Ai

Viva A.I.

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    7
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Continuing her fusion of Japanese pop, American pop, and a handful of other aesthetics, Ai's Viva A.I. starts out with a simple bit of R&B but builds into a massive and powerful set through a series of stylistic experiments. Some succeed and some fail a bit, but she keeps the interest level fairly high as the listener is walked through her attempts. After an energetic clapping intro, "You Are My Star" opens the album with a fairly straightforward songbird ballad. There's a bit of a sports anthem built into the following track, and one of the finer pieces on the album in a collaboration with Exile. After more balladry, there's a rock-electronica mix in "Scream," featuring a member of Rize. Some overly stereotypical powerful-vocal R&B comes in "People in the World" and "Fire," with a sudden infusion of reggae coming courtesy of Corn Head in "Like a Bird." It's near the end that Ai ups the ante a bit. Where other R&B singers go head over heels for Auto-Tunes (both to smooth their tones and to add alien effects), Ai enlists collaborators and goes all the way to the vocoder in "Nobody Like You," which could have been a slow jam from Zapp & Roger. There's an operatic bit in "Okuribito" (backed up by a strong string section) and the album ends with a couple of standard modern dance tracks. Ai jumps all over the stylistic map here, referencing American R&B for many of the foundations but building upon them with funk, classical music, and electronica. Some of her ideas hit the mark well; some fall short. All are worth giving a listen, though.