Macross Frontier OST Review

I Never Thought I’d Say It, But I Actually Miss Macross Plus’ Goofy Ass Logo

Okay, look, since everybody has said their peace about the Macross Frontier OST, and how it’s Yoko Kanno, blablabla, I thought I’d give my own take on it.  Not being a fanboy or affected by trends, name dropping etc. I took this OST as if it were any other OST done by any other person regardless of reputation other than that which I perceive and judge by myself as an individual.  Yoko Kanno’s name doesn’t mean anything to me by itself if she doesn’t deliver excellent music, and did she………sort of.  Is it the best OST of the year?  Probably not, after all the year is young.  Is it an amazing OST?  Not by my standards.  Is it okay to listen to?  Mostly yes.  Let’s look at this in a little more detail shall we.

Track 1 Frontier 2059: This track touches off a problem I have with the whole OST in particular and that is it just sounds like standard Yoko Kanno music that she would put in anything.  There’s no real power or definitiveness to at that I can really make it.  It’s sort of like the kind of song you’d hear at the unveiling of a play when the curtain is drawing.  It starts off slow and builds up a little towards the end, but could have been in any John Williams scored movie in the 70’s for all I really care.  And this is one of the better songs.  An 8/10.

Track 2 Welcome To My FanClub’s Night! (Sheryl On Stage):  So are we starting the final battle or a rather whiny sounding pop song here.  Which is it.  It has some power and feels dramatic, but the lyrics and vocals just don’t work for me at all.  For some reason it sounds like an Aya Hirano song.  It’s not the worst vocal song I’ve ever heard, it’s just……well idol-pop.  A 5.5/10.

Track 3 What Bout My Star: The Daft Punk like song of the series.  Starts off like one with the same lyric repeated over again over again for a bit and a techno song before heading into a bit of pop and then WHAT BOUT’ MY STAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAR again.  It’s one of the few vocal songs I find at all decent, but that’s really not saying much.  Really a lot of work could have been done on making the overall composition less repetitive and a little more effort could have even gone into making it less synth sounding.  I mean I like synth but it’s just not used to any great effect here. A 6/10.

Track 4 Iteza Gogo Kuji Don’t be late (Sheryl On Stage): Sheryl’s signature song in the series, and you better hope it be good, which it is.  It’s one of the few Sheryl songs on the OST that I’ve found really enjoyable.  Gone are most of the whiny sounds of the first 2 Sheryl songs and that sound is replaced with passion.  It feels like some actual work was put into making this song catchy and memorable and the producers of the show must like it more then the others too as they use it a fair bit.  It just…..I don’t know, captures what I imagine Sheryl’s music should sound like when I look at her on stage where the other ones fail.  A 9/10.

Track 5 Vital Force: Here we go, a song that makes me think Macross when I hear it.  Again I feel some effort was put into this military march like song.  It has a sense of grandeur to it as well in how it draws on an orchestra to provide it with all the energy it needs as a piece.  I’ve always felt Yoko Kanno works best with an orchestra and tends to be extremely hit and miss with everything else and this BGM reaffirms that feeling. A 9.5/10

Track 6 Triangler: Oh Ho Ho Ho Ho!  Ha ha hrmmmmmmmmmmmm….you again.  I think I’ve already described how I feel about this song and yes it is in running for flat out worst Opening of 2008.  1.5/10

Track 7 Zero Hour:  Here’s Yoko Kanno doing Yoko Kannoesque things again with this piece that uses lots of percussion.  Luckily it actually work out for me, although maybe that’s because it sounds like it’s from Top Gun.  It’s kind of got that mission well done feel to it with how uplifting it is and later on it even adds in some new instruments.  This is an example of what I’d call a hit from Yoko Kanno….but there will be misses I assure people.  A 9/10.

Track 8 What ‘Bout My Star @Formo:  Is it just me or is Megumi Nakajima a much better singer than May n’?  This version is much much better even in the accompaniment.  By withdrawing all that overproduction typical of an idol-pop song and replacing it with what I call a little bit of heart and soul, the overall feel of the song has been changed entirely.  In fact so much better is this song then the other one that it’s actually earned my highest score so far on the track.  A 10/10.

