Singer AI blasts back onto the J-pop scene with her seventh album Viva AI, an enjoyable hip hop/soul record.
Before making it big in Japan, AI was a professional singer and dancer in Los Angeles, even landing a job as a dancer on Janet Jackson's 1999 Go Deep video.
In 2000, AI returned to Japan and signed with BMG but found only limited success. In 2003, she moved to DefJam Japan. AI is the label's first female artist, and with them, she found her true voice and shot to stardom with four consecutive top-five albums.
In an article in The Japan Times, AI says she is aiming for a Grammy award, 'because everyone knows them'.
'And when you get something that everyone knows, your words get powerful. Then I can say, 'Stop the war'!'
The album features duets with Atsushi from Exile on the track So Special - Version AI, Jesse of Rize on Scream and Corn Head on Like a Bird.
Lead track You Are My Star is a wonderfully mellow piece that gradually adopts a moderately upbeat, dance-friendly tempo. Scream is a great rap number reminiscent of some of Orange Range's material - you can't help but jump to your feet and boogie.
If you're a J-pop fan, this album is definitely worth some shelf space.