Thelma Aoyama only had one full album prior to Love!, her first compilation album, but in the Japanese system of singles released independently of albums, it's not entirely abnormal to compile them so quickly. Here, the focus is entirely on love songs, admittedly not much of a limiting factor for a contemporary R&B singer. The album opens with "Sobe Ni Iru Ne," a massive collaborative hit for Aoyama and rapper SoulJa that kicked off both of their careers formidably. A few additional previously released singles round out the first half of the short set, keeping Aoyama in a medium-tempo range and relatively standard composition space. "Mamoritai Mono" gives her a chance to stretch her emotive range just a bit, using a sparser instrumentation in the opening section to highlight the vulnerability in her vocals. The album moves into original material from this point, though the material itself is extremely similar to the first half of the album. There's a bit of a dance track in a remix from DJ Kawasaki that shows Aoyama's vocals in a different light, but the emotive abilities that she harnesses in the best of her works are lost in the density of the remix. Closing out the album is a special treat: a cover of Janet Jackson's "Again." Showing a surprising facility with English phrasing, Aoyama makes her way through the piece capably, substituting a bit of innocence in her pretty vocals for the slightly more worldly vocals of Jackson's version. Overall, Aoyama has plenty of room to grow further, and the missing points in her array of techniques are occasionally noticeable in their absence. However, the abilities that she has developed thus far are quite nice, and already worth a listen.
Share this page