Koda Kumi – Kingdom

July 14, 2015 at 3:23 PM | Posted in Koda Kumi | Leave a comment

ALBUM REVIEW
Koda Kumi – Kingdom

1. Introduction For Kingdom
2. LAST ANGEL feat. TOHOSHINKI
3. Amai Wana
4. Himitsu
5. Ai no Uta
6. anytime
7. Under
8. BUT
9. Koi no Mahou
10. Aishou
11. Anata ga Shite Kureta Koto
12. Wonderland
13. FREAKY
14. MORE
15. Black Cherry

♦ ♦ ♦

Kingdom is the sixth studo album by Japanese singer Koda Kumi, released on January 30, 2008. Despite the controversy surrounding the release (because of a comment Kuu made on a TV show), the album peaked at #1 on the charts, selling 750,000 copies.

I’m still wondering if that Mariah Carey note at the beginning of Introduction For Kingdom is really Kuu, but I think it is. Darn, that was high. Ofcourse this is just an introduction and intros usually don’t do anything for me, but this was kind of sparkly and inviting.

Then follows a strange transition into the dark LAST ANGEL feat. TOHOSHINKI, which isn’t really what I wanted but oh well. I still feel like the production of this song is rushed and the vocals don’t go well together. The deep bass and music is a plus, but despite that this will never be my favorite, nor will it be among my favorites.

Amai Wana has always been an interesting song with its sensual Arabian influences and Kuu always pulls these kind of songs off in a great way. Mainly because she’s singing in her lower register Kuu is giving this song something mysterious and sexy, and I find this first new song on the album very enjoyable.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about Himitsu is oldschool R&B and it has such a laidback sound to it. Both the music and Kuu’s vocals have been toned down for this and the result is a very nice and smooth new track. Some may not like it, but maybe I like it because I know it so well by now.

Time for Ai no Uta, and it has a nice spot on the album after Himitsu. This is probably the strongest ballad on the album when you put everything together and Kuu deserves some praise for controlling the emotion in her vocals. Everything is just right and it’s clear to me why this is one of her more popular songs.

anytime follows, so that makes two ballads in a row but this is a completely different one. Where Ai no Uta brought along the emotion, this is more lighthearted and reminds me a lot more of summer. This used to be my absolute favorite back in the day but now I wonder if that will ever change, this is such a sweet song and it lifts my spirit, taking me back to 2008 #nostalgia

Under used to be among my favorites as well, but people kept bashing me for this. Somehow I couldn’t help but liking the heavy hiphop influences and deep beats and I still do. True, the song in itself is quite empty and it lacks a lot of depth, but it gets pretty catchy after you listen to it for a while.

On to the next single, we’re moving fast through them. BUT was the second best A-side in my opinion and I totally love the sass of it all. It comes out even more appealing right after Under and in some way it continues the deeper sounds on the album in a nice way. It makes for a really nice flow and it makes the song stand out much better. Love it!

As soon as I hear the first notes of Koi no Mahou I completely remember how this song goes after forgetting about it for a while. It’s one of those bubbly, fun pop songs and Kuu displays some cuter vocals as well (singing in her higher register). I love how catchy the chorus is, I can imagine this being stuck in my head now that I’ve heard it again.

Although I have gotten more used to Aishou now and I really like the electric guitar music in the arrangement, I think there are better songs on the album. Nonetheless, this is a powerful track that has more production value than some of the others and the album really needed a grittier song like this one.

Anata ga Shite Kureta Koto never did much for me and it still doesn’t despite that lovely little guitar riff in the background. It’s quite bland and it tends to repeat itself throughout the entire 4 minutes. I’ll never avoid this track, but this is not a recommended one.

Ah, my guilty pleasure, Kuu goes Mario Kart on us. Wonderland is kind of amusing and it reminds me so much of Rainbow Road in said game, it’s just so overly cute and it totally doesn’t fit the feel of the album but it’s sooo much fun. Bring on the dancing mushrooms and bows, I’m all for it.

