but they all sound like familiar mainstream tracks, and the creative spark that existed in some of her other songs such as Passion doesn’t seem to be there.

Detailed track-by-track breakdown:

1. On and On: The song starts off with some synthesizers and some rap background vocals, which IMO start to detract from Utada’s vocals after about the first 10 seconds (then again, I’m not a fan of rap, so it could be just me…). Other than that, it’s pretty much your standard mainstream R&B affair, sounding very similar to a Leona Lewis/Rihanna/Beyonce song. Nothing extremely special, but it’s an effective opening track nonetheless.

2. Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence – FYI: This is the only song on the album that is not written and composed by Utada. It’s a cover of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s song of the same name. After just one listen, this automatically became one of my favorite songs on the album. Ironically enough, it might be because it’s one of the least R&B-like tracks on the album, instead harkening back to Utada’s J-Pop roots. The vocals and instrumentals meld very well together to create a truly beautiful listening experience. I’ve never heard the original track and hence can’t make a comparison between the two, but I imagine the original must’ve been pretty good ^_^.

3. Apple and Cinnamon: Another primarily R&B track, Utada’s voice sounds great, but occasionally struggles to get attention from the synthesizer, piano and occasional violin. I actually feel that the synthesizers are a bit extraflous in this song; just having a simple piano instrumental would have worked a lot better given the nature of the lyrics, and brought out the potential of this song.

4. Taking My Money Back: Contrary to what I might have believed before, R&B with a little sprinkling of techno/trance works surprisingly well. Then again, this is Utada we’re talking about, she can make just about any combination of genres work 😀 In contrast to the previous song, the synthesizers are used better here: they give the song just enough beat, but don’t detract too much from Utada’s voice.

5. This One (Crying Like A Child):  A very stock standard R&B song, it’s good in its own right, but doesn’t really stand out from the other tracks. Except perhaps for the strange techie references (Blackberry and JPEG?)

6. Automatic Part II: In an extremely dramatic departure from R&B, Utada tries her hand at hip-hop this time. And the result is… not too bad, but it’s not going to make anyone who doesn’t like hip-hop (read: me) change their mind about liking it.

7. Dirty Desire: The song features a good dance-like beat, and would probably work great in a nightclub environment, right down to the (slightly) suggestive lyrics. It’s also a good example of Utada’s flexible vocal range, as the song ranges from deeper notes to Utada’s usual high notes. The ending however is a bit abrupt IMO; while not quite as abrupt as Take 5, it will still leave you expecting more.

8. Poppin’: Am I the only one who finds the opening instrumentals creepily similar to The Pink Panther’s theme? Anyway, this song makes a foray into jazz territory this time, which works very well with Utada’s vocals. The short beats used throughout the song give it an almost mischievous atmosphere, and makes for very fun listening.

9. Come Back To Me: Previously released as a single, this is without a doubt Utada’s best shot at mainstream R&B. At first impression, it does sound a lot like a Leona Lewis song, but Utada manages to puts her own spin on Leona’s style.

10. Me Muero: The song seems to be heavily influenced by Spanish/Mexican music (I’m obviously not an expert on either genre, so if someone could confirm which genre it is, I’d gladly take it). Once again, the combination works wonderfully, giving the song a nice relaxing effect. If you get the US version of the album, this track makes a fairly good ending to the album.

[Japanese Bonus tracks]

11. Come Back To Me (Seamus Haji and Paul Emanuel Radio Edit): Same as the single, except with techno beats instead.

12. Come Back To Me (Quentin Harris Radio Edit): Same as the above, except with dance background music. I’m not a big fan of either edit, so I won’t comment on them much (and besides, the review is more than long enough).

Overall Score: 8.5/10

Utada has clearly learnt a few lessons from Exodus when producing this album. With a much more mainstream approach this time, This Is The One has a good chance of living up to its name and being THE ONE to make it to at least the top 50 (Or even top 10?! One can dream…) of the Billboard Charts. It will be interesting to see if she can repeat the successes of artists like Leona Lewis and Rihanna. My only major gripe about the album are its length, or rather lack of it. Without considering bonus tracks, the album clocks in at barely over half an hour, which is quite short compared to most albums. Also, the bonus tracks are IMO completely unnecessary. Other than those, it’s another solid album by Utada that is sure to please Japanese and American fans alike.

