May 07, 1990 12:00 PM


Go ahead. Criticize Madonna. Mouth off about how ridiculously easy it is to do what she does. Then explain why women performers all over the world keep trying to copy her and nobody can manage to quite get it right.

Take the case of Hiroko. The first U.S. release by this talented 18-year-old from Tokyo bears such strong resemblances to Madonna‘s early albums that it sounds as if she used some of the same backing tracks. Already a hit in Japan, Hiroko sings well, pronounces English better than many import stars and serves up a couple of top-notch dance songs, especially the bouncy “You’ve Got Potential.”

Yet something is missing. Madonna‘s lightweight music almost always comes with an ironic edge, carefully whetted by a woman who has controlled every step of her own career. Hiroko’s album sounds like a product fabricated by business people whose main concern was to create a clone.

Producer Preston Glass, who has worked with Whitney Houston and Diana Ross among others, polishes the sound so well that he removes any tics of Hiroko’s personality that might make her interesting. With a few cute videos on MTV, Hiroko could score a hit or two. Some of us, with our ears and eyes diverted to anticipating the next spicy shenanigans of Madonna, will be too busy to notice. (Enigma)

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