Koda Kumi – Kingdom [6th Studio Album]

February 8, 2008 at 10:49 pm (Koda Kumi) (, )

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Koda Kumi’s 6th studio album, entitled Kingdom, was released on 01.30.08. The album features all types of songs and all are pulled off amazingly. From the hot Arabian-influenced 甘い罠 to the hot dance tracks Under and Black Cherry to the beautiful ballads such as MORE and 秘密 and many others, Kingdom offers a variety of moods and sounds. One recurring strength of this album is Kumi’s vocals, which have shown such growth from her last album and is seen on various songs. The singles released before the album are the following: BUT / 愛証, FREAKY, 愛のうた, LAST ANGEL and anytime.

The first song, entitled Introduction For Kingdom, continues the tradition of opening up the album with an introductory track. As opposed to introductions from previous albums, this one is mellow and smooth. It opens up with Kumi hitting some amazing high notes in the upper register that almost sound like the work of a machine. It’s very impressive how she is able to pull those notes off and really highlights one of the strongest album points: her vocals. The rest of the introduction consists of Kumi saying “love” repeatedly and then carries out her notes as she sings “you.” This is a beautiful way to open up the album and is a wonderful change of pace from Kumi’s usual strong upbeat introductions. Even though it’s not a full track, it’s one of the very best songs Kingdom has to offer.

The album’s second song, entitled LAST ANGEL, is a collaboration between Kuu and Korean boy-band Tohoshinki. The song opens up with “Welcome to Nightmare World” with somewhat haunting background music and then gets into the real song. There is a poppiness that keeps the song enjoyable and the instrumentation has a very “cool” element to it. The first verse is Kumi’s verse while the second verse is shared among the boys of Tohoshinki. Although vocal strength is one of the album’s high points, the boys actually outshine Kumi on vocal terms this time since Kumi never uses that amazing range she is capable of. The third verse is a collaborative verse between them where the boys really show their vocal talents. The song ends with the chorus, which is a nice way to show closure. Even though LAST ANGEL is the weakest song to be brought back to the album after being previously obtaining a single release, it’s an enjoyable track to listen to.

甘い罠  draws on Arabian sounds to one of the hottest songs on the album. It’s somewhat reminiscent of Candy featuring Mr. Blistah back from her album BEST~second session.~ The song opens up with Kumi talking as she says “everybody say…” and then the looming beat starts. She continues talking for a few more seconds and then the first starts. One notable thing that seperates this song from the rest of her Arabian / Indian influenced songs is that her vocal range is really showed off on this one. During the verses, she hits higher notes in contrast to the deeper notes in the chorus and hook. The chorus and the hook are the most memorable parts of the track as the instrumental changes sligtly and the catchiness of the song really comes out. The track is very enjoyable and is her strongest Arabian song to date.

The fourth track is the midtempo and beautiful 秘密. The lyrics to the song are really the standout point for me since they beautifully reflect the warmth given by a secret love. Opening with the piano and going straight into the chorus was a wise decision since the chorus is the strongest section of the song. After the choruses, she proceeds to sing “baby trust you, baby trust me.” She is able to prolong the note during “me,” which really adds to the sweet flavor of the song. The verses are also to be remembered since the instrumentation (driven by the piano) blends fantastically with her voice. It is during these verses that her deeper voice is used and was a smart idea. This is a very pretty new track that segways perfectly into the next song.

愛のうた is the album’s fifth song and is a heart touching ballad with lots of emotion behind it. The strongest point about the song is Kumi’s controlled but powerful vocals that really display the sorrow of the lyrics. Although they are relatively simple, the tactic is very effective, giving the song a more personal feel. The chorus really is the high point of the song because of the strong vocals. This song has got a lot of slack for being another typical Koda Kumi ballad but I personally feel that it’s one of her best ballad efforts and the loneliness and sorrow that is clearly displayed in the beautiful lyrics and instrumentation.

The sixth song on the album is the sweet and cute track entitled anytime. This was the lead-in single for the album and was a great choice since it’s one of the strongest songs on the album. anytime is a cute, midtempo song that fits perfectly after the previous song. The relaxing atmosphere of the song is a perfect mix with Kumi’s softer vocals during the verses. Right before the chorus, her vocals show a great variety of range as she hits higher notes and blend perfectly into the chorus. The chorus is the standout part of the song as it opens up with phrases such as “anyday, anytime…” and “one day, one time.” The vocals also show a range for the song as she goes into the upper register a bit (in contrast to the lower notes during the choruses). The lyrics for the song only enhance the “kawaii” atmosphere, making anytime one of the best songs and a different track than many of the other songs on Kingdom. 

