not by me...
but I think I'd give a similar review.... to a certain extent...
Fave tracks for me: TAXI, 忘れないで, 9095, Bolero, どうして君を好きになってしまったんだろう？, and 9096.
Just as a reference, I'm more of a ballad, R&B kind of person...
and I prefer songs which showcase their pitch-perfect 5-piece harmony...
Anyway, I bought a different version of the album which comes with the 2CD + DVD (which holds a hilarious special edition of their concert with dorky and random commentary from the guys)...
[Review] [Album] 東方神起; The Secret Code (CD1 Version B)
東方神起 (Tohoshinki); The Secret Code (CD1 Version B)
Release Date: March 25, 2009
Genre(s): Pop, R&B, Jazz, Dance, Ballad, et al.
01. Secret Game [ 30sec Preview ]
02. FORCE [ 30sec Preview ]
03. どうして君を好きになってしまったんだろう？ [ 30sec Preview ]
04. Nobody Knows [ 30sec Preview ]
05. Beautiful you [ 30sec Preview ]
06. 忘れないで (Wasurenaide; Don't Forget) [ 30sec Preview ]
07. 9095 [ 30sec Preview ]
08. 呪文 －MIROTIC－ (Jumon -MIROTIC-; Magic Spell -MIROTIC-) [ 30sec Preview ]
09. TAXI [ 30sec Preview ]
10. Stand Up! [ 30sec Preview ]
11. Survivor [ 30sec Preview ]
12. Kiss The Baby Sky [ 30sec Preview ]
13. Bolero [ 30sec Preview ]
14. 9096 (Hidden Track)
Tohoshinki returns to the Japanese music industry after releasing their third studio album, T, slightly over a year ago (January 2008). The Secret Code showcases a different side of the members (individually and together) as sophisticated adults.
The album opens with a strong, jazzy number appropriately entitled Secret Game. Clocking in at only 02:04, the song is short, but powerful. The boys sound confident and in-control as they layer their five-piece harmonies with seasoned experience. Junsu takes the spotlight during the dangerously infectious chorus; "We get it, baby! If you wanna trap in T, yeah!" It's sophisticated, good natured fun that periodically flirts with lighthearted rock. Great track.
Next we have FORCE. It seems to pick up almost exactly where the previous track left off, but replaces the jazz routes with urbanized R&B. The song relies predominately on deep, subdued eastern strings and rhythmic percussions. The verses are haughtily delicious, and the lead-up to the chorus is brilliant. However, the chorus itself is a little messy, and way too high. I'm not sure why they chose to dive into this register - something more leveled would have been easier digested and executed. The chorus is the only reason I can't get into this song; everything else is fantastic; it reminds me of a mellower version of Ride On.
どうして君を好きになってしまったんだろう？ (Why did I fall in love with you?) changes direction dramatically. Softening the R&B/jazz/hip hop we heard in the previous two tracks, どうして is lead by a warmhearted electronic harp, and smooth, airy, electric vocals. Despite the song's one-sided love theme and emotionally-heavy vocals, the song itself is actually quite soft and light - not your typical ballad. The song has become a staple in Tohoshinki's discography as it made them the first non-Japanese artist to have three consecutive number one hits on the weekly Oricon singles charts. The single attained the number one position and sold 68,417 copies in its first week. In total, it has sold approximately 117,277 copies - which is quite an amazing feat. Personally, I've loved the song ever since it leaked back in May of 2008. Everything about it is completely ethereal and captivating - their vocals, their harmonies, the arrangement - just everything. It's an absolutely breathtaking song, and a wonderfully modernized ballad. Now, it is #1 on iTunes "Top Songs" chart with a rating of 4.5/5. I'm not surprised so many artists have expressed interest in making their own versions ("covers") of the song.
Nobody Knows slips back into the album's R&B routes, with an explosively effervescent chorus and smooth, fluid three-dimensional harmonies. "Aishite mo nobody knows~" The melody of the song is playful yet sophisticated, and the verses are remarkably strong on their own. Great overall song! I love the use of English, too.
Beautiful you proved to be a big hit in Japan, but I honestly never really understood why. While I love the hook ("You're such a beautiful woman!"), the song is far too bland for my liking, and the members' vocals come off as weak in various places. It's a rushed, colourless song that lacks in variety.
