Released: February 3, 2010
In 2010, Japan’s favorite diva Kumi Koda—the J-diva who’s provocative image proved to sell her a f’ing truck load of records—released her third best album Best: Third Universe, which boasted some of her greatest pop tunes. BUT WAIT, there was more! Instead of one record, you got two; Kumi’s tenth studio album Universe! What a deal! Her previous record Trick served some good moments, but as a cohesive package, it was more of a clown to the show (read my full review here). Here with Universe… it’s kinda the same… in a way. But apart from that, it’s the quality of the production that shines bright for a first.
I was surprised that Universe didn’t open with an instrumental track, instead it forwards on with “Step Into the World”, an extremely repetitive R&B number that lingers a fun-trash-like aesthetic that shines in its own field. Another number that stood out was the song “Can We Go Back”, which is in fact a cover originally performed by no-one other than Kelly Clarkson. I was quite shocked because I would have thought it was a Koda track (no shade Kelly). Nevertheless, it’s a solid rock anthem that showcases some intelligent guitar riffs. Rock music has been a signature trait in Kumi’s work, as there is always some sort of worm that lingers in all of her albums that brings forth a rock ‘n’ roll like demeanor of her tracks. Following this genre are two more moments; the sister-duet “It’s All Love”, which is a chaotic piece of fierceness, whilst “Work It Out!” shows a more punk-ish vibe. Rock on Kumi-chan!
Then we get my favorite Kumi-chan of all; the dirty dancing, booty shaking, and trash-like Kumi. Like yuss gurl! I’ve always enjoyed her up-tempo jams as they are just completely fun and club-like. The most delicious cut out of all is “Ecstasy”, which is an over-the-top number that dives head first into rock riffs, electronic production and fierce chorus deliveries. I tell you, this is a banger for the J-gods to enjoy. One of my favorite songs by the singer, TO DATE .COM! “Physical Thing” is almost like the twin sister to “Ecstasy”, but it doesn’t jump as higher as what “Ecstasy” strives. I think my reason behind this is because of the lack of chorus progression, as it just sounds like the rest of the song with no development. But nevertheless, it’s HOT STUFF! Sexy, sweating hot stuff! Ohhhhh, Ms. Kumi getting dirty already. The title track, which is yet another booty shaker, earns a gold start for its sophisticated production and slick delivery on Kumi’s part. It’s just that good y’all!
At first, I thought the ballads and mid-tempo songs were pretty… mehh, giving the fact that the dance tracks were killers and I expected it to fill the entire album! But surprisingly, after a few more listens, they are pretty good. But first, the poppy fluffy-ness; “Superstar” is a cutesy pop number that shimmers ol’ innocent Kumi-chan. How Kawaii! The same goes to “Lick Me”, which is a sugary hit that just sounds so catchy and infectious. At times, you get a retro feel that only accentuates Kumi-chans sound. These two songs were so marvelously well together that I could have honestly thought they were a double A-side single; definitely two tracks to here for the summer.
Apart from like two ballads (the romantic “Alive” and forgettable “Comes Up” are more like “stop, roll over, fall off the cliff, drive on” tracks), the remaining softer songs are quite listenable; “Stay” may sound a little generic, but her voices is too good to miss here. Same goes to “You’re So Beautiful”, which may sound like some sort of rip-off from a Beyoncé album (no shade gurl, but yeah… sorry not sorry), but her voice delivers on point! But the best ballad is “No Way”, a heavy R&B infused number that shimmers an effortless delivery by Kumi-chan. In my opinion, this is by far one of her best ballad-type tracks every, and serves as a perfect staple where she could definitely work on with the future.
As an entire package, Universe is my favorite Kumi Koda album… and I mean that too! The songs maybe be spaced in different areas, but essentially, each track sparked a personality and sound that showcased a change in Kumi’s quality of sound and development. Universe holds many essential tracks to have on your playlists, such as “No Way”, “Ecstasy” and the title track, but if you want something to get inspired by—or like me, just to enjoy and booty shake to the music (no not really that)—then purchase Universe… well, the greatest hits album AND Universe.
Track list (Bold means best tracks):
- Step Into The World
- Can We Go Back
- You’re So Beautiful
- Lick me ❤
- Work It Out!
- No Way
- Comes Up
- Physical thing
- ECSTASY ~Liam’s favorite~
- It’s all love (feat. Misono)
- Moon Crying (live in Taiwan) [FIRST PRESS EDITIONS ONLY]