Various Artists

Ai No Uta

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A basic compilation (but a high-selling one, spawning the also-popular Ai No Uta 2), Ai No Uta simply collects contemporary love songs (the title itself translates simply to "love songs"). The album starts out with the always-popular Greeeen and their mega hit "Ai Uta" (again, "Love Song"). It's all extremely safe, highly produced, and right in the soft spot for J-pop balladry. As the album moves on, one half of the huge hit between Thelma Aoyama and Soulja makes an appearance, Kimaguren's extra-summery hit "Life" rolls through, and a stray piece with Micro wanders in, ignoring the "love song" bit. The songs are all hits in their own right in the realm of J-pop, but collected together in a single album, the listener gets the Japanese equivalent to one of the North American Now releases. Not a bad choice for a quick look at 2009's hits, but nothing is going to stretch the listener's ideas of J-pop here, either.