Aya Kamiki

Are You Happy Now?

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Having already broken down some barriers with her own fusion of punk, R&B, and rock, J-Pop wunderkind Aya Kamiki's third album Are You Happy Now? continues her signature blend of pop infused with punk sensibilities. This is J-Pop if Avril Lavigne (in her more mature form) had been writing it. Where it differs from a straightforward Lavigne, though, is in two main spots -- first, Kamiki's voice is more powerful, and flexible. She moves around the notes with a surprising dexterity, belting out the heavier choruses while slinking a little more on the ballads. She can turn notes in a manner reminiscent of Yoko Kanno's Ghost in the Shell vocals, alternating styles rapidly and keeping a high level of emotive ability in the more powerful portions as easily as the lighter ones. The second difference with Lavigne's style is the overarching influences of J-Pop embedded into the album. Kamiki is of course a Japanese pop artist, and such influences should be par for the course. However, her music tends toward a more American rock format for the most part, with only tinges of the overwrought guitar-stomp common in Japanese power pop and the sudden flat notes that tend to accompany the occasional English lyric. Surprisingly good music, breaking out of the shell of idol singing that's so common with young Japanese singers.

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