Koda Kumi

biography - 07.02.2014 18:40

She began to realize the importance of listening to fans' feedback, discovering that many fans didn't care if the songs had important or complicated meanings.

Koda Kumi was first inspired by her mother, who worked as a singer at social gatherings and a koto player - a koto is a traditional Japanese zither typically practiced by well-educated young women. At a young age, Koda Kumi wanted to follow her mother’s example and become a singer, participating in her first audition at the age of seven.

Kumi wasn’t the only inheritor of her mother’s musical talents. Her sister misono, two years her junior, is also a singer – initially the lead vocalist of Avex -produced band day after tomorrow, misono has since pursued a solo career.

Whilst still in high school, Koda auditioned alongside Maki Goto for the third generation of idol group Morning Musume, but she was not selected. Later, she participated in the Avex Dream 2000 audition held by Avex Trax, coming second in a field of 120,000 participants. She was signed to Avex’s sublabel Rhythm Zone, and began work on her debut release, albeit without a definite release date.

On December 6 2000, the young Koda Kumi at long last took her first steps into the world of music with her debut single TAKE BACK. Unfortunately, the single sold poorly and failed to chart in Japan, but did reach #18 on the US-based Billboard Hot Dance Maxi-Singles Music Charts. Despite this overseas success, Koda became depressed by this failed attempt to break into the local charts. Similarly, her second single Trust your love reached #39 on the Billboard's Hot 100 Singles chart and even topped the Billboard's Hot Dance Maxi-Singles Music Charts, but again, the singer was mainly disappointed by her lack of domestic success. Two more singles followed, but these too failed to make an impact commercially, even in the US. Koda Kumi was devastated.

In a discussion about this stage of her career, she had told an Avex reporter that she did not care about what kinds of songs she sang. Rather, she focused entirely on singing and did not care about the different ways to express her feelings or experiences. She felt that her fifth single, love across the ocean, was a masterpiece. Whilst it managed to hit #19 on the Oricon chart, the burden of her many failures weighed hard on her shoulders.

A career-saving break came in early 2003 when Koda was approached to sing real Emotion and 1000 no kotoba, the theme songs for Square Enix’s popular video game "Final Fantasy X-2". Koda also provided motion capture choreography for the game and was the Japanese voice of the character Lenne. The resulting single real Emotion / 1000 no kotoba hit #3 on the Oricon Singles chart. She claimed that this release changed her life because she noticed how people around her changed because of the feelings expressed in the songs. She began to change her attitude toward music and to reassess her image. She began to discuss the music that she wanted to make with producers and arrangers, and she listened to a wide range of music, deciding she wanted to try incorporating R&B and hip-hop elements into her future releases. For the first time, she wanted to do a live tour. Whilst working on her feel my mind album, Koda was asked to sing the theme song for a remake of the classic anime "Cutey Honey".

She achieved the success that she was looking for with her 13th single, kiseki, which reached #7 in Japan. Koda began to realize the importance of listening to fans' feedback, discovering that many fans were not bothered if the songs had important or complicated meanings. Rather, the feedback from many fans was for her to keep it simple and straightforward. Her fourth album, secret, was released in February 2005 and peaked at #3 on the Oricon Weekly.

Her career began to take off with the release of BEST ~first things~ in September 2005. Her first singles compilation, it proved to be Kumi's breakthrough, selling nearly 2 million copies and reaching #1 on the Oricon Albums chart. It was ultimately the highest-selling album by a female solo artist in 2005 and was the 17th bestselling album of 2006.

Cherry Girl / Unmei and Kumi's fifth studio album Black Cherry were both released in December 2006, and sold very well. Oricon reports that Black Cherry was the first studio album by a female artist in four years to hold the #1 spot for four weeks, with 802,000 copies sold. The last album to achieve this feat was Hamasaki Ayumi's 2000 album, Duty.

