Best & USA

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After making the jump from Korean pop star to Japanese pop star, songbird BoA immediately started setting her sights on the massive American pop market. The result of her endeavor is the widely panned USA album, a too-transparent attempt to reformat her sound for the American market at the cost of her already proven balladry skills. To help with the push, however, there was a Japanese release combining a best-of compilation (Best) with the American release (USA). The American-themed songs show a serious attempt at cracking the market, but the result of her endeavors is simply too much, even for the simplistic pop market -- the music is all Auto-Tuned, all uptempo dance, all repetition, and produced to the same overdone level as contemporary parodies of the form (such as the popular Auto-Tune the News productions of the Gregory Brothers). It's basic and straightforward, and completely ignores the presence of BoA -- the tracks could have been recorded by any anonymous studio musician. Where BoA gets a chance to actually show off her stuff here is on the Japanese compilation. Her balladry is sometimes saccharine (as in the massive hit "Meri Kuri"), but contains some actual passion and emotion rather than simply going through the paces. When she gets to the dance music, it's fresher and more intricate -- the sweeping synths of "Dakishimeru" are dated, but original in this context. The inclusion of m-flo's "Verbal in Universe" makes for a stunning introductory disco thump. Ironically enough, the inclusion of a full greatest-hits compilation of her Japanese work makes the American work pale even further in comparison. Fans should appreciate the chance to get their hands on a nice compilation, but are likely to be put off by the loss of BoA's signature phrasings, soul, and styles in the American portions.