CoCo Lee

Just No Other Way

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Prior to the spring 2000 release of her English-language debut Just No Other Way in America, Coco Lee was a superstar in Asia -- so popular, she was often dubbed the Japanese Madonna. If that's true, then it's the Madonna of the late '80s instead of the late '90s, since this is unabashed dance-club music, not the cerebral techno-pop fusion of Ray of Light. And that's a compliment, by the way, given that it's harder to pull off convincing mainstream dance-pop than it seems. Though Just No Other Way isn't perfect -- like many dance-pop albums, it's rather uneven -- it is nevertheless appealing, thanks to Lee's solid performances. She's not overly charismatic, which may mean that some of the less distinguished material never gets stamped with personality, but that's OK because she never oversings or shows off the way some dance-pop divas do. Instead, she delivers the right performance for the song, whether it's an uptempo cut or a ballad like the title track. Much of this recalls Jennifer Lopez's debut album -- the opening cut "Do You Want My Love" is scarily reminiscent of Lopez's first hit, "If You Had My Love" -- but in the best possible way, since it shares the same inclination for well-crafted, melodic, and danceable club-pop. If Lee doesn't really seem like a superstar on Just No Other Way, that's due more to the occasionally pedestrian material, not her performances. Throughout it all, she is engaging and charming, singing professionally yet with some personality. Consequently, it's hard to dislike the album, even if it doesn't quite deliver the musical goods nor quite match her own talents. There are enough moments here that prove that Lee's popularity in Asia is deserved and it's just enough to not only be satisfied, but to await her next record.

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