I honestly don’t know why this album hasn’t gotten more press and attention than it has (not to say it hasn’t gotten any; Ami Suzuki is still a veritable avex darling), so rather, the sort of press it should have gotten. This isn’t just another Ami Suzuki album: this is Ami Suzuki plus ten extremely talented artists that, as far as I’m concerned, have single-handedly Lazarused her entire career. Sure, the selection is a bit varied for the “dance” record Suzuki was attempting to pull off (Aly & AJ? Honestly, you’re making me feel bad for liking this), but what it sets out to do, it conquers and what it fails to do, it just accomplishes in another field. Simply put, DOLCE forces Suzuki, more than any other album, to step out of her element and if her vocals fail to deliver (they do, often), she has experienced musicians ready to whip up a musical parachute.
Nakata’s tracks I’ve covered, and to some extent SUGIURUMN, CAPTAIN FUNK, and RAM RIDER can be put in the same camp. Not because they all love the caps lock button, but because their tracks invite the same funky vibe without resorting to club cliches. Well alright, maybe kinda sorta (Suzuki is hardly the first club vocalist to praise the art of music itself and sing about the superiority of the weekend), but their replay value is astoundingly higher than others in the same genre. In that case, I would lump ROCKETMAN, Hoff Dylan, and YO-KING in another group as the tracks I could have done without. Songs with the standard big-band Japanese pop, save an acoustic guitar here or saxophone there, have little merit on an album attempting to build a conception. Admittedly, I like the retro vibe on “Futari wa POP,” but it’s not really something you can half-ass with any degree of success; anything worth doing doo-whopish is worth taking to the nines.
It’s the oddities on the disc that truly make this record work, that fill in the invisible spaces where things get awkward (the last three tracks are dying for an interlude from the following). The “Potential Breakup Song” cover is so ridiculous it works (note: if it hadn’t been infinitely better than the original, its resolve would have crumbled in the first riff) and STUDIO APARTMENT’s work on “Bitter…” is one of the greatest melancholic takes on hope I’ve heard in a long time (Suzuki sings “Tomorrow will be brand new day,” but the violins sing “Forget it, there is too much effort involved in hope“) and this contradiction that could feasibly fall flat works brilliantly almost accidently; in the accompanying DVD, S.A. ask Ami Suzuki to sing it “sexy,” and so Suzuki pretty much sings it the same way she sings everything: stoically. For this same reason, Tomoe Shinohara’s (Fucking Shinorer! Where did this some from? Greatest comeback I’ve witnessed from a pointlessly (non-)relevant 90s icon this decade! [not ashamed to admit I own one of the albums from her crazy(ier) era]) “Stereo Love” fails to work. Love the song, but really, no one can sing Shinohara’s songs except, well, Shinohara. Suzuki just can’t pull it off (stoic vocals), but again, it works (accidental irony), in ways Shinohara’s version would melt the entire structure (passionately, unironically hyper).
But who really wins here? Sub-popular artists get to collab with one of Japan’s most recognizable faces vs. Suzuki gets her reputation back (c’mon, you didn’t really like CONNETTA, did you?) and everyone leaves happy. Except the bonus track “if.” Loser.