On an ending note, thanks for sitting through around 1100 words of my own (slightly biased) opinions. I’ll try to make the next review much shorter, but I can’t make any promises :/.

Capcom announce sequel to RE: Umbrella Chronicles

March 12, 2009

Capcom have announed a sequel to their Wii shooter Resident Evil Umbrella Chronicles, titled Resident Evil: Darkside Chronicles. The game is due to be released in both Japan and North America for the Wii in winter, assumedly just in time for christmas, along with American localisations of their Gamecube games Resident Evil and Resident Evil 0, the latter of which had been turned down by Capcom USA previously.

The game takes place during the Resident Evil 2 timeline and will star the game’s protaganists Claire Redfield and Leon S. Kennedy in a rail shooter with an “in-depth co-op”, letting you play 1player with AI-controlled assisstance or 2players playing together and an “evade system” which will grant players a more hands-on experience with the game by using the Wii remote to avoid zombie attacks.

Japanese Trailer for RE: DC

Brraaaaiiinnnnsss,

Eternal Resonance

BlazBlue to get a home release

March 11, 2009

BlazBlue - Calamity Trigger

Good news for any fighting game fan out there, Arc System Works have finally confirmed a console release for their popular arcade fighting game BlazBlue. Prior to contrary belief that the game was to be PS3 exclusive, ArcSys have confirmed the game is to be released for both the PS3 and XBox 360.

For any of you unfamiliar with the game, BlazBlue is a high-definition 2D fighter from the people who brought us the Guilty Gear series. It is currently available in arcades around the world.

It seems like ArcSys are going all out to ensure players get their money’s worth with the console release. The additions confirmed are:-

  • Branching Stories based on battles and events with multiple endings for each character, giving players a 30+ hour experience.
  • Full voice acting for the story mode cutscenes.
  • Animation sequences are made by popular anime studio GONZO.
  • Anime Opening featuring a new song by Japanese musician Kotoko.
  • English Voice acting with the option to switch it back to Japanese, something akin to SF4.
  • All characters unlocked from the start, so there’s no annoying “complete arcade with x to get y” business.
  • Astral Finishes for ALL characters, as opposed to the arcade version only giving them to a select few characters.
  • Online Network with a Lobby system. Up to 6 players can connect to a room and play each other. Anyone who isn’t playing can observe the matches as they are played out.
  • Said Online mode allows players to recordand upload their matches, possibly with top players having their matches recorded and uploadedby default.
  • Added colour palettes with possible colour edit.
  • New stages exclusive to console.
  • Possible DLC

The list of English Voice Actors is as follows:-

Ragna the Bloodedge – Crispin Freemanrgn001
Jin Kisaragi – Johnny Yong Boschjin001
Noel Vermillion – Stephanie Shehnel001
Iron Tager – Richard Epcartag001
Rachel Alucard – Michelle Ruffrcl001
Taokaka – Kari Wahlgrentok001
Litchi Faye Ling – Tara Plattlch001
Arakune – Terrence Stoneark001
Bang Shishigami – Skip Stellrechtbng001
Carl Clover – Laura Baileycarl001
Haku-men – ???hkm001Nu-13 – ??? new001

All images courtesy of Arc System Works.

Right now there is no confirmed date for release but they have confirmed a North American release and have stated early summer for Japan, so we will see closer to the date.

The Wheel of Fate is Turning,

Eternal Resonance.

Jim Cramer and Jon Stewart brawls it out, and Joe Scarborough came to the rescue?

March 10, 2009

Last night, Comedian Jon Stewart of the Daily Show on Comedy Central continued his mockery against CNBC commentator Jim Cramer. In the prior week, Stewart showed several tapes of Cramer’s program, Mad Money, in which Cramer “encouraged” people to buy Bear Stearns stocks one week before it collapsed.

