review - 23.03.2009 12:00

Sometimes, the girl next door proves to be the love of your life - and sometimes, she should just stay a friend.

GIRL NEXT DOOR debuted with Avex in 2008 and have released three singles to date. The members of the band include vocalist CHISA, guitarist Yuji Inoue and keyboardist Daisuke Suzuki (ex-day after tomorrow). The band's self-titled album was released on Christmas Eve 2008, and in an unprecedented move, each song on the album is tied to a TV show or commercial.

Though the media exposure gave GIRL NEXT DOOR a jump-start on album sales, the album itself is a little uninspiring. While all of the songs stand well by themselves - and in fact, three of them are off previously released singles - all put together, there is no distinguishing between them. They all have a good base of catchy synth pop and an easy sing-along feel, but at fourteen tracks, the album becomes little more than background noise about halfway through.

Another thing to consider is that the musical style of the album seems to have been done many times before, and better. A few tracks, such as Winter Game (ending theme for "Uchikuru!?"), Power of love (theme song for Tokyo Tower's 50th anniversary) and Fine after rain (theme for NNN News Realtime Real Sports) could have come from Mikuni Shimokawa's discography, and she probably could have given them a boost in vocal variety. CHISA has a sweet, even voice that would be very much appreciated at a karaoke bar; for a professional album, however, she comes off as a little too ordinary. Yet, perhaps that is part of the charm, as it makes GIRL NEXT DOOR very approachable for karaoke enthusiasts.

Daisuke Suzuki provides some nice keyboard playing on a few tracks, which includes Winter Mirage (theme for drama series "Heroes Season 2"). He guides the ballad along a snowy, romantic backdrop. He also gets a chance to display his skills on NEXT DOOR (theme for "Akasaka Yasuhiko no Dear Friends"), an instrumental track with keyboards as the focus. NEXT DOOR is a beautiful and moving piece; a grandiose but muted drum beat cushion the slow melody, and trilling ornamentation give the impression of a mini-orchestra concerto, making it a standout track.

Likewise, Yuji Inoue adds character to the music. He performs a few short guitar solos on some of the songs, including Drive away (featured in a Toyota commercial) and Breath (ending theme for "Uwasa no! Tokyo Magazine"). Day's... (theme for NNN Straight News weather broadcasts) is the instrumental track on which Yuji Inoue gets to shine. An acoustic guitar melody is carefully plucked to a background of skipping beats, and the song has a lovely, hopeful feeling - which works well if you're hoping for good weather tomorrow! Together with NEXT DOOR, the two instrumental tracks on the album definitely steal the show.

There's no doubt that GIRL NEXT DOOR is a commercial success: each song on their album goes perfectly with the show or product it is linked to. However, take the media context away and you're left with a slightly bland CD. Instead of overdosing on an album full of mainstream pop, it would probably be better to wait for the band's next single - by then, what sounds overused would seem fresh and new again.
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