Mai Kuraki

Touch Me!

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Though Touch Me! is full of new material from Mai Kuraki, the mood is decidedly retro in its own fashion along the way. Kuraki started right around the turn of the millennium, but her sound is thoroughly informed by 1980s and '90s R&B in the U.S. The title track (and opener) has a lot of the feel of contemporary Japanese R&B in its opening bars, but slowly adds in string arrangements and a slightly stuttered beat that point toward bits of mid-'90s Janet Jackson-style works. "Break the Tone" goes a step further, with stereotypical synth hits from the likes of one of the Breakin' movies. When she gets a chance to stretch out lyrically a bit, Kuraki can warble with the best, hitting all of the right notes and placing them in good form to fit the songs. Unfortunately for Touch Me!, she gets only rare shots at this, instead heading either toward the standardized formats of the last couple decades or into entirely standardized contemporary R&B instead. Either way, fans of the contemporary sound that she's such a part of will be pleased with the new material. Newcomers are likely to shelve the latest album with the rest of the genre without giving it much of a chance.

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