In response to this accusation, Cramer insisted that Stewart pulled the quote out of context, and that he was merely trying to encourage people not to pull their money out of the banks.

The following Monday, Stewart “sarcastically” apologized for accusing Cramer, and instead showed actual footages of Cramer actually encouraging people to buy Bear Sterns.

During an appearance on Tuesday, in response to Stewart, Cramer simply called him a “Comedian,” supposedly not taking him seriously. “Oh, oh, a comedian is attacking me!” he said on The Today Show. “Wow! He runs a variety show!”

And that’s that? Wrong!

In an appearance by Cramer on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough came to Cramer’s rescue, and blasted Jon Stewart for being an “Ideologue.”

“I would like to see Jon Stewart come out,” said Scarborough on his program, “and tell us what he believes in, tell us where America needs to go in the future.”

In an attempt to discredit Stewart’s remarks, Scarborough insisted on following him 24/7 with a microphone, and edit out all the mistakes he makes.

(Source: mlive and latimesblogs)

My Thoughts:

This feud between Stewart and Cramer is quite entertaining to watch, but to see Cramer and Scarborough getting so worked up on who they called to be a “Comedian” is simply pathetic.

Jon Stewart is a comedian, and it is his job to mock whatever he finds entertaining. Does he actually mean what he said? Probably, but that is simply his subject of opinion. Cramer claimed that Stewart is just a “comedian,” so then why is he getting so worked up on this? I’ll tell you why, because what Jon Stewart said is absolutely correct, and Cramer simply wants to protect his reputation. If CNBC are actually the so-called experts of the business world, why didn’t they see this economic crisis beforehand?

As for Joe Scarborough, why didn’t you come to Bush’s defense when Stewart mocked him every night on the Daily Show? Because you know damn well that Stewart is a satirist, and finding loopholes to mock at is his job. Oh, so now when he mocks your friend, you go all crazy and call him an Ideologue? Guess what Mr. Scarborough, you are a hypocrite!

Anyway, my supposed rant has gone on long enough, so you are probably tired. Post comments on your opinion towards this matter.

(Take note that the above story is my very first self researched full-length article, and not just a summary of articles others wrote. The two links were used as guides, and the featured videos also helped. Thank you for reading!)

[TRC #3] 2,116 sex offenders from N.C. found on MySpace

March 10, 2009

(CNN) — More than 2,100 registered North Carolina sex offenders were found on the social networking site MySpace, the state attorney general’s office said Tuesday.

North Carolina bans sex offenders within the state from social networking sites where children are members.

North Carolina bans sex offenders within the state from social networking sites where children are members.

In response to a subpoena from state Attorney General Roy Cooper, “MySpace turned over the names, IP and e-mail addresses of 2,116 convicted North Carolina sex offenders found on its social networking Web site,” Cooper’s office said in a written statement.

Cooper has requested similar information from Facebook, another popular social networking site, the statement said.

MySpace has told North Carolina authorities that the sex offenders it identified have been removed from the site.

North Carolina’s State Bureau of Investigation is sharing the sex offenders’ information with all 100 sheriffs in the state, Cooper’s office said.

“It’s no secret that child predators are on these Web sites,” Cooper said in the statement. “Turning over information about these predators to law enforcement helps, but MySpace, Facebook and other social networks need to do much more to protect kids online.”

North Carolina passed a law last year banning sex offenders within the state from social networking sites where children are members, making it a felony offense.

Sex offenders on social networking sites is not a new issue. Last month, Newsweek magazine reported that Facebook said it had removed 5,585 convicted sex offenders from its site between May 2008 and January 2009. MySpace also announced it had removed 90,000 sex offenders in a two-year period, the magazine said.

Last June, the Texas attorney general’s office said it had arrested seven convicted sex offenders who violated their parole conditions by creating MySpace profiles, according to an article on the TechNewsWorld Web site.

