Music review: Ai Kago Meets Jazz ~The first door~

You probably know Ai Kago, nicknamed Aibon, as the former member of Morning Musume, Minimoni, Tanpopo, and W. Just before the third album from W was released in 2006, Aibon was caught in a smoking scandal. At a mere 18 years of age, she was two years too young to legally smoke in Japan. The tabloid Friday was responsible for publishing the pictures of the teen smoking. As a result, Aibon was indefinitely suspended from Hello! Project. A little over a year after her house arrest began, she was back in Tokyo working behind the scenes for Up-Front Works, the agency that runs the Hello! Project family. Less than a month later, Aibon was reportedly in a relationship with a much older man and smoking again. This time she was released from the contract completely.

Now it is 2010. Four years after her big smoking scandal. Aibon has slowly returned to the entertainment industry. On March 31, 2010, she released her first solo album, Ai Kago Meets Jazz ~The first door~. The 11-track album is almost entirely in English, which was very surprising.

After listening to the album multiple times, it is my opinion that Aibon does much better with the faster songs than she does with the slower ones. "Sunny," an up-tempo ditty, is one of the best tracks on the album. On the other hand, "Blue Moon" makes me want to fast forward to the next song. And, of course, there is "Fly Me To The Moon," probably the most overused English song in Japan. Here's a note to any future Japanese jazz singers - Pretend "Fly Me To The Moon" never existed. We would all appreciate it. However, my biggest complaint is the background music. It sounds like she's singing in front of a midi track instead of a live band. I'm not sure if they mixed her voice with older instrumental recordings or if they did, in fact, record the background music just for her. I firmly believe that the bad songs on the album would have been a lot better if the instruments themselves sounded better.

It is impressive that Aibon took on this project. She has said that she's not particularly comfortable with the English language and singing in English can be rather difficult when it's not your first language. As a whole, the album is good. Even the bad tracks aren't completely awful. I hope that Aibon does another project like this. Not necessarily jazz, but something other than pop. Maybe she should try a big band album next!