Sweetbox – Adagio

August 15, 2010 at 8:38 pm | Posted in Sweetbox | Leave a comment
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  1. Liberty
  2. Life Is Cool
  3. Somewhere
  4. Hate Without Frontiers
  5. Far Away
  6. Testimony
  7. I’ll Be There
  8. Lacrimosa
  9. Sorry
  10. I Don’t Wanna Be
  11. Chyna Girl
  12. Everybody
  13. Miss You
  14. You Can’t Hide
  15. 1000 Words
  16. real Emotion

Adagio, Sweetbox’s third album with Jade Valerie, is one of their most popular albums. It’s not a surprise since the songs that were featured in Final Fantasy X-2 are on this album and these songs brought them many new fans. Sweetbox continues with their formula of sampling classical pieces but this time the outcome is vastly different from their previous releases. The album was inspired by world music and contains a hip-hop influence and features guest vocalists RJ, Nicco and Meguo. Adagio is Jade’s darkest and one of her most personal albums with songs about suicide, death and spirituality.

Liberty is a fantastic album opener and samples Kyrie (from Requiem) by Mozart. Haunting music, operatic and Latin vocals that lead into drum beats and Jade’s beautiful vocals make this a perfect mixture of pop and classical. The chorus sweeps in and is aggressive with Jade singing “is there liberty/gravity/do memories remain.” The second verse features a rap by RJ giving the song a hip-hop feel before it returns to its grandiose chorus. This song deals with someone who has committed suicide and it’s a very powerful track. Things lighten up for Life Is Cool which samples the ever so beautiful Canon in D Major by Johann Pachelbel. This is one of the albums more warmhearted songs with Jade singing about appreciating life, “there’s always someone who’s got it worse than you.” Jade’s vocals are sweet and the arrangement is cheerful, dominated by strings and a clarinet. Synths are added just before the bridge along with some distorted vocals and despite a very simple chorus this is a nice inspirational track. “The life you want is the life you have to make.” Somewhere has a fantasy feel to it because of the sample Ave Maria by J.S Bach & C. Gounod. Jade’s vocals are strong and match and elegant arrangement of the strings and oboe. The highlight is definitely the chorus because all the instruments start-up during it and the lyrics “somewhere beyond this/somewhere I know/there’s something better” are beautiful and I love how Jade’s vocals flow smoothly through it. The background vocals in the last chorus become louder and give the song a grand feel before ending.

I’ve always loved Hate Without Frontiers and it samples Stabat Mater by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi. The music is very dark and they’ve incorporated operatic female vocals that add to the dark atmosphere. Jade sings the first verse fast with some distortions on her voice and the lyrics are equally dark “my one temptation/last sensation/is only suicide.” There’s even a background voice that wails/shouts occasionally throughout the song. The second verse features only the operatic female vocalist and this part is intriguing and keeps the song interesting. Even though the chorus is only the title repeated the layering of Jade’s vocals along with the operatic singer are magnificent. Far Away, sampling Oboe Concerto in D Minor by Marcello, opens with a hauntingly beautiful oboe and Jade singing “I love you.” The first verse starts off light but then the music crescendos and it becomes much more dramatic before entering the intense chorus. Jade’s vocals are powerful and she sings with a lot of emotion. The bridge is gorgeous because of the lovely strings that later become accompanied by the rest of the instruments and Jade’s wonderful ad-libbing. Testimony is one of the few gospel inspired songs that Jade has and it samples Cradle Song by Grieg. With a choir, a male gospel vocalist preaching “I’m a living testimony,” and clapping in the background this song lives up to it’s name. RJ appears and offers a rap for the second verse to keep things interesting but his part slightly ruins the gospel feel because of the rap’s hip-hop nature. Jade shines in the chorus and brings the gospel element to an even higher level singing “ooh, ooh, ooh/ooh, ooh, ooh/do you know where to go.” It’s simple but highly effective and is the catchiest part of the track. A choir ends the song with a tune I’m sure everyone has heard before, “whatever it takes/I know I can make it through.” This song is decent but it isn’t as appealing as the other songs on the album.

RJ provides almost half of the vocals for I’ll Be There. He provides the vocals for the verses while Jade sings the chorus and the bridge. Strings are combined with hip-hop beats to give this song a bubbly arrangement. The highlight is definitely the upbeat chorus, “doesn’t matter when you call me at night/I’ll be there/I’ll be there all the time,” and it makes me wonder how much better this song would have been if Jade had sung more because her parts are the best. This is an adorable song and it’s one of my favourites. The album returns to its darker side with Lacrimosa, sampling Mozart’s song with the same name. RJ’s tone when he raps suits the gloomy atmosphere of this track. The chorus features haunting strings with Jade and RJ singing except her vocals are much more dominant and they sound surprisingly good together. For the bridge RJ echoes Jade’s vocals and I love how the music stops when Jade sings “a million hearts wishing upon falling stars” and then builds back up dramatically. Sorry is an aggressive track that samples Palladio by Karl Jenkins. Jade’s vocals are soft and I like the tone she uses in the verses and the strings are quite interesting. The aggressiveness of the song lies in its chorus where Jade sings “it’s really hard to tell you I’m sorry/I don’t wanna break your heart again.” This is a very edgy track with a lot of energy and Jade sings powerfully especially when she ad-libs. The blaring electric guitar at the end gives off a nice rock vibe.