Track 9 Innocent Green:  A quiet piano song that’s nice to listen too, although it’s a typical Yoko Kanno song that starts off slow and either builds by adding in new instruments that give way to a warbly sound or never builds and then cuts back to the original slow bit just as quickly.  This is among the latter.  It’s not bad, but again I can’t help but feel she’s phoning it in a little again.  A 7/10.

Track 10 Aimo:  A rare case of one of Yoko Kanno’s gibberish songs that doesn’t sound like crap to me.  Perhaps it’s because it’s still has some Japanese with only a few of her random noises that sound like words thrown in.  That and I think it’s probably mostly due to the fact that Megumi Nakajima is an absolutely amazing discovery of a singer.  Had this not been Megumi Nakajima I don’t think it would have been as good, but with her it takes on a majestic quality instead of just annoying me.  It also could be that it doesn’t feature the tribal music sound common in a Yoko Kanno gibberish song.  If there’s one problem I have with it it’s that it’s just too short.  A 7.5/10.

Track 11 Big Boys:  Okay finally we get to another song where I can try and express what I mean by Yoko Kanno being Yoko Kanno-ish.  What is that clapping percussive noise going along with the song that doesn’t mesh well with it at all.  It’s that darn tribal beat like thing she does trying to share it’s place with a march like tune and then there’s some random triangle sounds you can here in the background and then it cuts away to that tribal sound that she’s done about oh….I don’t know, at least 20 times in Turn A Gundam, Macross Plus, Escaflowne and other assorted works I’ve heard from her over the years.  It could easily be in any Yoko Kanno soundtrack and that’s why I’m cool towards it.  To me this is a miss from Yoko Kanno. A 4.5/10.

Track 12 Private Army: Here’s where I run into some problems on the OST, because this song sounds pretty much like the last one, and it get’s the most awkwardly placed/misused track in the series award for me for being the damn launch song.  Tell me, if you’re conveying that somebody is going into the fight of their lives and you ask somebody to give you a track that will help you in doing this, do you accept it when they throw on some Mariachi music to try and psyche up the viewers.  I know I wouldn’t.  Yoko Kanno ladies and gentleman……another miss. A 3/10.

Track 13 SMS Shoutai no Uta ~ Ano Ko wa Alien:  I like me my marching music, but this sort of crosses the line into borderline circus sounding.  Not to much that it doesn’t keep that marching feel, but it’s just a little too goofy for me to imagine a proud team of people out to save the galaxy one ship at a time.  A 6.5/10.

Track 14 Ninjin Loves you yeah!: It’s the darn carrot song.  By all rights I should hate this song for sounding like something I could crank out on a Casio (face it the back up sucks), but again Megumi Nakajima manages to give it a charming feel that probably wouldn’t have been there if it was somebody else.  It’s amazing what she’s managing to do with a composer I feel is phoning it in a little.  A 7/10.

Track 15 ”Choujikuu Hanten Nyan-Nyan” CM Song (Ranka Version): Again and absolutely bland accompaniment that sounds like it could be any old Chinese Restaurant commerical made charming by Megumi Nakajima’s participation.  Gotta love the Nyan-Nyan song.  A 9.5/10.

Track 16 Alto’s Theme:  Eh….it’s all right.  It’s a theme I feel is meant to convey Alto being kept down by trying to manage all the conflicting aspects of his life (which aren’t quite so conflicting anymore now that everyone’s in the same school), but it’s just…..well all right.  A 7/10.

Track 17 Tally Ho!:  Effort again! Hooray!  I don’t recall this song all that well, but it reminds me of Dogfight, which is good.  I have a feeling this a battle theme of some sort…..but perhaps it reminds me too much of dogfight and I get the feeling that Yoko Kanno is recycling ideas…..oh well, I can give this song some regard for at least being noteworthy.  A 9/10.

Track 18 Target:  John Williams?  Is that you?  This is pretty much my favourite BGM in the series being the battle theme (that works I might add)….even if it sound like something right out of Star Wars.  Again, Yoko Kanno seems to work best when she’s utilizing an orchestra.  A 10/10.

Track 19 Vajra: The suitably menacing Vajra theme that does it’s job well.  Not the best “bad guy” theme I’ve ever heard but works.  Also sounds kind of like the theme to 2001 A Space Odyssey at times.  Either that or Batman.  An 8/10.

