Friday, 24 May 2019

The 10-Year Entertainer - A Look at 'Oguma Ayame Full Best Mini Orchestra Album' by Oguma Ayame (Album Review)

*Calling out my mistakes, typo's and spelling errors is appreciated here. Call that shit out, help me a little bit, and make this blog a better place. Thank you.

With 10 years of entertainment under her belt and a desire to perform, Oguma Ayame currently has one physical release to her name, as well as a handful of digital releases. Despite this small pool of songs to her name, Ayame has a dedicated following thanks to her ability to create laughter on and off the stage.

And though we may not have a chance to see her perform, we can instead take a look at her style of music. It's time to experience the tunes of a 10-year entertainer in all her glory. Are you ready to listen to some music?


It has been a while since I yearned to review a single or album this strongly, but ever since receiving Oguma Ayame's first studio mini-album as a gift some months back, I have felt a weird pull and desire to talk about Oguma's music on my blog. Sure, my thoughts regarding her music may not be well-structured when I get to talking about this album in full, but I'm excited to talk about it, nonetheless.

Having owned Oguma Ayame Full Best Mini Orchestra Album for a few months now, I have had my fair share of time to listen to each track more than once, which has in turn allowed me to form a solid opinion of the release in its entirety. And yes, I want to share these very thoughts with you because, dear readers, sharing is caring, and also because I can post what the heck I want on here. So yes, it's another album-esque review, from me to you. Because I can.

And before I spew even more lacey nonsense, let's chitter a little bit about Oguma Ayame herself:

From what has been recorded so far, Oguma Ayame has been active within the entertainment industry for 10 years, starting out as a Maid in Akihabara where she would perform on a small stage for the customers, before deciding that she wanted to take on a live-house stage and act as an idol. In May 2011, Ayame began her idol-career with the group Chocolate☆Whip, where she acted as a 3rd generation member and completed the 4-member lineup. In 2013, Ayame began her solo activities, and in March 2014 went solo full time after Chocolate☆Whip's disbandment.

When she isn't singing live, Ayame also works as an ear-picking and massage specialist, and promotes her work-place to fans on Twitter. Despite holding down a second job, Ayame is serious about performing and not doing anything half-way as an idol, which may be why she has continued going strong for 10 years, despite the set backs she may have faced in her journey as a chika-idol.

And with that short blurb out of the way, it's time to delve into the album itself. It's time to give Oguma Ayame Full Best Mini Orchestra Album a chance, but what will the final verdict be?

Read on and find out~

Oguma Ayame Full Best Mini Orchestra Album (小熊あやめフルベストミニオーケストラアルバム )

Release Date: May 2nd, 2018
Editions: 2 (Regular & Limited Edition)

Track List:
  1. Koko ni iru Kokochi (ここにいる心地)
  2. Uso-tsuki Otenki (うそつきお天気)
  3. Futari no Hanashi (ふたりの話)
  4. Kono kyoku wa Live de wa utaimasen (この曲はライブでは歌いません)
  5. Hajimete no Ballad (初めてのバラード)
  6. Bōken no tabi Let's Go (冒険の旅レツゴー)
Oguma Ayame Full Best Mini Orchestra Album
- Mini-Album Review -

1. Koko ni iru Kokochi

Right off the bat I will tell you this: Oguma Ayame is not the prettiest of singers, and I doubt she ever will be. I did not know this when I first delved into this album, and though my initial thoughts were less than positive, I have grown to enjoy Ayame's vocals. Rough, high and maybe a little grating, Ayame certainly stands out amongst other solo idols I listen to vocally. Thankfully this is an idol we're talking about, because idols don't have to hold the ability to sing. Though some might argue otherwise.

With that tid-bit out of the way, I want to commend Ayame on picking out Koko ni iru Kokochi as her starting point for this album. Upbeat, fun and a fitting piece for her voice, this song feels a bit like a journey the more you listen to it. Sure, it's nothing extraordinary or new when it comes to contemporary idol pop, but it's definitely pretty, and it's a whole lot of fun the more you listen to it.

I can actually imagine a pretty nice dance to go along with this.


I would say actually like to go ahead and say that this is the 'cool' song of the album, and I feel like the short trailer for the mini-album only enhances that feeling thanks to its editing style and use of contrast and saturation. It definitely has a bit of a lower tone compared to the other songs (sans the ballad, of course) and feels a little more melancholic. It's still a fun song, though.

