To Aru Majutsu no Index OP2 Single – masterpiece – Review

Album Title: masterpiece
Anime Title: To Aru Majutsu no Index
Artist: Mami Kawada; Maiko Iuchi; Tomoyuki Nakazawa
Catalog Number: GNCV-0014
Release Type: OP/ED Single
Release Date: Feb 04, 2009

Track Title Artist Time
1. masterpiece Mami Kawada; Maiko Iuchi 4:37
2. jellyfish Mami Kawada; Tomoyuki Nakazawa 4:26
3. masterpiece Maiko Iuchi 4:37
4. jellyfish Tomoyuki Nakazawa 4:23

Review: “Masterpiece” may go down as one of the most ironically titled songs that I’ve come across in awhile because a masterpiece it isn’t. Rather than try to be enjoyable, it takes its cue from To Aru Majutsu Index most admirably by succeeding at being both utterly dull and unimaginative.

Harsh? Perhaps. As I’ve listened to more OP/ED albums, I’ve become more disenchanted with artists who fail to maintain a passable standard of quality and resort to stylistically similar pieces that get worse with each rehash. Mami Kawada’s music exhibits this trend and her stock has fallen drastically in light of her last two singles (this and “PSI-missing“). In listening to “masterpiece,” evaluating and grading this song becomes an exercise in consulting the thesaurus under the word “boring” to prevent the repeated usage of that word lest it become as tiresome as the song itself.

“Masterpiece” starts off with a dissonant blare from a cacophony of synthesizers that proceed into a generic-sounding rock beat to set the rhythm for Mami Kawada’s entrance. Upon entering at 0:18 her voice exhibits a quality similar to someone singing over an aircraft’s radio communications device, which gives the song a cyberpunk atmosphere when combined with the electronica in the background. It’s not a particularly original way to start things off, but up to this point, the issues are minor because this introduction builds up the piece nicely.

The problems appear around 0:42 when the harsh electronic tones die down and Kawada’s singing becomes emotionally muted while the backup singers’ airy tones add nothing to the song, rendering it somewhat disjointed from the introduction. But even that isn’t as damning as the chorus section, which comes across as being so dry and emotionally void that you wonder who came in and sucked all the passion out of Kawada. The melody is repetitive and Kawada’s heart and attention are elsewhere because the way she sings is so unexpressive that the song suffers horribly. I could achieve better results by trying to get a Vocaloid character to sing this track, which is never good news and becomes all the more frustrating when we know Kawada is capable of much more than what she displays here.

After the chorus, there’s little that can be done to preserve what’s left of this track. The interlude consists of cacophony that carries little in the way of substance and a reprise of the chorus adds insult to injury by making its asinine motive all the more ponderous. If there was a place in hell reserved for me, they’d have this song on infinite loop. “Super Special” might have been slightly painful, but here, we don’t even get the benefit of amusement value because its boring melody and terrible singing yields a combination that serves as a kiss of death.

With that first track down, there’s little to hope for from the B side, though thankfully, “jellyfish” isn’t much worse than “masterpiece.” This song starts out with a harsh electronic line that softens slightly to bring out an ethereal quality to the music that then shifts to make way for a strong, overbearing beat. Kawada’s performance in this song lacks expressiveness because the way she sings feels so weak, unassertive, and lifeless. Luckily for her, composer Tomoyuki Nakazawa seems to have been sympathetic to her plight and remedied it by making this song rely very little upon her singing by putting in a minute-long synth beat at 1:43. Unfortunately, the ensuing beat and melody aren’t all that interesting and though the section featuring Kawada from 2:55 to 3:16 is somewhat enjoyable, that’s the sole bright spot in this benighted track. To preserve our sanity, it may just be better to pretend that this album never existed. Let us move on to greener pastures.

I’m not one to speculate about any artist’s career, but if “masterpiece” and “PSI-missing” are of any indication, Mami Kawada is at the twilight of her career. There’s nothing preventing her from making a resurgence, but to do so, she’ll have to go back to the fundamentals. Start off by finding better composers who don’t rely on the same old structure that’s been beaten to death, branching out into different styles to go outside her comfort zone, and working at being more expressive when she sings. Her voice is certainly capable of bringing out solid performances, but until she takes these steps, she’s only drowning herself in the sea of mediocrity.