Track 20 Twinkle:  Hey Piano!  I always like piano and this is pretty decent sounding overall.  Kind of has a melancholic feel to it too.  Another example of Yoko Kanno hitting without the orchestra……is what I might say but for the fact that near the end it gets a bit too typical Yoko Kanno with the warble sound and drags on a little too long.  Oh well, a hit/miss.  A 6.5/10.

Track 21 Aimo ~ Tori no Hito: A longer version of the one from above remixed slightly with more instrumental.  Again Megumi Nakajima sees the day through. A 7.5/10

Track 22 Takeoff:  Top Gun sounding song again that cuts into a full orchestra and then takes on a majestic quality.  Pretty uplifting (as in right up to the skies limits as if your taking off) still….actually a little more so.  Do I need to say it again.  Also gotta love how the composition actually gives you a feeling similiar to what you’d imagine from reading the title. A 9.5/10.

Track 23 Infinity:  Okay so this is the song that everybody is orgasming over and I can’t understand why.  I mean it’s okay, but really :/ .  This one of the ones that played during the big battle in episode 7 that I felt just barely fit what I’d imagine a big battle theme sounding like.  I guess they were going for the Minmay factor and sort of succeeded.  It also kind of sounds like the Black Cat opening theme a bit to me.  Again, kind of whiny sounding, but luckily the backup takes front stage in this idol pop/rock piece enough to make it listenable.  It’s alright, but not the best Sheryl song.  Also tends to drag a little during some sections. A 7.5/10.

Track 24 Diamond Crevasse:  Along with Don’t Be Late, this is the only Sheryl song I really like to any extent, although this one wins out overall.  It’s not overproduced, it’s not whiny/waily sounding (Very key) and it’s just a nice relaxing composition that doesn’t have me clicking the mute button.  What more can I say…..well it’s a great closing song (beats the snot out of the opening song….then again everything does) that leads you out of an episode quite nicely and is one of the few closing themes I actually listen to on a regular basis of series I’m watching.  (The other being Code Geass’ ending).  One of my three top songs on the OST.  A 10/10.

Macross Frontier OST 1 Overall Rating: 7.4/10

So that’s teetering between good but not great, and very good for me.  To me this is by no means the best OST I’ve ever heard, but it’s the best I’ve heard all year by sheer virtue of it being the only one I’ve really had a chance to listen to all year.  That’s not saying much.  It’s looking to be a little bit of a slow year for anime music so this is probably going to sail it’s way through to a bunch of awards (I mean it’s got Yoko Kanno name power behind it) and tons of praise, but really it’s sits nowhere near my top ten of all time (I’m actually working on an article for that as I type this).  As is probably obvious I preferred the Megumi Nakajima and Orchestral pieces and frowned upon most of the May N’ and more synthesized sounding pieces.  That’s really about all I have to say about that.   


23 Responses to “Macross Frontier OST Review”

  1. 1 ixnay June 4, 2008 at 10:10 pm

    Oh look. A random number generator.

  2. 2 Haesslich June 4, 2008 at 11:45 pm

    Top Gun wouldn’t have been trance-like the way Zero Hour is… which feels a bit like Kanno took the “Take Off!” theme and decided to run it through the same inspiration that drove her GITS:SAC compositions. And it works pretty well.

    And yes, Nakajima’s pretty damned good for a ‘newbie’ – she doesn’t sound forced and overproduced… which is something May’n suffers somewhat from, which is why I tend to prefer Nakajima’s songs on the OST (Aimo, both versions) and the Folmo version of “What ’bout My Star?” as a result.

    By the way, Tracks 13-15 are supposed to sound silly and almost cartoonish/circus-like… or so it appears to me, given the subjects of the songs in question (two commercials, one song that wouldn’t be out of place in a Super Sentai show).

  3. 3 Kaioshin Sama June 5, 2008 at 1:26 am

    @ixnay: Oh look a qualitative and quantitative analysis. 🙂

    #Haesslich: Nakajima seems like she actually really cares about trying to make the best song she can. I hope she doesn’t lose that quality after she becomes a success, which I think she is by all rights entitled to following her performance in Macross Frontier.