I think another aspect of this song that I like is - strangely enough - the slightly obvious use of auto-tune on Ayame's vocals. It feels subtle enough that you might mistake it for her singing style during the verse, but obvious enough that it stands out when needed, especially during the chorus sections of the song. It's oddly charming, and though I am typically against the use of auto-tune, I feel like it was a great addition to this song in particular. It adds some sort of flare to the track, and though it flattens Ayame's vocals sometimes, I think that only adds to the odd charm of this song overall.

In short: Koko ni iru Kokochi is an upbeat, somewhat melancholic song that kick-starts this album in a cool and fun way. Oguma Ayame may not have the prettiest voice, but she knows how to hook you with a decent beat, at least.

2. Uso-tsuki Otenki

I like all of the songs on this album - let's just get that out of the way, shall we? - but when it comes to Uso-tsuki Otenki, I get a little bit excited. This song is absolutely adorable, probably the most idol-esque of the six tracks present on this entire mini-album, but it is so calming as well. To say this song charmed me is an understatement; I really love listening to Uso-tsuki Otenki.

Immediately, this song reminds me of Spring and prettiness and all things cute. It makes me think of a fair ground at its calmest moment, and whenever I hear the twinkling tune behind the drum beats I imagine rain pattering outside a window as fairy lights blink softly against a bedroom wall. In so many ways Uso-tsuki Otenki feels magical and serene, and I love every ounce of it for making me picture so many beautiful, joyful things.

It is relaxing - in an odd way, because of Ayame's voice and all - and it's pretty. And thankfully, the music video that accompanies this song seems to match the pace and image this song delivers to me as a listener.


As a PV, Uso-tsuki Otenki is very pale and pretty. The pacing is gentle, to a point where it makes me think of a lullaby in in the flesh (for lack of a better phrase), and the calming atmosphere paired with the subdued colour palette only lends to the softness that this songs instrumental delivers. It's all very pretty, and though I do wish there had been more colour present in the PV - maybe a dash of lilac or a sprinke of powder blue - I think that the video itself is very spring like and refreshing, and fitting for the song as well, both in its interior and exterior locations.

Ayame is also great here, showcasing a very peaceful and somewhat playful side to herself. In fact, it was Ayame during the kitchen scene where she lays across the stove that made me realise this video felt like a visual lullaby.

Uso-tsuki Otenki is a very cute, very peaceful song for me, and it's one that really should be heard whilst wearing headphones. There's a lot this song has to offer instrumentally, in my opinion, and though some may wave this one off as your typical idol-pop fare, I truly believe that the second track this album has to offer is one of the nicest, most wholesome tracks on here, and it should be heard in its purest form - through your damn headphones.

So, get them on, dear readers, and listen to the sounds of spring, courtesy of Oguma Ayame.

In short: This song is like Spring in a 4:40 minute burst and delivers a peaceful, cute atmosphere, but to experience it properly, you have to use your damn headphones. That is all.

3. Futari no Hanashi

If you wanted a little more idol and a lot more cuteness from Ayame (at least vocally), then I feel like Futari no Hanashi is a good song to listen to. Showcasing the more adorable side to her voice, Ayame really ups her idol game in the 3rd track for her mini-album.

And let's be real, it's freakin' catchy, plus really appealing. This is the kind of idol pop I began listening to 10 or so years ago, so of course something like this would appeal to me. It's a freakin' sugar rush in a song, and it's a lot of fun to listen to. Too bad it's only two minutes and fifty seconds long, because I really do think this is a fun song to listen to. Oh, well.

A little twinkly and very high in voice, Futari no Hoshi will deliver that energy-kick you've been waiting for all day. It's a pretty good song, and though it might not be everyone's favourite, it will certainly appeal to those who probably listened to this sort of squeaky, bubblegum fare way back when. It's nostalgic, it's idol, and it's very bubblegum. I love it.

In short: This song is too short, but for the alloted time we're given, it's a great track to listen to. And hey, just because it's short doesn't mean it's forgettable.

4. Kono kyoku wa Raibude wa Utaimasen

With a rather on-the-nose title (Translation: I do not sing this song live), Kono kyoku wa Raibude wa Utaimasen is another fun, bubblegum track with is worthy of the 'bop' title, and definitely one of the most memorable tracks on this entire album. Sadly, much like its predeccesser, this track is also only 2 minutes and 50 seconds long. God damnit.

Despite the shorter time frame, Kono kyoku wa Raibude wa Utaimasen packs a punch and does all it can to make you remember its tune, its tone and its vibe. Energetic, catchy, repetetive and foot-tapping good, this track makes me want to sing along and dance. I guess it's those opening bars, that undeniably fun beat and everything in-between that makes it memorable, not to mention that lilt in Ayame's voice as she sings to this one. It really does sound like she's having a good time recording this track.