From cute to sassy and energetic, FREAKY is the next trick Kuu has up her sleeve. I thought it was a pretty strong A-side because of its darker and edgy ambience and the electric guitars really drive this forward. Kuu herself puts in the right amount of energy as well and she delivers a great vocal performance.

MORE is probably the biggest surprise on the album since it’s (one of) the first time(s) Kuu performs a jazzy/bluesy song. She does it quite well, her vocals prove well fit for this genre and although I’m not rooting for her to do this more often, it brought along a nice change. I used to skip this all the time, but now that I’m older I like this more.

I love Black Cherry, the full version of the introduction to her previous album of the same name. The newly added verses blend in very nice with the rest of the song everyone already knows, it’s just now that I’ve listened to it for years and years that I notice how badly they blended in the last rap part. That was kind of abrupt. But still, deep bass and nice melodies make up for everything. SASSY!

Surprise surprise, I love this album. Probably more than I should because most of all this album brings back so many memories of the time when it was released. I used to listen to it on repeat all the time, especially anytime and Wonderland (because that’s what 13/14-year-olds do haha). I still notice the variation on the album, Kuu shows a lot of different sides of herself with all these different types of music and if there’s one thing I love on an album… Those of you who have been here for a while don’t need an explanation. If you don’t agree with me that’s fine, I know I’m probably giving this a higher rating than it deserves but this is just pure nostalgia for me okay?

Favorite songs: Amai Wana | Himitsu | Ai no Uta | anytime | Under | BUT | Koi no Mahou | Wonderland | FREAKY | MORE | Black Cherry

OVERALL RATING
starstarstarstarhalfstar
4½ stars

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Koda Kumi – anytime

July 14, 2015 at 2:16 PM | Posted in Koda Kumi | Leave a comment

SINGLE REVIEW
Koda Kumi – anytime

1. anytime
2. Bounce
3. anytime FreeTEMPO Remix
4. anytime (Instrumental)
5. Bounce (Instrumental)

anytime is the thirty-ninth single by Japanese singer Koda Kumi, released on January 23, 2008. The title track was used as the commercial song for Kirin’s “Kirin Chuuhai Hyouketsu” and “music.jp”. The single reached #4 on the Oricon weekly charts and charted for 5 weeks. It sold 43,051 units in it’s first week and the most recent figures show that it sold a total of 53,189 units.

I have always liked anytime and for a long time it was my absolute favorite of the Kingdom album. I still like it nowadays, even though my musical taste has developed even more. What I like so much about this song is that it’s so sweet and airy, even like a summer song (while it was released in January). This was supposed to be on the ‘FREAKY’ single, but thankfully they deleted it and gave it its own release (it wouldn’t have fit on that single anyway). I’ll even take Kuu’s pitchy vocals (which she tends to have at times).

Bounce is a Rosette cover, I don’t know the original but Kuu ‘Japanesed’ it apparently. It spices up the single with its fast paced rhythm and catchy hooks and it gets better the longer I listen to it. Sometimes it reminds me a little of Kuu’s earlier days when she was just getting started, it has this slight turn-of-the-century sound. Quite nice.

Oof, a remix of over seven minutes. They sped up anytime FreeTEMPO Remix a lot so the vocals sound a little unnatural and it takes a little longer for things to get really interesting, at first its just Kuu and a piano. Later on they add strings and a dance beat. It kind of kills the sweetness the original song had and that isn’t a problem per se, I just don’t dig what they did to it.

OVERALL RATING
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3½ stars

Koda Kumi – LAST ANGEL feat. TOHOSHINKI

July 14, 2015 at 2:03 PM | Posted in Koda Kumi | Leave a comment

SINGLE REVIEW
Koda Kumi – LAST ANGEL feat. TOHOSHINKI

1. LAST ANGEL feat. TOHOSHINKI
2. Dear Family
3. LAST ANGEL feat. TOHOSHINKI (Instrumental)
4. Dear Family (Instrumental)

LAST ANGEL feat. TOHOSHINKI is the thirty-eighth single by Japanese singer Koda Kumi, released on November 7, 2007. The title track was used as the image song to the Japanese release of the movie Resident Evil: Extinction and also “music.jp” commercial song. The single reached #3 on the Oricon weekly charts and charted for 12 weeks. It sold 57,310 units in it’s first week and the most recent figures show that it sold a total of 91,620 units.

