Kumi Koda

Best: Third Universe & 8th AL Universe [2 Disc]

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Kumi Koda is a performer who divides opinion in her homeland, mocked and hated openly by many in Japan, and with many of her fans reluctant to admit to liking her. Nevertheless, Koda's popularity with a certain type of fan in Japan can be put down in large part to her lack of any outstanding virtues, which sends the message to her fans that, yes, you too can be like me if you only spend enough money in the right Shibuya clothing stores. In contrast to the alien aura of unreality that surrounds Ayumi Hamasaki, Koda appears an altogether earthier prospect. This double-CD collection reveals a lot of what so ignites both Koda's fans and her detractors. She wears her sexuality on her sleeve (or, as seems more often, dangling from tassles on her bra) with song titles like "Lick Me" laying their erotic playing cards on the table from the get-go, and her lack of any recognizable singing ability compensated for by an awful lot of gumption. Throughout the album, it's clear that Koda has worked hard to be what she is, donning the superficial trappings of a variety of styles such as the rock guitars of "Ningyo Hime", the disco of "Girls", the electro synths and Auto-Tune of tracks like "Physical Thing" and "Ecstacy," and the R&B/funk-influenced "But." All of this reveals a desperate need to achieve success no matter what, but also the humanity of the effort underpinning it. Delving beneath Koda's image also reveals a generally high standard of music, albeit one that, for all the genre-hopping on display, never really strays too far from the blueprint of archetypal Avex Trax pop.

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