Beni, Crystal Kay, Kumi Koda & Mika Nakashima feature on the Speed tribute album, Speed Spirits

Beni, Crystal Kay, Kumi Koda & Mika Nakashima feature on the Speed tribute album, Speed Spirits | Random J Pop

Ayumi Hamasaki is like 'I'mma do me and my kids right now'. Kumi Koda is doing whatever. Namie Amuro has an injunction put out on Avex pimping her shit so that she can just be retired in peace. And Faky are still on a restraining order from releasing albums. So here we are with a Speed tribute album, titled Speed Spirits.

Speed were a Japanese pop group who debuted way back in 1996, disbanded in 2000, got back together in 2001, and then disbanded again in 2012.

Despite not being all that long lived, they had a pretty huge fanbase in their heyday, and influenced many artists in J-Pop. It's actually a wonder why Avex didn't release a Speed tribute album sooner, but I doubt they've encountered periods as slow as they've witnessed over the past couple of years, where they've not had a churning out of releases, and so few heavy hitters on the Oricon charts.

Speed Spirits features a range of artists, which includes Lisa, Reni Takagi, Seiko Oomori, Kumi Koda, Beni and Crystal Kay. It's an odd mix of artists. And when you listen to the album it doesn't flow and the whole thing is all over the place. And the cover isn't reflective of the sound of the album at all. But those of you who check out Random J Pop know that Beni, Crystal Kay and Kumi Koda get air-time around these parts. So let's get into their covers.

Beni covers "All My True Love"

Beni - All My True Love | © 2021 Avex Entertainment Inc.

Beni's cover of Speed's "All My True Love" flips a cutesy early 90s J-Pop cut into something sleeker and more disco driven. Beni guts the song completely, but in a good way. The entire vibe and energy of Beni's cover is so far removed from the original to a point that the song sounds new. SPEED's original had such a charm to it, that if you were and still are a fan of it, you'll probabaly have some choice thoughts on Beni's rendition, as it truly is a completely different song. I feel this is going to be one of those songs that Beni fans will like more than SPEED fans, which makes sense. This SPEED tribute album is more about the artists on it then SPEED themselves.

Beni's music has felt pretty hollow for the past few years, but that warmth she lost, she has it back here, just as she did on Made in Love. Maybe it's motherhood. I won't say 'Crystal Kay would've suited this and done it better', because I could say that about many a song and cover. But... *Looks into the camera*

Crystal Kay covers "Steady"

Crystal Kay - Steady | © 2021 Avex Entertainment Inc.

As with Beni's cover of "All My True Love", Crystal says 'Fuck the original'. Crystal retains the R&B which underpinned the original and puts it front and centre. Completely softening the sound of the original to something which feels more chilled. Whether Speed fans will dig it or not is tough to call. I think fans will appreciate hearing a far more 'grown' version of "Steady" which recontextualises the song for women and not young girls, which is more fitting given that those who were Speed fans as youngsters are all grown now.

Crystal Kay fans will definitely dig her cover of "Steady" though; as it not only has Crystal back in proximity to R&B, but she's settling into so many facets of her voice, and allowing it to carry the song. Crystal sound so damn good. And those who have been following my posts on The Masked Singer Japan will probabaly know what I'mma say next.

Crystal's 2020 cover album I Sing could have done with a song like this. It would have made a nice companion to something like the album standout "Kaede". Also, where was this release when Crystal's ass done got de-masked on Amazon Prime Video?! The timing of Crystal's releases are so weird. I get that this Speed album isn't Crystal's and is released through a different label to that of which she is signed to. But gurl. I'm sure SOMETHING coulda been worked out, especially as it's in service of the album. Also, Exile run Avex. So I'm sure one of those 56 members coulda sent a fax.


This song is really nice. And if Crystal's team were on their shit, they woulda made sure there was a video for this song. But her team ain't shit, so *Shrugs*.

Gurl. Fire the whole management and marketing team.

Kumi Koda covers "I Remember"

Kumi Koda - I Remember | © 2021 Avex Entertainment Inc.

Kumi Koda does good covers. Two of her best albums are her cover albums. So it's unsurprising that Kumi doesn't fuck this up how she does her own shit. But as nice as Kumi's cover of "I Remember" is, I actually think it would have been better if the sound stuck closer to the original version of the song. The original version of "I Remember" is like a fusion between early the 2000s Harpsichord sound and ska. My description is awful, but basically, the original has a sound that Kumi has done several times herself and sounds great on. So it's a shame she didn't lean into that and give us a throwback moment; especially as she has a Best album dropping in time for Christmas. But her cover is still nice and really showcases the nicer qualities of her voice that we don't always get to hear on her studio recordings these days.

Mika Nakashima covers "My Graduation"

Mika Nakashima - I Remember | © 2021 Avex Entertainment Inc.

With "All My True Love", "Steady" and "I Remember", Beni, Crystal and Kumi all flipped the original versions into something which felt closer to their own styles. Where-as with "My Graduation", there was nothing for Mika to flip, because the song is right up her alley as it is.

I'm not a big fan of this cover. I think Kumi Koda would have done a much better job of it. But Mika fans will live for it, because it really does sound like a song that Mika would do and has done before. It's safe as all hell, but that's Mika Nakashima for you.

This may as well had been a damn album review.

Speed Spirits is a cool project. Most of the covers are pretty different to the originals to the point that the album feels like it's as much of a celebration of the artists doing the covers as it is Speed themselves. I mean, none of the members are even on the album cover. Which reminds me, what is up with the album cover!?

Random note. BoA on this album woulda been a good look.

🔊 Stream Speed Spirits: Spotify | Apple Music | YouTube Music