In the past I never really liked LAST ANGEL feat. TOHOSHINKI, but it has gotten better over the years. It’s still not my favorite song, but at least I can appreciate it a little more now. What I still don’t like is the fact that the vocals just don’t work well together. There is a clear difference in style and approach and the TOHOSHINKI boys tend to overshadow Kuu. The music is better with its dark and gritty theme.

The idea of Dear Family is very sweet, since it really is a song for Kuu’s family. It’s a slower song, quite mellow and I like the slight Caribbean influence in the music (I believe it’s steelpans). Not very special, but I’m getting used to it more and more now and I’m also starting to like it better.

OVERALL RATING
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3½ stars

Koda Kumi – Ai no Uta

July 14, 2015 at 1:14 PM | Posted in Koda Kumi | Leave a comment

SINGLE REVIEW
Koda Kumi – Ai no Uta

1. Ai no Uta
2. Come Over
3. Ai no Uta (URBAN KISS Version)
4. Ai no Uta (Instrumental)
5. Come Over (Instrumental)

Ai no Uta is the thirty-seventh single by Japanese singer Koda Kumi, released on September 12, 2007. The main track was used as the “music.jp” CM song. The B-side “Come Over” is the “Sekai Judo 2007” theme song. The single reached #2 on Oricon charts and charted for 22 weeks. It sold 65,276 units in it’s first week and the most recent figures show that it sold a total of 134,831 units.

After two smashing A-sides Kuu turned out an autumn/wintertime ballad with Ai no Uta, and I believe this is one of her more popular songs (at least at the time it was released). It has a lovely arrangement with piano, strings and percussion and Kumi shows off the emotional side of her vocals again without overdoing it. Over time I have come to appreciate this song more and now I agree it’s one of her better ones!

Most of the time a ballad is accompanied by an uptempo B-side and this single is no exception. Come Over is the uptempo for this single and although it’s quite catchy, I find it too generic quite soon. It sounds a little too much like some of her other songs, which is a bit of a shame. Nonetheless, decent track.

So they butchered all the emotion in Ai no Uta (URBAN KISS Version) by adding an urban soul vibe to it, but at least they didn’t make it a dance track. The beat is quite enjoyable because I have a soft spot for things like that, but combined with this kind of song it just doesn’t really work.

OVERALL RATING
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3 stars

Koda Kumi – FREAKY

July 14, 2015 at 12:59 PM | Posted in Koda Kumi | Leave a comment

SINGLE REVIEW
Koda Kumi – FREAKY

1. FREAKY
2. Sora
3. Run For Your Life
4. girls
5. FREAKY / Surtek Collective’s Action Remix featuring Peter Rap
6. Sora / Yukihiro Fukutomi Remix
7. Run For Your Life / Kaskade Remix
8. girls / CUBISMO GRAFICO Beach Girls Mix

FREAKY is the thirty-sixth single by Japanese singer Koda Kumi, released on June 27, 2007. The title song was used in a CM for Honda’s “ZEST SPORTS”. The single reached #1 on Oricon charts (making it her fourth single to hit #1) and charted for 15 weeks. It sold 108,349 units in it’s first week and the most recent figures show that it sold a total of 200,322 units.

So many new songs and only one to appear on her album, wow. FREAKY is actually like a sister song to her previous A-side ‘BUT’ because it has that same aggressive approach, but in a less quircky way and more next level. This is Kuu tackling a heavier rock style, a bit like ‘Ningyo-hime’, and I always think of this as one of the best songs on the album she released some time after this. It’s so fierce, I need her to release something like this again!

