June 5, 2012 at 11:10 pm | Posted in Koda Kumi | 6 Comments
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  1. Introduction ~JAPONESQUE~
  2. So Nice feat. Mr. Blistah
  3. Boom Boom Boys
  4. V.I.P. feat. T-Pain (Album Version)
  5. Slow feat. Omarion
  6. Brave
  7. Everyday
  9. You are not alone (Acoustic Version)
  10. Interlude ~JAPONESQUE~
  12. Love Me Back
  13. No Man’s Land
  14. Ai wo Tomenaide
  15. KO-SO-KO-SO
  16. Lay Down
  17. Love Technique
  18. Poppin’love cocktail feat. TEEDA
  19. All for you

It was quite crazy for Koda last year. She announced that she was getting married and then shortly after revealed that she was pregnant. Her tenth album, JAPONESQUE, was pushed up due to her pregnancy which had fans even more excited. I went into the album with little knowledge of what to expect because I didn’t keep up with her releases during this era. I only listened to a handful of tracks and I wasn’t too amazed with what I heard. The album cover certainly caught my eye and it’s the best concept she’s done so far. The sexy and mature look of the oiran style is gorgeous and pure eye candy. I was interested to see if this traditional appearance would be a reflection of the record. When the album started getting praised as one of her best, I couldn’t help but get excited.

Introduction ~JAPONESQUE~ is exactly what you would expect after seeing the album cover. Its ethnic beauty comes through immediately as the shamisen comes to life. Contrasting against the organic, oriental instrumental, are Koda’s seductive vocoded vocals repeating “follow me.” As the song reaches it’s centre, her voice becomes even more distorted and the melody explodes with a slew of new beats including chimes and drums. She’s never had such an oriental-based introduction before and it’s very alluring. It does an amazing job of raising your interest and making you excited for what the album has to offer. The ethnic theme continues in the first true song, So Nice feat. Mr. Blistah, marking the second time she’s worked with Mr. Blistah. Like their previous collaboration, this song is wrapped in a luxurious and sexual Middle Eastern air. This mid-tempo oozes sex with its hot production and her provocative performance. She hasn’t had an Arabic song in a long time so it’s great to hear her return to it because she always slays these types of songs. Koda coos seductively over the percussion while Mr. Blistah provides the background vocals. The song doesn’t ignite until the chorus but once it does, it’s impossible to resist. She switches between a breathy, sex-charged tone and a sharp, high register in the chorus. Thrown into the background is some intense moaning from the singer. With the busier sultry melody, it’s so intimate and steamy. Mr. Blistah’s breakdown is just as captivating. He raps hard but still manages to convey the soft, sexual elements that she performs with. The track is incredibly addicting, one of the album’s best. Boom Boom Boys brings up the heat with a combination of rock and electronic elements. A gritty guitar riff is paired with her sassy vocals and it’s very in-your-face. The blend of genres really aids in the song’s catchiness and makes it stand out. I’m not usually a fan of her rock-oriented songs but the dance-oriented side of the melody does wonders. The chorus bursts into a fiery hook that is dominated with energy, power and attitude. The guitar becomes even more insane and during the middle portion of the chorus, her voice gets a large dose of vocoder that just meshes right into the intense riff. She takes the brash nature of rock and throws it right into the non-stop energy of dance-pop. Her “oh oh ohs” are so damn catchy and she’s so playful throughout the entire track. The breakdown is electrifying due to the barrage of synths and there’s a slight annoyance to her voice but her sassy attitude makes up for it.

V.I.P. feat. T-Pain (Album Version) was one of the songs I checked out before the album’s release and now it’s been updated with the inclusion of T-Pain. I’m always up for a slutty anthem from Koda but this is kind of a mess. The beat is fire though. It’s sexy, fierce and it has a banging display of provocative synths. It’s very quirky and full of that Koda charm. What brings the song down for me is the vocal work. She doesn’t sound bad but there’s so much going on, resulting in a lack of focus. Everything kind of muddles together. There’s vocoded backing vocals, panting backing vocals and unaltered backing vocals. She even jumps between registers and it just comes across as a huge mess. All these elements bring it down and take away from its potential infectiousness. It’s such a shame because I really want to like this track because it has such an interesting composition. I do enjoy the bridge because of her ad-libs and the spastic synth line. After this, it hits an all-time low as T-Pain makes a horrendous appearance with a completely generic rap. The next collaboration, Slow feat. Omarion, is much better. With its slick and smooth R&B/hip hop style, it’s a winner. This mid-tempo is led by a fresh synth and percussion beat, drenched in an edgy hip hop sound. Her voice has a nice layer of vocoder and it suits the nature of the track. She sounds so good with that slight dosage and it blends magically into the electronic melody. The chorus shifts the melody into a slightly more upbeat one and she delivers a strong performance. Her voice is sharp, clear and emotive. There’s a nice laid-back and smooth tone to it that screams R&B. It’s very delicious and makes for a fresh hook. Omarion’s backing vocals blend well with hers and there’s great chemistry between the two of them. Unlike the last collaboration, Omarion’s rap is much more fitting and sounds great. They sound so good together and it’s a very enjoyable tune.

