Koda Kumi – BEST ~first things~

December 1, 2012 at 9:42 PM | Posted in Koda Kumi | Leave a comment

https://i1.wp.com/i1112.photobucket.com/albums/k482/_musicaddiction/firstthingscover.pngALBUM REVIEW
Koda Kumi – BEST ~first things~

~CD 1~
3. Trust Your Love
5. So Into You
6. love across the ocean
7. m·a·z·e
8. real Emotion
9. 1000 no Kotoba
11. Gentle Words
12. Crazy 4 U

~CD 2~
1. Cutie Honey
2. Chase
3. Kiseki
4. Selfish
5. hands
6. Hot Stuff feat. KM-MARKIT
7. Butterfly
8. flower
9. Promise
10. Star
11. the meaning of peace

♦ ♦ ♦

https://i1.wp.com/i1112.photobucket.com/albums/k482/_musicaddiction/firstthings2.pngBEST ~first things~ is the first compilation album by Japanese singer Koda Kumi, released on September 21, 2005. The album reached the #1 position on the Oricon charts (a first for Kumi) and managed to stay on the charts for a total of 83 weeks. Because the album sold 1,207,793 copies in 2005 it became the #6 album of the year. The album went on to sell an additional 642,842 copies in 2006 making it the #17 album of the year. As of 2007.12.03 this album has sold a total of 1,905,310 copies accoring to Oricon and 1,976,000 according to avex trax.

The album starts with a new track, which I always find quite nice on a best album. NO TRICKS is a very fierce track that really fits perfectly on this album, showing where she stands at that time in her career and the style she decided to pursue. It’s a hot R&B track with a good  beat and some nice synth accents. I really like Kuu’s singing in this track as well, so this was a perfect opening for this album.

Going all the way back to 2000, we’re gonna start the following timeline with TAKE BACK. For being Kuu’s very first single, it was a very good one although it took me a while to actually like it I have loved it for quite some time now. I like how she starts her career with a nice hybrid of R&B/pop and arabic elements, very original and catchy. The song doesn’t drag either, it’s one of the first songs you just really gotta listen to if you’re not familiar with her music yet.

Trust Your Love is more of the 90s dance style, very different from TAKE BACK, but it’s still an amazing song. I like how those little twinkle sounds open the song and then the arrangement seamlessly transitions into this danceable tune. True, there are some minor issues with this track, like Kuu’s thin voice, but then it comes to mind that she was just starting out at this time so I forgive her. I quite enjoy this track.

Moving on to COLOR OF SOUL, probably one of the most original tracks on the ‘affection’ album because of its funkier approach to pop. It’s kinda groovy and although it’s not her best track in my opinion I was always interested in the song, perhaps because of the colorful and original PV. It’s another R&B song with some 90s dance influences, and ofcourse these were the early 2000s so it makes sense, but now in 2012 it does sound very nostalgic indeed.

Not Kuu’s best vocal performance, but So Into You is pretty nice for a song so early in her career. At first I thought it was a pretty generic song, just another R&B influenced song with some funky guitar riffs and dance elements, but once it grew on me I started liking it a bit more. It’s quite unique I must say, the chorus is very distinct and it’s just what makes this song stand out between her earlier tracks. Decent enough if you ask me.

Moving on to the second era (‘grow into one’), love across the ocean is one of the better tracks on Disc 1, despite that little awkward note Kuu hits near the end of the chorus. I’ve always been a little on the fence with that one but w/e. She did a good job on this track and it has a very good funky pop sound, without the dance elements this time, so it was kind of a switch in her musical style too. With this single, she started the second era with a bang and although it had to grow on me at first, it’s a really good track now.

m·a·z·e then has a bombastic R&B sound, something I haven’t heard before up until this point. It’s still very ‘turn-of-the-century stuff’, but it has something, something I like. I guess it has a certain fierce quality, it definitely has some more spice to it than some other tracks. The opening with the Engrish monologue was pretty awkward, but then it turned for the better.

Although that ‘what can I do for you‘ line really starts to get on my nerves now after 6 years (I’ve been listening too Kuu’s music for 6 years), real Emotion has a great vibe to it that, for a change, didn’t even have to grow on me. The chorus is the highlight of the song, and it needed something like a good chorus because the rest of the song is pretty much half ruined by that stupid cheesy line. Still, not bad.

You shouldn’t get me started on 1000 no Kotoba now, because it’s one of the tracks I have come to adore over the past few years. Ofcourse I don’t have to explain this song is the big tie-in to the Final Fantasy X-2 game, everyone who knows some anime knows this song. It’s beautiful how it starts off so small and yet so appealing, then grows into something bigger and it shows off Kuu’s more developed voice too. It’s her best vocal work up until that point so it’s definiteyl one of the better tracks here.

COME WITH ME is an interesting track. At first I hated it because I thought it was ubercheesy, but then somehow I made a switch and started to like the song for its summery feel and happy-go-lucky vibe. Starting the third era (‘feel my mind’), it brings in some new sounds with brassy instruments and a more funky approach. Ofcourse we’ve heard that before, but still there’s something different about this track. I definitely like it and I’m not going back.

