Various Artists

I Love You [Warner]

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Pop compilations are a never-ending source of easy money for labels, but also a valuable means for listeners to pick up just the songs they've been hearing on the radio -- Top 40 in a box. Warner Bros' I Love You compilation, released only in Japan, is a very basic method of collecting love songs (and songs that are at least on the cusp of being love songs) for an eager market (the album made its way into the Oricon Top Ten -- no small feat considering the tracks come from a 30-year range, are all in English, and would largely be considered one-hit wonders and/or sappy in the U.S.). The album starts out in a modern form, with Daniel Powter's "Bad Day" and James Blunt's "You're Beautiful" working on a basic formula of piano and vulnerability. Quickly though, the sound moves toward nostalgia with the Bee Gees. An Elvis Costello piece bridges the gap back to modernity a bit, and adds more credibility to the songcrafting. After Journey's "Open Arms," Eric Clapton's "Change the World" marks the end of that songcrafting element seemingly, with a period in the middle of the album devoted to more simplistic pop. The Backstreet Boys, Cyndi Lauper, Christopher Cross, and George Benson move the sound toward a slightly cheesier end, but Charlene's "I've Never Been to Me" seals that part of the deal. There's a bit of sappiness from high-end artists (Chicago, Elton John), some high-end female songstresses at their prime (Bette Midler, Whitney Houston, Diana Ross), and a closing that puts Sixpence None the Richer's big hit next to Ben E. King's "Stand by Me." It's a mixed bag, to say the least, full of both corniness and excellence, sometimes at the same time.