Album review: Kumi Koda - Color the cover

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

Kumi Koda has always been an artist of emulation since the very start. It's what has made it difficult to really pin down what exactly her style and contribution to music is, because she sounds like everybody else. So the prospect of her releasing a cover album actually makes sense when you think about it. I didn't expect her to release a second one. Then again, Kumi does everything in excess, so...more fool me.

I do wonder how much of this album was spurred on by Kumi saying 'fuck it, may as well'. Or if it's because she realises that covers work well for her artistically. I guess we will never know. But a second cover album is very much welcomed, given how good her first one was, and that it marked one of Kumi's better albums overall.

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

My theory with Eternity ~Love & Songs~ is that it was intended to be a conceptual album of covers with a focus on ballads and love songs, but it didn't necessarily end up this way, with head-banging covers of "Tattoo" and "Be My Baby". Color the Cover by comparison seems like it was intended to be a conceptual album of uptempo songs, but didn't end up as intended either, with the inclusion of ballads. These aren't huge issues, but do play to the notion of Kumi's kitchen sink approach to albums. And also that at any opportunity, she will do what's safe, even at the sacrifice of project integrity and consistency.

I'll say this now. Color the Cover isn't bad, just as Eternity ~Love & Songs~ wasn't bad. But Kumi throwing ballads on this album does cause the same issue here as it did with Eternity ~Love & Songs~ featuring a handful of Pop bangers, which is that they feel slightly out of place. This continues what is a Kumi tradition of really bad album sequencing. Color the Cover will go from an auto-tune laden synth Pop banger to a Winter ballad like it ain't shit, with no transition, no follow through on theme. Nothing. BUT. Sequencing the songs as you see fit can do the trick, unlike Eternity ~Love & Songs~, where no reshuffling can make "Tattoo", "Be My Baby" and "Megimi no Hito" work alongside the ballads. At the very least Color the Cover holds its varied parts together better than Eternity ~Love & Songs~.

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

The selection of covers on this album are very considered, as several of them are what would be considered by J-Pop purists as classics. There is no risk with these though, as some of these songs have been covered so many times in the past. I've lost count of how many covers of Kome Kome Club's "Shake Hip" that I've heard over the years. But regardless of what Kumi is covering, her approach is the same; twist that shit into something that feels like it's hers, or flip that shit upside-down like Diana Ross' wig, and Kumi does a great job of this.

The remarkable thing about this album is actually the restraint that Kumi Koda shows. Album opener "Pink Spider" and it's Synth-Pop partner in crime "Dou ni mo Tomaranai" are probably as wild as Kumi gets with a cover. Not just changing everything about the song, but making so many stylist choices which also change the energy. On Eternity ~Love & Songs~, no matter how much the sound and production of the music strayed from the original, the energy that Kumi gave it was the same. Here, it's opposite. The arrangements for the most part are pretty similar to the originals, but the energy Kumi gives is much different to that of which the original artist gave the song, and it pays off more often than not. It's rather cool, because the energy shift reframes many of these songs. The aim for Eternity ~Love & Songs~ seemed to be making the songs sound different, where-as the aim for Color the Cover seemed to be making the songs feel feel different - whilst still wholly respecting the original.

Hide with Spread Beaver's "Pink Spider" felt wild and untamed, where-as Kumi's feels cool, seductive and controlled. Kudo Shizuka sounds frustrated and at her wits end on "Blue Velvet", where-as Kumi sounds like she's ready to just fight a bitch over some shit and be done with it. Kimu's cover of Kubo Ruriko's "Man" sounds like she is singing to a man who she desires, where as Kubo sounds like she's singing at a man and has no intention of giving him the pussy.

Kumi clearly has respect for these songs, but she knows her own currency, and that fans don't want to hear her sing these songs the way they were. Fans want to hear them as Kumi Koda songs, and she leans confidently into this. She owns every song that she covers. It's crazy to me how Kumi Koda shines so brightly and comes through so much more on covers of other people's songs than she does on her own.

Kumi Koda's vocals aren't framed across the album in quite the same way as they were on Eternity ~Love & Songs~, but by this point she's not really trying to prove anything. And there's no mistaking that this woman can hold a tune. In the majority of instances, Kumi sounds far better than the original artists did. There's a directness and clarity that Kumi has on this album which is really nice on the ear. The only instances where Kumi doesn't sound too hot is on "Pink Spider" and "Dou ni mo Tomaranai", because of the auto-tune and overuse of effects on her vocals. We were long over auto-tune by 2013, and yet the producers of the song still went H.A.M with it here. Both "Pink Spider" and "Dou ni mo Tomaranai" would have been far better songs if all Kumi's vocals were stripped of all of the effects. "Pink Spider" I can just about let slide. But it really does ruin "Dou ni mo Tomaranai". Kumi's standout vocal moment comes at the end of the album, with her cover of Misora Hibari's "Uta wa Waga Inochi", which has Kumi singing the lowest I think she's ever sung, and she sounds amazing. Misora was Enka royalty, known for her deep voice. Kumi, in staying faithful to the original, doesn't change the key of the song, and there is not a hint of a struggle at any point to go as low as Queen Misora goes. It's a shame that J-Pop favours higher keys and struggle singing styles, because I definitely could go for more songs where Kumi serves us Toni Braxton style contralto. She sounds so damn good and it would also really help set her apart, and potentially start a wave of other artists in J-Pop switching up the ways in which they sing songs. It's a memo than many should be getting.

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

Color the Cover is another solid cover album from Kumi Koda. It's no better nor worse than Eternity ~Love & Songs~. But more like partner to it. It gives you things that Eternity ~Love & Songs~ didn't. Just as Eternity ~Love & Songs~ gives you things that this album doesn't. The commonality between both albums is that they are both great showcases of Kumi Koda and give you more of what she doesn't seem capable of consistently giving with her albums of original material. Something which still baffles me, even with my theories as to why this is - which are all rooted in Kumi giving us more when she's restricted by a song.

The most surprising thing about this cover album, as was the case with Eternity ~Love & Songs~ is the quality control. Kumi Koda's original albums are generally messes, with no real direction, no consistency and no regard for Kumi's artistry. And yet with these cover albums it's a completely different story. I don't know if it's a cultural thing in regards to respect for source material that Japanese artists and labels feel the need to uphold. But the difference in quality between Kumi's cover albums and her original albums is stark. Like literal night and day. Kumi's approach to these songs and to singing is in a different league to what she gives on her original albums, and I don't understand how she herself doesn't see the difference and think about applying herself differently - because her music would benefit greatly if she were to.

Color the Cover is a tragic example that Kumi has the talent and the know how to deliver consistency and quality - she's just squandering it on her original albums.

πŸ‘πŸΎ A bitch gives us CONSISTENCY
πŸ‘ŽπŸΎ The auto-tune on a couple of the songs is too excessive

VERDICT: WIGS OF COLOR


Highlights:
■ Shake Hip
■ Jounetsu
■ One More Time, One More Chance
■ Alone
■ Koyoi no Tsuki no You ni J's fave πŸ†

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