You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks

February 21, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Posted in ~Special | 8 Comments
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Ayumi Hamasaki, Koda Kumi and BoA are some of Japan’s biggest singers and if you’re a fan of Japanese music there’s no way you haven’t heard of them. When I first got into J-pop they were some of the singers that I started out listening to. Songs such as Moments, no more words, 1000 no Kotoba, real Emotion and Every Heart were some of my favourite songs and they still are. However, over the years my interest in them has dropped severely. My interest rises occasionally when they release a good song but that’s only momentarily. My major grip with them is the fact that their releases have become incredibly predictable.

Their albums aren’t disasters by any means and they have some pretty solid albums but they always follow the same pattern for each release. When I first discovered them they were fresh and interesting. After following them over the years I started to notice how formulaic their albums were. When you have a handful of fans saying “this sounds like every other song she’s done” and calling the song a rehash, you know there’s a problem. Their release pattern needs to be changed because the constant repetition of releasing a summer, winter, upbeat and ballad single is getting really old. This is making the quality of their music drop because every winter and summer song sound the same. Even the quality of their ballads has dropped and they used to have some really great ballads. I’m not saying the songs are bad because I enjoy them but this is why they’re not artists that I care for.

Ayumi’s strongest tracks are her experimental rock tracks such as alterna, Sparkle and 1 LOVE but even these songs have followed the exact same pattern. They’re always the same tempo and the same style. She used to have some really jaw-dropping ballads but now her ballads are a chore to get through most of the time. It’s really sad that the constant release schedule she’s following is hindering the quality of her music. Ayumi hasn’t experimented at all with her albums lately and it would do her some good to break out of her pattern. It would also help if she didn’t rely on the same producers all the time. It would be interesting to see her work with producers she’s never worked with before. Working with Geo from Sweetbox was great for her and it made (miss)understood stand out from the rest of her albums.

Koda’s release pattern is very similar to Ayumi’s but what bothers me more with Koda is her constant change in appearance from cute to sexy. I like a few of her cute songs but her strongest material is her dance tracks. She’s fierce when she goes “ero-kakkoi” and her music is much better. Her cute songs are hit or miss for me and I’m annoyed that she always includes them on every album. I understand that she enjoys making these songs but they don’t need to be included on every single album because they affect the unity of the album. It feels like she’s having an identity crisis and can’t make up her mind on who she wants to be. Furthermore, the fact that she makes great dance tracks and only puts a few of them on her albums is irritating. She focuses on cute songs and ballads which are her weakest material and doesn’t leave much room for her strong points.

Similarly, BoA suffers from the exact same problem that Koda does. BoA is a fantastic dancer and her dance tracks like Dakishimeru and Outgrow ~Ready Butterfly~ are hot. However, there are only a few of these songs released per album. I know people like well-rounded albums with a variety of tempos but it wouldn’t hurt BoA and Koda to release on album of pure dance tracks with a few mid-tempos thrown in. The reason I love BoA’s English album, BoA, is because it’s an album of pure dance music. I would like to see her bring that to her Japanese music but I know that will probably never happen.

These are the biggest issues I have with these singers and it doesn’t mean I dislike them or their albums but I would like them a lot better if they changed things up a bit and stopped relying on the same formula. There are singers that I like that follow the same pattern but it works for them and they focus on what they do best. Ayumi, Koda and BoA do not focus on what they do best and it results in predictable material. There are no surprises with these singers because once you’ve heard one of their albums you’ve heard them all.

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  1. Wow, you were so right with this post. I experienced the very same problems, especially with Ayumi. She can release some pretty solid songs once in a while, but some of her songs also sound very alike.
    The thing with most Japanese singers is that they release one album a year, sometimes two, and maybe they need to take a step back sometimes to really produce some stronger material. I can’t agree with you more on this one^^

    • I totally agree. They should take a break and stop rushing albums out. They need to find inspiration and take their time making an album. The quality of their music is declining because of their constant releases.

  2. I feel like this is a lose lose situation for singers since they have their sound and if the change it up too much they lose some of their fans. I like Ayu and that she goes from electro, rock and ballads though the may sometimes sound the same their isn’t much she hasn’t experimented with. Koda has a good mix but yes there is a pattern but I can’t see it changing due to the cut throat nature of Jpop. As for BoA she I feel like the passion she has for music is dying she looks she is having a bad time due to SM and Avex cracking the whip on her constantly and her rapid decline.Also being Korean there are certain things she can’t do like go really mature/sexy and I think her English album was weak.

    Ayu should take a break or have baby….

    • I don’t think they need to worry about losing fans. They’re losing fans because they keep releasing the same thing. They don’t have to completely change their sound but it would be nice if they played around with it. I also don’t see Koda changing her pattern but maybe one day she’ll surprise everyone. There are many Japanese singers that don’t follow patterns so I don’t know why Koda always does. BoA does seem like she’s losing her passion for music. In some of her live performances she looks really bored and uninterested in what she’s doing. It might be because she’s worn out and if that’s the case her record label needs to give her some rest and stop pushing her so much. I agree that Ayumi needs to take a break and I think it would be good if Koda and BoA did as well.

  3. I feel exactly the same – it certainly wouldn’t hurt for them to play around with their sound. I don’t see any way for them to lose fans so long as they revolve around their old style while experimenting as well. To be honest, I don’t listen to Ayumi Hamasaki and Koda Kumi much anymore for that very reason. In the beginning, I found some of their material highly addictive and enjoyable, but recently my love for both artists have just died. My interest in BoA is also slipping, I really hope they spark some interest in me again.
    Of course, we really can’t forget that the major artists may or are receiving a lot of pressure from their labels. It may not be the artists themselves choosing to stick to the same style, of course, I would be understand any tentativeness regarding experimentation – it’s risky biz. It’s entirely possible to end up with a brilliant gem or a trainwreck, after all.

    • Experimentation is definitely risky and I can understand why they would be reluctant to do so. They don’t really have to experiment to make an album sound different than they’re current material though. Even trying out new genres or producers would be a step in the right direction. I think part of the problem stems from the fact that they’re all under avex. I cannot stand avex and throughout the years I’ve come to hate them more and more. They’re my least favourite label even though they have a lot of great singers under them.

  4. Great post, you took the words out of my mouth. Especially your judgment on BoA and Koda’s releases. I don’t really follow Ayumi so I can’t really say anything on her music.
    IA, out of all the albums BoA has released lately, her American release was definitely the best for me. Her MVs for all the singles she promoted from that album were all kickass. As for Hurricane Venus, while I quite like some of the ballads there (especially Implode and Don’t Know What To Say) I feel the mix of songs included there could have been better. This was my problem as well with her recent Japanese release, Identity.
    Out of the original three I used to follow–BoA, Koda and Namie Amuro, it’s only the latter I’m still keen on following. From her most recent album, Past < Future, Namie limited the ballad to just one song only and kept everything else in theme. I wish Koda would do the same, but then again, like what others said, it's probably Avex who gets to decided which songs will make the cut.

    • Thank you! BoA’s promotion for her American debut made me like her a lot more. I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed the album. I agree with you on Namie Amuro. She’s been able to keep things fresh and interesting and she’s been in the music business longer than Ayumi has.


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