Is She Running on Courage, Sparkles, or Both?
I honestly couldn’t tell you why I like to listen to Kayou Aiko. She’s everything my sensibilities tell me to avoid. She’s 21-going-on-22 and still acting 10 years younger, if not more, with an almost disturbing persistence. She (or her stylists) lovingly employs the use of pink. She has the voice to work with a (slightly) more mature sound, but is deep rooted in the cute pop. And having seen clips of her backstage and on channel a, I have more than a sneaking suspicion that she does it all with glee. I mean, really. Look at that deranged smile up there. She makes that gas pump look dangerous just posing with it!
Which may hint that she’s desperately suppressing homicidal urges directed towards her managers at avex for keeping her in this cutesy role. I don’t know. Her image disturbs me and that’s all you need to know.
At the same time, though, she’s the antithesis of that 9-year-old “ero-kawaii” competition Utawara hosted, and she continues to catch my subconscious with avex’s winning combination of decent vocals and addictive pop. Both ☆HOME MADE STAR☆～Kayou Aiko no THEME～ and cosmic cosmetics caught on with me within the first minute, and it looks like her latest single, 勇気のチカラ [Yuuki no CHIKARA] plans on continuing that trend, albeit elongating the duration to two minutes.
Both songs on Yuuki no CHIKARA tie in with the History’s Strongest Disciple Kenichi PS2 game, with the first track being the opening theme and second being the ending. As a result, they come out less cute. It is worth noting that I haven’t seen a single PV for Kayou since the release of her first album, but all her releases have been tie-ins. I could be wrong, and her videos are airing on every music channel in Japan, but avex is clearly focusing their attentions elsewhere at the moment – so I’m surprised that they’re still making an effort with Kayou, between the regular release schedule and this side promotion attempt. Or is that the only way they think she’ll manage to sell?
The title track on Yuuki no CHIKARA is an upbeat electronic pop piece that doesn’t stand out even in Kayou’s series of musical releases. If anything, it brings to mind Callin’ ~Boku wo Yobu Koe~ from a previous single. It is, however, upbeat and pop, two things Kayou works well with. While there isn’t much of a hook, it’s not hard to like this song for what it is – assuming, of course, you like this sort of thing.
Destiny ～未来という名の物語～ [Destiny ~Mirai to Iu Na no Monogatari~] is a softer song between its atmosphere and tempo. As it’s not a ballad or a slow-pop piece, I’d venture to say it’s soft pop with a touch of R&B. Unfortunately, it also gives more focus to Kayou’s vocals – and while they’re okay, they could definitely use work, especially since she has a tendency to jump straight into and out of higher notes with a nasal tone that doesn’t flatter her voice.
Standing alone, or taking into consideration that this is, in fact, a single for a game – it’s not bad. Unfortunately, it also just doesn’t hold up to the raised caliber her previous two singles brought. At least give the girl a medal for trying, if only as an H!P-auditionee-to-avex story still aiming for success. (Now bring back Nakata Yasutaka already!)