Giant Kuu Kissy Face.
We’ll subtitle this post “Kimi’s going back to her roots!”, “A much-needed break from the boybands!”, or “I should stop using the horrible injokes already.” Your choice. Either way, I was burnt out last week and the multitudes of boyband-related posts I have drafted but yet to complete are getting overwhelming, so have a giant kiss(y face) to make up for it. And ignore the black eyes. I’ll make sure my hitman does a better job of the bruising next time.
Before I switched over to WordPress, I kept (or at least tried to keep) a regular
feature on my Last.fm-based journal where I’d go over weekly releases I’d had an interest in. That was a while ago. Almost two years ago. (It’s fun to see how I’ve evolved as a writer. I could go even further back and check LiveJournal, but then that’d just be cruel and unusual punishment for all parties involved.)
During then, my disinterest in Koda Kumi was only beginning, and her single-of-the-week (man, that feels so long ago) still made those posts. Looking around my room, I’ve had the limited CD+2DVD version of Kodaku’s BEST ~second session~ album sitting around for almost a month, not so much waiting to be sent to Raid as Raid is waiting for it to be sent to him. With some (okay, a lot of) stress to release (and an easy post source), I decided to open it for this review.
Okay, not really. This is a review of a downloaded copy of the album, though I can go back to Book-off and buy another one if I really wanted to do so. (I don’t, thanks.) But you know, the idea that I might have actually opened his precious brand-new limited-edition hard-to-find album hitting Raid smack in the face was worth it. Even if I’m halfway around the world and unable to see the resultant “OMGAH I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT BITCH” reaction.
I have my own reaction to this album though. Considering that I’ve listened to all the singles at least once before, most of it sounds pretty new to me. Which… isn’t quite what avex was going for, I’m pretty sure.
o1/ Introduction to the second session: This track is also known as a shortened version of “Single 00” of the series, the digital release Get It On. Capping in at 1 minute 16, it’s an Arabian-flavored song with lots of layered vocals from Koda that pile up for a really nice effect. All the lyrics are in English, but unlike certain other songs where she sings in English, it doesn’t suffer. If they had released this with the rest of the singles, I might have actually been more interested than faded out of my interest in her.
o2/ D.D.D. featuring SOULHEAD: The third of the series, known for two things. First, sampling from Lady Marmalade. Second, the costumes of the PV. What you don’t know is the third story – all 12 singles got together to have a Battle Royale, with the Introduction as the administrator, and this song came out on top.
Okay, so the last one was complete BS but it’s my only explanation for how it became possibly the most popular release out of the 12. Nothing against this song (which is pretty good) or SOULHEAD (who did come up with a rather good track for Koda and sound great themselves), but it’s not my favorite and wears heavy on the ears after multiple listens. That said, lots of guitars, heavy beats, and seductive vocals. And the rap does me proud.
o3/ you: The one that started it all, and Koda dressed like an Eskimo. It’s a gentle winter ballad, with lovely instrumentation. I could listen to the instrumental for this one by itself, just because it’s pretty and relaxing and knows just where to touch – but it is Koda’s vocals that provide the dynamics. And that’d be fine and dandy except then she throws too much emotion in her vocals for the final chorus, and you hear her hiccup for breath. Yes, hiccup. Was it too cold in Alaska for you to breathe deeply?
o4/ Candy feat. Mr. Blistah: The cover artwork for the seventh is supposed to be inspired by Africa. Uh, really? I couldn’t tell. It makes me think of an Indian snake charmer. The music brings up the Arabian influences again – which works really well with Koda’s smoky vocals, but really doesn’t help the marketing identity crisis this song apparently has. The song itself is fine, with appropriate interjections by Mr. Blistah, of group CLENCH & BLISTAH, to keep the song from being too monotone. Blistah’s apparently another member of the slurring rappers breed -which makes the line he “sings” with Koda at the end of the song a fun study in blending.
o5/ Shake It Up: Single 4 is apparently supposed to channel Rio de Janeiro. Uh… can’t say I’m feeling it. Heavy bass beats, upbeat dance pop… all the makings of an average Japanese pop song. If you really wanted to read into the song, the chorus does bring up the party atmosphere and hints of the carnival air peek in the background from behind the beats. But otherwise, it’s a generic song that’s an okay listen for the 5 minutes it takes up, and Koda either had fun with or got totally sick of the “Oh-ee-oh-ee-oh” by the time the recording for this was done. I’m hedging bets on the latter.
o6/ feel: Easy listening is the only way to describe the 6th single of the series. It flows over the ears, with light beats adding a hazy atmosphere. There’s apparently a little convoluted story in the lyrics, and Koda sings with as sexy a voice as she can pull out. It’s a genre not oft tried in avex, and I’d like to hear this more though it may not work with their nasal artists. Wait… that’s pretty much all of them. Oh, am I supposed to comment on the cover? Um… Spain. Wow. Okay, let me off the hook now?
o7/ WIND: Someone took the idea of “Refreshing like a spring breeze” and ran away with it in the eleventh single. Sure, spring was just over a month away when this was released, but wow. The entire song screams “refresh yourself!” but the fact is, it’s a pretty generic pop song. Any pop singer in Japan could sing this and it would sound good. Even the worst of the boybands. Though Koda makes a pretty hot “Italian” FTM.
