J-pop best-of collections generally do a good job of summarizing the performers' output (which, as a rule, is not terribly diverse), and Ayaka History doesn't disappoint there, providing extensive proof of what a pleasant or tantalizing experience Ayaka's music can be, depending on the listener's mindset. The pleasant part is obvious enough: Ayaka plays an acoustic version of adult contemporary pop that is the staple of Japanese music scene. Japan all but ignored the Western musical revolutions of the ‘90s (being busy with its own, the visual kei one), and so the tradition of ballad-heavy soft rock that thrived in the heyday of Bryan Adams and Elton John is still alive and kicking there. Ayaka History is chock-full of romantic, major-key tunes built upon clean guitars, strong vocals (often chorus-backed) and a lot of prominent piano textures; the sound is harmony- not melody-based, and the result is sweet background music not far from Kobukuro, who feature on a couple of tracks here, or Chihiro Onizuka, or Yuzu (the list could go on) -- not exactly novel, but they're not especially prized for innovation anyway. Now, the tantalizing part lies in Ayaka's evident skill as a blues performer: some of the speedier tunes come close to Sheryl Crow, and a ballad or two manage to make a claim for attention like a real ‘80s bluesy pop/rock track would (think "Everything I Do, I Do It for You" ). But Ayaka never catch a single really convincing groove through all of her best output: after she has a basic harmony down in a song, she just clogs it with arrangements instead of adding a single layer of hooks. Her potential is evident, but with the songwriting never leaving the comfort zone, Ayaka History is too predictable and, ultimately, unremarkable.
Ayaka History 2006-2009 Review
by Alexey Eremenko