She released her third compilation album, BEST ~BOUNCE & LOVERS~ on March 14 2007. It charted at #2 on both the Oricon Daily and Weekly charts, with first week sales of 161,458 copies. This is a significant decline in first week sales compared to Koda Kumi's last two previous compilations: BEST ~first things~ and BEST ~second session~, which clocked approximate first week sales of 558,916 and 983,359 copies respectively.

On July 7th 2007, Koda participated in the worldwide event Live Earth, performing at Makuhari Messe in Tokyo, where she shared a stage with Rihanna, Linkin Park, Otsuka Ai and abington boys school. Late 2007 also saw a further two single releases: Ai no uta in September and LAST ANGEL in November, the latter featuring Korean band Tohoshinki.

In 2008, Koda’s pace didn’t slow, releasing four new singles, sixth studio album KINGDOM and a handful of new live DVDs. She also toured extensively throughout Japan, both solo and alongside other artists.

She launched headlong into 2009 with the release of TRICK on January 28th. The album charted at #1 and was followed in March by two compilation albums, Out Works & Collaboration Best and Koda Kumi Driving Hit’s, plus the single It's all Love!. Koda duetted with her younger sister misono on the title track of It's all Love!. In summer, two more singles came out, followed by the live DVD Live Tour 2009: TRICK in autumn. She also kept up a busy touring schedule.

The same can be said of 2010, with Koda keeping up a steady flow of new releases, including the compilation-studio album hybrid BEST~third universe~ & 8th AL "UNIVERSE". In July, she held the two-day Dream music park event at Yokohama Stadium and participated in Avex Group’s a-nation'10 tour in August. Koda ended the year with the single Suki de, Suki de, Suki de. / Anata dake ga in September and live DVD LIVE TOUR 2010 ~UNIVERSE~ in October.

The first three months of 2011 saw the releases of single POP DIVA and ninth studio album Dejavu. In promotion of the album, she embarked on the sold-out nationwide tour Koda Kumi Live Tour 2011 ~Dejavu~. In November 2011, she released the single, Love Me Back, and then in December, proudly announced her engagement to KENJI03, vocalist of BACK-ON. The couple married later the same month. Also in December, Koda performed at the annual LAWSON presents MUSIC FOR ALL, ALL FOR ONE festival.

Her 2012 commenced with the release of tenth studio album JAPONESQUE on January 25, which debuted at #1 on the Oricon Weekly charts. The live DVD LIVE TOUR 2011 ~Dejavu~ followed two weeks later, topping the Oricon DVD chart with overall sales of over 35,600 copies. In March, the remix album Koda Kumi Driving Hit’s 4 was released. In July, Koda gave birth a son. August brought another remix album, Beach Mix, and in October, her 53rd single, the aptly-titled Go the the top became the singer’s 9th Oricon #1. She ended the year travelling throughout Japan on the KODA KUMI Premium Night~Love & Songs~ tour, and bade farewell to 2012 with her 54th single Koishikute.

On February 27 2013, Koda's second cover album Color the Cover came out, reaching #3 on the Oricon Weekly. Prolific as ever, two further releases followed in March: remix album Koda Kumi Driving Hit's 5 and live DVD KODA KUMI Premium Night ~Love & Songs~. Around the same time, she set out on a nationwide arena tour. Summer saw no slow down in activity, with July 31st bringing the single Summer Trip, followed by an appearance on August 3rd at the event a-nation island Departure. With the release of Dreaming Now! on November 13th, Koda celebrated her 31st birthday, but didn't stop for a break. On the contrary, early December saw the start of the belated JAPONESQUE promotional tour, which visited venues throughout Japan.

On February 26 2014, Koda Kumi released her eleventh studio album, Bon Voyage. The release was accompanied by a nationwide hall tour, consisting of 44 lives in 25 cities. In mid-March, her eighth remix album Driving Hit's 6 came out. Outside of music, Koda Kumi has served as a model for fashion house Christian Dior in Japan.

We are curious to see what shape her next projects will take, and whether she might someday perform outside Japan.
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