Kaela Kimura

5 Years

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5 Years, Kaela Kimura's celebration of her first five years in music business, is not so much a proper record as a fascinating study of the many facets of J-pop. Of course, it does its thing -- this is an honest to God best-of collection with much quality material -- but the songs are so far-ranging stylistically that 5 Years sometimes plays like a sampler. ABBA-inspired croon-fests complete with bells in the background are followed by rockers made for highway blasting, lounge ballads straight out of romantic movies, ditties sounding like kid show themes ("Memories"), techno-pop numbers, a dose of post-grunge, and then it's back to square one, and the record isn't even halfway through. 5 Years settles down by its second half, which offers a slew of catchy and confident guitar rock numbers not entirely dissimilar from the Pillows, but to get there, you have to wade through a lot of different stuff. The good thing is that every song here is actually very well done -- well above the average J-pop level of catchiness; the not-so-good thing is that following the vibe of the record is really hard because of all the aural jerking around that happens in the beginning. Granted, this reflects Kimura's musical evolution, as well as the omnivorous nature of Japanese popular music, and the sales of 5 Years prove that the buying public is just dandy with that. There's definitely something about popular opinion in this case, because the record is quite fun, all things considered, but it's also most likely to be a selective listen.

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