Shoko Nakagawa

Big Bang!!!

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The debut album by Shoko Nakagawa -- one of the latest idols to hit the J-pop scene -- does exactly what the title promises: hits with a big bang. The album opens with the thrusting pop/rock fusion of "We Can Do It!," which eventually morphs into a stadium-filling pop anthem (complete with chanting crowds, no less). The energy stays just as high, with additional guitar-heavy pop in "Sorairo Days." The energy fizzles a bit in the next few tracks, as Nakagawa takes her turn on the obligatory ballads and their associated melodrama. There's an Auto-Tune-heavy piece of work in "Brilliant Dream" that never quite gets off the ground, but shows what Nakagawa can do with her vocals when they're not entirely her vocals. With a couple of tracks in the light pop category, "Fruit Punch" and "Strawberry Melody," she takes a turn toward the extra-cute midtempo pop that's been a mainstay of anime theme music over the decades, and while performing it well, the songs again fail to really show off Nakagawa's formidable pipes or her phrasing abilities. Finally, "Calling Location" and "Happily Ever After" take the tone back to rock-based pop. While the compositions and arrangements don't always fit well with Nakagawa's abilities or stand out on their own, they do provide a platform for her to pose a better vocal argument, exploring faster deliveries and a wider range of pitch. There are abilities showcased in Big Bang!!! that promise a brighter star for Nakagawa in the future. This album doesn't entirely deliver, but it points to better things.