Kana Nishino has been a marquee name since debuting in 2008, but this July she finally owned the spotlight with “Just Love.”
Nishino started her career performing mid-tempo R&B, but switched it up a few years back, embracing acoustic guitars, ukulele and a lot of handclaps. “Just Love” finds her mining from big-name North American acts: repurposing Justin Bieber’s stripped down “Love Yourself” for “Wish Upon a Star” and frequently borrowing vocal harmonies from Taylor Swift. Still, this works better than when she tries her hand at J-pop balladry. “Kimi ga Suki” (“I Love You”) and “Set Me Free” come off a bit boring.
“Just Love” focuses on relationships — mostly how great they are (“You & Me”) — highlighted by 2015 viral hit “Torisetsu,” which plays out like a relationship manual (“Please take care of me always, OK? Because I have a lifetime guarantee”). Nishino’s a pro at this sort of song, which may drive cynics mad. Doesn’t matter — she makes music for Japan’s millenials, and she knows them well.