Japanese artists — or perhaps, their label bosses — strongly abide by that old addage: “If ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Onitsuka Chihiro’s inoffensive, inspirational, hook-filled balladry has been a huge hit in Japan for the past two years. The young singer-songwriter even managed to land a television spot in an American ad for Applied Materials.
As such, the last thing Onitsuka would want to do is rock the boat, which she doesn’t do on her second album, This Armor.
Everything that made Insomnia work the first time takes another bow on This Armor — an arsenal of introspective, pretty ballads interspersed with an occasional uplifting, up-tempo song. In short, it’s Insomnia, Part II.
If Onitsuka weren’t such a good songwriter, she could be accused of being totally predictable and only marginally original.
This time around, her songs are fleshed out. Before, it would be just Onitsuka and her piano. Now, tracks such as “Ibara no Umi”, “infection” and “Ryuuseigun” have a sense of direction, building up to an inevitable dramatic climax.
Even when she keeps things minimal, like on “Shadow” and “Arrow of Pain”, there’s a lot more going on than on such previous hits as “Memai” and “edge”.
Onitsuka’s limited singing abilities once again imbues her songs with an unpolished, emotional rawness that gives her the apperance of depth. If Mariah Carrey or Celine Dion covered Onitsuka’s songs, they’d become instantly shallow.
However much Onitsuka’s feel-good, God-loving music might grate on the sensibilities of old curmudgeon critic-types, her tuneful music ultimately wins listeners over.
Onitsuka doesn’t have the kind of bold artistic vision of labelmates Number Girl or Shiina Ringo — or even Utada Hikaru, for that matter — but what she does, she does well.
Resistance is truly futile.