Thelma Aoyama is an urban singer in Japan but in my opinion, her music is somewhat not getting its fully deserved recognition. This woman has superb talent; her voice is like rain pouring down into your heart. And I long for the day when she’ll be placed alongside the likes of Ayumi Hamasaki, Koda Kumi, or Hikaru Utada. Thelma’s latest studio album, “WILL”, demonstrates growth not only in her vocal abilities but as an artist who has clearly transitioned herself throughout the years. The album has elements of dance, pop, soul, and r&b. There’s a different flavor attracting different listeners.
“Fighting Soldier” stars it off with a club vibe that immediately got me hooked. I love the instrumental arrangements in this track and how everything just jells together. The song is about overcoming all the challenges you face and continue to press on with a fighting spirit; hence the song title. This is one of those tracks you listen to after a break-up, or maybe just to get you going when a new day starts. It’s hot!
I’ve loved “zutto (Always)” since the very first moment I heard it. The meaning behind the lyrics is just amazing. It’s about having someone you can always call on no matter what. There’s always gonna be someone that makes you smile when you don’t feel like smiling; someone to cheer you up and make all the bad feelings fade away. It’s also a dedication to close family and friends who continue to love and support you throughout it all.
You’re guaranteed to get captivated by Thelma’s sultry voice in “WITHOUT U”. I love the piano melody that opens the track, along with the singer’s sweet adlib. This is a wonderful collaboration between two nations. South Korean pop group 4Minute provides some well organized harmonies, creating more depth in this lovely r&b song about missing a love that ended. The rap segments are so poetic in my opinion, didn’t know Ms. Aoyama had so much swag; she blended well with 4Minute’s main rappers. I also like the fact that both an English and Japanese version is included on the album. Check it out below:
“Let’s Party” is one of the more up-beat dance tracks on the album. This song is about letting go of all the pain and letting loose. It’s a happy go lucky track about having fun and enjoying the moment. I like how this track co-relates with nothing on the album and has its own uniqueness. And I love the trumpets and disco feel. While this is a fast pace track, Thelma slows it back down with what she does best, singing r&b ballads. “一人にしないで (hitori ni shinaide)” is about losing love and being unable to fix what’s damaged. It seems as if she wants to try again but is left alone when the guy has no intention of staying with her. It’s a song for the heartbroken, but I really like how deep she takes you with her pain.
“Goodbye” has the best musical arrangements on the album. What makes it so cool is not only the fact that the song starts out slow and speeds up by the chorus, but it also has a really hypnotic beat that flows through your veins. I love the guitar melody which is played loudly in the opening sequence but echoes softly throughout the song. The track moves from a mellow r&b song to a hardcore dance track. This is one of my favorites on the album.
“Crazy Crazy Love” is a crazy song and I love it. Thelma taps in to her punk rock side on this one with the electric guitar and rock beat. The track is about being in love and enjoying every single moment of it. She sings about the happiness she receives from the guy and how wonderful it makes her feel. I like how she incorporates English words in each song on the album, putting that side of her on display.
“Stronger Than Ever” is definitely about keeping your head high and looking pass the negativity surrounding you. Thelma’s powerful singing demonstrates how personal of a track this is and how in control she is of her life now. I would love to hear an English version of this track, because if she can kill it in Japanese can’t imagine what she’d do with it in another language. There’s so much passion in this song.
I previously stated that Thelma touches on different sounds for this album and that was certainly no joke. “I’m All Yours” embodies both pop and latin elements. Whenever this track plays you can’t help but get on the dance floor. There’s something very provocative about the music and lyrics. The singer gives us a more sensual and seductive side of her, showing us she can be both tamed and wild all on one record. While this track gave us sexy, Thelma sings about becoming an adult and finding her true self in the next. “23”, her age upon recording this song, tells us how the singer copes with her life outside the spotlight. She sings about womanhood and searching for true happiness. It’s a track every girl can relate to because we all have to grow up and experience life no longer as little girls but as women.
“Fallen Angel” is about a woman going through loneliness and longing to find true love. The English version of the track was included on the “LOVE STORY” EP, but in my opinion, the Japanese version sounds much more heartfelt. The song gave me a teary eye while listening to it; there’s something that lies beyond the words that can only be felt within your soul. This is a beautiful song, and the only one with auto-tune on the entire album.
“ONE LOVE-ONE HEART-ONE DESTINY” let’s me know I’ve missed an important fact, the album was also reggae influenced. The singer attracts rock steady listeners with this track, which is about joining together to make a difference in the world. It’s about letting love take over and putting an end to suffering. Thelma gets help from Japanese reggae artist Super Criss, adding his island flavor to the track. While taking in this song, I felt as if I was lying on the beach and enjoying a peaceful life.
Thelma slows it down with soulful ballad “嘘でもいいから (uso demo ii kara)”. This song is the most emotional I’ve heard on the record and it includes no dramatic instruments except for a soft piano melody. The singer’s true vocal ability is portrayed clearly in this number. By the end of the track you’re completely blown away by her singing. The song is about a girl wanting the one she loves to look her way and come back to her side.
The title track “WILL” concludes the album with a new beginning. It’s about moving on from the hurt. I love how warm the song is on my heart. It literally made me feel like waking up and inhaling the sunshine. The singer is also reminding us to be strong, touch into our inner strength, and remember that we’re never alone. It’s like a happy ending to a sad story. Thank you for this Thelma.
Aoyama’s latest effort has variety, individuality, and substance. Each track depicts its own significance as to what its purpose is on the album. The singer/songwriter has a gift that enables her to connect to listeners and take over their hearts. I haven’t listened to every single Thelma Aoyama album therefore I can’t say this is the best one she’s recorded; however, this album has certainly made a fan out of me. I give “WILL” a rating of 5/5
Track listing:01. Fighting Soldier 02. Zutto 03. WITHOUT U ft. 4Minute 04. Let’s Party 05. hitori ni shinaide 06. Goodbye 07. Crazy Crazy Love 08. Stronger Than Ever 09. I’m All Yours 10. 23 11. Fallen Angel 12. One Love-One Heart-One Destiny ft. Super Criss (Fire Ball) 13. uso demo ii kara 14. WILL -Bonus tracks: 15. zutto (wedding acoustic version) 16. WITHOUT U ft. 4Minute (English version)
(purchase this album now on yesasia)
images courtesy of thelma.jp