Ayumi Hamasaki has created a miniature empire of her own creation with the A-Yu-Mi-X series of albums. In these albums, she essentially hands over her massive catalog of hits to some of Japan's more interesting DJs to do what they will. More recently, she's followed each studio album release with one or two remix albums. Kumi Koda, her primary competition to the throne of modern J-pop, is not one to be outdone. Driving Hit's was a major success, leading inexorably to Driving Hit's 2. On this one, she continues the streak -- DJs remix her huge set of hits into thicker dance tracks, more electrified. At the same time, other pieces move toward more sentimental formats. The theme to "Cutey Honey" becomes slightly more respectable, touching on video game scoring. The Lady Gaga-like "Ecstasy" is remixed by Caramel Pod to something Daft Punk might use as an album track. A bit of nondescript ethnic sound is thrown in by the new deliveries of "Shake It Up," and the title track from the recent Universe album is given a little more attitude by the Pink Chameleons. The songs here are likely known to fans of Koda already, but they're alternately given new life by the addition of stronger beats or have life sucked from them by the looseness of those same beats, depending on the remixer in question for a given song. It's a mixed bag, but a nice one.
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