Album review: Crystal Kay - For you

Album review: Crystal Kay - For you | Random J Pop

For the past 10 years Crystal Kay's albums have caused nothing but problems and divided her fan base like Moses parting waters. Every album since her 2008 release Color change! has made an attempt to change Crystal's sound with varying results all of which have to us ending up with non-album we have here.

Color change! saw Crystal dabble in Pop. To this day I have no idea what the fuck Spin the music was. Vivid saw Crystal marry chart pop with R&B for one of her most consistent, commercial and global ready releases to date, but was a commercial failure. Then Shine came along and unravelled Crystal's sound completely, something that her 12th studio album For you seems to have picked the torch up on.

I have to hand it to Crystal Kay. I didn't think it was possible for her to put out an album that's more underwhelming than its predecessor Shine, but a bitch managed to deliver just that. For you is one of Crystal's worst albums to date. For you isn't her worst album because the songs are bad. It's her worst because the songs are so bland. Nothing within its 11 tracks jumps out, captures your attention or wows. The album is just a 45 minute flat-line.

After a 3 year wait, especially after the disappointing release of Shine, For you doesn't cut it. There is no song on this album which stands out as being particularly great. No song on this album is completely terrible, but nothing on here is of the high quality that Crystal has given us in the past. As much as I didn't like Shine as an album, there were songs on it that I genuinely loved and played the shit out of. There is absolutely no song on For you that I can see myself playing. I can't even name drop "Waiting for you", because the song is 2 years old and I've played the hell out of it already.

Smartly, the album avoids obvious trend band-wagoning, but there are a couple of instances of songs which do cater to popular chart sounds. However, the end results sound far too cookie cutter and never go full throttle in their commitment to the sound. "Summer love" has a nice island vibe to it, but it lacks any real punch. "I just wanna fly" is nicely produced, but never truly takes off. "Can't stop me" just sounds really outdated; plucked from the early 00s when Japanese producers were trying to emulate sounds in the US and not really finding their own footing with it.

Crystal is at a point in her career where she should be working with producers who can nail the sound she's after. After all, she's been in the game long enough and has worked with some of J-Pop and J-R&B's best, and access to US and European producers is not something that's off limits to her. If she wanted a pop tinged Island banger, she should've just worked with Stargate or Daisuke Imai. If she wanted a horn and percussive heavy stomper, she should have worked with Rich Harrison of Amerie "1 thing" and Beyoncé "Crazy in love" fame or T. Kura, the man responsible for Namie's "Can't sleep, can't eat, I'm sick" and "Copy that". If she wanted a zippy EDM number, then bitch, just book studio time with Zedd or hit up Nakata Yasutaka. There's no excuse for these songs sounding so second rate.

The decision to top load the album with the new material also doesn't help it, when most of Crystal's singles post Shine have been slow songs and ballads. So what is already a pretty drudging affair hits like NyQuil from the mid point when the singles start to reel off. The album closer being the uptempo 80s tinged "Waiting for you" doesn't help, as by this point you are so done with the album and the damage has been done. A shame, because "Waiting for you" is actually the best song on the album.

For you is a tragedy because it essentially wipes the slate of what you loved about Crystal Kay way back when and not in the good way. This album gives you no sense of what Crystal's style or angle is; which is ridiculous, given that for years she had a signature sound that she was known for. In 2009 Crystal's sound veered off course and never fully corrected itself. Her 2012 album Vivid sought to be a means of putting that right and it absolutely did. But the commercial failure of it didn't so much rock the boat as it did capsize it, which is when the management and label influence seemed to intervene and throttle Crystal's sound. Shine alluded to this, but For you pretty much confirms it. Crystal is doing what her label and team feel will be easier for her to get a record out and pander to what could sell, as opposed to what works for her artistically and as a singer. Because not one song on this album channels the Crystal Kay that I fell in love with back in 2006. Not a single one. The album couldn't be any more vanilla if it tried.

Vocally Crystal sounds good on every song. But the blandness of the music doesn't do her vocals any real justice, regardless of how well she sings a song. The sound of the album as a whole is so flat that it leaves Crystal very little room to flourish vocally and give us much of anything. The arrangements of her vocals are so basic now-a-days in comparison to the richness and intricacies that Crystal used to give back when she was signed to Epic, and here we could have done with that, as the songs on this album are so sparse and feature too many pockets of nothingness.

Not one thing about this album feels like its a vehicle for Crystal in any way shape or form. The whole thing wreaks of a contractual obligation. A case of just having Crystal stick to a template. There is no integrity with this album at all, which hurts me as a fan, because Crystal deserves better than this. I refuse to believe that Crystal is genuinely proud of this album when the music doesn't give us anything of herself.

For you puts Crystal in a weird position, because there's nothing on it that will hook and latch onto new fans. But there's also nothing on this album which will appeal to the fan base she had acquired through the releases of Almost seventeen, 4 real, Crystal style, Call me Miss... and All yours. Shine had the benefit of featuring in a J-drama which starred the ratings gold that is Ryoko Shinohara, having a single featuring one of J-Pop most successful stars and dropping around Christmas. For you has no such billing.

Crystal should not be putting putting albums of such low quality after 20 years of being in the music business, having the talent that she has and having discovered her sound so early in her career. And quite frankly, if this is the calibre of music we can expect from Crystal from here on out, then I'm done with anything new she releases from this point forward. I will just be thankful for the music she gave up until the point her sound went so wayward that she wasn't even capable of giving an album that can hold my interest.

For you is a complete disappointment. This is more than just a bad album. It's a case of an artist who has completely lost a grip on their sound and is allowing others to steer it in the wrong direction.

RATING: 2 / 10

Highlights:
■ Talk to me
■ Waiting for you ★ J's fave

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