Mika Nakashima

No More Rules

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With a strong fan following and a highly successful previous endeavor, Voice, Mika Nakashima returned in 2009 with a compilation of pieces written and/or performed for commercials for the Kanebo makeup line in Japan. The style is, of course, fairly mainstream and commercial as a result, but Nakashima pulls off a nice show nonetheless. While the fairly standard R&B pieces, such as "Heaven on Earth," leave little lingering sentiment after they're gone, there are other pieces with more roving styles -- for example, "Love Addict" is a surprising shot of classic jazz riffing with Nakashima using her lower registers to evoke a smokier nightclub sound, something that Yoko Kanno might have normally written. There's also a riffy bit of contemporary rock hiding away in "Dance with the Devil" that highlights a midrange for Nakashima, with a similarly surprising end result. There's even a little bit of ska woven into "Confusion," though Nakashima layers over it quickly with vocals and backing tracks. On the whole, the album has both high and low points, the latter usually arriving in the more standard pop pieces that aren't really made for Nakashima's formidable (and verging on brash) vocals. When she's on, though, she makes up for the low points with ease.