Album review: Kumi Koda - Japonesque

Kumi Koda - Japonesque | Album review

Japonesque sounds like a Best release, featuring bad knock-off versions of the hits we remember from past albums. Don't try to make sense of it. There's no point. The bottom line here is that this is an album void of any true direction. Kumi Koda's consistency has always been her inconsistency. Her albums never flow well. Regardless of whether you get good material or a disc of shit, the track ordering is always a mess. But what separates this release from what Kumi has delivered before, is that there is a lack of any true soul. Any heart. The production is good. Kumi's vocals are decent enough. But everything feels by numbers. It's as if a bitch don't care any more. The Avex syndrome has struck Kumi. It's struck her bad.

Japonesque falls into the same trap Kumi's albums have been sliding in to for the past 4 years, which is that it lacks consistency. And that Kumi is still chasing what worked 5 years ago with no new twists which manage to make for a an album full of decent songs. Kumi is not completely lost on how to deliver on a good song. "In the air" show that she can deliver a pop record with a classic sound which has international appeal. "Ko-so-ko-so" feels like an evolution of Kumi's skank anthems - switching out R&B club knock-off's for a dark 'n dirty 80's electro slink you can grind in a corner to. And "Everyday" is a nice Stargate-esque Pop tinged R&B jam which is sweet on the ears without being sickly (i.e "Bambi" and "Melting"). But then you have "V.I.P" and "Slow" - both of which sound like the club joints Kumi has delivered on every album and seems to think are more hip and contemporary than they actually are. She deludes herself into thinking that T-Pain and Omarion will add some credibility. It seems Kumi is completely out of touch of who's hot in R&B in the States, because these two n***a's fell off the Billboard charts years ago. She would have been better off reaching out to Jason Derulo. The dude's music is rubbish, but at least music listeners of today kinda know who he is...for now.

Some songs on the album aren't actually that bad. "So nice" is like 2006's "Candy"...only actually good. "Escalate" and "Lay down" are cut from the same cloth as "Universe" - knocking nicely through the speakers. "Boom boom boys" feels out of place and a tad contrived, but it gets the heads banging. And the ballads "Brave" and "Ai wo tomenaide" sound like rejects from a flop Disney film, but they aren't terrible songs - despite being completely and utterly forgettable. Then they are aligned with garbage like "Poppin' love cocktail" which I can't even call 'a song' or class as music without committing a crime on my soul, and "No man's land" which would have sufficed as a mid-tempo jam, is shitted on by being raped with electric guitars.

Kumi's refusal to embrace a new sound or attempt to refine one for a whole album is frustrating, given that on each occasion over the course of her past three releases where she's managed as much on a handful of songs, it's worked wonders for her. By constantly releasing albums which sound the same with only marginal differences between each one, Kumi is running the risk of damaging any form of musical legacy and also proving those wrong who feel that she has only secured a career by following the template of Ayu and bombarding the charts with music to remain relevant - regardless of the quality. Kumi really needs to start kicking her music into a new gear and grasp the concept of growth and evolution. Because these seem to be utterly lost on her.

As much as I dislike a large chunk of Kumi Koda's discography, at least her earlier albums had some form of impact. They featured songs which hit you with a bang and really caught your attention (long before the video hit which featured her with her legs open). Japonesque on the other hand is mute. It's boring. It features a couple of good songs, but as a whole it's a boring and forgettable album.

Kumi has taken to working with Western songwriters for many of her songs. It's difficult to pin point if this could be having an affect on her music, as her sound is largely unwavering for the most part. But I do question whether it's necessary. This could be a shift the mainstream J-Pop and K-Pop scene is experiencing, as many western song writers are not being roped in to helm production and lyrics of songs. The one thing I can draw out of this is that Kumi needs to streamline her roster of songwriters and producers, as Japonesque features too many cooks up in the kitchen. Some artists are able to work with a plethora of writers and producers and still deliver a consistent, coherent album. But these are artists who know their own sound and have an A&R person who knows it too. Kumi still can't pin her sound to make for an album which flows and her A&R person must be some deaf old fool who Ayu casted aside after Guilty hit number 2 on the charts.

