[Review] May.J’s “Secret Diary”

Released: 1.25.2012

-Japanese R&B/Urban Pop singer May J. has unveiled her fifth studio album, “SECRET DIARY.” The title was enough to intrigue me into anticipating the album’s arrival but the short clips had me sold. In the entertainment business image is everything, even placed at a higher level than talent. In May’s case, it’s all about the talent, and of course her beauty is a wonderful addition. I had a good listen to the entire album and was well pleased with the songs. Diversity is very much emphasized; pointing out the singer’s ability to challenge herself in different genres. Whether it’s electro pop, r&b ballads, or bubbly dance, May J. has proven to me that there’s a wide range of ‘secrets’ in her ‘diary’. As for the story behind the new album, let’s look back on May’s description during our interview:

In this album, I’m expressing the inner side of me that I couldn’t show to other people. Such as: my worst relationship with my boyfriend or like a broken friendship with my best friend. I have also put lots of positive messages to this album.”

So, my fellow readers keep that in mind while I take you through my own interpretation of each song onSecret Diary.’

I love the softness during the opening of “Only One.” The track is sensual, easy-going, and demonstrates maturity in the singer’s vocals. You can feel the purity in the lyrics right off; there’s an overdose of love and passion coming forth. I like how she included English here and there to create more depth. The song’s realness is absolutely captivating. And while the first sets a smooth and relaxing atmosphere, “Our Future” picks up the pace and showcases May’s pop side. This has elements of dance; it’s cheerful, and very much energetic. Truly the epiphany of a Jpop song, don’t you agree? 

There’s definitely a positive vibe running through “Our Future.” The more I listen the more excited I get about the track, and even thought the fast pace would continue into the next song for some reason. However, “Yozora No Yuki” is neither fast paced or cheerful. The song runs on emotion; in fact, it left behind the positivity exhumed in the previous and now takes listeners to a more sorrowful place.  This is one of the more heartfelt tracks because of how far the artist went with her vocal range and ability to connect. And yes indeed, she connected with me on this one. The winter cold only made it more passionate.

No No No” is a strong depiction of a woman taking a stand to let him know she’s not gonna put up with his issues anymore and just live her life stress free. This is where the electro pop comes in and I can see this working in English as well. And I like how freedom is expressed greatly in the lyrics and beat. This is my new drug for the New Year!

I love when female artists sing about self-acceptance, appreciating their beloved, and feeling “Proud” of themselves. This song is one of the many reasons I love this album. May never ceases to blow me away with her sweet and believable voice. The highlight of this track is that pause at the end of the first chorus and then the beat drops. The instruments are also arranged wonderfully; what a beautiful composition of a song. This is just unforgettable, not to mention that dress she’s wearing in the video is a killer.

And now we’re back to the groovy r&b melodies, but who’s complaining. As soon as “Kimi ga afure dasu (君が溢れだす)” starts playing you can’t help but fall in love with every aspect of this song. May entraps you within each line and if you ever had any doubt of her talents then by track six you should be satisfied and put to rest. The magnitude of her abilities is without end; I cannot applaud her enough on how well this album is going so far. Let me stop here so as not to annoy you with my praises of the singer and actually interpret what the song’s about. Well, there’s a story here about a deep love that has ended and May’s still healing from it, trying to forget and move on but finds it rather difficulty. The track is certainly relatable and I feel for her and with her on this sorrowful wave passing through her life.    

Say ‘Ah!” breaks away from the depressive tone and gets us moving. May mixes English and Japanese to convey her message convincingly. I’m persuaded by the mention of the various genres she rocks out to in the club; from Hip Hop, Retro, to Dancehall and Reggae. I couldn’t ask for a better mix myself, and may I add that’s a very tasty pot. Did you catch on to the point of the track yet? Well, if you haven’t then let me reinforce it, the song’s about celebration on the dance floor; letting go and having a good time.

I love when the singer collaborates with other artists because she always works with people who compliment her sultry voice. “ (futari)was no exception. I think JAY’ED did an exceptional job flowing harmoniously with May; both turned this piano version into a masterpiece. It was a great idea to turn this into a duet because the song is about a couple and their growing passion for each other. And where the emotions in ‘futari’ stopped playing, “2 Shooting Stars” picked it up from there. Both songs exhume similar concepts. It’s about holding or letting go, and working towards a brighter future with love in their hearts. Regardless of the direction both take, whether they take the same paths or separate, it’ll all be okay.

After listening to all the songs so far, I kind of had high expectations of the title track, “Secret Diary.” Because of those two words, I figured it would carry all the concepts heard in the other tracks and bundle it all together into this one big treasure box. I’m writing all this because the song did live up to my expectations. It’s romantic, memorable, sensual, and beyond further description. I can’t exactly put my fingers on why this song enamored me so. It could be the dramatic musical arrangement and her enchanting vocals, but one thing’s for sure, she had me at “mmmm…” 

The J-MELO charity song “Lifelines” was a remarkable collaboration for a great cause. This song, recorded mostly in English, reflects on the horrific earthquake that struck Japan and how the people continue to help each other in such. It reminds us that no man is an island, and that we all need a shoulder to lean on sometimes. In times of need, we shouldn’t hesitate when it comes to lending a helping hand. That’s just how this song came across to me and I think the message is beautiful. May, Taku, Monkey Majik, WISE, and the addition of the Fukushima University Elementary School Choir are just astonishing on this track.

That encouragement is reiterated in “Rainy Day.” The singer tells us that everybody has bad days but they never last. So, just change your attitude and look up at the bright sun, rest assure it’ll all be alright soon and very soon. There’s nothing else to say except lovely message, lovely song, sexy beat. My favorite part is “this is our one life,” and though its only five words, it says a lot.

What does “Rainbow” mean to me? More positivity; it also reminds me of “Our Future” with that traditional Jpop vibe. This is a likeable song for its warmth and cheeriness. It just makes me want to smile right through until the end. That’s a good thing because at first I thought it would be the first song on the album that didn’t grab me but in the end, I started liking it and now I enjoy listening to it because of how fun it sounds. And how could you dislike a track that says “let’s find sunshine over the rainbow, oh yes…?”

I love the combination of Zeebra, Ryo the Skywalker, Sugar Soul, and May J. on the same track because the end result is mind blowing. “キセキのうたis powerful, electrifying, energetic, entertaining, club banging, you name it. This has everything a hot song should have and I love it. It closes the album off in between a party vibe and a positive vibration as well.

Secret Diary” is a solid fifth delivery from an underrated gem. The songs all represent growth; as a woman and as a creative artist in some way or the other. Her lyrical skills also amazed me as much as her voice, discovering that she wrote the entire album. I’ve enjoyed everything and slept over nothing; May J. leaves me begging for more. If this is the future of music then I’m thankful that talent is still necessary and very much needed. “Secret Diary” gets a rating of 5/5


Track listing:
01 Only one 
03 夜空の雪 (Yozora no Yuki)
04 No No No 
05 I’m proud 
06 君が溢れだす (kimi ga afure dasu)
07 Say“Ah!” 
08 二人 (futari) feat. May J. & JAY’ED (Piano in Version) 
09 2 Shooting Stars 
11 The Lifelines [☆Taku Takahashi (m-flo), Maynard Plant (blanc./MONKEY MAJIK), WISE, and May J.] 
12 Rainy Day 
14 キセキのうた  feat. SUGAR SOUL, Zeebra, RYO the SKYWALKER, May J.,SIMON -DJ HASEBE REMIX-

Click the image below to purchase the album

Secret Diary / May J.
May J.

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