Album Review: Kumi Koda - Secret

Album review: Kumi Koda (ε€–η”° δΎ†ζœͺ) - Secret | Random J Pop

I'mma tell you right now. This album isn't good. And if there's an album to blame for what Kumi Koda's albums became, it might just be this one.

Secret is the Kumi Koda album which seems to forget that it's an album. I also forget it. Because whilst this album has songs on it that I really do like, it never occurs to me, nor crosses my mind which album they're from, because I just don't care. And the quality of this album is part of the reason why. Maybe it was Kumi's steadfastness to become a contender for label mate Ayumi Hamasaki. Or maybe Avex just wanted to keep trotting releases out for the sake of putting something out and having an artist that could deliver the over-sexualised looks that wasn't part of Ayu's brand. But the Avex management, the A&R and Kumi herself seemed to have their attention on everything but making a good album. Because Secret is a mess.

Album review: Kumi Koda (ε€–η”° δΎ†ζœͺ) - Secret | Random J Pop

If Feel My Mind was the arrival of the Kumi Koda that we know now, then Secret was the basis on which future Kumi Koda albums would be based. Secret establishes the sounds of which Kumi would release, tweak, but not bother to refine for the next 10 years. The sickly sweet Pop, the  J-R&B jams and the ballads are still here, but now there's Rock in the mix. Because why not throw another style of music into the already stinky ass melting pot.

The Rock songs give Secret a much needed sense of newness after three albums of rinse and repetition. But as is customary for Kumi Koda, the execution is as shaky as Ayu's vibrato. The problem with the rock songs is that the production never feels quite big enough, and Kumi's vocals devolve into wails and warbles. Comparatively, Ayumi Hamasaki was doing a much better job with these songs at the time, because she was smart with them. Ayu doesn't have the most powerful voice, but the production on her Rock heavy songs was so rich that it picked up the slack when it needed to and gave her vocals enough space when it needed to. There's no real sense of framing the music or producing around Kumi Koda's vocals, and it hurts the songs. "Selfish" is good, but it could have been better had the music and Kumi's vocals been better produced. The sweet spot is a song like "Love Holic" which takes a Pop song and gives it a Rock edge, providing the best of both worlds and not leaving Kumi feeling like she's out of her element.

The J-R&B cuts on this album fall further into Hip-Hop territory, as they started to on Feel My Mind. Middle Eastern and Arabic style production was big in Hip-Hop at the time of this albums' release, so that's the angle this time around. The problem is that by going full pelt into J-Hip-Hop, the songs lose their sense of melody. And Kumi's delivery is so flat, with little in the way of variation that listening to her is like aural NyQuil. "Shake It" is deadpan dancery. If it wasn't for the music video which had her bussin' it open in a tent and that horrendous Ice Cube and Ms. Toi "You Can Do It" breakdown, you wouldn't remember this song. "Shake It" is a highlight on this album purely because that breakdown is so fucking terrible that it's amazing. "Trust You" is the only genuinely decent song of the J-R&Bunch, but the bar is low here. As with "Shake It", it's more memorable for the music video which has Kumi dancing for men who control her with a Wii remote, and choreo which incorporates domestic violence.

The Rock and R&B attempts contrast starkly with the other style songs on the album which feature more nuanced production, stronger melodies and better song structures. The straight-up Pop songs ("Cute Honey" and "Chase") aren't the most memorable of songs, but they are the ones where Kumi Koda sounds best. She is so in the pocket of the rhythms and the melodies, that she's not given much room to act like she's Whitney and serve us Shitney, but a bitch still tries. Kumi Koda thinks that she's THAT bitch with the J-R&B, but her gambit and her bread and butter at this point is clearly her ballads. "Hands" is the standout ballad moment and one of the few songs here which is unequivocally good. Kumi Koda had given us solid ballads in this style for her past three albums, but "Hands" is the best refinement of the sound and the strongest of them all. The sad thing about the ballads is that it shows that Kumi Koda can deliver consistency. And yet, with the J-R&B cuts, it just ain't happening. The caveat here though is that Kumi seems to have latched onto the power of ballads, or been told by Avex management 'Bitch, do more ballads, because they were the best cuts from your last three albums' and therefore gives us five this time around. But too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, and there isn't a great deal of variation between them, which dilutes their impact greatly and makes their composition seem formulaic when sat on one album together. None of the other ballads are bad, but five was unnecessary if they were all going to sound so similar, and "Hands" is hands down the best of the bunch.

Album review: Kumi Koda (ε€–η”° δΎ†ζœͺ) - Secret | Random J Pop

I told you from the start, but I'mma say it again; Secret is an absolute mess. It's like a compounding all of all of the issues of Kumi Koda's first three albums, but they feel amplified because everything on this album is bigger. From the production, to Kumi's vocals, to her delivery on songs. All Kumi Koda and her team did was just take Affection, Grow Into One and Feel My Mind and make them bigger, without any thorough refinement or consideration of what did and didn't work from each of them, with the exception of the ballads - where they did far too much and gave us too many of them. And having already heard and reviewed a couple of Kumi's albums which came after this one, it's clear that this is a deep-set thing with Kumi Koda, which has been an issue since the start of her career.

Once again we get an album intro which is fucking awful and doesn't set the tone of the album or serve any purpose. The sequencing is once again, trash. We go from an album intro which is trying to be all hood and edgy, followed by "Cutie Honey", followed by another hood-wannabe-banger where the producer drops an F-bomb at the start, which seemed to go completely unnoticed by Avex who didn't mark the song as explicit. Was there ANYBODY involved with this album who actually cared!?

What Kumi Koda needed to do with this album is really hone her craft and perfect the sounds that she'd been delivering prior. I can't even say that Kumi Koda necessarily gave more of the same, because a lot of 'the more' she gave here is worse than it was before. Kumi seemed more concerned about her image and wanting to be a star with this album than wanting to make good music and be an artist. She wasn't trying to create something which would stand the test of time and be remembered as a good album, which is exactly why it doesn't, it isn't and it isn't even remotely.

πŸ‘πŸΎ "Hands"
πŸ‘ŽπŸΎ Basically everything else


■ Hands πŸ†
■ Shake It
■ Chase
■ Let's Party