I feel like - out of all the tracks - this one is definitely the idol song of them all. Yeah, Futari no Hanashi is certainly idol material, but Kono kyoku wa Raibude wa Utaimasen just takes the cake. It's actually a shame that this seems to be the song she has labelled 'not to sing live', because I would love to see her perform it in full.

Okay, this song is probably second-favourite, or first favourite. I don't know yet. Either way, I love this song in its short entirety, and I appreciate its presence on the album. Sure, it's generic and probably far too cute for some, but this is what I enjoy when it comes to my music. I can only hope that other people appreciate it to, when they get the chance to hear it, that is.

In short: Beloved. It's great. I feel blessed to hear such a cute, generic, poppy and fun idol song. I don't think I can ever skip this one.

5. Hajimete no Ballad

Another fairly on-the-nose title (Translation: First Time Ballad), it will come as no surprise to my long-time readers that I like this song because - Shock! Horror! Aghast! - it's a ballad, and a rather pretty one, at that. Sure, it isn't the most flattering track for Ayame's vocals, but she still does a fair job of creating a rather pretty atmosphere for this song.

That said, I feel like Ayame's vocals really do lack a certain amount of emotion needed to pull off a ballad completely. Still, I like what she's done here. Hajimete no Ballad is very pretty, but if you aren't a ballad fan, then I would say to steer clear of this song in general.

Also, for those who care: this is the longest song on the track list, meaning you have to bear with the slower pace, the pretty piano instrumental and Ayame's vocals for a full 5 minutes and 50 seconds. That's a long time, and even for a ballad fanatic like myself, I find that a bit extreme. Nearly 6 minutes is a long-ass-time to drag a song out, even for a song that's quite pretty.

Still, a ballad on any album track-list is typically a given, and once again I do like this song, but even I have to throw my hands up and admit that it's quite long. I enjoy it enough, but the length of Hajimete no Ballad is noticeable even when I don't pay attention to the time frame.

Oh, well. Thank Gawd I like my Ballads.

In short: I like this song, but it goes on for a fair bit, and I understand this will most likely be the 'skipped' track for a lot of people. Regardless, it's very pretty and gentle, and ballad lovers will most likely enjoy this.

6. Bōken no tabi retsugō

I'm starting to think that whatever auto-tune Ayame uses in post-production is just her natural vocal style, because it's so damn present in all of these songs. Does she naturally sound like a flat robot?

Ahem.

Rounding off Oguma Ayame's first physical release is Bōken no tabi retsugō, a fun and peppy tune which really matches the flamboyant style Ayame seems to be going for with her music. Catchy, memorable and oh-so-idol, this tune is a great send-off for listeners, and only furthers my liking of the album as a whole.

Well-paced, a little adrenaline-fuelled and paired with rather upbeat, cute vocals, Ayame delivers a great performance in Bōken no tabi retsugō, allowing us to hear a little more passion and pizazz with this track. I am really impressed by this song overall, probably because it's the last one, but also because it's the best track of them all. Ayame truly saved the best for last here, and I truly believe that Bōken no tabi retsugō ties the rest of this album together perfectly thanks to its blend of energy and passion.

I actually feel like this song would make a great karaoke belter. It's so much fun to listen to, plus it's an absolute bop, but I feel like this is a song you might want to sing along to with friends, delivering energy and playfulness to match the tone of the instrumental. I would honestly love to sing this at karaoke, truth be told. But hey; that's just me.


Before I get into my chit-chat about the video, I want to quickly mention that the track synched to this video is different to the one on the album. The vocals in the MV are cleaner, the instrumental lacking the upbeat quality f the album version. That said, this song was initially released via iTunes, so it seems like Ayame herself updated it for the album itself. Still, both versions of the song are enjoyable, however I have a bigger bias towards the album version itself.

In regards to the video itself, let's just point out the obvious: it looks like an AKB48 parody, of sorts. It includes a few locations we have seen before in various other PV's (not just AKB's), but the way certain scenes are shot, the way Ayame is dressed so similar to a Nogizaka46 member, and various other factors, had me believing that Ayame herself had patiched a damn AKS video... not that I would be surprised, might I add.

Srtill, I find the video itself rather humorous and fun to watch. It's aesthetically pleasing to the eye, serene thanks to its lack of crowds or humanity, and it feels quite natural and gentle, compared to the song. It's a nice 'journey', if you will, and given the songs title depicts going on a journey of sorts, the video is very fitting... and still so very AKS. I really can't get that out of my head.