There are some reggae influences in I Don’t Wanna Be which features guest vocalist Nicco. He contributes reggae styled singing to the song but I don’t really like his vocals. On the other hand, Jade’s vocals are great as usual and I enjoyed her delivery on this track. The chorus is repetitive, “la la la la I don’t wanna be,” but it’s highly addictive. I was surprised by the bridge because the music changes into some kind of old western flick sound with Jade talking. Overall, this was a nice track and even though I don’t like Nicco’s parts there’s something intriguing about this song. A traditional Asian sound and an aggressive electric guitar open up Chyna Girl. The verses are quite tame compared to the song’s in-your-face chorus. The music crescendos with Jade’s vocals as the verse transitions into the chorus and is executed nicely. Aggressive strings are added to the bridge instead of the electric guitar and they add a dramatic sound to the song. After the bridge the music strips down into only a piano and she sings part of the first verse. Her ad-libbing in the final chorus is amazing and I love how she uses a higher tone. Everybody is another one of my favourite tracks and it’s the darkest song on the album. The hip-hop influences and backing vocals, “it’s going down so you know you gotta hold on,” work surprisingly well with the song’s atmosphere. The song opens up with eerie vocalization that leads into Jade’s dark vocals. She sounds absolutely desperate in the pre-chorus, “the angels shut my eyes but/I’m still with you inside so/when you close your eyes and pray/I’m not too far away.” In the second verse they’ve added an electric guitar to add to the song’s dynamic arrangement. I find the chorus to be a little lackluster compared to the verses but the rest of the song is too amazing to even care about this minor complaint. This is a must-listen.

I was never a big fan of Miss You but it has grown on me a lot since I first heard it. The piece used is J.S Bach’s Pomp & Circumstance and this song opens up with a delightful piano melody. Jade sings the verses sweetly and softly accompanied by a thumping beat. What I mostly disliked about this song was its repetitive chorus, “but I miss you/cause I really miss you,” but it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. It’s a nice mid-tempo song but one of the least memorable songs on the album. You Can’t Hide in my opinion is the most unique song on Adagio and samples Hannah and Her Sisters which is also by J.S Bach. The arrangement is completely blissful and has such a magical feel to it. I love how Jade’s vocals ascend and descend with the music and it’s one of the best aspects of this track. It’s not very complicated in terms of music so Jade carries the song with her vocals and she sounds fantastic. There’s one line “you can try” that gets repeated over and over in the verse with Jade singing louder and stronger each time and it’s just stunning.

Now we get to what are probably Sweetbox’s most popular songs, Jade’s extended versions of 1000 Words and real Emotion. I was completely obsessed with these songs when I was younger and like most people they’re the reason I discovered Sweetbox. They were also the catalyst that pushed me into Jpop. 1000 Words is a ballad of epic proportions. A sad yet hopeful arrangement, emotional vocals and stunning lyrics, this song has everything you could ask for in a ballad. I do enjoy Koda Kumi’s version of this song but Jade’s is nostalgic and means a lot more to me. Jade sings the verses very softly and the music crescendos as it transitions into the chorus where she sings in a stronger voice. It took me a long time to get used to the second verse because I was so accustomed to the short version going straight into the bridge after the first chorus. I love the guitar riff in the bridge and how it progressively gets louder. Another reason why I enjoy Jade’s version much more is that she ad-libs in the final chorus whereas Koda doesn’t. It adds more emotion and depth to the song and gives it a much stronger finish. The album ends with the infectious and upbeat real Emotion. Jade immediately begins by asking “what can I do for you” which is followed by an electric guitar. She performs with a lot of energy and it’s nice to have a pure fun pop song after all of the dark and serious songs on the album. My favourite part of this song has always been the final chorus mostly because of the line “and if I find/the real without the motion has surrounded me.” All the other versions of Adagio contain the track Beautiful. This song isn’t as good as some of the other tracks but it is a nice listen. I really like the aggressive bridge because of Jade’s deep vocals when she sings “just make me feel anything at all.” The arrangement of the song is interesting with a piano in the verses that is led into the chorus, which features an electric guitar, by a drum sequence.

Conclusion: Adagio is considered one of Sweetbox’s best works for good reason. This is the album where they truly perfected their pop meets classical sound. The classical pieces are flawlessly turned into new and amazing songs. Geo definitely worked his magic on the production of this album. Jade’s vocals sound amazing with the dark elements of the music and she has some very interesting performances here. If you’re new to Sweetbox then this is one of the albums you want to start out with because it contains some of their best material.

Recommended Tracks: You Can’t Hide, Everybody, 1000 Words, Hate Without Frontiers, I’ll Be There, Far Away and real Emotion

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