The time has come again for another one of my fabulous lists of the best ballads of the year! Valentine’s Day is upon us, and though I hate to put a dampener on it, I have to remind you all that the podcast will be breaking up with you after episode 200. It’s not you, it’s us. So let’s get messy drunk, blast some tear-jerking love songs and gorge on ice cream to celebrate another year of Japan’s favorite genre, the ballad.
10. Girls’ Generation - All My Love Is For You
It’s the Girls– it’s the Girls’ Generation! Though they’re more known for snappy pop ditties like “Gee,” the girls dropped an exceptionally sweet love song on their single “Oh!” last year. It’s strong and smooth, with just the right of sincerity.
If this song were an ice-cream flavor it would be: Strawberry.
09. Namie Amuro - ONLY YOU
When you are THE top tier in dance music in Japan, you don’t expect one of your best songs of the year be a ballad, but Namie surprised us all when she debuted "ONLY YOU." This song is simple and lovely with lyrics that are just sweet enough without landing in saccharine territory.
If this song were an ice-cream flavor it would be: Vanilla Bean
08. sleepy.ab - Andromeda
Moody and atmospheric, this gentle sleepy.ab song is almost hypnotic in it’s composition. Add in the dream-like lyrics by vocalist Nariyama and you’ve got a song that puts the best parts of Japanese indie music and Radiohead in a shaker and serves it up straight.
If this song were an ice-cream flavor it would be: Pistachio.
07. Kuroki Meisa - Take Me Away
Call it a re-tread, call it “So Smooth Pt. II,” but that won’t stop this song from blowing the pants off most of the other ballads that came out in 2012. When you have a voice more suited for dance music, the only way you can have a ballad reach the proper heights is to let a truly stellar backing track take the lead, and that’s exactly what Meisa accomplishes in this song. This song touches your heart with the hopeful lyrics and a silky-smooth composition.
If this song were an ice-cream flavor it would be: Cheesecake
06. Ayaka - Hajimari no Toki
Your favorite FLAW-FREE DIVA returns with – wait, no. It’s just Ayaka. Natural, unassuming Ayaka with a song that rings true to your bones. This is the perfect kind of song to show how universal music can be, regardless of language. “Hajimari no Toki” has an understated composition that relies on tried-and-true orchestral simplicity to complement the power of the vocals perfectly.
If this song were an ice-cream flavor it would be: Cookie Dough
05. Ayumi Hamasaki - Sweet Scar
The melody of this song is going to stick with you for at least a week; you have been warned. Ayumi delivers a beautiful ballad that has staying power beyond any other track she released in 2012. The song isn’t bold or creative, but illustrates once again why Ayumi was crowned Queen of Japanese Pop so many years ago.
If this song were an ice-cream flavor it would be: Peach Bellini
04. Crystal Kay - Come Back to Me
Crystal blew all the R&B contenders out of the water when she dropped this song on her latest album, “VIVID.” This song is sung with such strength and emotion it’s hard to even compare it to the hundreds of phoned-in slow jams that populated other artists’ albums this year. Even LoKi gave it a big thumbs up in his review, and he HATES ballads.
If this song were an ice-cream flavor it would be: Turtle
03. MISIA - DEEPNESS
MISIA serves up a platter of big-booming ballad realness with her late 2012 single “DEEPNESS.” There’s a reason this woman (and her voice in particular) is legendary, and you need look no farther than this track to see how it’s done right. You work those hair-wraps, girl!
If this song were an ice-cream flavor it would be: Cherries Jubilee
02. MiChi - Motto
It was refreshing to hear such a stripped-down and vulnerable track in the sea of electro-pop that was “Therapy” in 2012. MiChi pushes the producers aside as she pours her heart out in one of the best ballads of the year.
If this song were an ice-cream flavor it would be: Mint Chocolate Chip
01. Utada Hikaru - Sakura Nagashi
This song is hauntingly beautiful with one of the most striking compositions I’ve heard in years. Featuring a slow build-up and strong pay off, this song is exactly what you’d want in a ballad. Utada Hikaru popped out of the ground to release one of the best songs of last year; I’m just hoping she didn’t see her shadow, signaling an even longer hiatus.
If this song were an ice-cream flavor it would be: Hazelnut Gelato
Close but no cigar:
Miliyah Kato Feat. Wakadanna - Lovers Pt. II
I really love this song, but at nearly 7 minutes long I know it isn't for everyone.
Koda Kumi feat. Omarion - Slow
This is a great, powerful ballad but the random autotune keeps it from cracking the top ten.