When Bland Goes Good

I have to admit, I can be a bit safe when it comes to J-pop. For the most part, I stay within the confines of the groups that I’m familiar with: Hello! Project, AKB48, Perfume, oldie soloists like Hikaru Utada & Ai Otsuka. Every now and again, I feel adventurous and decide to download an album or single from an unknown artist or an artist I’ve only heard about. Miliyah Kato isn’t unknown to those who have broad Japanese music taste, but to anyone who only listens to idol music, they’re most likely scratching their head. Don’t worry, I was there once. For those who don’t know, Miliyah Kato debuted ten years ago in 2003 and has since made quite a name for herself despite her young age of 25(quite honestly, I was surprised to learn she was this young). Her style is a bit of a BoA and Namie Amuro mix, sticking to an R&B and Hip-Hop musical choice. I became a lot more interested in her after listening to m-flo’s February release of LOVER. I have to admit, she’s got quite the set of lungs.

Miliyah Kato - EMOTION

After returning from my horrid absence from the Internet, I had to update my then-out-of-date music collection. That included the single EMOTION by Miliyah, released on June 26th. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. It’s not like I had searched for any of her music before or had even heard a snippet of anything by the artist. But knowing she’s in the R&B department, I expected a rather soft “BoA-like” sound mixed with a slight rough feel similar to Namie Amuro.

EMOTION turned out to be much quieter than I had expected. Its dance track influence should prove to be tiring, especially to Westerners. But honestly… I enjoyed it. That probably doesn’t make much sense, huh? I’m an American who hears tiresome, repetitive club tracks on a daily–why would I like anything remotely similar to that, regardless of its national origin!? Well, guys, I liked that it wasn’t what I expected. I definitely expected a rather soft track, but a calm dance track wasn’t what I had in mind. Yes, it isn’t the most exciting track, nor insanely original, but it’s not like that’s always going to be the goal. It has a soothing quality about it and the solid beat helps keep it from being flat-line boring. Not to mention, Miliyah’s vocals really add the icing to the cake. Loud, breathy vocals aren’t necessary for this track, so her sweet, low voice adds to the soothing factor of the song.

The second track, Summer Time Lonely, incorporates more R&B vibes while still being a mid-tempo ballad. In this one, the build-up between verses and chorus isn’t much, but quite honestly, I don’t mind. Like the title track, this song has a calm feeling built into it. It’s sweet without being too girly, it’s rough without being to harsh. It finds a perfect foundation to a good R&B ballad. I like that this track decided to use Miliyah’s R&B roots without fail. It’s definitely a song that flawlessly matches her and her image.

The single’s last track is TURN ME ON. Just by the name, you might assume it’s a bit louder than the other two tracks. And you’d be correct! Instead of being a quiet, dance-influenced song like the title track, TURN ME ON decides to be a full-fledged club number. Okay, it isn’t the loudest, proudest club song ever, but it could totally be played at a dance club. Somehow, even Miliyah’s hard dance tracks end up sounding a bit soft. Is that because of her style/voice? Or is it intentional? Truthfully, I don’t find the song that ear-catching–but I guess it does what it’s meant to do.

Miliyah Kato - EMOTION (Limited)

If any of you are familiar with my blog, you’d know that I don’t usually follow the crowd opinion. I’m a pretty good at being level-headed–it’s served me well so far. You might also know that I’m the type of fan that wants the job to be done right; don’t give me half ass work, it’s pointless. So, I think a lot of you would expect me not to be very into this single. And, well…

You’re wrong.

Despite its overall bland or unoriginal feel, I like it a lot. If you know anything about me, you’ll know that I love when an artist can prove me wrong. If I think they can’t do something and they end up doing it and I enjoy it, I’m a happy camper. This is exactly what Miliyah did. In this case, I expected her tracks to sound a certain way–something predictable and slightly overdone. But, they weren’t. Sure, she might have used the good ol’ safe club scene sound, but it still wasn’t something I was expecting. I’m lovin’ it. When it comes down to it, these songs are pretty good standalone songs. They each are flavorful in their own way, but it works. Altogether, the album might be a bit forgetful or bland, but in Miliyah’s case, her bland went good.

I suggest giving Miliyah Kato a try if you haven’t already! If you’re into artists like Hikaru Utada, BoA, or JASMINE, she’s right up your alley. And even if you aren’t fans of those artists, why not still give her a listen?


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