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New Kaela Kimura: “Kidoairaku Plus Ai”

At long last, the follow-up to Kaela Kimura’s breathless “You Bet!!” Well, the pop singer did release a few other songs between now and then – among them, the best ringtone ever and a whatever Christmas track – yet this serves as her first “rock” single since “You Bet!!,” which found her just stumbling across the most driving and catchy moment of her career. I say “rock” only because her take on rock is a far cry from the fuzzy, aggressive stuff one instantly thinks of. Rather, Kimura has always blessed her rock-ier numbers with a keen J-Pop edge, meaning she can simultaneously stand out from a crowded market without losing the ability to become a gum spokesperson.

“Kidoairaku Plus Ai” doesn’t come close to matching “You Bet!!,” but it’s still a solid outing for her. Kimura clings to a few tricks from that last fist-pumper, holding onto the vocal effect that makes her sound extra metallic. Plus, compared to other “rockin'” J-Pop songs, the guitars here sound pretty rollicking. It lacks the ear-conquering chorus her best singles often come complete with, opting instead for an enjoyable bounce that’s fun while it lasts but ultimately not going to stick with you while doing chores. Not game changing, but a welcome return from one of the more interesting performers in J-Pop today. Listen at Tokyo Hive.