Kylee ~ Love Kicks…

Kylee – Love Kicks...

  1. S.A.U.
  2. You Get Me
  3. THAT ONE
  4. Not For You
  5. Empty Handed
  6. Wherever You Are Tonight

Today, I am posting the review of Kylee‘s first album (or mini-album), Love Kicks…, in recognition of her 15th birthday. Yes, Kylee (also Kylee Saunders or カイリー) is a young star of only 15 years who was born in the US to a Japanese mother and an American father, who inspired her to sing as a child. She has a deal with DefSTAR Records, and though she sings in Japan, all of her songs are in English. In fact, the title track of her first single, Vacancy, is available on iTunes USA.
Love Kicks… is Kylee’s first mini-album and chronicles the course of a relationship. It contains six pop-rock tracks and was released on 4 March, 2009.
[Note: Due to the potential iTunes USA release of this album, only limited tracks are available on this site. For more the absent tracks, please send my an email of inquiry.]

The album opens with the confident S.A.U., which stands for SOMETHING ABOUT [YO]U (I’m not really sure why she made it into an acronym myself). The beginning has a bit of a shaky start because the tie held in the vocal line seems to disagree with the time signature, though the pitch is on. The running chimes that come in the phrase before the chorus give an interesting texture in this rock tune. Kylee’s solid vocals throughout contrast well with the driving electric guitar, even when they become especially legato in the chorus. The quick-paced power chords—sustaining less than measure each—really move the melodic line, but Kylee’s vocals remain in control. In terms of lyrics,there is nothing too insightful, but the “falling in love” sensation segment of a relationship is well captured. Alas, the song ends on a random, distorted guitar gliss, which seems out of place, but aside from that, the arrangement is strong and enjoyable.
Language: English
Mood: adventurous
Tempo: allegro
Composition: B+
Arrangement: A-
Overall: A-

You Get Me, when viewed critically, can illustrate the exaggeration of a sense of belonging or acceptance in regard to one’s love interest, but the song is probably not meant to be that satirical. Lines such as, “You’re the only one who gets me / Nobody else understands and look at me like I’m just crazy” from the chorus are a bit over the top and excessively exclusive. Kylee’s distorted “woah-oh-oh” vocals sound a little strange and don’t really add much to the song. The same-pitch running eighth-note guitar merely accompanies blandly, as with the power chords in the chorus; there is no countermelody, and disappointingly, not even a guitar solo. Likewise, the percussion part is pretty straightforward, so it performs its function, but it is not particularly interesting. The running synth sounds do provide something of a countermelody, but they are weak and slightly overshadowed. The vocal harmonies, especially in the final repeat, save the arrangement and add a much-needed dimension to the song. These harmonies are especially stellar in the bridge, into which the key changes.
Language: English
Mood: liberated
Tempo: allegro moderato
Composition: B
Arrangement: B
Overall: B

The arrangement shines before the vocal part even comes in THAT ONE, the longest song on the album, clocking in at five minutes. The sustained (over two measures) synth string chords provide the backdrop for a light syncopated guitar accompaniment, which is then built upon by a differently-syncopated guitar melody—a blend that flirts with the ear. Although the strain is a bit repetitive, it still grips the ear. The stark contrast of the strings and the slight grunge sound of the guitar on melody is surprisingly refreshing and entrancing. The percussion carries the song and adds a punch to the guitar’s syncopation, but it never seems overbearing. The lyrics are a bit lackluster—not to mention grammatically poor—but that doesn’t mean that Kylee doesn’t execute them. As in the previous track, they seem to exaggerate the negativity of the situation outside of the love interest, but Kylee does not waver anywhere, though a bit of vibrato would fit the mood of the song nicely; perhaps it does not mesh with the timbre of her voice. Finally, the song ends on a resolution into a major chord, which tints the tone of the song with hope that she will indeed find THAT ONE.
Language: English
Mood: longing
Tempo: allegretto
Composition: B+
Arrangement: A
Overall: A-

The next song, Not For You, is a pivotal track on the album both lyrically and musically. Also, it appears to be a cover of the Natalie Bassingthwaighte song of the same title. The instrumentation shifts somewhat, as there is no electrical guitar present at all, but only acoustic power chords in the verses and base power chords in the refrain. The opening of horizontal chord building with the synth strings and Kylee’s hollow-sounding vocals casts a dark mood and finally settles into a minor key. The arrangement spans a relatively substantial range of pitches, from the power of the bass to the synth high strings, and this coverage gives a healthy depths to the song. The strings nicely embellish the verses as well, which would seem otherwise empty with the lengthy rests between phrases in the vocal part, and the forte bass piano chords at the cadenza evoke the image of a crash to the ground, which connects to the lyrics. The novelty of the relationship has worn off, and Kylee sings, “If I give you the world would it be enough for you? Not for you… / If I tore up my heart and my mind and wrapped them nicely?” The song ends abruptly and quietly, but it may have been better for such a strong piece to finish in a more noteworthy fashion.
Language: English
Mood: anxious
Tempo: moderato
Composition: B+
Arrangement: A-
Overall: A-

The acoustic-dominant Empty Handed has a more intimate feeling, and like many acoustic pieces, is more accessible than rock songs. The tune is more or a less an acoustic guitar/vocal duet with steady percussion and minimal electric guitar. The melody is engaging all throughout, including in the verses and the bridge, especially at the end of the later refrains with accidental mordants in the descending, slurred cadenza. Where the arrangement is lacking, the lyrics—which reflect the beautiful blend of acquiescence and self-confidence as she becomes disillusioned with her love interest—redeem the song. This emotion is expressed by lines such as “Were you just happy to hide behind dreams and broken lies? / There’s a crack in your perfect smile, and it’s been growing awhile” and “I know I can do better.Empty Handed proves Kylee’s ability to also perform well on more subdued songs with a more serious and heartfelt tone.
Language: English
Mood: calm, sad
Tempo: andante moderato
Composition: A-
Arrangement: B+
Overall: A-

Wherever You Are Tonight, the album’s final track, sings of the lingering emotions after the breakup. The electric guitar and the percussion are brazen throughout, and they seem to compete with each other a bit during the chorus. The verses have more of the Western-style same-pitch running eighth-note guitar accompaniment. The guitar solo is nice to hear, along with chunks of countermelody on acoustic guitar in the later verses, though the vocal echoes in the final chorus don’t add much. Both the music and the lyrics lean on the generic side with lines about being connected though they are apart.
Language: English
Mood:
Tempo: allegro moderato
Composition: B
Arrangement: B-
Overall: B

Love Kicks… is strong for a debut album, both solid and engaging. In the future, I hope that Kylee’s sound and lyrics mature and incorporate more of her own emotion. I doubt she writes her own lyrics, given that she should not have a experienced the full course of a relationship at her age, so it would be great to hear her sound mature as her voice is already dark and far from childlike. This album has a raw potential for success stateside, but Kylee’s music has plenty of room for a tailoring from mainstream pop/rock to something more of her personal expression, which will emerge as she develops as an artist.
Overall: A-

Advertisements