Otsuka Ai - Planetarium

review - 03.27.2008 08:00

Otsuka Ai shares her take on the starry galaxy through this lovely single.

One of Otsuka Ai's most well known singles, Planetarium topped the charts in September 2005 and continues to sell to this day. Written and composed by Ai herself and featuring her talents as a pianist, the song discusses the loneliness of being separated from the one you love and the memories of times spent together.

Planetarium opens on a soft beat before a flute and piano join in. It's earthy and historic, almost mystical. Gliding high like a bird, the music soars as though it were written on the spot. Ai’s singing is grounded as she lets the composition float around her. She favours a mature voice and it is clear that the peaceful quality to the track will remain until the very last note. The melody is simple and it's a while before the bridge makes an appearance, carefully crafted so that it seems more an extension of the verse than an introduction to the chorus. The mood evokes memories of spring. Being a ballad and free of any of the happy-go-lucky arrangements that Ai otherwise employs, the soothing music and melody of Planetarium ensure that it is approachable to those who would otherwise shun her songs. This is a track that anyone can enjoy, no matter his or her tastes.

Back to Otsuka Ai’s basics, drop. is a good contrast to Planetarium. Suited very well for a local live music festival, it boasts of folksy-sounding guitars and a sparse rhythm. What is interesting about drop. is the way the arrangement combines with the melody - which is pretty run-of-the-mill - to make the track unique. Doing for drop. what the flute did for Planetarium, the guitars generally keep up with the vocals. Of particular note is the instrumental, during which Ai uses her voice to emulate the guitar as its notes slide up and down the fret board, creating the feeling of a journey. Straw hats and pitchforks abound; if any upbeat Ai song has the power to melt the hardest anti-Ai heart, it's this one.

The CD is rounded off with karaoke versions of both songs.

It’s no secret that Otsuka Ai's music is an acquired taste. Her often babyish voice is off-putting to many, but in releasing this single she has provided those against her with a chance to understand her. She has produced a CD that can be listened to by fans of practically any genre, and for this she should be commended, as it is a rare feat.
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