Koda Kumi – JAPONESQUEFebruary 4, 2012 at 9:20 AM | Posted in Koda Kumi | 3 Comments
The cover of the CD only edition
JAPONESQUE is Koda Kumi’s 10th studio album and it was released on January 25, 2012. The album reached #1 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 93,835 copies. It was preceded by 3 singles: 4 TIMES, Ai wo Tomenaide, and Love Me Back.
♦ ♦ ♦
This is gonna be a lengthy review. I got a lot of tracks to cover! However, I will let you know beforehand that this album is good. It’s probably the closest thing to perfect that we will ever get from Koda Kumi and I say that as a long-time fan.
After the album opens with an interesting and ethnically charged intro track, we go right into So Nice which features rapper Mr.Blistah. Much like their previous collaboration Candy, this song has a strong Arabian inspired arrangement that is laced with heavy beats and guitar chords. It’s a short song but instantly sets the mood for the album.
An aggressive electric guitar kicks off Boom Boom Boys, which has become one of my favorite tracks. Kumi has always been on and off when it comes to rock songs but this is on point. Actually, all the rock songs on this album are great. For me, the chorus was the best part because the music is so in your face and Kumi packs an extra punch in her vocals.
I have to admit that V.I.P. was a guilty pleasure of mine. When I first heard it on the 4 TIMES single, I thought it was such a hot mess but at the same time I began to like it more and more with each listen. The song is slightly different on the album thanks to an atrocious rap by rapper T-Pain. It’s a short 20 second rap but still…”arigatou I’m out HOLLA”. *dead*
Kumi collaborates with American artist Omarion for the next track Slow. It has a catchy chorus but I wasn’t too fond of all the auto-tune, especially during the verses. As for Omarion’s contributions, he has a solo rap during the bridge which was tolerable and he sings the English lines with Kumi.
After all of those high-octane tracks the album begins to simmer down a little at this point. Starting with Brave, this is a decent mid-tempo ballad but with no outstanding qualities. You can just brush it off to be honest.
Everyday is better though. It’s more on the cute side which I was afraid of at first (because of the disaster that was Melting) but this turned out to be not half bad.
I like to describe IN THE AIR as a prime example of an ideal pop song. It’s very upbeat, extremely catchy, and the music production is top notch. Initially the charming pop number of the 4 TIMES single, it has grown to become one of my favorites on the album.
I was on the fence when I saw You are not alone was included on the album but this new acoustic version was a total surprise. The original was the B-side on the Ai wo Tomenaide single and I thought it was generic. I loved the acoustic revamp though! The heavy clapping beat mixed with the uplifting guitar chords made this song feel a lot more genuine, giving it a “campfire” feel.
It’s interlude time! I didn’t think this was as cool as the intro track because the sounds were random but get ready for a slew of skanky songs. ESCALATE has that heavy dance club feel that I love from Kumi and she kills it here. A very hot track indeed.
As for Love Me Back…I guess the similarities to Cherry Girl are there but not really. This song is pretty different even for Kumi. I got more of a retro TV feel from the music but it has a modern twist thanks to the synth. Still a cool song nonetheless!
No Man’s Land was another surprise. This has to be her best rock song in ages. The reason I say this is because her vocals finally match the dark tone of the music. Alongside the sinister electric guitar riffs, Kumi sings in a lower pitch for a majority of the song. The chorus is definitely the best part since she isn’t yelling or straining her voice. She sounds cool and collected.
Umm…this is a weird spot to place Ai wo Tomenaide on the album. The second single of the era, this is a refined acoustic based ballad that has grown on me. It’s just that it has no business being wedged between No Man’s Land and the next track!
Because the transition into the sexy and seductive KO-SO-KO-SO is awkwaaaard. This was my favorite track on the 4 TIMES single because it’s just plain hot. Even though it’s not a total club banger like some of the previous upbeat tracks on the album, it has an infectious melody with a chorus that is very memorable.
The next track starts with Kumi saying “You’re gonna love it~” followed by heavy synth. Lay Down continues the sensual vibe of KO-SO-KO-SO but this song is much more aggressive. The English lyrics were probably the most notable thing as well, especially that “popping bottles” line. lol
Honestly, Love Technique is the only song on the album that I don’t like. It’s another cute song and I was turned off by Kumi’s childish vocals. I thought the verses were really annoying because of that “talk-singing” thing she was doing. The chorus was okay though.
At least once Love Technique ends, it goes right into Poppin’ love cocktail in a snap. This was the lead track of the 4 TIMES single and it was my least favorite of the four back in August 2011. The song has grown on me though since it’s catchy and has a fun, summer atmosphere. I thought the rapping by TEEDA (the MC of the rock band BACK-ON) was more amusing than anything so I didn’t mind it, even though that “You looks like horny!” line still cracks me up.
The final track of the album is the thoughtful and heartwarming All for you. A simple acoustic guitar ballad, what makes this song stand out is the fact that it was recorded in one take and without any fancy studio magic. The vocals are very raw but Kumi sounds good, singing simple lyrics that were compiled from fan letters.
Koda Kumi has officially outdone herself! In terms of overall presentation and quality, JAPONESQUE is her strongest release from beginning to end. Like I said at the beginning of the review, this album is nearly perfect. It’s going to be tough to see Kumi top JAPONESQUE because it has the best combination of music genres that she’s known for and then some. For example, even though the only song that I didn’t like was Love Technique it’s still leagues ahead of other cute songs she has done from the last 3 albums. For having 19 tracks, you’re really getting the best of everything she has to offer. My main gripes go to T-Pain’s unwelcome presence in V.I.P. and the so-so mid-tempo tracks like Brave. They couldn’t find a better place to put Ai wo Tomenaide either?
Pros: An incredibly solid album. With 19 tracks, what is there not to like?
Cons: The minor things that I mentioned in the final paragraph. You can make your own minor adjustments to make this album the perfect package if you wanted to.
1. Introduction ~JAPONESQUE~
2. So Nice feat. Mr.Blistah
3. Boom Boom Boys
4. V.I.P. feat. T-Pain
5. Slow feat. Omarion
8. IN THE AIR
9. You are not alone (Acoustic Version)
10. Interlude ~JAPONESQUE~
12. Love Me Back
13. No Man’s Land
14. Ai wo Tomenaide (愛を止めないで)
16. Lay Down
17. Love Technique
18. Poppin’ love cocktail feat. TEEDA
19. All for you
Note: My favorite tracks are highlighted in blue!