Crystal Kay surprised fans when she signed with Universal Records in 2011. Following three hit singles, Vivid is her 10th studio album and her first for the label. It's also a radical departure for the R&B diva, considering that it consists primarily of pop and dance cuts. Delicious, primo, grade A pop and dance cuts produced by some of Japan's best, including BACHLOGIC, UTA and T.Kura + MICHICO.
The downright propulsive opening track "Forever" makes it loud and clear that Crystal is gunning for a fresh start with its hard, punchy dance pop beat that calls to mind late 90s remix gods Thunderpuss. "Baby, you are always on my mind," she sings, her gorgeous vocals soaring. (About 40% of the song is in English. In fact, most of the tracks on the album have at least a few lines in English.) She sounds equally impressive on "Be Mine," which does dubstep-flavored pop an awful lot better than anything on Cheryl Cole's new album. And dubstep isn't the only flavor she's indulged in. "Take It Outside" is an ultra-modern banger highlighted by lots of glimmering synth and a great melody. "ハルアラシ" -- or Haruarashi -- calls to mind the recent work of dancefloor mastermind Calvin Harris, particularly his work with Rihanna. And then there's the highly addictive, dance radio-ready "Yo Yo," a should-she-stay-or-should-she-go sort of affair. "I keep coming back like a yo, yo, yo, yo," she sings. And you won't be able to get it out of your head.
Crystal's R&B past does surface on a few tracks, the best being "Come Back To Me," which features a dark, snappy beat that's like R&B pumped up on massive steroids. "Oh, baby, baby, come back to me," she pleads. It doesn't tug at your heartstrings so much as it punches you in the chest. R&B purists would probably be more satisfied with "Memory Box," a ballad with a more traditional R&B beat and the closest thing to anything on Crystal's past albums.
Clearly, Crystal has expanded her sonic palette in a big way, the end result being a very rich and colorful album without a single throwaway track. If you're someone who's been on the fence about whether or not to give J-pop a chance then check out this masterpiece and prepare to be converted. Seriously, if so many people weren't opposed to listening to music in foreign languages then this album could be huge here in the States and even bigger in the U.K. Pick any track here and it's at least twice as good as any of the latest Eurovision songs. Vivid is one of the world's best artists at the top of her game. -Michael McCarthy
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