Album review: Kumi Koda - Affection

Album review: Kumi Koda - Affection | Random J Pop

Affection is very much an album of the early 2000s. A period when Pop around the world was starting to be more R&B leaning, and J-Music wanting in on it too. As a result we ended up with these interesting hybrid songs which took the sounds of US R&B and fused it with the more melodic structures of J-Pop, where it was common for choruses to go into a completely different key and chords to just change between verses. The result wasn't bad. The problem was that everybody was doing it, but not everybody was doing it well, and few were actually doing anything with it. Enter Affection.

Kumi seemed to treat this album almost like karaoke. A chance to sing songs like the ones she watched artists perform on Space Shower and see on MTV. And this is where Affection falters from the start. Kumi spends more time trying to be other artists to the point where we don't get a sense of who she is and if there's anything to her other than just being a chameleon. Something which would go on to be a problem for years.

Album review: Kumi Koda - Affection

This sense of 'I'mma do what others are doing' hits from the very beginning with the intro "Atomic Energy" which features a Janet Jackson style switch half-way through. It doesn't just sound like Janet Jackson. It is a straight up Janet Jackson jacking. It doesn't set the album up thematically and tells you nothing about Kumi Koda as an artist. It doesn't even sound good. So one track in and all you've taken away is that the song has a Janet Jackson moment. And if you didn't catch the reference, then you won't have taken anything away at all. Then the first full album track "Trust Your Love" sounds like a blatant attempt to recreate the then classic Darkchild sound, but still retain that the style of J-Pop which was typical for Avex at the time for the chorus, and it doesn't work. Even with Kumi singing for dear life.

"Your Song" is the first instance on this album where we get something which retrospectively feels somewhat unique to Kumi Koda in light of her songs such as "Hands" and "You". It's one of the best songs on the album because it's one of the few instances where there doesn't seem to have been any form of agenda with this song, other than just making a good song. The vocals aren't the best and the way the key change hits is a mess, but it's a good-ass song. And then it's right back to dryness with "Feel Me. A song which sounds like it's comprised of Kumi's half-arsed takes, with a microphone picking her up vocals from two rooms away.

There are so few songs on this album which give you something to sink your teeth into, and too many moments which just feel purposeless. I don't see the point in "Best Friend of Mine", which is an a capella interlude with badly arranged vocals which aren't even in the right key or the right timing. Why was this put on the album? "Till Morning Comes" which features Verbal just feels empty, because that sense of rapport and necessity you usually get from a Verbal collab, just isn't here. It's just Verbal been thrown on a song, because that's who Avex used to slap on a song for an artist who is trying to be taken seriously in J-R&B circles.

Things do pick up at the end of the album. "Take Back" feels the J-R&B and J-Pop fusion done right. And "Can't Lose" sounding like something from a Ridge Racer soundtrack kinda does it for me, and it's the one song where Kumi's natural lower register shines in place of her wailing. But these moments come within the final moments of the album, at a point when you're already done with the whole thing, IF you even made it this far. Sequencing these songs at the top of the album would have helped the album flow better and created the illusion that maybe there's something to this album other than sheer attempts at something.

Album review: Kumi Koda - Affection | Random J Pop

Affection is an album produced with the intent of sounding like what else was out and popular around the time, with no regard for trying to make Kumi Koda her own artist and set her apart. Half of "Atomic Energy" is cut and pasted from Janet Jackson's Control. "Best of Soul" sounds like a cross between Hikaru Utada's "Wait & See (Risk)" and "Movin' On Without You". And "Come Back" sounds like an attempt at "First Love".

Nothing about this album even gives you a sense of curiosity as to what this artist has in store, because you are given so little of Kumi herself. "Your Song" is a really good song. But it's just one song. And because it's surrounded by material which is so bland, it either gets lost, or you write the rest of the album off completely. And you also don't hinge any future promise or potential on the song, because it is just one song. So it comes off like a fluke. A completely anomaly.

I'll say this. There are no bad songs on this album. Not a single one. Every song is good enough, but that's the problem. You listen to this album and there's nothing that really jumps out or grabs you about it. It's great mediocrity. The lack of vision and intent with this album makes it one of Kumi Koda's most forgettable albums in a discography which has its fair amount of forgettable albums.

👍🏾 Your Song
👎🏾 Basically everything else


Album highlights
■ Your Song 🏆
■ Can't Lose