忘れないで (Don't Forget), on the other hand, is absolutely breathtaking; it's a rich ballad that challenges their Korean material. It's soulful, sophisticated, and utterly beautiful. The calm, velvety verses crescendo effortlessly into the sweeping chorus. The climax right before the chorus is amazing. One of my Toho favourites for sure. I especially love Junsu's solo during the bridge, "Aitakute mo, aitakute moooo~" JaeJoong composed the song, so I suppose that explains why it's so amazing!
Speaking of JaeJoong, he was also the mastermind behind 9095, an experimental electronica/R&B song. The song itself is a complete breath of fresh air; it combines an assortment of classical instruments (piano, guitar, harps) with a synthesized percussion loop. Tohoshinki's vocals shine both individually and together -- their soft, delicate passion is effortlessly illustrated throughout the verses, with dashes of mature sexuality. By the time the chorus comes around, they're powerfully lingering after another. The song as a whole has a "pure," unique feel to it. Brilliant. Easily one of my favourite songs on the album, as well as in their Japanese discography as a whole.
Next we have the Japanese remake of their infamous Korean hit, 呪文 －MIROTIC－. I always felt that Love In The Ice felt very out of place and incredibly "Japanese" on their Korean album MIROTIC. The same is true for The Secret Code; 呪文 －MIROTIC－ seems incredibly Korean against all of the other tracks. It seems random. Perhaps it would have been more appropriate somewhere else on the track list, like more towards the end of the album? I'm not sure. I've never been a big fan of the Japanese version of this song as it seems too "safe" -- almost as if half the sexuality was stripped from the original Korean version. It's okay, and I understand why it was included. It's a decent dance track, but it's weak compared to its Korean counterpart, and doesn't seem to fit where it has been placed.
The fan-favourite ballad, TAXI, follows. It's a gentle, warmhearted acoustic ballad with tender, isolated vocals and an arrangement that beautifully escalates in correspondence with the heightened emotion right before the chorus. It's an east-meets-west type of ballad, with deep routes from either end of the spectrum. Absolutely beautiful. This would be amazing live.
Stand Up! livens things up a little. It's one of my favourite tracks on the album for its smooth sensual innuendos, mid-paced R&B arrangement, and engaging harmonies. The song is an even balance of licentious and playful; it reminds me of Choosey Lover. The chorus is one of the most addictive I've come across, and the way they flow along with the melody is brilliant; "Kanjite communication and vibration! Hiro gatte yuku funkination! Na-na-na-na-na feels so right, stand up party tonight!"
I'm not a big fan of Survivor or Kiss The Baby Sky, but I can appreciate them in small, spaced-out listens. Survivor is a cute, plunky pop song with a catchy-enough chorus ("Kokoro ni one smile! Mitsuketara shine on me! Two smile! Kasanetera shine on you!"). I admire it for its positivity, but as a whole, I find it to be pretty generic and disposable. However, if I'm in the right mood, I do enjoy it. Similarly, Kiss The Baby Sky is sickeningly sweet. I do think the arrangement is quite pretty, and I would enjoy it as an instrumental, but the pitch is shockingly high. It sounds awkward and uncomfortable. I usually skip this one, but now and then when I'm feeling particularly whimsical, I give it a shot.
Bolero literally translates to "illustrating the passion of love," and that's exactly what this song sets out to do. It's said to be 2008's version of Love In The Ice, but sweeter and less dramatic. The boys' voices are breathtaking; light, precise, emotional, and sentimental. The chorus beautifully highlights their harmonious unity, as the arrangement reaches an unrivaled climax. Gorgeous!! The perfect winter ballad.
The album finishes off with the Yoochun-composed 9096; the afterthought to 9095. Naturally, it borrows the elements from 9095, but places more emphasis on acoustics. It's soft, pretty, and hauntingly beautiful in the rawest, purest form. The song cuts and pastes different vocal portions from 9095, and clearly isolates them over a gentle, docile, limited arrangement. It's short, but sweet. A wonderful way to finish off the album; there's a genuine sense of completion.
Ultimately, this is a fantastic album. I'm unsure as to how I would "rank" this amongst their Japanese discography; T is my favourite Tohoshinki album to date, but I think that The Secret Code is completely on-par with that album, if not better. I think I preferred the singles from T, but the album-exclusive tracks are more enjoyable on The Secret Code. They're both great albums in different ways. It's definitely worth purchasing! And if you still aren't convinced - it has only been out for one day and The Secret Code has already sold 82,891 copies!! I'm impressed!
Standout tracks include: 9095, Stand Up!, TAXI, どうして君を好きになってしまったんだろう？, 忘れないで, Secret Game, and 9096.
Overall Score: A-