Utada

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This compilation of J-pop vocalist Hikaru Utada's English-language songs emerged amid some controversy, with the artist herself announcing online that it was assembled without her knowledge or consent, and that she didn't support the release and didn't want her fans to buy it, since it contained no new tracks. Utada (who uses only the single name when recording in English) has a bifurcated career, and her English-language material isn't as successful as her Japanese-language records, simply because there's no major audience for J-pop in the West, no matter what language it's sung in. But she's got a decent voice, avoiding the cartoonish qualities some of her peers indulge (and skipping out on the use of vocoders, Auto-Tune, etc., which have taken off in a big way in J-pop). Songs like "Automatic Part II" and "Come Back to Me" work a modern R&B groove, in both uptempo and ballad styles; these are songs that could have been written for Beyoncé or any American R&B/pop singer, and the instrumentation is of-the-moment, mixing lush piano melodies with synth lines and rattling drum machines. Utada is one of the few J-pop performers who could legitimately make a run at the U.S. charts; regardless of her own misgivings, this compilation, were it to be released in the States, could provide an excellent introduction to her work for American listeners.