Brave is the album’s first ballad and it’s somewhat typical but it’s quite lovely. The opening piano is soothing and blissful, a great-lead up to her sweet vocals. The song throws out a few surprises as it becomes a lot more complex as it progresses to its chorus as more instruments are incorporated. The chorus is very powerful due to the strings and her passionate delivery. There’s a gorgeous winter and romantic feel to the chorus that really brings a spark to the track. The instrumental break in the bridge is so pretty and her vocals are amazing. She puts so much emotion and strength into them. It’s a nice ballad but it’s just a bit too safe and similar to many of her other ballads. Up next is the first cute track, Everyday, and it comes in the form of a bright R&B tune. Her voice is sweet, innocent and sugary. It definitely has a feel-good flavour to it and its adorableness is hard to resist. This is the lightest tune so far and the playfulness that she evokes is really nice. In the verses, the light synth work is molded with a smooth R&B sound that is very pleasant. The song isn’t anything new for her and she’s done this sound countless times but it’s one of those songs you just can’t hate because of how sweet it sounds. Koda’s voice is so smooth and cute, a perfect match for the colourful arrangement. I really enjoy the chimes that are included because they add a level of innocence to it. The chorus is a burst of sugar as the instrumental livens up and she offers some lovely ad-libs. This is a simple but a lovable tune from start to finish.

In The Air follows the same breezy atmosphere of the previous track but it’s romantic and carries a bit more power. The song opens with a summery, elegant melody consisting of a piano, electric guitar and soft drum beat which makes up the verses. Her voice takes on a deep quality, setting a light-hearted atmosphere. It’s very beautiful but then the song takes an unexpected turn and explodes into an upbeat arrangement which makes the song even more spectacular. The chorus is filled with an uplifting air and Koda’s vocals soar through it, occasionally reaching some lush high notes. The mood in the chorus is so pleasant and such a contrast from the subdued verses. I wasn’t too keen on this song when I first heard it but it’s definitely a grower, thanks to the powerful chorus. A pounding drum and clapping beat is joined by a gentle acoustic guitar in the next track, You Are Not Alone (Acoustic Version). Koda begins ad-libbing before the background vocals chant the chorus with her. There’s much more power to the chorus thanks to the background singers and her heightened vocal delivery. On the other hand, the verses take a mellow approach as she performs with a soft tone. There’s not really much going on in this song and the melody isn’t that ear-catching. The campfire feel that dominates this track isn’t very appealing. Interlude ~JAPONESQUE~ is somewhat of a continuation of the introduction but this is much darker and aggressive. The oriental melody carries a dramatic feel but it eventually morphs to include a barrage of electronic beats just like the introduction. When her voice enters the track, it shifts into a calm, euphoric state and the instrumental slowly builds up into its climax.

Up next is the fast and furious dance anthem, ESCALATE. This up-tempo starts with distorted vocals and is supported by a catchy synth line. The beat is extremely aggressive as it consists of strong percussion and crazy electronic sounds. She opts for an attitude-packed delivery instead of a sexual approach. The song ignites in the chorus because the synths go into overdrive and she sings with a ferocity she hasn’t shown very much on the record. Even though it’s not her catchiest dance song, it’s pretty damn good. Koda jumps into her sexy style for Love Me Back, a spy-esque banger. Donning a sultry tone, she entices her way through a hot and groovy synth beat for the verses. There’s a very cool air about them that really works with the light sexiness she spills into her delivery. Of course, as the track progresses, the melody becomes more exciting and reaches its climax during the chorus where she sings in a delicious high register. I love how provocative this tune is and all the moaning that she does makes it even better. I didn’t like this song very much at first but it’s really grown on me. I still don’t like the English lyrics,“diamonds and sapphires and you, oh my,” but it’s not as intolerable as it was before. The instrumental break in the bridge allows for a better listen of the slick electro beats. This is a playful and wild track that the album desperately needed.

A lonely guitar opens No Man’s Land, the signature rock song of the album, but it’s soon joined by massive drums and even more guitars. This is quite different from her typical rock sound because in the verses she’s mostly rapping and speaking with a vocoder effect and it sounds really good. Her deep voice is perfect for the gritty instrumentation and it’s great to see her experiment even if it is only just slightly. Things pick up in the chorus where the guitars come to life and her flow is impeccable. The hook is easily the most addicting part and I love how her voice gets stronger as it approaches the end. In the bridge, the music dies down but quickly starts to build-up again as a marching drumline comes in which then leads into a fiery combination of drums, guitars and synths while she chants “everybody put your hands like this.” This has a very grand feel to it and it’s one of her most memorable attempts at rock. The experimenting is over as soon as it begins because Ai wo Tomenaide is another typical ballad. With a piano, set of strings and light drum beat, Koda offers a safe ballad that is pleasant to the ears but hardly anything to get excited over. The verses are led by the piano and array of strings with her performing in an elegant manner that becomes more emotionally charged in the chorus which is when the percussion is intertwined with the rest of the instruments. There’s a massive climax in the bridge that is followed by a gentle version of the chorus before it returns to its expressive melody. She sounds strong and passionate, the instrumental is extravagant but it’s just not that impressive and it runs on far too long.

