Collecting all of his singles over a nearly 25-year career, singer Hideaki Tokunaga's Singles Best is easily the best introduction to his work. While there are more dated pieces present, such as 1986's "Rainy Blue," complete with hollow drum machines, there are also more contemporary ballads, all the way to 2008's "Ai Ga Kanashii Kara," with a much more restrained and natural backing track. Throughout the decades of song, though, one thing becomes clear with Tokunaga's ballads -- his voice is indeed excellent. Developing through the years and audibly changing in technique as the singles move along, the tone has gained new dimensions along the way. While he began with a fairly straightforward Asian balladeer format, with overtones of the more popular lounge formats (such as enka, and originally karaoke), Tokunaga took on more nurtured flaws in his vocals as he progressed, exposing more vulnerable elements in his sound and enhancing the emotional impact possible. Though there are a handful of more uptempo pop numbers here (such as "Rough Diamond," a 1997 hit), the bulk of the multi-disc album is in ballads, the sweet spot for Tokunaga's craft. There's never really an entirely faulty step taken here, with all songs penned to the contemporary standards and Tokunaga's vocals powering them up to a level of quality fit for such a career-spanning compilation. Fans and newcomers alike should be pleased with the collection, though fans specifically may get some added enjoyment from the bonus DVDs included in various special editions.
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