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Album review: BoA - Kiss My Lips

Album review: BoA - Kiss My Lips | Random J Pop

When BoA made her long-awaited comeback to K-Pop in 2010 with Hurricane Venus, there wasn't much in the way of music growth from what BoA had done before. The teaser song "Game" was great. But then the title track was just shit that was typical of SM Entertainment at the time. It could've been a Girls' Generation song, a Super Junior song, or a TVXQ song. Nothing about it felt unique or new to BoA. NOTHING. And the album gave nothing. Then there was BoA's follow up Only One, which gave us an amazing title track that felt fresh for BoA, but still stuck in the typical SM sound with "The Shadow" and a wholly unremarkable album.

"Only One" stuck though, and not just because it featured amazing choreography. It was a really good song, which showed great promise for BoA to potentially navigate a musical path for herself which would show the growth we hadn't gotten for a considerable amount of time; something she showed off in earnest with Kiss My Lips.

Kiss My Lips came and went pretty fast, even by K-Pop standards, with a title track that didn't catch on at all. But Kiss My Lips was such an important album for BoA because it was truly the start of her taking full control of her image and her music, for one of the first times in her K-Pop career.

Album review: BoA - Kiss My Lips | Random J Pop

Kiss My Lips has a very clear objective. In fact, you could argue it has two. One is to really try and funnel BoA’s sound as well as redefine it to be a reflection of the artist she wanted to be at that point in her career. The other was to really place it front and centre that BoA is a grown ass woman now. Kiss My Lips does a great job at both, even though it doesn’t make for an album which feels as cohesive as it could have, because there isn’t much connecting what is clearly 2 different sounds.

Kiss My Lips is split between R&B and songs of a funk / lounge jazz / disco fusion. I don’t know if there’s a term for the latter in terms of filing it under a sound or genre; most would probably just call it disco. BoA has touched on both of these sounds throughout her career in both her Korean and Japanese albums, so it’s nothing new for BoA. But the commitment she gives to the songs and the command she has of the styles is what makes these songs work here in ways they haven't in the past.

The issue here is that “Kiss My Lips” stands out SO fucking much on this album, because there’s no other song on the album comparable to it. It’s really bizarre. Because despite this song doing a perfect job of giving BoA a sound that feels so right for her in every way, really putting her womanhood and sexuality on display, and setting a tone for the entire album - the other songs don’t follow suit in the ways that you’d expect. So the result is an album which feels like it would work better without “Kiss My Lips”, even though “Kiss My Lips” is the best song on the album and the centrepiece of the whole damn album.

Album review: BoA - Kiss My Lips | Random J Pop

A problem with a lot of BoA’s earlier album material is that so much of it was of the time and were heavily influenced by US radio to a point some songs sounded like knock-offs, so they sound REALLY dated now. Kiss My Lips does a great job of avoiding such trappings. “Blah” is the only song which feels very tied to a specific moment in the pop timeline, where everybody was doing mid-tempo pop power ballads of a style that was popularised largely by Ryan Tedder and Stargate circa 2008 - off the back of songs like Beyonce’s “Halo” and Rihanna’s “Take a Bow”. “Blah” literally sounds like it was plucked out of 2008. It also wasn’t the best song to close the album with. And the line in the chorus ‘I’m in the centre of a controversy’ sure hits differently now following BoA finding herself smack bang in the middle of a scandal which halted all promotion of her album at the time.

Even songs from the albums which came not long before Hurricane Venus and Only One sound dated now. Funk / lounge jazz / disco fusion songs have such a timeless sound to them that they’ll always sound good, and each one of these songs is great. "Fox" makes my Black ass want do the candy dance, and "Green Light" makes me wanna put on a sequinned jumpsuit and a Jheri curl wig and spin under a disco ball.

Whilst none of these songs share ANYTHING in common sonically to "Kiss My Lips", they're equally as sexually charged. Don't let the cute sounds fool you. BoA is as comfortable singing about her traffic light pussy over disco strings, and that she wants to smash on some lounge jazz, as she is telling a man to French kiss her coochie on a slinky R&B joint.

BoA is letting the boys and girls know that she is GROWN, and that poon pop is on the menu from here on out.

Album review: BoA - Kiss My Lips | Random J Pop

Kiss My Lips is an album that gets a little lost in BoA’s discography, and I get why. It doesn’t have a lot of songs which hit you square between the eyes, and it’s pretty subdued on the whole in comparison to what we’ve gotten from BoA in the past. But don't let this fool you. Kiss My Lips is an album of good songs from top to bottom, which can be attributed to BoA having a clear understanding of what works for her and what her lane is. 

I was pleasantly surprised when I heard Kiss My Lips, because it was a clear acknowledgement that she actually liked what she did on her 7th Japanese studio album Identity - an album that many people shat on, and is regarded as little more than the album that kick started BoA's sales falling off in Japan. But it wasn't a bad album, and I'm glad that BoA didn't let the failure of it be attributed to the music. The freedom of expression BoA was able to show and her betting on her own musical talents on Identity is what led her to be able to put together an album like Kiss My Lips. It also gave BoA a taste for writing and producing her own material, as Kiss My Lips is one of BoA’s first and only albums on which she has a writing credit on every song.

BoA was making a statement with Kiss My Lips. She was reclaiming full control of her sound after years of chasing other people’s. With “Only One” there was a very conscious shift in BoA’s music, in that she was beginning to care more about creating a musical legacy that wasn’t just bops and songs that got all kills on charts, but songs which were true to who she was and would stand the test of time. She makes good on this with Kiss My Lips. The album title track is one of the best songs BoA has ever put out. It’s sublime. And whilst the rest of the music on this album doesn’t quite match it, there isn’t a bad song here. Each song feels like an honest snapshot of BoA having stepped into her own light as a songwriter and an actual artist - not just an any idol or a puppet of SM Entertainment.

Album review: BoA - Kiss My Lips | Random J Pop

Kiss My Lips isn’t a BoA album that fights for your attention, but its quiet confidence is part of what makes it such a good album. It's a great representation of BoA at a point in her career where she knew she had nothing to prove and she was 100% sure of who she was and the kind of artist she wanted to be. The sequencing isn’t the best, and this album could have done with 1 or 2 songs of a style which helps connect the R&B cuts “Kiss My Lips” and “Home” to the disco hybrid joints and a song like “Shattered”. But for a pop star who I’d always dragged for not having a sense of self when it came to her music, I couldn’t have asked BoA for much more than this.

VERDICT: PUSSY

Highlights:
■ Kiss My Lips 🏆
■ Smash
■ Shattered
■ Fox
■ Double Jack
■ Home 🔥
■ Love and Hate
■ Green Light

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