Rating: Bad

Opening – masterpiece

zzeroparticle

Anime Instrumentality's Founder and Editor-in-Chief. As you can probably guess, I'm a big anime music junkie with a special love for composers who've put out some beautiful melodies to accompany some of my favorite anime series. I tend to gravitate towards music in the classical style with Joe Hisaishi and Yoko Kanno being a few of my favorite composers, but I've come to appreciate jazz and rock as anime music has widened my tastes.

20 thoughts on “To Aru Majutsu no Index OP2 Single – masterpiece – Review

  • February 8, 2009 at 1:42 am
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    PSI-Missing was able to grow on me. I was able to forgive the less than expressive singing for the sake of the mood of the song. This on the other hand…I just can’t see the same thing happening. Like the show it opens for I’m rapidly losing interest in Kawada’s work.

    Atleast we still have Younha’s “Kiseki” and Kourin’s “Aishiteru” to look forward to some expressive singing.

    Reply
  • February 8, 2009 at 2:00 am
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    The melody, or lack there of, is extremely disjointed in “masterpiece”. While normally I can appreciate this kind of approach to a song, the execution on this single is painfully mediocre. The melody carries no emotion, the composition itself has absolutely no musical technicality, and even if you are to rate it on marketability its sub par at best.

    I can tell by the guitar riff, as well as the overall ambiance and style that the composers were trying to go in a similar direction to “joint”, but the two songs are obviously not remotely in the same league, or even same planet for that matter.

    The verse itself isn’t actually the worst part of the song like you said. I actually think that some of progressions she uses are quite unique, but the build up leading to the chorus is so absolutely bland. The first time listening through this song I really expected, a big “omph” at the start of the chorus, but instead we are met with a very stock melody that isn’t in the least bit original.

    Don’t even get me started on “jellyfish”

    I agree with you on many, if not all the things you said. But one point I think that is key here is the fact that Mami is still part of I’ve sounds label. I don’t think her career is at it’s dwindling peak, instead, I think its about time for her to move onto a new echelon, perhaps where she has a bit more creative freedom to move in whatever direction she wants to. Several artists who have departed from I’ve Sound have already proven that they can produce work that is on par, if not better than their previous pieces. So if its any consolation, perhaps Mami needs to move on to bigger and better things.

    This is a very accurate review, and although I find myself listening to this single still, I can’t help but feel a bit guilty each time I give it a go through.

    Reply
  • February 8, 2009 at 3:53 am
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    stfu losers, PSI MISSING was a perfect song.

    Reply
  • February 8, 2009 at 11:08 am
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    @Taka
    Did you mean Younha’s “Kioku” (ending theme to Rideback)? I’ve definitely enjoyed the way she sings ever since I heard “Houki Boushi” so I’ll be looking forwards to that. Kourin’s “Aishiteru” also manages to curry my favor with the way she conveys that sort of lonely, melancholy feeling which works well with Zoku Natsume’s ED.

    @sung gyu
    You are most likely right regarding I’ve Sound. The composers have stayed constant, but unfortunately, they’re not the most creative ones out there since from your comment, it looks like they pigeonhole their artists into one genre/style. I think it’s about time for her to branch out anyways and hopefully we see that coming up soon.

    @jp
    OMG liek no way! I suppose if you ignore the flat delivery, this song would be awesome!!!11shift+1eleven. Well, it’s more enjoyable than “masterpiece” at least, which I suppose has to count for something.

    Reply
  • February 8, 2009 at 3:36 pm
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    You’re right I was thinking of the other OTHER song I was looking forward to “Kiseki” by NIRGILIS the Tetsuwan Birdy Decode 2 OP.