Under, an urban and R&B track, is the seventh song on the album. This is one of the best songs on the album for its sexy sound and hot beat. The song opens up with the synthetic beat and the sound of a telephone dial tone which strangely make a good combination here. The verses ooze sexy without really going “ero-kawaii” so it presents a nice balance of sexiness. After each verse comes the hook, which is in this case is a fast “rap” for a few lines. It’s really enjoyable and gives the song an extra edge. After the hook is a couple of moans followed by the addictive chorus in which “under” is repeated various times along with the phrase “tacit understanding” and “you on me.” The third verse takes a slightly different style with more of a Kumi-rap style while she is still singing, making it step apart from the rest of the song and brings another English phrase: “cause I’m going under for you.”The song ends with Kumi saying “Under” in a very sexy tone, bringing the song to a perfect close.

The eighth song on the album, entitled BUT, is one of Kumi’s best songs in her entire discography. The song became an instant favorite of mine when released on the first single from this album’s era and has remained one of her strongest tracks since. BUT is a hot dance track featuring an infectious instrumental and an everlasting chorus. From this song came one of my favorite phrases: “you know you love yourself.” Kumi does a great job of having her vocals mesh with the beat, while still coming across as very strong on their own. The verses’ strength lies in their smooth transition right into the chorus as the beat changes momentarily and the vocals show their strength. The hook (after the chorus) is as addictive as the chorus, which makes the entire song worth the listen. BUT holds its own on the album, remaining one of the strongest if not the strongest song even after being released previously.

恋の魔法 is the ninth track on the album. This song is a “kawaii” offering but doesn’t use that sugary sweetness that some of her other songs have. It’s a R&B poppy track that opens with Kumi using a higher register and then the chorus comes in with good strength. This is the most memorable part of the song as well as the repeating line “darling, you’ll always be my baby.” Strangely enough, there is a small similarity from this song and the fourth song although both go in different directions. Another enjoyable track that was made for smiling, the song does a good job of showing “kawaii” while still maintaing a more R&B appeal.

愛証, an emotional rock ballad, is the tenth track on the album. While the song was previously released on the first single from the Kingdom era, it doesn’t lose any of its flavor here. The strongest part of the song is the raw emotion within the atmosphere created by a rock-filled instrumentation and Kumi’s strong vocals. The verses are more mellow as Kumi sings in a lower range and go perfectly into the choruses, which show off Kumi’s range. Once again, the vocals are controlled and the final chorus especially shows she can hit those notes without sounding like she is straining. The transition from this song to the next is very strong as well so its placement is perfect.

The eleventh song on the album is あなたがしてくれたこと. This is one of the slower songs on the album and is a nice midtempo offering. Using a spanish guitar as the primary instrument, the song is a reflective piece on a relationship. The transition between the verses, hooks and choruses are effortless on this song and it feels like one continuous track until the third verse when things are swtiched up a little bit. During the third verse, the instrumentation changes a little bit the vocals are a little stronger, which makes it stand out as the best section of the song. The ending is the fading sound of the spanish guitar, which is a nice way to end the album. This song is definitely a nice balance between the grandiose ballads and the hot dance songs.

The cutest and most “kawaii” song on the album, Wonderland, is the twelfth track on the album. Of all of Kumi’s cute songs, this is one of the cutest but also one of the best. Although the lyrics are a bit non-sensical, “Wait! My cupid” for example, they really add to the whole atmosphere of the song. Throughout the song, Kumi uses a higher register in order to really capture emotion in her voice and it compliments the music very well. Speaking of music, there is a video game quality behind the synthetic beat. The chorus is the section that stands out most on the song for two reasons. First, the beat slightly changes and there’s more vocal strength behind it. The other point is that the chorus never repeats itself, which is unusual for the majority of songs. The ending of the song is a bit strange since it sounds like a hip-hop influenced beat for a couple seconds before finishing but it gives the song a sense of closure with a bang. Overall, there aren’t that many cute songs on the album but Wonderland definitely brings out Kumi’s “kawaii charm.” 

