WHAT’S MY NAME? by 雅-MIYAVI-

Posted: 2011.11.03 in Music

1. WHAT’S MY NAME?

2. TORTURE

3. A-HA

4. CHILLIN’ CHILLIN’ MONEY BLUE$

5. I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU, AND I HATE YOU.

6. MOON

7. GRAVITY

8. UNIVERSE

9. UNBREAKABLE

10. SHELTER

11. SUPER HERO (Album ver.)

12. すてきな みらい

13. FUTURISTIC LOVE

14. SURVIVE (Album ver.)

For those of you who don’t know anything about Japanese rock (J-rock), 雅-MIYAVI- is an internationally famous solo artist who has worked with American bands Good Charlotte and Thirty Seconds to Mars, along with countless Japanese bands. He embarked on his first world tour in 2008 and has toured a variety of countries ever since. He is married to Japanese-American pop singer melody. 雅-MIYAVI- is the self-proclaimed “Samurai Guitarist,” and began his career as a guitarist for the ヴィジュアル系 (visual kei – “visual style”) indies band Dué le quartz (デュールクォーツ). After the band broke up, he went solo.

Although his first two indies albums 雅楽 (Gagaku) and 雅流 (Galyuu) were similar to Dué le’s strongly v-kei style, his first major album, Miyavizm, saw a departure from the past and the introduction of a new MYV. In fact, since his debut in the mainstream each successive album sees him doing something new with his work. Miyavizm is a more mainstream rock sound with playful and often funny lyrics; MYV Pops is, as you may gather, more pop rock and features some slower, sweeter songs; 雅-みやびうた-歌~独奏~(Miyaviuta ~Dokusou~) is acoustic, and during the live tour was performed solely by 雅-MIYAVI- on a gigpig, harmonica, and guitar; This Iz the Japanese Kabuki Rock is a splendid array of rock, pop, hip hop, and funk; and that brings us to his newest album, WHAT’S MY NAME?, which was released last fall.

WHAT’S MY NAME? is a return to a simpler composition, and features a mixture of electronic instrumentation, MYV’s guitar and voice, and drums. This is a stark contrast to the style of This Iz the Japanese Kabuki Rock, which was very rich in sound sources: tapdance, beatbox, DJ, bass, drums, guitar, monks chanting, and a colorful stage presence that featured a painter, BMX bikers, and several other unexpected cameos which made Kabuki Rock a veritable carnival of Japanese-American cross-culture.

But that certainly does not mean that WHAT’S MY NAME? is at all a disappointment, just yet another new direction that 雅-MIYAVI- has branched out into during the pursuit of his artistic self-expression. This also is the first of the MYV discography to have such a cohesive flow to the arrangement of songs in the track listing; much as one of 雅-MIYAVI-‘s lives features a definite flow of feelings throughout (ranging from energetic and excited to slow, then sad, and finally uplifted) so too does WHAT’S MY NAME? sport a similar arrangement.

The new album’s title track incorporates the composition that any MYV fan will recognize: the music he has traditionally played for years at the beginning of his concert, pausing intermittently and calling upon the audience to scream for him. “What’s my name?” he always asks; “MIYAVI!” replies the crowd. I personally was quite pleased that he actually turned this special idiosyncrasy into an introduction-song where he tells you exactly who he is, what his dreams are, and what he’s there for.

TORTURE continues the spirit of many of 雅-MIYAVI-‘s songs, being a mix of slight bitterness and determination to prevail no matter what the odds. In fact, I believe this to be my favorite track on the album. A-HA has a wonderful beat, but less soulful lyrics; CHILLIN’ CHILLIN’ MONEY BLUE$ is another take on still another of MYV’s tropes, and uses the sound of coins as part of the composition. I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU, AND I HATE YOU. was first heard via a USTREAM broadcast and was referred to as Where Are You, as the lyrics were quite different at that stage. MOON slows it down a bit, and leads well into the somber and emotional GRAVITY.

The first time I heard GRAVITY was during 雅-MIYAVI-‘s Neo Tokyo Samurai Black world tour during July 2010, prior to the release of the new album a few months after. It was such an intense performance that I cried; MYV, too, looked and sounded as though he were crying. The subsequent songs — UNBREAKABLE and SHELTER — work to pull the listener out of the intense and somber feel of 雅-MIYAVI-‘s anguished cries; SUPER HERO returns to MYV’s trademark wistful yet hopeful tone, and すてきな みらい is a simply adorable, sweet song (surely partly influenced by his wife and two young daughters). FUTURISTIC LOVE is the closest that MYV has ever come to creating a dance track, and sounds like it would be at home in a club; although many MYV fans have apparently a strong dislike of this track as it’s a “departure” from whatever it is that they consider “normal” for 雅-MIYAVI-, I really like it. What, after all, is “NORMAL” doing in a sentence with the name “雅-MIYAVI-“? (I mean that in the best possible way; it’s who he is – he’s different, and that’s why we love him.)

The final song of the album, SURVIVE, places 雅-MIYAVI- right back where he was at the beginning and is a song about himself, his perspective, and who he is. Brought full circle, the listener is ready to listen again.

I must admit that I preferred the single versions of tracks 11 and 14, and that I liked the demo of Where Are You before it became I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU, AND I HATE YOU. However, the song as it was released on the album better suits the track arrangement and the feel of the album as a whole. Even the changes from the single version to the album version of both SUPER HERO and SURVIVE seem to be done in the interest of album cohesiveness and, I would argue, work better as the album versions, much as I liked the demos/single versions I’d heard beforehand.

The track that actually attracted the most attention for me was FUTURISTIC LOVE as it’s the only one on the album with such a strong dance feel to it; it makes me wonder whether 雅-MIYAVI- will release more like it, or if it was an anomaly. Given 雅-MIYAVI-‘s general preference for spontaneity, I don’t think that he even knows for sure.

All in all, this is a solid album that is very enjoyable to listen to, start to finish. 雅-MIYAVI- has once again created a very distinct and memorable album, and shown himself to have advanced forward again in the track cohesiveness and flow. For first-time 雅-MIYAVI- listeners, if you like WHAT’S MY NAME? I would strongly recommend picking up both Miyavizm and This Iz the Japanese Kabuki Rock. All of the albums are great, but Miyavizm marked the beginning of MYV’s entrance into the majors, and Kabuki Rock marked his entrance into the world touring, international music scene (there were those like myself who’d imported his music from Japan, but now it’s available on iTunes).

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