Kumi Koda

Kingdom

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Keeping herself atop the Oricon charts, Kumi Koda's Kingdom was released to much excitement in early 2008, buoyed by a series of singles released between albums and a collaboration with boy-band-of-the-moment Tohoshinki. The music is essentially her standard form, a mix of light pop and R&B stylings complete with the high-pitched electronic accentuations and choruses that made up a good mid-90s hit. The foundation of the album is in basic balladry, with Koda's vocals growing beyond the cuteness of some of her earlier work. Here, she's using the full range of her voice as the songs demand, and generally hitting the mark fairly well (as in "Ai no Uta"). Though the ballads are her bread and butter, there are other stabs taken here, some hitting well and others missing just a bit. "Under" uses an industrial mood, almost deconstructed, layering Koda's vocals over the beats and occasionally intertwining them. It comes off with an entirely different timbre, but generally works. "But" works better, juxtaposing a more sultry vocal from Koda with a thumping backing track and the occasional background moan. There are more straightforward R&B pieces, such as "Koi no Mahou," and basic theme-music pop in "Wonderland," complete with voice distortions and tinkling sound effects. There's even a stray bit of torch singing in "More," which doesn't suit Koda's voice terribly well, but she works her way through it admirably. Musically, Kingdom doesn't hold up to Koda's previous albums too well. However, despite the changes in style and quality that move back and forth throughout the duration, it's still a solid album on Koda's part, showing off some dimensions that are developing and may add more depth to her future recordings.