But everything fits together, and I can't help but think that this is a great track in its entirety. Even before watching the music video, I thought it reminded me of a journey of sorts, and after seeing the video in full, I definitely picture this song as if I'm on a bike ride somewhere. It has the endurance in its sound, the pace and even a certain amount of calmness that journey's can bring someone.

I have to give it to Bōken no tabi retsugō; this was a great song to end the album on, and it is yet another track that I have to add to my 'favourite's' pile from this release, simply because it is too good to pass up on, and also because this has to be the best track of them all.

In short: Ayame saved the best for last. You're welcome.

Conclusion

In the very beginning, I really didn't care about this album. I did not care much for Oguma Ayame's vocals, nor did I really get into the songs, however as time moved on and I gave the album a second chance, a third and a fourth, I came to acknowledge the fact that, hey, these were quite catchy in their own way. I even came to think that Ayame's voice was somewhat charming, despite my initial thoughts regarding her voice. Still, I wasn't exactly enamoured by the album, even when I had started to enjoy it a little more than before.

And then the songs became earworms.

I really don't know what it is about Oguma Ayame and her music, but somehow she creeped into my skull and I found her music more appealing the longer I listened to her tracks. I was thinking about her music almost daily, and though I sometimes wasn't aware of what song I was thinking of, I would eventually figure out that it was something from Oguma Ayame Full Best Mini Orhcestra Album. And then I just started listening to the album by itself instead of on shuffle, and that only enhanced my intrigue of this album even more.

Now I enjoy it. I enjoy it a lot, and despite it being only 6 songs long, I think it's a very well-crafted mini-album, and all of the songs are placed near perfectly. I have my favourites, of course - Uso-tsuki OtenkiKono kyoku wa Raibude wa Utaimasen and Bōken no tabi retsugō - but I think every song works well, and I think its placement was a good choice. The only one I might change would actually be Hajimete no Ballad, but let's be real; most idols and soloists place their ballads pretty close to the end. Still, I feel like it could have easily come after Uso-tsuki Otenki, and also because I feel that coming right after two relatively short and cute-heavy pop songs was a bit much, especially for its length.

Oh, well. I'm not the one sorting out the songs placement, am I?

Regardless of where the ballad has been placed, I think that this album is very well done. The opening and closing tracks create a perfect balance and truly set the tone for the album, delivering the energy needed to initiate and close Oguma Ayame Full Best Mini Orchestra Album, and all songs in-between create a cute and even serene image of Ayame, depending on the song you listen to. No matter what, there is definitely an air of cuteness throughout this entire album, and it's nice to hear something so heavy on the idol-wagon at all times. This mini-album truly speaks to me, in that sense.

As a mini-album, Oguma Ayame Full Best Mini Orchestra Album is a nice little introduction into Ayame's music. It sounds very typical of most idol pop tracks, but these songs truly suit Ayame's voice. Sure, this type of mini-album may not be to everyone's tastes - the music or Ayame's vocals, it's up to you - but I've come to find that I really do enjoy what Ayame has produced here. It took me a while to get used to her vocals, but as time wears on, I just come to appreciate this release more, and I can't help but feel thankful for receiving Ayame's mini-album as a gift from another fan.

It's a fun little album, one that I am aware most may snub. Still, I enjoy it, and I'm glad to finally get this review out of the way.

To Conclude: Despite my initial thoughts on the album itself, I actually do enjoy Oguma Ayame's first physical release. It's fun, it's cute and it's charming in so many ways, and I have a lot of fun listening to it on repeat. Sure, you couldn't hack this kind of music (or vocals) when you have a headache, but if you want a little pick me up... well, pick this up.

Favourite Songs: Uso-tsuki OtenkiKono kyoku wa Raibude wa Utaimasen, Bōken no tabi retsugō

MINI-ALBUM RATING:


Because DAMN there are some bops on here. Now, when's the next mini-album on its way, Ayame? I really want some new music... >o>

If you've heard of Oguma Ayame, please let me know! And if you have listened to her music prior to stumbling upon this review, what are your thoughts on her as a singer? Do you like what she does, or are you more of a fan of her performance style? And if you haven't heard of or seen her before, would you be interested in learning more about her? Please let me know!

Once again to all who read my blog, thank you for visiting and taking the time to read whatever I have written. I truly appreciate you all, and I hope that you are having a wonderful day, weeek, morning, evening or weekend. Until the next post though, please take care and stay happy and healthy. I will see you in the next one~

Goodbye and good eve, dear readers.
Chiima~

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