Koda Kumi – UNIVERSE

September 21, 2010 at 5:49 PM | Posted in Koda Kumi | Leave a comment

ALBUM REVIEW
Koda Kumi – UNIVERSE

1. Step Into My World
2. Can We Go Back
3. SUPERSTAR
4. You’re So Beautiful
5. Lick me
6. Work It Out!
7. No Way
8. Stay
9. Comes Up
10. Physical thing
11. ECSTASY
12. UNIVERSE
13. It’s all Love! (Koda Kumi x misono)
14. Alive
15. Moon Crying Live ver. In Taiwan

♦ ♦ ♦

UNIVERSE is the 8th studio album by Japanese singer Koda Kumi. The album was released on February 3, 2010 in Japan and the album shifted 222,000 units within its first week, becoming the #1 album on the Oricon weekly charts. It’s released simultaniously with BEST~third universe~, Kumi’s third best off album.

INTRODUCTION FOR TRICK, anyone? Step Into The World almost sounds a little too much like the introduction track for Kumi’s previous studio album, but that track was very good as well so I really have no problem with that at all. The bass in this track is very heavy and the synth beat is very bouncy, making this one of the smoothest intro tracks (of some kind, since it’s 3 minutes long) Kumi has ever done. Although it’s simple and not much variated, I like it.

Moving on to another aggressive track, though more rock-ish. Can We Go Back is a cover of a 2009 Kelly Clarkson song, and although no one can beat Ms. Clarkson, Kumi does a pretty good job on the raw vocals. Kumi can do all kinds of genres, like pop, R&B/Urban Hiphop, cute synthpop and, like she proves here, heavier rock tracks. She even hits all the high notes well without using her head voice at all, which is quite an accomplishment.

SUPERSTAR then features more of a pop arrangement with a lot of funky acoustic guitar riffs, uptempo percussion and even some cute synth chimes. Hmm… is this album going to be a random blend of styles? We’ll see in a while. Back to this track, and it has such a happy ambience it makes me all bouncy! The background vocals in the chorus chanting ‘I wanna be, I wanna be, I wanna be‘ over and over again are very cute, as are Kumi’s main vocals. Still she has that certain mature quality.

I love the R&B beat in You’re So Beautiful, a very cute song with lovely lyrics and a very nice melody. It’s so simple, yet the message reaches me for sure. In fact, I think anyone who is insecure about him/herself MUST look up the translation of the lyrics of this song. It’s so uplifting and for that I’m gonna give Kumi some bonus points, hehe. One of my favourite songs on this album, if not her entire career.

Yeaaaah, it’s Lick me ♥ again! The song that ‘sounds dirty but truly isn’t’, since it’s another cute synth pop track. Very upbeat, funky, summer-ish and too short in my opinion. This song is so likeable I can play it over and over again, just like the cute PV, with Kumi as Mango, Chocolate and Strawberry girl in an ice cream store.

The next new track on this album is Work It Out!, which mixes rock elements with bouncy synth pop. The chorus is my favourite part, since it features heavier instrumentation and more aggressive vocals, one of Kumi’s better qualities. The electric guitar in the chorus gives the entire song a certain bit of spunk to it, and the short synth section in the bridge is very catchy as well. Speaking of catchy, entire song is catchy! Period!

A nice piano melody, synths and soft high hat percussion open No Way, the longest track on this album (when the live version of Moon Crying is not counted). This ballad is heavily inspired by western Urban and R&B with it’s smooth and dominant percussion with hard bass lines and a lot of handclaps. This isn’t much of a standout track, but still it’s very pretty, especially the chorus. The piano is the nicest thing about this track, it gives it just that little extra something.

Of all ballad songs, Stay has got to be the best up until now. Just like No Way, this track features a piano, soft synths and handclap percussion most of all, and I know how I always love that combination of instruments. I always sing along to this song, because of its lovely melody. Kumi’s vocals here are top notch, and the line ‘I like you, will you please come back to me‘, sung by Kumi (through layered vocals) is the cutest line in the entire song.

Comes Up is the first uptempo track since Work It Out!, and it’s a hell of a catchy song although the percussion should have been a bit heavier in the chorus in my opinion. Still, I can forgive this song that fact since it’s so lighthearted, and heavier percussion might not have fitted the cute synths, piano and chimes.

Physical thing is another upbeat song with a lot of beats and synths in it, but it’s a lot more energetic than Comes Up! I remember loving this track so much when I reviewed it as a single. It’s more of a dance track, I know, but does that have to mean I’ll be hating songs like this all the time? No =D  Hell yeah, I have to admit I like this fierce song a lot!

So Kumi’s throwing another upbeat song at me, ECSTASY is great! She should do tracks like these a lot more, rock orientated music (electric guitars), but still heavily influenced by synthpop/dance beats and vocoder effects. I think Kumi is at her strongest since track 9, Comes Up, because she just sound so sure of herself and so energetic.

Now… let’s get down with title track UNIVERSE! If any title track displays the entire ambience and genre of the album, it would be this one. I’ve heard a lot of bad title tracks on other albums, even by other artists, and they were all kinda so-so or totally crappy, but this one, my gosh! The synths and beats in this song are all thrown together to blow you away completely. Kumi has definitely grown, as this track shows.

It’s all Love! (Koda Kumi x misono) is thrown in as the next track, and this track is even heavier than Can We Go Back. Both sisters get their share of music best to their taste, but Kumi also flows really well with misono on this rock tune. Or should I say it’s the other way around? Although misono sounds a lot better on this collaboration than on her own solo songs, Kumi’s vocals are best. A bit of Kumi’s signature R&B/synth beats are played in the bridge, and in the PV the Koda sisters are really breaking it down at that point. More please!

Finally another ballad after five beat heavy tracks, and Alive is even better than ever before when placed after an aggressive track like It’s all Love!. It’s truly Kumi’s best song to date in my opinion, because I’ve always loved epic music with a lot of woodwinds and strings. This song always reminds me of a beach during sunset and calms me down so much… I can go on praising this song, but let’s just keep it to the point. LOVE IT! <333

I remember liking Moon Crying off her previous album, and this Live ver. In Taiwan is a very nice extra on an already awesome album. Kumi’s random adlibbing, accompanied by a lone piano, is done so well, and she sounds so mature while doing so. The rest of the song is performed in a 7 minutes long track, and it’s a bit slower than the original. Doesn’t matter, since it’s just so pretty and her vocals sound so good when she’s singing live. One of the few singers that actually sounds the same live as on her studio albums!

People are talking about a TRICK vs. UNIVERSE debate, and that there isn’t even a debate because TRICK (2009) is a lot better. Well, I agree that there isn’t a debate at all, because the results are pretty clear from the start. BUT, my own result stated that UNIVERSE wins this debate by far! There wasn’t a single track on this album that I didn’t like. True, one or two tracks weren’t standout track, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t notice them and didn’t love them all the same. Kumi again throws a lot of different styles to me, varying from synthpop to rock and R&B, which shows what a great performer she is. She also didn’t release her over-sexual image on this album, which is also a very good point. To keep things short: this album is so great I can’t even wait for her next one (that will hopefully include Lollipop off her Gossip Candy single)!!

Favorite tracks: Lick me ♥ | Stay | Physical thing | UNIVERSE | Alive | Moon crying Live ver. In Taiwan

OVERALL RATING

4½ stars

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