The thirteenth track on the album is the powerful and memorable song entitled FREAKY. Using rock-influences as well as the theme of bullying, FREAKY is one of the best single songs from the Kingdom era. The song opens up with an unidentified man who repeats “get sexy on me baby, get crazy on me Kumi” and this man’s voice repeats at constant points in the song. It doesn’t get annoying but the song could definitely stand without it. Then Kumi’s vocal strength is shown as she belts out a powerful note and begins the first verse. While both the verses and hooks are strong, the chorus is the most memorable as she repeats “Get Freaky!” various times. The third verse uses English phrases such as “give up” and “stop it” to really bring home the message against bullying. The song ends with more powerful notes that hold that edgy quality. FREAKY was the second best song previously released as a single to make it to the album and its place on the album only makes it shine more.

A powerhouse jazz ballad, MORE, is the fourteenth track. The most notable point on this song is the vocal strength that Kumi shows. Her voice is controlled but displays such power that the emotion jumps right from the words. The song begins with scratchy sounds and soft piano notes, which only adds to the “old-school atmosphere” that the song holds. The verses give the song a rather relaing feel and the transition into the hooks is effortless. The instrumentation as well as the arrangement of the hooks give set up a “climax effect” for the choruses. The choruses, which are in all English, are the highlight of the entire song as Kumi’s vocals reach very strong levels. With what sounds like a gospel choir accompanying Kumi at the end of the song, the adlibbing section does a great job of presenting the raw emotion of the song. MORE really is one of the strongest songs on the album because of powerful vocal strength and clear emotion.

The final song and bonus track, Black Cherry, is the full version of INTRODUCTION from her Black Cherry album. Although Black Cherry is missing some of the elements of INTRODUCTION (such as the opening words as well as the ending words before “tell me how you like it”), it’s still one of the most powerful and addictive songs on Kingdom. The verses show off a more sexy vocal approach by Kumi as she uses  alower register to sing. This is particuarly seen as she sings “oh boy” and “oh girl” during each verse. The hooks take the song in a different direction to a more gentle side. The music changes direction and there is some more strength behind the vocals. The chorus (which is the part taken from INTRODUCTION) is as memorable as ever using all English lyrics. At the end of the song, it changes direction completely by using a beat that sounds like it belongs to another song. As Kumi sings “if you got it let me hear you say yeah,” her vocals revert back to a lower register to bring the sexiness to the forefront. Both parts of the song are incredible and make Black Cherry a perfect way to finish the album.

Album Ranking: A +

Koda Kumi really brought her best work on this album. Kingdom offers both strong single tracks (BUT, FREAKY and anytime) as well as amazing new songs (Under, Black Cherry, MORE). Her vocal abilities throughout the entire album are showcased as she uses deep vocals (甘い罠) and hits amazing high notes (Introduction For Kingdom) and her vibrato is shown off as well (MORE). There really isn’t a “mis-step” on the album and it is clear Kumi brought everything she could when making the album.

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6 Comments

  1. Nick said,

    Great review. I agree on almost all points; I thought her vocals were much improved this time around. My only difference is that Anata ga Shite Kureta Koto put me to sleep. I couldn’t really tell about her vocals in Wonderland because she wasn’t singing normally. I was impressed with Koi no Mahou because she managed to do vocally powerful pop, which is quite a feat. Anyway, I had fun reading this, thanks. Oh and, I thought it was her 6th album… Typo?

  2. Christian said,

    damn right this diserves (i dunno if i spelt that right HAHA) an A+ :DDDD great review by the way :]

  3. vinyabarion said,

    I hold no delusions about those high notes in the opening… no way! It is a machine…
    The album was good, but do you really think it’s better than Black Cherry?

  4. amaiyume said,

    Well I guess there’s no real way to know unless she sings it on her tour. The first time I heard it, I believed it was a machine but now I can hear what sounds like her taking a breath to hit the note so I believe it was her. Also I think on the booklet it credits her so that’s my assumption.

    Black Cherry and Kingdom are definitely her two best albums. Kingdom has a vareity of sounds and really no misteps. “Unmei” from Black Cherry was a miss for me. Of course, I have to wait some time to see if I still enjoy the album like I do Black Cherry so I’ll say tie-game for now.

  5. Eric said,

    o_o, I thought the high notes in Introduction For Kingdom was a saxophone or something XD, I didn’t know it was her o_o.

  6. glassmask said,

    I like kingdom more..~
    but I’m not sure if she did the intro..the high notes….but she is amazing!~

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