  4. 4 Haesslich June 5, 2008 at 2:58 am

    Nakajima is perfect for Ranka – she’s new, so she doesn’t sound ‘professional’, and she seems genuine when she sings unlike… oh… any pop star I can name. She probably won’t KEEP that sound, but she has it right now, which makes her perfect for the role she’s playing – and singing. I really can ‘hear’ Ranka in her, because Ranka’s character has a similarly heartfelt, emotive manner which isn’t supposed to sound as professional as Sheryl Nome.

    But it’s a hell of a start, and I will have to say I was enchanted the first time I heard Aimo. Pretty much every track she had on this OST has been a winner for me, and they were what I was looking forward to – the live tracks and Private Army are quite good, but the Nakajima tracks were the star pieces. Pity she doesn’t get to sing an OP or ED by herself yet.

  5. 5 famfiel June 5, 2008 at 4:15 am

    Unless you’re specifically a J-pop fan, it seems obvious why anyone would prefer a style that is more classical; it’s the closest thing to a “common ground” in music.

    Are you reviewing these tracks on the basis of their aesthetic value, or are you reviewing them in the context of the anime? Nyan-nyan, for example, is definitely not something that I could enjoy listening to unless I already had a mental picture of the Ranka scene to begin with. But all things being equal, I’d have to also take Infinity in the context of the big battle scene that it’s linked with, which is why people probably think so fondly of it.

    Seeing that Track 8 is sung by both Nakajima and May’n, I don’t really hear all that much of a difference when they’re both singing in the same style. Everything else is just apples and oranges, so there’s nothing to really compare.

  6. 6 Kaioshin Sama June 5, 2008 at 8:01 am

    A little bit of both and basically just personal preference yes. As for track 8, it’s mostly that I didn’t find it as overproduced as I stated.

  7. 7 deathkillz June 5, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Oh I just have to say how much I enjoy track 10 despite you giving it only 7 (harthen!). But why is it just so short…I was expecting at least 3 minutes of lullaby >.>

    I face palmed on track 14…seriously…bad memories no matter how hilarious.

    Edit: ahh, I overlooked track 21…well I still prefer the quieter version ^^

  8. 8 BeInvoked June 5, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    So are you going to do Gundam 00 OST II at some point?

  9. 9 Elios June 5, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    FYI about the “gibberish” in the song Aimo
    Ranka says its the only thing she remembers about here past
    theres a high chance the gibberish is ether the Zentradi or Protoculture language
    note Ranka IS 1/4 Zentran or in this can Maltran as the case may be

  10. 10 Kaioshin Sama June 5, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    @BeInvoked: Strange, somehow I thought I had, but now I realized I didn’t. Maybe…..I think so.

    @Elios: I’ve actually gone over this elsewhere a few times but I’ll just say that Yoko Kanno has these made up words she puts in her songs (I don’t know if anyone has heard of Enya, but think like that, except I don’t think Kanno’s is an actual language, but rather just random made up “words”) all the time so it’s really just her composition and not anything quite so deep unless they decide to make it so (which would be a first. Turning Yoko Kanno’s gibberish into something that can actually be used for the benefit of the series). Besides I know what Zentran sounds like (Heard it in SRW Alpha and Macross: DYRL, and it’s not that. Protoculture on the other hand, it’s up to them.

    @Deathkillz: Interesting thing is that I have Aimo stuck in my head now.

  11. 11 Elios June 5, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    well if you have seen DYRL youll then note that it does sound a lot like the UN-translated song that Misa finds

    my bet is its Protoculture

  12. 12 izumo June 5, 2008 at 10:45 pm

    @ Haesslich

    Well according to some blogs it seems that the 2nd opening will be sung by Megumi Nakajima-san, so we’ll look forward to that.

    As for the OST well i agree that it is a hit/miss but that leaves room for improvements for the next ost. Though i disagree of some of the ratings but everyone has their own opinions. I guess after Macross Plus & other grand ost from Kanno-san that it is difficult to live up to reputation…so even Kanno-san has room for improvement.

    All in all i give this ost 8-8.5 / 10 but it could have been better from Kanno-san. It seems that Megumi Nakajima-sans tracks are the ones that boost this cd above being average.

  13. 13 Hee June 10, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    Hey, watch Macross Zero and then watch Macross F again and listen to Aimo again. The feeling is very different after that!

