Koda Kumi - TRICK

review - 02.08.2009 07:00

The pop princess' latest album goes in a new direction with a strong group of dance tracks, but it falls short with lack of attention to its more mellow songs.

Like with her image, Koda Kumi has polished her songs and distinctive raspy voice over the years. Kumi created high hopes for her newest album, TRICK, with the chart-topping singles leading up to the album. The singles took her onto a new path in her niche in the Japanese music industry, particularly TABOO: it is sleek and edgy, while still maintaining her usual coy showmanship. TRICK does not disappoint with the solid dance tracks, but they're not enough to keep the album from being only slightly above average.

The album's introduction prepares the listeners for a show with a well-orchestrated mix that gives listeners the image of Kumi and her crew getting ready and slowly filing onto stage. The introduction does what it's supposed to do and sets up a terrific starting point for TABOO, the pulsating electro pop single that topped the Oricon weekly charts for a week. TABOO, as well as This is not a love song, an electronic-urban track, and Driving, a house-inspired composition, bring Koda Kumi into the new territory previously mentioned. This is not a love song meticulously balances heavy and delicate electronic beats, while Driving lures us in with an introduction à la Daft Punk's Oh Yeah. Fittingly, Driving is the kind of track that you want to blast in your car while you're speeding down the highway.

Also of note is the third track, show girl, which taps into jazz and blues, a departure from the usual electronic and R&B influences found in Kumi's music. While it does sound a little bit like something from Christina Aguilera's Back to Basics album, it has a tinge of Koda Kumi's Secret era that makes it retro-modern and completely her.

But that's kind of the end the line. The stand-out songs have a lot of character, while the rest are quite unremarkable in terms of her usual standards. The major weak points are the fact that the album relies on catchiness by virtue of repetition, resulting in weak compositions and overly sentimental ballads. Bling Bling Bling feels like it's mostly comprised of the messy chorus "Baby all I want is bling bling bling" - it also doesn't help that the song reeks of Fergie's London Bridge. Speaking of which, That Ain't Cool, TRICK's ninth track, features the American singer - or should it be the other way around? Truthfully, for a song that has the credits "Koda Kumi featuring Fergie," the latter overpowers the former to the point where Kumi might as well be a back-up singer with a few extra lines.

The ballads on the album, in comparison to the album's upbeat tracks, are dull and cliché, and her emotions feel either forced or strained, though stay with me does tug at the heartstrings. It's rather disappointing, since we know from 1000 no kotoba that she is completely capable of singing a moving ballad. The songs Joyful and Venus (available only on the CD version) were not ballads, but felt just as out of place with their 80's power-pop sound. Additionally, Venus came as something of a bizarre surprise as the full-length version of the tune is used in the Japanese advertisements for the women's shaving razor line of the same name.

TABOO had the potential to be Koda Kumi's best album, but fell short due to its inconsistent composition and the gap between the stronger tracks and the weaker tracks. Kumi did an outstanding job with songs like TABOO, This is not a love song and Driving; those and the other stand-out dance tunes in her repertoire are more than enough to overshadow Bling Bling Bling. Koda Kumi has already proven her aptitude in creating and experimenting with addictive dance tunes, so we can only hope she'll extend her reach and focus just as much on the softer tracks to make her future albums solid all around.
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