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Day 10: Koda Kumi – “Bon Voyage” (2014)
Genre: Pop / Dance / R’n’B
On my last blog I got many, many requests to write about Koda Kumi but ended up never doing it, partly because I didn’t feel like it, but also because I expected a flame-war. You see, I’ve been called a “hater” by Koda Kumi fans many, many times before when I’ve given my opinion – a sad reaction to differing points of view. I’ll attempt to give an objective review, but keep in mind that, if I don’t like something, I will be frank about it.
Introduction ～Bon Voyage～ is an upbeat urban intro reminiscent of Beyonce’s trashier songs. I’m not a big fan of those heavily repetitive songs set on overly simplistic beats, but it does set the mood well.
When a song is genuinely catchy and fun, I’ll give props where due. SHOW ME YOUR HOLLA is such a case. The beat is electric and ready to discharge, the vocal delivery on point and there’s electronic and slight swing accents that work really well with the composition. It’s the type of song that, when overplayed, could quickly become hated, but in doses it’s just so damn fun!
Kumi is infamous for collaborating with less than talented western acts on her albums and, who would have thought, there is a Sean Paul collaboration! LOADED isn’t as painful as it could have been, but it’s messy, annoying and Paul’s contributions are obnoxious at best. There’s a nice little breakdown in the middle that, while generic, almost saves the song, but I won’t be putting this on any playlists.
I hate songs like Winner Girls. You know, the ones that sound like they could have been fun, but then fall into that awkward category between sexy and cute and just blast the same few words at you over and over in the chorus. Is this trying to be an empowerment anthem? I can’t even tell! I guess when she’s asking to be taken and loved like a toy by the boy(see the rhyme? It’s lyrics!) that gets questionable.
One thing I never liked about Koda’s albums, even the albums I generally enjoy like TRICK, are the bland R’n’B ballads she likes to use as filler. Not the fact that she includes R’n’B ballads, but just how bad hers are. The songs painfully point out her lacking vocal control and breath support and overdraw their recycled melodies with plastic production to the point of being insufferable. Imagine is just that. She’s proven she can do it with songs like Slow before, so why release this…excrement?
I don’t absolutely hate 恋しくて. Yes, it’s forgettable. It’s a J-Pop winter ballad, of course it’s forgettable. But it features a cute little piano melody and I’m not going to hate on her for doing what she has to do to stay relevant. The business demands these songs, so she releases them.
I believe that LALALALALA is from Hannah Montana’s discard pile. Next.
This may just be the first time I’ve encountered two consecutive interludes on an album, but Let’s show tonight is fun and I don’t understand why they didn’t go all-out and produced a full jazzy, show tune-y dance track like the one hinted at in it. 81 seconds aren’t enough. Interlude～Bon Voyage～ goes straight back to halfbaked EDM, but is decent enough at that.
The next full track, TOUCH DOWN, sounds like it was inspired by Madonna’s 2008-2012 work. Which itself was inspired by half-assed urban pop. Unfortunately, Koda has about 5% of the personality Madonna has and even Madonna failed to make it work. You get my drift. I do like some of the vocoding and octave shifting in the song, though.
Crank Tha Bass is one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. The heavy distortion is used to hide just how bad this song is. The guest rap verse isn’t atrocious, but Koda’s rapping sounds like a cat slowly being sliced open.
LOL is actually kinda catchy, in a suicidal kind of way. It’s just such an unenthusiastic, by-the-numbers song. Any Disney “singer” could have released it.
Bits of chiptune introduce Go to the top. And I must admit, I like the song! Yes, I find it annoying, but I also really, really like the production work on the song. It effortlessly connects 8bit verses, modern beats and electric guitars. And the vocals? A lot more bearable than in most of the other songs. I always thought Kumi had a fantastic timbre to her voice that could potentially make songs great, but she more often than not fails to use it well and just kind of…grunts, talks and screams instead of singing.
Oh no, not another Disney princess attempt at a pop hit…it feels like Koda is aging in the wrong direction, where other singers grow up and get more taste, Koda’s music just sounds more like a teenager’s idea of good music every album she releases. Dreaming Now! is sugar-coated and features that beat you have heard in every Flo Rida and Pitbull song in the last couple years. Is it bad on it’s own? No, not really. Just infuriating proof of just how opposed to artistic growth Koda is.
On Your Side is back to being all edgy and modern before getting a lot lighter in the chorus. It fails, of course, by being insanely boring and providing some intense mood whiplash. I’ve gotten used to that by now.
Just 3 more minutes until I have survived the album! U KNOW starts off promising enough with another chiptune beat before going into more of a dubstep direction. And if I ignore the cookie-cutter chorus I actually do enjoy the song! It’s not great music, but it doesn’t make me want to scratch out my ears, so that’s nice.
I have had a love/hate relationship with Koda Kumi for years. I get excited every time she releases a new album and grab it the moment I can find it, but then quickly get discouraged when actually listening to the thing. She’s the definition of quantity over quality. When she’s at her best she releases some instant classic pop hits, TABOO, POP DIVA, ECSTASY, show girl and Butterfly are my jams. And both her videos and her performances can be pretty good at times – and completely uninspired other times. But more often than not, Koda Kumi is just mass-producing replaceable garbage. For every pop masterpiece, there’s 10 songs that are barely listenable. Feel free to send hatemail my way now.