Today is indeed “The Day,” as the moment I’ve waited for since discovering Idoling!!! about four years ago has finally come: the solo debut of my favorite idol, Endo Mai. Mai’s voice first captivated me when watching some of the earliest live performances of Idoling!!! that I got to see, and has never let go. She has one of the most emotive, consistent, versatile, and lovely voices of any idol singer that has ever graced the industry, so to say I anticipated her solo debut would put you high in running for understatement of the year.
Though Mai gets many solo lines and a few solo versions of songs in Idoling!!!, nothing quite compares to having a song tailor-made for the singer like having a solo debut can deliver. I’ll further inspect whether or not they did a good job making this release mesh with her skill and personality and whether the release lives up to all the anticipation with such circumstances for a fan like myself.
Mai’s voice has always suited very lavish, dramatic musical arrangements more than any other style, and thankfully, her debut single takes advantage of this to the fullest, with “Today is The Day” being a mid-tempo Japanese rock song with heavy strings and full band arrangement throughout, clearly showcasing her dynamic voice and mature style. The song is written by Base Ball Bear frontman Koide Yusuke, so fans of his style may also find something to like here.
Lets take a closer look at the song and PV. Runs in HD (as always, very recommended):
Let me first preface this review by saying that I was not completely on-board with the song when the previews first surfaced. I thought it sounded a little too much like your everyday, common, piano-driven J-rock song with not much notability. I should have reserved my judgment, since, after the proper quality of audio surfaced for the song, I started to hear a lot more intricacy of the many parts of the song and heard how much the small details of the arrangement strengthened the song as a whole.
This is the type of music that should be heard in its proper quality, and if you watch the posted video in HD quality, you’ll hear the song pretty close to how it is meant to be heard. This is yet another personal confirmation to me of how much the arrangement can really make a huge difference in the sound of certain types of music. In this age of the internet, mp3s, and low-quality previews, I think a lot of people who truly value music should take heed of this.
Moving on to the song itself, it starts with a traditional Asian motif played on the piano with a descending scale, possibly to link the song more closely to the visual imagery of its promotional tie-in with Asian fantasy-style MMORPG, “Dragon’s Prophet.” It serves as a pretty cool opening, and though we never really hear this section return in the song afterward, it does set up the mood of the song very well.
Just after the introduction, we’re introduced to a lightly arranged version of the main chorus featuring drums, piano, and Mai’s awesome voice. Soon, the strings come in to add some power as Mai calls out the title of the song to start the main arrangement, full of grand strings and piano arrangement.
The verse soon starts, breaking the song down to just Mai and the piano, and bringing the mood down to a slower, more somber sound than the epic chorus. Her backup vocals soon kick in to fortify the melody, and the drums and bass join in, filling out the arrangement a little more to build up to the pre-chorus.
The pre-chorus signals the return of the strings, and the final lines of the this section give a rising sound to the song to start up the chorus, where the entire full instrumental arrangement kicks back in and we hear the return of the chorus melody from the beginning of the song. The chorus takes on it’s dramatic, soaring feel this time around with a great sense of movement and feeling.
After another repeat of this main verse/pre-chorus/chorus structure, we come to the absolute best part of the song when the bridge kicks in at timestamp 3:15. Here, the strings take over the song as the unique, emotional melody takes form, bringing the song to new heights. The arrangement during this particular instrumental section is absolutely gorgeous and almost makes the entire song for me. Once this instrumental section of the interlude kicks in, both the piano and strings rush forward to the front of the arrangement and it feels like absolute sonic bliss, with a short, unique section of melody and feeling.
This constant back-and-forth switching between the piano and strings leading the song makes for an awesome ride throughout most of the sections, giving a different flavor to each part. I can see myself actually listening to the instrumental version of this song by itself, given how much work was put into the arrangement. It doesn’t even really need the vocals, even though they do add another layer of depth to the song.
After descending from the blissful bridge section, we go back into another differently arranged chorus, featuring mostly strings this time. This repeat of the chorus also features a change-up of the rhythm section, giving a final touch of originality to the passage. The song finally repeats the intro instrumental part again before coming to a halt at the end.
Overall, the song meets my expectations, but it did take a little further delving into and close listening than something like fellow Idoling!!! member Yokoyama Rurika’s recent solo song, “Walk My Way,” which catches you right away. This factor can actually be a good thing when listening to some music, since it can make your close listening feel rewarding in the end, instead of it lacking depth and the listener being disappointed at closer observation (though I’m not saying the latter is true of “Walk My Way.”)
The single also features another great piano-driven song called “Toumei na Shiro,” which has a little more of a pop sound, as well as a breathtakingly gorgeous cover of MONKEY MAJIK’s famous song, “Lily.” Both songs fit Mai’s voice and personality just as well as the title track, and make great additions to round out the single.
I’m very happy with how this release turned out and can’t wait to hear more official solo releases from Mai in the future. I also hope that management keeps giving her songs that fit her vocal style and image to keep things consistent and enjoyable.
Song: 4.5 out of 5
The PV for “Today is The Day” is very fitting for the image of the song and also of Mai herself. She’s not the typical, artificially cheerful idol, but she’s very real and is constantly just being herself; a pretty rare thing for idols. That makes a video like this one very fitting for her, where it mostly just focuses on her singing and showing a range of facial emotions, and lets you soak in the music without a lot of distraction.
The CG effects and sets are pretty cool for what they are, but again, they’re not really the draw of the video. Her costume and makeup make for a very solid, identifiable look that works very well for this kind of song and gives a strong image to market the single with. This video doesn’t really attempt to do anything special or break any boundaries, it is really meant to be an accompaniment for the song, and in that respect, it serves its purpose well.
PV: 4 out of 5
I’m curious to know what some other idol fans think of this very not-idol debut from Mai, so if you have any thoughts or comments, shoot them to me in the comments or on Twitter.
I’ll also throw a few bonus solo performances from Mai in the related links below, so take a look and hopefully you’ll enjoy them as much as I do.
Today Is The Day
Today Is The Day (Limited Edition)
Today Is The Day (CD + DVD)