Gentle Words is just like the title, a very gentle and peaceful. It doesn’t really have a highlight or anything, but I do have a weak spot for the interesting arrangement. It’s a mellow R&B song with a lovely sitar melody in the background to make it stand out a little bit more. For such a soft and easy song, it appeals to me in a very good way and I guess I’ve always liked it from the very first moment I heard it.

Getting into the ‘ero-kakkoi’ image with Crazy 4 U, I always thought it wasn’t all that much ‘ero’ but more of the ‘kakkoi’ stuff, harhar. With ‘kakkoi’ meaning something like ‘cool’, it’s the word that describes this song best. Ofcourse there’s a sense of sexyness too, but the song itsself is very poppy and it’s a very important song in Kuu’s career since it rocketed her to fame. Uplifting and one of the best ‘feel my mind’ tracks.

https://i1.wp.com/i1112.photobucket.com/albums/k482/_musicaddiction/firstthings3.pngTime for Disc 2! Depending on my mood,  either like Cutie Honey (the first A-side in the fourth era ‘secret’) or find it boring and cheesy, strangely enough it differs from time to time. Luckily, right now I’m in the perfect mood to like it a bit because it has such a funny and unique sound, including that flute solo, and it reminds me of some kind of movie soundtrack (and it’s not the film ‘Cutie Honey’).

When I think of Chase, the first thing that comes into mind is that sassy saxophone introduction (and it sways throughout the entire track as well). I remember loving the single so much, this A-side is filled with energy and spice and it has quite a distinct style of its own. Such an easily recognizeable and well-crafted song has to be one of the best A-sides she released up until that point.

Kiseki is another typical track that needed to grow on me, but finally after a number of uptempo A-sides we have a beautiful R&B ballad again. The melodies are quite memorable and although Kuu pours her heart out in this song she doesn’t oversing a single word. Speaking of which, her vocals in this song are unrivaled. That belting near the end is amazing, and don’t even get me started on that whistle note! Fabulous song.

I don’t know what Selfish is doing here since it wasn’t an A-side, but still I’m glad they put it on the album since it was one of my favorites of the ‘secret’ album. Kuu can do many genres, and rock is one of them. Songs like ‘Can We Go Back’ and ‘Puppy’ are good examples, but this is still the one that started it all. It’s one of Kuu’s most raw and agressive songs, I really liked how edgy this was when compared to some of the other album tracks and A-sides from that era.

So apparently Selfish is trapped between two ballads, the second being hands. Being one of my all-time favorites, even since the very beginning, I thought this one worked out a little bit better than Kiseki (although the vocals were a little more on the overly dramatic side). It’s a real R&B ballad again,  but the acoustic guitar and the piano make it more poppy. Considering the lyrics, I don’t even mind Kuu’s emotional performance, it’s like she’s acting out the song and she does it amazingly well.

Hot Stuff feat. KM-MARKIT. Can we just ban the self-proclaimed ‘K to tha motherfucking M’ and the entire song with him? Annoying as hell.

Ah, the sister song to Cutie Honey. Butterfly is a little bit more refreshing than it’s sister and also a little less bombastic, although they definitely share the same jazzy sound with a lot of brass instruments. I’m becoming a bit tired of Cutie Honey by now, and since I’ve heard this track less often it should be a good replacement. As an individual song I think it’s a very good A-side to promote this best album.

It’s a shame that I didn’t really recognize flower as one of her best efforts yet until about one and a half year ago. Mostly I think of this song as a ballad but it’s actually something midway between a poppy song and a ballad, I actually don’t quite know what it is yet but it sure sounds great. Its R&B sound is mixed with a cuter ambience, the song just flows really well and the melodies are superb. I love this.

Promise is definitely a ballad then, and it’s the better track on the double A-side single it was on (more on the other song in the next paragraph). It’s another one of my favorites and I always mourned the fact that this isn’t a track on a non-compilation album, but soit. The melodies are perfect again, especially those in the verses give my goosebumps goosebumps (yes, it’s that pretty), and although Kuu’s singing can get a little scratchy near the end I think she did an amazing job again. I can’t think of any superlatives anymore by now.

I like Star as well, but on the single I liked Promise a little more so I always prefer that one over this agressive uptempo synthpop track. The verses are easily forgotten but there’s still something about the chorus. It’s not her best A-side to date, not even close, but I wouldn’t say this is a bad song either. It just lost to the competition.

the meaning of peace is the last song on this album and yet one of Kuu’s first songs. Originally it was a duet with BoA, but the version on this album is a solo version. I must say I always liked the song, but the duet version appealed to me more. Kuu half-assed her singing in the chorus, but in the verses she does a decent job. I would rather see the other version on this album, is that a bad thing considering the fact that this is a solo compilation album?

After 23 tracks and reviewing for 5 years of singles, I’m pretty impressed. Some tracks weren’t as good as others and they should destroy Hot Stuff, but that’s where my nagging ends. According to the facts, this album was the breakthrough album for Kumi and I’m not surprised. What I am surprised about is how her entire discography up until then didn’t really appeal to listeners until she put all the A-sides on two discs. Too far-fetched? Maybe. But still Kuu really put herself in the limelights with this album, there’s no denying. The album lives up to its name: BEST. It features her best tracks until then, and the future even held more!

Favorite tracks: NO TRICKS | TAKE BACK | Trust Your Love | 1000 no Kotoba | Gentle Words | Kiseki | Selfish | hands | flower | Promise

4½ stars


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