Cooper and Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut’s attorney general, for more than three years have led a group of attorneys general in working to make social networking safer, Cooper’s office said. The group is pushing social networks to use technology such as age and identity verification to better protect users who may be children.

After discussions with the group, MySpace became the first social networking site to develop technology aimed at finding and removing sex offenders, the North Carolina statement said. Cooper is pushing Facebook to take similar steps.

But, Cooper’s office said, “the information provided by MySpace does not include sex offenders who have not been convicted, are not registered or may be using aliases on the site. Cooper remains concerned about other sex offenders on the site who may be lying about who they are, and is continuing to ask MySpace to do more to protect children on the site.”

(Source: CNN)

[Divine’s Commentary]

I know it’s not the usual business news that I’d put up, but this is still pretty important, especially because so many people are using such social networking sites. Well… until that article just gave everyone one less reason to use MySpace <_<.

Seriously though, the statistics are scaring me. 90,000 sex offenders being removed in 2 years?! Damn. And who knows how many more are still hiding and lurking in wait… At the very least, other sites like Facebook are relatively safer, but how long they’ll stay that way is anyone’s guess.

Remember people: social networking sites are fun and all (I know because I do have a Facebook account… and got addicted at one point XD), but you must still be careful and know how to protect yourselves, especially for the girls. Letting random people befriend you isn’t dangerous per se, but if they start acting abnormally, don’t be afraid to block them. Eg. if a random stranger comments on your MySpace saying “Hey babe, wanna have sex at xxxx?”, DON’T SAY YES!! Just delete their comment, remove them from your friend list containing 1001 random people, and block them PERMANENTLY. Maybe even warn your other friends about him so that they don’t get tricked either. It should be common sense, but apparently some people don’t have that -_-.

Well, that’s all the news from me for now. Until next time,

Divine

[TRC Rant] Of textbooks and uni students

March 9, 2009

Wow, this subject just pisses me off incredibly, so I apologize in advance if anyone is offended by the language that I am about to use in this article. I don’t usually like to do a rant, but this is something I just have to talk about. For every single university student out there, starting a new semester usually means the pain of losing a few thousand dollars to fees, and yet another few hundred dollars to, you guessed it, textbooks.

Now, being a business student, I probably shouldn’t criticize the way other businesses are run, but am I the only who think it unfair that a textbook that we’re only gonna use for ONE SEMESTER (or more if it’s used for 2 courses… or you’re just unlucky…) should cost $100?! If you go around a bookshop like Borders, I doubt you’d find any book that will cost close to $100. In fact, I’d be  complaining if it cost > $50. And I’m sure the things that they write about are no less important than what’s in textbooks. So, why are textbooks so damn special?

OK, maybe it’s fair to charge that much for them. The authors do have to take a lot of time to research their information, compile it into a nice, easily readable form and sent it off for publishing. So, for the time and effort that they have to spend, they should get some decent money out of their books, right?

WRONG. I’ve known some of my lecturers who also write textbooks, and they say that they don’t really get much money out of it, if any at all. Hence, the bulk of the money is going to the publishers, who really aren’t doing much other than printing what’s written. And anyone who’s had to send a lot of stuff off for printing would know that it doesn’t cost that much to print stuff, probably even less when you take economies of scale into account. Therefore, publishers are earning, what, 60-70% profit margins?! That’s a hell of a lot for any business, except maybe luxury goods (we know their profit margins are at least 3 figures…)

The other thing that really pisses me off a lot is changing editions. Information does get outdated after a while, so what’s wrong with that, you ask? Nothing… unless it’s done EVERY F**KIN’ YEAR. Which means that 1) once you use them, they become damn near impossible to sell off, especially if said course is only offered once a year and 2) bad luck for anyone who has to repeat the course. What REALLY bugs me is that most of the time, there’s not a lot of differences between editions, so the old ones are still perfectly usable. Except, lecturers LOVE to press the point that students MUST have the latest edition of the text. WTF.