    Reply
  • February 9, 2009 at 10:22 pm
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    @Omisyth
    And perchance, which realm does masterpiece doth rule? For if it rule the wrong realm, I fear that this indignant review may have had the opposite effect than intended. :p

    Reply
  • February 17, 2009 at 4:07 pm
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    I’m agree with you Omissyth, this song was in the Third place of top 10 songs of December in Japan.
    I understand perfectly the song.
    Masterpiece, Sea of mediocrity??? jajajaja
    the blog is a sea of mediocrity.

    Reply
  • February 17, 2009 at 4:09 pm
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    Ahh I was talking about the ranking of anime and non animes music.

    Reply
  • February 17, 2009 at 5:04 pm
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    Lero is my hero!!!

    His eloquent arguments have put me firmly back in my place and I am honored by the fact that he would deign to spend even a moment of his valuable time to write out such a thoughtful reply to my unjust criticism of “masterpiece.”

    I am even more amazed by his ability to send music through time into the past! According to my sources, “masterpiece” was released on February 4, 2009, which means that unless it was previewed way earlier than that, there is no possible way it could travel back in time to wind up being ranked 3rd on some pop music sales chart or popularity chart in December of 2008.

    Now that we’ve fulfilled the time-traveler portion, we need an esper and an alien to complete the triumvirate.

    Reply
    • December 8, 2012 at 5:53 am
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      Mami Kawada and Haruhi Suzumiya reference in one comment = EPIC

      Reply
  • February 18, 2009 at 12:06 pm
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    Yes, you are right, the preview was showed in TV size. I heard it on Geneon and downloaded it about January from I’ve sound girls web site.

    Reply
  • February 19, 2009 at 8:05 am
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    I don’t find anithing wrong with the song personally I like it.

    Reply
  • February 19, 2009 at 2:57 pm
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    @Wilfriback
    The way you perceive your piece is up to you. If you enjoy it, more power to you. I just happened to dislike it and gave reasons for why I disliked it in this article.

    Reply
  • February 28, 2009 at 9:59 am
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    i would have to say that the first opening was much more enjoyable.

    Reply
  • August 9, 2010 at 8:24 pm
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    ARE YOU KIDDING WITH ME!!
    IT WAS GOOD!!!

    Reply
  • August 11, 2010 at 12:48 am
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    @FunFriendKid1
    If by good, you mean terrible, then yeah, I agree. But no, I couldn’t bring myself to enjoy “masterpiece.”

    Reply
  • September 22, 2010 at 11:12 am
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    Late yes, but for me Missing was the boring one, and I liked Masterpiece. Maybe that’s because I can’t necessarily separate it from the imagery associated with it: humming with energy and action. But I know I’m in the minority here from both the response here and in what I’ve seen in other conversations, but hey.

    Reply
  • September 22, 2010 at 11:52 pm
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    @TheBigN
    You’re not the only one to think that. I know that many of the folks at the I’ve Sound blog have also disagreed with my notion and think that PSI-Missing is the worse of the two. But yeah, this song, I think, has resulted in me being irked by I’ve Sound in general. At least, irked at some of their more recent fare.

    Reply
  • December 8, 2012 at 5:52 am
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    As a big fan of Mami Kawada, a review like this, though painful (especially the part saying that she is at the twilight of her career), is rather understandable. Since JOINT, her songs have gone steadily downhill, although with Serment she seems to have gone back to her old self. To be honest, I don’t really understand the hate for either PSI-missing or masterpiece since both were decent to me (although PSI-missing was rather bland compared to her earlier songs, and actually this is the only bad review of masterpiece I have come across, most reviews I have seen for it are positive). But I don’t exactly get what’s wrong with those two songs. I know some of her songs that are worse (like Initiative, and this is going to be an unpopular opinion but I didn’t like Borderland).

    I do agree with some of the things you said, that she should try new things and should not always depend on I’ve Sound. She’s actually one of the most talented, if underrated, J-Pop singers out there, but there’s only so much I’ve can do. She should probably be like KOTOKO and leave both I’ve and Geneon for a better label like maybe Lantis or SME Records. Geneon isn’t really much of a good label and she’s not getting more popular there. I strongly disagree that she is at the twilight of her career, but she needs to make better decisions about her career if she wants to be as popular as groups like Kalafina or people like May’n or even LiSA.

    Reply

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