Miliyah Kato

Tokyo Star

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At the head of the J-urban movement, Miliyah Kato released 2008's Tokyo Star to wild success. There had certainly been plenty of Japanese adaptations of R&B before Kato (including previous albums from Kato herself), but the fusion of Japanese pop sensibilities and American R&B had rarely been exploited so thoroughly. Though the opening track, "Lalala," falls a bit flat largely due to the rap style of cameo artist Wakadanna, the pace picks up a bit as the album goes on. Kato gets to stretch out her able vocal abilities, alternately crooning through ballads ("Love Is," "Sayonara") and powering through more powerful tracks ("Just Wanna Have Fun," "Futurechecka"). While Kato has a lot of vocal prowess to put behind her efforts here, she does periodically fall into a few basic motifs, leading to a bit of predictability from track to track. When she gets into full Christina Aguilera mode (as she does on "Futurechecka," with a handful of co-stars), she can really flex those pipes. When she has a newer or more interesting track toward which she can apply those pipes, it can become an excellent song. Tokyo Star isn't full of those moments, but it definitely has a few.