One last point to make before my head explodes. Publishers, we are in the middle of a GODDAMN DEPRESSION. All of us are trying to SPEND LESS MONEY. Also, a lot of us uni students are quite poor people trying to make ends meet. And yet, you guys are not helping us out at all. So, if you will please sacrifice a few of those first-class plane tickets, fancy holidays, shiny sports cars and REDUCE PRICES, the entire university population would be eternally grateful.

Rape > Abortion > Excommunication?

March 9, 2009

*warning* This is going to be an angry rant.  I’ll avoid foul language, though 😉

What. . .the. . .heck (yes, I know)

Seriously?  I don’t hate the Roman Catholic Church or anything, but this is ridiculous.  A 9-year-old, not a 19 year old, A NINE YEAR OLD, her mother, and her doctor were all excommunicated after the girl had an abortion. My gosh.  Why would you do something like this?

The girl was raped by her stepfather.  She was going to have twins.  If she had, them she was going to die., according to her doctors.  What would be the logical choice here, let all three die, or just have the babies die?  Now, I’m no mathematician, so feel free to correct me, but 3 is greater than 2.  The logical choice is obviously to kill 2, not 3.  Game theory, mathematics, even just simple common sense say so.

Before I go on, let me get this out of the way, I have nothing against religion.  I think it has many benefits to the world.  But the Catholic Church just went too far.  They excommunicated her, her mother, and he doctor.  Seriously?

This is absolutely ridiculous.  Outrageous.  I can guarantee you that this 9-year-old did not make the decision to have the abortion by herself.  Anyone who knows a 9-year-old would understand that 9-year-olds cannot make this kind of decision by themselves.  Not only that, but her mother and her doctors were excommunicated? For what?  Protecting a girl’s interests?  Saving a life?  KNOWING THAT THREE LIVES ARE BETTER THAN TWO?  I can hardly begin to express my frustration with this whole thing.

Oh, and did I forget to mention the most frustrating part?  The stepfather wasn’t excommunicated!  So, let me put this in perspective:

A young girl gets raped.  Her mother and doctor try to protect her life by aborting the children, which would save one life, and only destroy two already doomed ones.   So, in a colossal display of ignorance, the doctors, mom, and girl get excommunicated?  And the rapist doesn’t?  Please, tell me that I’m completely misread this.  I had so much more confidence in the church than this.

*sigh*  You can stop here if you want.  That’s the big story.  But, I guess this is a good opportunity to talk about my views on abortion.

I believe that abortion is morally wrong, in most cases.  You are destroying a life that will almost certainly become a human.  However, in some cases, I think that it is okay.  If the mother’s life is threatened, go right ahead and abort the child(ren).  I feel bad for the babies, but the mother’s life is important.  I’m split on whether it is right in the case of rape.  On one hand, the child is unwanted, on the other, its still a child.

Now, after reading that, you’d probably guess that I think abortion should be illegal.  Wrong!  I support abortion rights.  “That’s crazy” some might say.  Allow me to explain:

I wholeheartedly believe in choice, which is shown in nearly all of my views on social issues.  Yes, I think abortion is immoral.  Yes, I consider the embryo vastly important.  But I do not think that I should be able to force these views on others.  If they do not see the embryo as a human life (they are nearly identical to other animals’ in the beginning stages), then that is their view.  I do not believe in forcing my view upon them.

Imagine that abortion was illegal.  I predict that a form of “black market” for abortion would be formed, where women find illegal, and often dangerous, treatments, and, in some extreme cases, get an untrained person to try to do it.  No, instead of directly making it illegal, I think that steps should be taken to discourage it.  I would like to see more adoptions.  For example, I don’t think ANY state should prevent gays from adopting (but that’s an issue for another day).  I would also like to see more welfare for the poor with children, making economic issues less of a factor.

Well, thanks for hanging on for all nearly 700 words.  Any feedback is appreciated.  Until next time!

-Pawleng

Editor’s note:I am a total idiot.  I misread the story.  It was only the mother and doctors that were excommunicated.  I still feel the same, but it is important to clear this up.  The girl was NOT excommunicated. I’m terribly sorry for my incredible stupidity.  Please forgive me 😀