Aya Matsuura


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Within Aya Matsuura's persona lies a curious contradiction. On one level, she is the perfect idol singer, with her limited vocal range compensated by the wide range of expression with which she is able to imbue her voice: perhaps less a singer than a skilled variety theater actress. Yet it is this skill and professionalism that work contrary to the classic image of an idol as young and naive: put simply, Matsuura is too perfect, her persona making a mockery of the carefully constructed illusion of shyness and innocence that the idol industry builds around its stars in the hope of making them appear accessible to their audience of young girls and male idol fans. Nevertheless, Matsuura is a success, and sophomore album T.W.O. gives as good an indication as any of why. Obvious starting points are the demented high-sugar pop of the hit singles "Momoiro Kataomoi" and "Yeah! Meccha Holiday," both of which climbed to near the top of the Japanese charts, and are as close to the perfect idol pop tune as it is possible to get without giving yourself diabetes. "Shine More" draws from R&B and flamenco music, but never allows this flirtation with sophistication to compromise the essentially cheap, uncomplicated, 2-D attitude of the album. In many ways, this is the genius of producer Tsunku -- his ability to incorporate other genres into and fashion unusual arrangements out of his songs, while cleaving close to his core audience. As a result, Matsuura is able to flirt with the edges of Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" on the song "From the Sky - Kaedama wa Katamende" while never sounding any less like a Japanese teen idol singer.

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