Aiko has been warbling along in the J-pop world for a while, with Baby her ninth full-length album. Unfortunately, she's never really been one to make waves musically -- she's always on the charts, but never keeping any real lasting power. Baby, as a fairly long set, ends up showing exactly why that is. There are 14 songs on the album, but nothing stands out. Nothing is interesting here. The album opens with an odd little piano melody, but leaves Aiko trying to keep up. As the pace slows down, Aiko finds her way into the songs, but sings deliberately off-key throughout. Not a rarity for Japanese pop, but it can be a bit grating. As she gets into more energetic arrangements, the off-key singing holds on but becomes wailing, as she is again pressured by the pace of the pieces. Throughout the album, the problems recur regularly. For slower, more sensitive tracks, Aiko's tendency to go far off-key kills the sentimentality that would carry an otherwise bland song. For the faster, more powerful tracks, Aiko wails irregularly over the top, destroying any ties with the arrangements. Either way, it's not a great way to get into the genre.
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