Ryu Siwon

Soutenno Ai

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A Korean actor with a Japanese singing career, Ryu Siwon's album Souten No Ai contains a lot of the melodramatic goodness that's endemic to East Asian pop. More than the sugary bubblegum of stereotypical J-Pop though, there's a strong element of grandiosity often reserved for the karaoke hits of Korea and China, strongholds of the power ballad. Souten No Ai starts out in this vein, and develops further into more of the same as it progresses. There are higher moments, however, as Siwon has taken his craft a little further over the years than to be solely relegated to the karaoke category. Songs dedicated to family and friends provide a basis for a lighter touch in much of the album, and this provides an excuse to incorporate pieces of lighter guitar in songs such as "Aishiteru" (thankfully) into the nearly martial grandeur that surrounds it. In some spots, such as "Wangan Beam," the sound turns toward more of a modern J-Pop sound, but for the most part it stays in the karaoke territory. Siwon's vocals are capable, never stretching too far but doing a fine job with the material he's given. The ballads come across somewhat bland, but with at least a bit of emotion. The stronger pop songs let his voice carry them, but it can be easily lost when put up against too strong a backdrop. Not an awful album by any means, but the melodrama will kill the mood for most listeners.