o8/ Love goes like…: A new song, though clearly not so new at the time I’m reviewing this, this brought us back to the style that made Koda infamous. Overcast music, heavy beats, begging for a sexy dance choreography. I love this style with Koda, and the chaotic strings in the background really grab at me. Until she had her spoken English monologue and I just slammed my head into the desk. Just… no. That had absolutely no place in this song. (The monologue. The English was just a much unneeded bonus.)
o9/ No Regret: The only song that sounded familiar to me was the 8th single. And that was because of its tie-in to the anime Ueki no Housoku as its second opening theme (replacing Shimatani Hitomi’s Falco). Fast paced power pop, but the chorus has Koda practically screaming – along with being a bitch to sing at karaoke. They basically took anime pop and made it ero-kawaii… or is it took Koda’s ero-kawaii and made it anime pop? Either way, the song isn’t anything special, but I like it for my own reasons. The single’s costume theme was India, but you know what? All the lines her blown-up hair drew on her face kind of marred the image. Tell me that’s not an overly bulging and unrealistic vein.
10/ Birthday Eve: Surprisingly, despite the fact that this song popped up multiple times on my MP3 player as part of my birthday playlist, I still don’t really recognize it. I’m not sure if it’s because it’s that unmemorable, or because cutesy Koda gets me twitching and my mind likes to block those irritating songs. It gets annoying rather quickly, and the second single’s saving grace is that Koda comes off as a hot “American”. (Note to avex and Rhythm Zone – you guys have watched too many California movies.)
11/ Lies: The cover to the 5th single is a travesty. I’ve seen Chinese operas, yes, but Koda’s incomplete modernized version sort of terrifies me. The song’s more R&B-influenced pop; I got sick of the “You are my bad boy” hook; and while I like the layered vocals during the stanzas, the only part about this song that really grabs me is the beat – a same beat that could be better used in other tracks. A waste of a single, a song, and 5 and a half minutes that I could’ve spent on taking out the monologue from Love goes like… NEXT. (Wait, if the next song is what I think it is… can we just skip to the end of th ealbum already?)
12/ 今すぐ欲しい [Ima Sugu Hoshii]: Single number 9 brings us to the infamous sex song that got banned in South Korea. Or so I hear. I haven’t actually tried to find or buy it in South Korea, and considering where I live, I don’t think I will be anytime soon. I adore the cover to this one, Koda looks gorgeous as a (French?) ballerina doll. I suppose it’s fair exchange because I don’t especially feel anything for the song except amusement. Amusement that the most explicit part of the song is the rap lyrics written by JEWELS of Heartsdales fame. The song itself is mellow hip-hop, and unless you understood Japanese or had read a translation of the lyrics, it doesn’t come across as the usual sexual track. The music does work well with Koda’s voice, give it that.
13/ KAMEN feat. 石井竜也 [KAMEN feat. Ishii Tatsuya]: Permission to doze off, sir! I also appreciate older male vocalists, yes, and one of these days I’ll get around to posting about my love for Kuwata Keisuke’s Ashita Hareru ka na? single (which had everything to do with my trip to Hong Kong and absolutely nothing to do with its drama tie-in); but this brings in those “Lite FM” genre hallmarks I hate. No forgiveness. They make a good vocal combination, I just hate the music – which is a shame, because this is one of the better and non-generic tracks out of the 12. And what’s with the cover? How does Hawaii tie in to this? Never mind that the coconuts look like they’re about to slip off her boobs.
14/ Someday: I, uh, guess it says something that it took me 8 or so listens to figure out what to write for this track when normally I have it by one. Actually, I lie, it took me that many listens to figure out I should at least write that previous line and let the rest come to me. Which is what we have here. This goes beyond generic pop – I mean, they’re throwing in the strings I’d normally gush about and I can’t find a word of praise about them. Even the geisha-influenced cover for this, the 12th single of the series, isn’t really appealing. One, the red hues burn after a while; two, her boobs look like they’re about to spill out of that dress but they’re not. False advertising, avex. I disapprove.
15/ A Whole New World feat. Peabo Bryson: Oh, are we at the end of the album already? Such a shame… no, I’m not snickering. Get those webcams away. So here we have yet another take on the Aladdin classic, with Koda replacing Regina Belle. Personally, I always liked the one done by Brad Kane and Lea Salonga; and both Koda’s accent and Bryson’s emphatic singing don’t appeal anywhere near as much. Never mind that they don’t quite blend. The orchestral interpretation of the music is lovely, though. Someone direct me to an instrumental, stat.
It was more than a bit unfair for me to hate Koda just because she released 12 singles in 12 weeks. (Especially when I’d have loved it if AAA had done the same.) So perhaps my biggest problem with the singles was that they were completely unmemorable. Good tracks, but nothing sticking. Even two years later, only one single has stuck with me from its release to now, and that was purely thanks to its tie-in status.
A shame, because had they been more lasting I might not have held off on Koda until the Get Up & Move!! video was released on BEST ~Bounce & Lovers~. (It’s always the choreography that grabs me.) But plenty of Koda fans seem to be fine with them, so count me out of that crowd and we’ll be fine. Now, I’ll be off to trash this thing… as soon as I get it out of the CD mailer.