Friday, July 27, 2007

Beautiful World at 192 kbps

Beautiful World cover art from AmazonUtada Hikaru enters the teens in her twenties. For more of Hikki's rebellious look, see U.BLOG

Thanks to Kuroshiro for the lyrics translation. Definitely written about Shinji, but from someone else's perspective. It's a bit too solemn to be from Asuka, though, and Rei is just this black box.

So! A few days have passed since a full length, non-radio rip version leaked. There's no sense in delaying the inevitable, so I am here today to answer the $11.99 question (plus shipping and handling) question: How does it loop?

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As Beautiful World opens with ethereal synthesizers and echoing percussion, anything can happen. When the piano chords enter like it's 1996 at the height of the dream music craze, the realization hits that it's going to be pretty good.

Beautiful World has elements in common with both This is Love and Keep Tryin'. Like Keep Tryin', Beautiful World opens with atmospheric ambivalence before getting into the song proper with the chorus. In between the verse and chorus, there is a distinctly contrasting bridge in singing style, key, and harmony.

Structurally, both Beautiful World and This is Love have no significant instrumental breaks until the end, although this is a bit of a tenuous connection given that This is Love has a second verse section in the middle.

In the lower range there's this earthy, tribal feel to the song. It's a good foundation for the lines that float gracefully above. I have heard quite a few good piano parts as of late, and Beautiful World just adds to the collection.

There's just one aspect that prevents Beautiful World from topping best atmospheric electronic track, Making Love off ULTRA BLUE, but it's a big strike.

There isn't enough contrast.

There is a lack of a range jump between sections. This is Love had a brief break right before the chorus, Keep Tryin' breaks into the chorus with a bang, and Making Love experiences its own dramatic register shift.

You could argue that Beautiful World is a lot more dignified than either of the above three, so register skips would contradict its character. Fair enough. There are other ways of generating contrast, and the first one I can think of is change in texture.

I suspect that Beautiful World suffers from a lack of sufficient texture primarily in the chorus. The verse is actually pretty spare in terms of accompaniment. The chorus needs some serious bulking up. It should be like some gigantic steamroller of a chorus, with bottomless bass support while Hikki belts out her alternating low and high register lines.

Beautiful World sits in an awkward place. It's supposed to be more energetic than Keep Tryin' but fails to top Making Love for intensity. As a result, it doesn't loop as well as either of the above. It's also not a ponderous work compared to the 800 pound compositional gorilla known as BLUE.

Last criticism, honest. Why does Hikki's voice crack during her final lines before the outro? It's likely deliberate, but it just reeks of a mistake.

The extended outro is probably the other best part of Beautiful World. I can never return to the days of Dreamland without feeling that it's just a bit hokey, but this outro section fills in the gaps while retaining the dreamlike core. The continuously running piano, the ghostly backing voices, and the synthesizers are pure ambiance.

If Beautiful World/Kiss & Cry ever made it to iTunes outside of Japan, I'd probably cherry-pick this track from the single, although I don't hold out much hope since the current iTunes selection is all album material. The other tracks are blah, but I can elaborate later.