KO-SO-KO-SO is the records saviour and most original track. I’m usually stunned by her club bangers but this is the first album where one of her mid-tempos ends up being my favourite. This is the sexiest song she’s done in a long time and it’s done in such a sultry and classy way. The synths are very European which makes for a much steamier melody. Her voice melts into the futuristic beats and her breathing backing vocals are pure sex. More synths are added during the chorus while she sings energetically, providing a dancier vibe. The song is quite repetitive but it’s marvelous. It has the most addicting and exciting melody on the entire record. Her performance is outstanding and she’s never sounded so hot. It’s raunchy but tasteful and it’s one of her best tracks. Lay Down is another highlight and it’s the big dance number. “U gonna love it,” she declares, initiating an onslaught of dark and intense synths. Vocoder runs rampant but it works so well with the heavy synth beats. She’s very playful during the verses and I love how sassy she sounds. This is the sexy Koda that I have been dying to hear on the record and it’s exactly what I hoped for. While the previous dance tracks all showed different sides of her, this one combines them all. Throughout the track, she’s sexy, flirty and aggressive. Surprisingly, the chorus isn’t as energetic as I expected it to be. Compared to the verses, her delivery is a lot more relaxed as she seductively sings, “take u, break u, make u mine…/and u gonna love it.” However, it fits wonderfully and she keeps the energy high throughout the song.

A computerized synth line is paired with her sugary ad-libs for the start of Love Technique. The melody is so electronic, filled with sporadic synth beats that are extremely infectious. Halfway into the verses, she sings rapidly while the synths begin to malfunction and this leads into the chorus which consists of magical chimes that make for a sweet surprise. The chorus is so catchy and it’s not overly cute. The heavy electronic elements balance the sugary atmosphere perfectly and it makes for a truly playful tune. Poppin’ love cocktail feat. TEEDA comes in and messes up streak that the end of the album had going for it. It’s a fun, summery rock tune that’s full of life and energy but I would have loved it more if TEEDA wasn’t featured on it. His intro is probably the most embarrassing thing I have ever heard and it was a terrible idea for him to start the track, “you looks like horny.” Luckily, all of Koda’s parts are fun, fresh and super contagious. The song never runs out of force and it is constantly bombarding you with guitars. In the verses, a simple guitar riff joins her but it transitions into a crazy riff that is then replaced by drum and clapping beats. It’s interesting and really enhances the summer vibe of the track. However, the chorus is where the song turns into a party of electric guitars and it’s fantastic. TEEDA’s raps are unnecessary and he affects the flow of the track. It would have been so much better without him. The record ends with All for you and it’s quite a surprise because it’s a live acoustic performance. She’s never ended an album like this before so it’s nice to see her strip down and focus solely on her voice. The acoustic instrumental is so minimal which allows her voice to shine. This is a song dedicated to her fans so it’s very sentimental and beautiful. The raw approach she takes makes it heartfelt and shows her love for her fans. It’s a lovely ballad but, sadly, I have an issue with the way it was recorded. The quality of the song is a little weird and it’s not as clear as it should be. Despite this, it’s a sweet song and a beautiful way to conclude the album.

Conclusion: While I went into JAPONESQUE with high hopes, I came out slightly disappointed because it doesn’t bring anything new to her discography. For a loaded album, she doesn’t take any risks at all and plays it safe from start to end. However, that does not mean the album isn’t solid because it’s very enjoyable. Koda covers everything from acoustic to dance to rock to R&B and to bubblegum pop. There’s not a single song that I outright dislike, they all have redeeming qualities. She stays in her comfort zone but she does everything extremely well, much better than what she’s done in her last few albums. It would have been interesting if she worked an oriental sound into more of the tracks which is what I assumed was going to happen after seeing the album cover. It’s a great album and fans will certainly be happy with the material.

Recommended Tracks: KO-SO-KO-SO, Lay Down, So Nice feat. Mr.Blistah, Everyday, Slow feat. Omarion, IN THE AIR, Love Me Back, ESCALATE and Boom Boom Boys




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  1. […] Koda Kumi – JAPONESQUE – Chaotic Dusk A detailed track-by-track review that likes the album but wishes it was more adventurous. […]

  2. Ofcourse I’ve been waiting for your review as you know 😉 I only read it just now due to vacation but it was worth the wait. I love your writing style, it’s very detailed and the song instantly starts playing in my head again as I read your review. Love it, great job!

    • Thanks so much. Your comments always make me happy!

  3. Really good review on JAPONESQUE. This is one of my favourite Kumi albums, I mean almost every single song is REALLY good.

    • Thanks for commenting! It really is a good album. I’m not sure where I would rank it with her other albums but it’s one of the best she’s released in a while.

      • I agree 😀

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