Album review: Crystal Kay - Shine

Album review: Crystal Kay - Shine | Random J Pop

After releasing what was one of the best pop albums of 2012 and a digital single in 2013 which was an absolute bop, I had high hopes for what Crystal would deliver next for her follow up album. These hopes dwindled a little following some miss fired digital single releases over the course of 2014. But they were swiftly shot down when Crystal finally released her long awaited album.

Ever since her humble beginnings at the age of 14, Crystal's music has evolved from album to album. She's grown into herself, her talent and has cultivated a definitive sound over the years. Many artists go years without nailing their sound, but Crystal managed to do that indefinitely by her fourth album and refine it from there on out. This worryingly went wonky back in 2010 with the release of her 9th studio album Spin the music, which was a surprisingly scattered album from an artist known for her consistency. Her follow up album Vivid was a complete return to form, which saw Crystal not only embrace the signature sound she had ditched on the preceding album, but also build a template for new ones. Yet here we are, 4 years later with an album which feels like a sequel to Spin the music, which up until Shine came along, was one of the worst albums Crystal Kay had released.

Shine is a conflicting album with no real sense of what it wants to be or is trying to be. There is no theme nor consistent element running through the songs aside from them all being sung by Crystal Kay.

Amidst the singles that Crystal had released between Vivid and Shine, the 60s, 70s and 80s had flavoured her sound. This also speaks for Shine itself, which would make for a really nice album if it didn't feel like Crystal was being pulled in so many different directions. What could have been a great album and an evolution in Crystal's sound, plays out like an album from an artist who is unsure of what fans want from them and what they feel they should be delivering as a matter of personal preference.

Shine goes against everything that Crystal worked so hard to achieve with Vivid. I can only deduce that the reasoning behind Crystal retreating back to such a random mix of sounds is that she felt burnt due to the under performance of her 2012 release following her defection from Epic records and the complete and utter floppage of her English language singles released over the course of 2014. These things were sure to knock Crystal's confidence and leave her wondering which avenue she should pursue with her music and if she should continue on with it at all. The songs on Shine are not terrible. But the album as a whole feels like a body of work from an artist who is caught in a conflict of interests and has lost their spark.

Where-as as All yours felt like an album steered by Crystal and her love of R&B and Vivid felt like an album steered by Crystal and her love of pop music; Shine feels like an album which wasn't steered at all, resulting in an album which sounds all over the place. Shine touches on just about every musical style that Crystal has dabbled in over the course of her 15 year career. But it doesn't hold well or provide a tight nor accurate summation of Crystal's musical footprint in the same way that Namie's Past < Future, Hikaru Utada's Ultra blue or Beni's Lovebox or Jewel did.

Album review: Crystal Kay - Shine | Random J Pop

Shine sounds like a Dance EP and a Christmas EP slapped together, and neither side is particularly strong. As a Crystal Kay fan, I find it disheartening that this has happened. Especially when Vivid had such a clear direction, a focused sound and felt like a reboot of Crystal Kay as a package, providing her with a great springboard for future albums. Not this mess.

Not only does Shine suffer from a lack of focus, but it feels regressive. So many of the songs on this album sound as they could have been plucked from Colour change!, Spin the music or any of her B-sides over the past 8 years. Very little on this album feels fresh or new. This is not at all what I was expecting from Crystal and I can't help but feel disappointed that after 3 years this is all an artist of Crystal's calibre had to offer.

The only consistently strong aspect of this album are Crystal's vocals. As always she delivers and she sings every song with confidence, despite perhaps not feeling at her most confident, given her dwindling sales and failure at taking off in the States. There isn't as much variation in Crystal's vocals here as there was on Vivid. But the "Kimi ta ita gara" and "Everlasting" show how far her vocal game has come in the way of ballads since "Kitto eien ni".

The production on this album is as divided as the sound. The more festive, non electronic focused songs are richly produced. Each one featuring nice little flourishes, key changes and instrumentations. The EDM cuts on the other hand feel half baked. "Revolution" never quite soars and reaches the heights the builds lead you to believe it will. "The light" sounds like an incomplete demo. "Shooting star" sounds like it's made up of 4 different songs, none of which connect well to form something which ultimately works. It features a great hook and a nice bridge, but the verses are ragged-ass and the pre-chorus lacks any form of punch. "#Heartmelt" is the only dance / electro song on the album which feels rich, complete and places Crystal in her element. I would have loved for Crystal to have delved further into the this 80s vibe for more of the album. All of the other EDM cuts sound like bargain basement beats. There's no excuse for this given that Japan has produced some amazing EDM bangers over the years.

As a 5 track Christmas EP featuring "Nando demo", "I'm beautiful", "So special", "Someday" and "Present", Shine would have worked nicely. But as it is, this album is disjointed. Vivid was such a solid foundation on which she could have built her sound. So for her to release an album which feels so lost in itself and second rate is baffling. Shine does not have the makings of pleasing fans after a 3 year wait. Nor is it a good showcase of Crystal Kay to those who are new to her.

If Crystal has an epiphany and realises how she messed up with this album, then I would highly urge her to kick her A&R team into shape and release an another album within a year of its release. Shine is so forgettable as a whole that by that point I don't think anybody will remember it was ever released. This is Crystal's worst album to date. Download the few tracks on this album which are good and leave the rest.


Album highlights:
■ I'm beautiful 🏆
■ #Heartmelt 🔥
■ Someday
■ Present