May J.


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May J.'s sophomore album is themed around the concept of family. While conceptual works aren't normally the domain of J-pop, May does a decent job of tying together songs for the show. The album starts with a couple of straightforward pop numbers, but incorporate parts of her musical family. Anchored by vocals from Soul'd Out's Diggy Mo and mixing from DJ Kaori, May combines with additional rappers Blistah and Clench for a surprisingly rousing intro in "Garden" (Clench and Blistah will return later in the album). She continues along with the more tropical duo Kimaguren in the next track, then moves into more literal family-themed items with "Tabidatsu Kimi Ni," a song specifically about human bonds. Here she gets to stretch out a bit with dramatic (nearly melodramatic) vocals that bring the listener to the material that made May J. a star -- basic, straightforward, emotional J-pop. As she goes along her way, interspersing small spoken word interludes (in English, no less), May goes through the paces of more dance-oriented tracks, but finds herself properly again when she gets to more midtempo numbers such as "Sayonara No Hoka Ni" -- she even gets to show off her higher registers with some worthwhile shots. The album eventually ends on a basic, though translated into English, dance remix of "Tabidatsu Kimi Ni" -- Daishi Dance does a fine job of adding a basic beat and a bit of light piano to the proceedings, but dance simply doesn't provide the canvas on which May can differentiate herself from the league of similar songbirds. Family is a good album. Not a great album, but good isn't a bad place to be for a sophomore effort among the stars of the J-pop realm.