Kumi Koda does have a type of sound, but it filters into about five different types of songs. We've got the club banging Kumi. The grunge rock Kumi. The cutesy pop Kumi. The thrashy pop Kumi. And the R&B Kumi. Good ballad Kumi is pretty much dead now. I can't remember the last album she delivered which featured a good ballad, and these were the songs you could guarantee she would NEVER fall off with. Guess that ship sailed and hit an iceberg. Because Japonesque's main ballad is a boring mess. Deja vu's ballad was a hot mess. And you guys remember "Alive" from Universe right!? Nope, me neither. Kumi seems completely unable to converge these styles or scrap them outright to try something new across a whole album. She clings to these types of songs for dear life and seems to believe that an album can't work without them, when the truth is that she needs to see if it can - as it's the only way her music will be able to evolve and she'll be able to see what works and what doesn't. Kumi needs to start looking back on what she's done before and open her ears. 10 years in the game and she sounds pretty much the same now as she did back in 2000. Kumi needs to start making bold decisions concerning her music and where she needs to go with it. Because right now, Kumi is as stale as week old onigiri. And there are younger bitches in Japan and Korea who are up on their shit and will show her how to handle that business. She needs to spend less time on music videos, nails and wigs and focus on her music. Because the days of masking her nonsense music with p***y popping, weave thrashing and dry humping white men on chairs are long gone. We want to hear good music first and see a good music video second.

Japonesque is not a good album. It's not even a decent one. Universe and Deja vu were much better albums. They were not perfect, but they featured better singles and saw Kumi moving in a better direction musically, which saw her embracing new styles and genres - where as Japonesque feels like a completely regressive step. Kumi has the voice and songwriting talents to deliver decent music, which is why it's continually frustrating that she seems content with putting out these lackluster albums. Bitch needs to put down her parasol and go scrub a floor with this mess.

Rating: 3 out of 10

Album highlights:
■ Introduction ~Japonesque~
■ So nice
■ Everyday
■ In the air J's fave
■ Ko-so-ko-so
■ Lay down


  1. PREACH! and speak the truth. This shit was a contrived, formulated mess, and her stans lapped this shit up like the bitches from two girls one cup. They seem to think she has just as much musical integrity as Utada (I seriously came across a forum w/ multiple stans saying this. I didn't even bother touch that topic.)

    I like Kumi and she has the capability to make songs that are audible, but I always thought performing was where her strengths lie. She's a solid live performer who's entertaining to watch, and her older PVs used to be a spectacle worth watching. Now they're cheap pieces of shit, which suits the shitty music that accompanies them perfectly.

  2. This post gave me so much fucking life. Seriously. You said everything that I've been saying about Kumi's music for years and then some. Almost every album she has released for the past 7yrs sounds like a watered down version of the one before it. Most of the songs in her discography sound like a slight variation of another song in it.

    I don't care what her die hard fans say. Kumi's music lacks growth. Point. Blank. Fucking Period. I just wish her stans would wake up and smell the coffee instead of Kuu's bottle humping pu$$y. [insert side eye]

    Oh yes, I went there.

  3. I loved it...I dunno I get what people want from Kumi but I am sooooooooooo happy she isn't a one cohesivene style artist that is her charm for me, she does it all

  4. This album is "ok" to me, it's also highly recycled like R/J said. This is a problem I've been having with Kumi, the last album i was wholeheartedly going OFF for was "Trick" tbh, the Golden age of Kumi was "Black Cherry / Kingdom / Trick" after that the albums were just more and more reductive although there are the occasional jewels in the midst.

    I think the lack of evolution and quality is down to the (seeming) decline of Avex, the same thing is happening with all their major artists. Where once you could count on Ayu, Kumi etc to drop some slick / expensive video's to go with some hot ass songs it seems like now the music is churned out faster and faster in worse quality to cash in fast and the video's look budget as hell and it really disappoints me.

  5. I remember Koda's "Secret" live concert DVD from '05 or '06. She is a strong performer - she can dance (in 3" heels) and she has strong stage presence. But this goes to waste if she doesn't have a strong foundation for her live performances, like good music.

    Hopefully her pregnancy will give her a new perspective on the direction her music is headed (look what it did for Madonna's Ray of Light). If she has absolutely no creative input in the recording process, AVEX should at least take more chances in terms of music. Even Namie Amuro, whom I thought was invincible, isn't shifting as many units. She managed to reinvent herself in the mid-2000s and she needs to do it again now.

  6. This is a very good review. Thanks.
    I like all her old albums. I think all those old songs with no videos are better than today's new ones with videos. I hope she can find her old root, and does not need to change. New direction does not make her music better.

  7. I think Kumi doesn't show growth... but she's showing that she's not living in the past as you guys say... Go listen to Black Cherry or Kingdom and then listen to Japonesque... Do they ACTUALLY sound the same? I don't think so, Japonesque sounds hella diferent than her past works except maybe DejaVu or Universe (wich i haven't listen because opposite from you bitches i do buy albums and not rip them).

    The issue with her is those tracklist, they call all the flow... Just like Black Cherry, 4 first songs were a joke, that order made me laught so hard. This hoe is actually showing direction, Whatchu waitin' on and Got To The Top does sound diferent to me from her new stuff, and i started to like this bitch because of her new music 2010/2011.

    Oh by the way, tsuki dex3 was a good song and J even said that on the DejaVu review, now he says it was a piece of shit...


HTML tags for bold, italic and hyperlinks are allowed