BoA - Topic

Identity Play

Taking the initiative to write her own music (at least for the most part), BoA embarked in the aptly named Identity in an attempt to expand beyond the balladry and simplistic pop that's characterized her last few outings. The album perhaps tries to do too much as a result, however. Starting out with the not quite title track "This Is Who I Am," the sound is shaky, warbling, and unsure of itself, but at the same time not holding any real vulnerability. There's a sticky, thumping, beat-heavy dance track in "Easy," and a fairly good track in combination with one half of hip-hop superduo m-flo. The album starts to lag a bit more in the midsection, taking a while to get itself back together. When it does, there's a little more interesting material ready for the listener. Balladry brings BoA back to using her vocals in "The End Soshite" in a way that features her talents more fully than the off-kilter compositions earlier in the set. A bit of transparent light dance-pop in "Neko Love" balances out her original formulas a bit, and the album ends fairly suddenly on a brassy ballad. The album has a lot of promise in it, redeeming elements of her U.S.A. album attempt from the previous year. At the same time, it's notoriously uneven, never quite finding its footing or purpose. Fans only on this one. ~ Adam Greenberg, Rovi

Face Play

On her third album in as many years, Korean/Japanese singer BoA put together a safe set of contemporary J-pop. The songs here are nice -- they're largely sugary ballads making full use of a sweet and slightly warbling vocal, and they tend to show off components of a lot of American R&B circa 1996 or so. The album opens with a strong bit of disco thump in "Aggressive" and some SWV-style R&B in "Sweet Impact." "Girl in the Mirror" could pass as a Southern-tinged club anthem if it were in English, while "Happy Birthday" shows off some of the prettiness in BoA's voice. A collaboration with Seamo has a very nice bit of give and take between the two styles and stars. ~ Adam Greenberg, Rovi
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