Now come the songs I heaven’t heard that often because they don’t appear on an album as far as I know. This single was released in the summer and Sora sounds like the perfect anthem for that. It’s so much lighter than FREAKY and very breezy, I really like it. This actually takes me back to better times when it comes to Kuu’s discography! Why doesn’t this appear on her new summer best album ‘SUMMER of LOVE’?

Run For Your Life is actually quite catchy and hearing it again after a long time makes me remember everything about this. It’s like groovy summer rock, not as aggressive as the A-side but definitely edgy. It’s a bit short for my taste because it’s just a little over three minutes, but that means this was very enjoyable!

Okay, girls does appear on some best albums (and it will also be featured on her new summer best album along with FREAKY), and hearing it doesn’t make me wonder why. Like all the other songs on this single it has summer written all over it but it distinguishes itself from the rest by being so uptempo and happy, a bit like ‘Lady Go!’. Like a true ear worm, this is insanely catchy!

Now for the remixes… FREAKY / Surtek Collective’s Action Remix featuring Peter Rap makes sense when it comes to the new music they created for it, but ofcourse the original beats this everyday. They decided to go with some kind of reggaeton style and it puts the original in a completely new perspective that I don’t hate, but I don’t love it either. Peter Rap spices it up with some Spanish right before the ending. I could get used to this, I guess, it’s original.

For Sora / Yukihiro Fukutomi Remix they stayed true to the light summer vibe of the original, adding more piano music, keyboard notes and beats making it a summer dance song. This comes close to being an updated version of the original, I love it and it’s almost six minutes long!

These remixes just keep getting longer, probably because of the long introductions. Run For Your Life / Kaskade Remix has had a dance make-over and it leaves the track kind of empty. I was glad to hear some synths further along in the track, they add some melody but still don’t save this from being a little bland.

I don’t really like the high pitched synth loops in girls / CUBISMO GRAFICO Beach Girls Mix, but at least they left the summer vibe as is and added some epic keyboard tunes to it (and some more beats as well). It’s six and a half minutes in length, which is a bit too long in this case, and I don’t really know where I stand with this yet. I’ll just leave it somewhere in the middle, it’ll probably grow on me later.

OVERALL RATING
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4 stars

Koda Kumi – BUT / Aishou

July 14, 2015 at 12:24 PM | Posted in Koda Kumi | Leave a comment

SINGLE REVIEW
Koda Kumi – BUT / Aishou

1. BUT
2. Aishou
3. BUT ~The Ghettobots Remix~
4. BUT (Instrumental)
5. Aishou (Instrumental)

BUT / Aishou is the thirty-fifth single by Japanese singer Koda Kumi, released on March 14, 2007. The single reached #2 on weekly Oricon charts and charted for 14 weeks. It sold 63,692 units in it’s first week and the most recent figures show that it sold a total of 130,890 units.

I’m gonna pick up where I left off two years ago, reviewing Kuu’s earlier stuff by the era. BUT opens the ‘Kingdom’ era in an amazing way because of its aggressive sound. It’s actually quite robotic and edgy with a lot of electric guitars and Kuu’s fierce vocals. It’s quite a quirky song too but extremely catchy, and I think it worked pretty well for the Japanese version of the movie ‘Step Up’ (which this song was used for).

Aishou is a power ballad that continues the edgy sound by again incorporating electric guitars in the arrangement. Kuu puts a lot of emotion into her voice, which I think is necessary for a powerful song such as this one. Sometimes things get a little out of hand for my taste, but that’s probably just me. I never really knew what to think of this song, but it has grown on me a lot over the past 8 years.

Ofcourse there is a remix on this single, she did that a lot in those days and it’s always a nice plus if the remixes are nice. At times I don’t really get BUT ~The Ghettobots Remix~ because of the melodies it uses, it’s so different from the original and it takes away the catchiness and sass a bit. It’s a nice try, but ofcourse I prefer the original.

OVERALL RATING
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3½ stars

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