Two of my favorite Jpop/Kpop superstars coincidentally both decided they should break into the US market this year with English language albums, so of course I had to support these artists by buying them both (it's pretty nice to be able to pay ten bucks rather than the usual $25 or so!). The first is BoA, the beautiful Korean pop singer that I have been listening to since I bought her CD in Japan (she often releases Japanese language albums), with her US debut CD titled BoA (so original). When I first heard the single Eat You Up, I was a little disappointed since the song didn't showcase her great voice, but I had hoped the album would fix that problem. Unfortunately, that's not the case - BoA's producers made the terrible decision that she needs to sound like every other generic American hip-hop artist, so the album is filled with electronic vocal effects. Let me tell you, BoA does not need to sing through an Auto-Tune! Several of the songs are kind of duets with other ethnic singers, and there are no ballads (which I think are BoA's best songs!). I really wish she would have continued her normal music progression into the US, but now she's just going to blend in with the crowd (I think Lose Your Mind would have been a fantastic hit). However, even after saying all of that, I can't make myself dislike this album - for what it is, it's a totally awesome dance-fest that I can listen to over and over. I don't think the true BoA shines through, but the hip-hop BoA can kick it out.
The second artist is Utada Hikaru, who is such a superstar in Japan that her debut album is still the number one selling album ever. Utada actually attempted to break into the US market a few years ago with the album Exodus, which was kind of a disaster (even though I still enjoy the CD) with its embarrassing lyrics (Easy Breezy comes to mind), but now she's ready to try it again with This Is The One. Unlike BoA's complete 180 style change, this Utada album is a natural progression of her musical feel, and the results are totally fantastic (maybe not as good as her previous Heart Station, but still wonderful). The melodies show off her voice, the production is lush, and the mood is perfect - listening to Utada in English feels something like Everything But The Girl crossed with Sade. If you look at the translation of some of Utada's Japanese songs, you quickly realize that she is a talented poet (so much deeper than your average Jpop!), and although her English lyrics are a little more shallow, they are still filled with beautiful metaphors that go far beyond BoA's dance floor urgings (though I have to say Dirty Desire is way beneath her!). This Is The One is a solid album that I'll be listening to a lot. I hope both of these artists accomplish what they want with these US releases, although I have to admit it feels a little cooler to buy import CDs directly from Japan!