Album review: Kumi Koda - AND

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

AND released during what I refer to as the third phase of the Kumi Musical Universe. The musical downfall. Kumi is popular, far more active than her once rival Ayumi Hamasaki, and has cemented herself as a J-Pop fixture. But the music she's releasing is complete and utter doo-doo. And image wise, a bitch is going through some form of crisis. And just when Kumi thought she'd wiped the floor with Ayu's wig, Namie Amuro was already cleaning the windows with both of theirs.

The double album which came before, W Face, was widely seen as a bit of a mess. But both of its variants still occupied the top two spots on the Oricon chart. So that 180° and righting of wrongs that you thought you might get with the follow up, didn't happen with the follow-up album AND. It is a better album though, but it's probably by chance. Because if there's one thing Kumi doesn't do is learn lessons from her albums.

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

AND follows W Face by being part of a dual album release; the difference being that AND and its counterpart DNA would not release at the same time, but within months of each other. Going the dual route with W Face wasn't the only issue with the album(s), but it played a part. If anything, the decision to split AND and DNA into 2 albums was even less sensical than W Face, because one album doesn't offer anything more nor different from the other. It's just...more of the same, and a case of one album being split into two SKU's for a shot at two positions on the ORICON chart and sales of two albums in a year. It's a shameless. But this is Kumi Koda. A bitch knows not of shame.

AND feels like a stop gap release more than anything. Almost like a mixtape or a collection of B-side material. It doesn't feature the obligatory album intro that every Kumi Koda album has (not that I'm complaining) and it has the leanest tracklist of any of her albums. Whilst AND does feel a bit cobbled together, it is at least consistent in its sound. The sound however, is severely dated. Every chart sound and trope that was rife between 2009 and 2015 is condensed into this album. "Party" sounds like The Black Eyed Peas' "I Got a Feeling" and near enough every David Guetta produced song in existence. "Who" sounds like Pop leaning Trap style songs with chorus drops with minimal lyrics (a la Fifth Harmony's "Worth It"). "Outta My Head" sounds like a knock-off of Taylor Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble". And randomly, "All Right" sounds like Des'ree's "You Gotta Be" if it were remade by Stargate.

Nothing about this album feels fresh in any way, and at this point in Kumi's career it kinda needed to be. But more-so is the quality of the songs themselves. They just aren't that good. Kumi's vocals are a mess when she bothers to sing instead of rap. The production is far too busy. Kumi is clearly clinging to these types of sounds in a bid to be seen as cool and hip, and nothing else. The saving grace is that the songs are short, nothing outstays its welcome, and the whole thing is over in 10 tracks. The album is barely over half an hour long. But this doesn't negate the fact that AND feels unnecessary. If it were shown just a smidgen more care, AND actually could have been a decent lil' album. But as was the case with Walk of My Life, Namie did what Kumi tried to do here better with Uncontrolled (which wasn't even that great, yet still kicks this albums' ass), Feel and _genic.

In typical Kumi fashion, there are a couple of songs where she gets things right, although she has to re-tread old ground in order to do it. The albums' obligatory ballad "Never Enough" is really nice. It sticks out like fuck amongst the EDM and high-energy songs which surround it, but it's a nice bit of respite from all of the noise, and a reminder that one of Kumi's sweet spots is ballads. "All Right" is a nice, light Pop bop in the same vein as Universe's "Comes Up" and "You're So Beautiful". Nothing great or special, but still a good song. The charm of "Never Enough" and "You're So Beautiful" is that they're not trying so hard to be anything in particular. They're just two cute songs being cute.

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

Kumi' Koda's Achilles heel continues to be that she has a different view of what she thinks people want from her versus what people actually want from her. Being a chameleon is fine. But even artists who change their shit every album, still give something specific and consistent within that album. Whether it's Christina Aguilera's Stripped and Back to Basics, Hikaru Utada's Deep River and Ultra Blue, Madonna's Ray of Light and Music or Ayumi Hamasaki's Rock 'n' Roll Circus and Love Songs. This is precisely why Kumi Koda would be so much better giving us concept albums which confine her to a style or a theme, because she doesn't have it in her to deliver a consistent album otherwise. Her cover albums are two of her best albums, which show her in a completely different light to any of her original releases, and I think it's because they have a clear focus. Covers. Kumi seems to want to show that she can do it all within one album, which has the opposite effect, because she fails to nail so much of what she seems to think she's killing.

Kumi spends so much time trying to be all of these other artists and do all of these other sounds, that she has no sense of self any more. Her identity is being all of the identities, which amounts to absolutely nothing.

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

AND was very clearly a stop gap release and part of the Kumi machine to just have something out that's in the charts for the sake of it. Nothing about this album was about artistic integrity or a need to satisfy fans, because gurl...the quality. But for what it is, AND isn't completely terrible. I only like a couple of the songs, and the whole thing is marred by the same issues that Kumi's albums have been plagued by since Kingdom - but I wouldn't call this album shit.

ND was the filler piece before the arrival of DNA, that if you see it this way, it doesn't seem so bad. That said, AND would have worked far better as a 5 track Summer EP.


πŸ‘πŸΎ Short and doesn't out stay its welcome.
πŸ‘ŽπŸΎ No memorable bops

■ Sweetest Taboo
■ Never Enough
■ All Right