  14. 14 Kaioshin Sama June 11, 2008 at 7:27 am

    @ Elios: Again, the gibberish tracks are really really REALLY just Yoko Kanno. She does this all the time for crying out loud, like every OST.

    @Izumo: Completely agree with you that the Nakajima/May N’ tracks are what made the CD. Yoko Kanno only really did half the OST alone anyway.

    @Hee: If people are curious I plan to marathon Macross Zero before continuing with Frontier so I can get the most out of episode 10, though right now I’m not really in the mood to watch Macross Frontier. Episode 08 left me with a pretty bad taste in my mouth so I’m waiting for an episode where something really plot critical happens before I do a Blitz summary. Lately I can’t help but feel they’re dicking around a little too much.

  15. 15 foodmart July 14, 2008 at 2:26 am

    Good review. You’re right. Kanno has been in a bit of a creative slump recently. She has not been up to her old caliber in years, outside of GitS SAC which I think–once you weed out the filler stuff (this is tv and there are throw away tracks no matter how you slice it)–has 16 to 20 amazing tracks.

    But, otherwise, its been Kanno by numbers.

    Its understandable. Its impossible for an artist to always be in a creative peak. But, knowing her talent, she will get there again! Also, I think that–when writing music for television–you need to really feel connected and certain about what the music is for. GitS is an example of a highly stylized show that Kanno could look at previous work and understand what is expected from her. Macross Plus was the same.

    In many ways, Frontier has had a laughable start (IMHO). The show seems uncertain of itself and it can’t decide if its serious or not. We’re in the teens in episodes and I still have really seen a scene where I think a great Kanno track could even be properly utilized. I mean, lets says instead of AIMO, Kanno had written VOICES for Frontier–what a waste that would have been! Really deep, emotional music like that has no place in this juvenile program!

    Maybe we’re lucky she didn’t waste something good on this average show!

    That’s all!

  16. 16 Keiichi July 22, 2008 at 12:08 am

    Well…you did say that you judged this with no bias. The only problem I have with your scores are well, mostly you refer to it being too “Yoko”-like whereas for a person new to the music of Yoko would think it was great. :/. Although I can’t change the fact that you have heard Yoko Kanno’s music for a while, I find it kind of unfair to just say “this is too much like Yoko.” Although I agree with you on some points, you seem to be expecting something of Yoko to not be “Yoko.” Whether or not this affected your scoring, I don’t know, I’m just perceiving it as it did since you mention it numerous times.

  17. 17 johnnyxp64 August 17, 2008 at 10:55 am

    i need a torrent for those 🙂 anyone?

  18. 18 Haesslich September 1, 2008 at 8:28 am

    One note, Kaioshin – listen to the Macross Plus OST 1, Track 8: “Break Out ~ Cantabile” (also composed by Yoko Kanno) and then listen to Vital Force. It looks like she snuck in a Macross Plus tribute in there (the orchestration and arrangement are recognizably by the same artist or in the same style). She’s mining her own work for Macross Frontier… and Nyan Tra may be better, with the Maaya Sakamoto version of Aimo (and hopefully that acoustic version of Diamond Crevasse from EP 20).

  19. 19 nanashi September 8, 2008 at 10:58 am

    I didn’t like Sheryl (May’n) too at the beginning. But after a while her voice starts to grow on you. I think i fell in love with May’n in (like above)episode 20, the touching space playboy scene.

  20. 20 Neil October 2, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    Track 8 What ‘Bout My Star @Formo is actually a Duet between May’n and Megumi. They are both credited. If you listen to the second verse, that is Sheryl (May’n) ^_^ My fave from this soundtrack

  21. 21 nono-chan November 30, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    hahaha~!! I’m so happy 😀 My mom bought me this CD in New-York and today she is coming back~! ❤

    The review is really good. Did you hear the songs in live too? (There are some in youtube~) May’n is so good live, but it seems that Megumi isn’t used to it. The pop-idol song are for the character of Sheryl, but the singer herself has a great voice.

  22. 22 Kaioshin Sama December 1, 2008 at 3:44 am

    Yes I saw one of the Megumi Nakajima live bits there and she did look a little uncomfortable. She needs to work on her dance choreagraphy a bit but she’s still a great singer live.

  23. 23 Aegis February 24, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    Track 21 Aimo ~ Tori no Hito is the most awesome and memorable song in this album,IMO.

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