Gosh. I can’t remember the last time I listened to a Koda Kumi album. Actually, I think the last one I purchased and listened to was JAPONESQUE. For some reason, her music hadn’t grabbed my attention since then, but after catching snippets of her latest double album release, specifically the Outside version, I must say I’m loving the sound of Koda Kumi once again. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m more into her bouncy dance tracks and the entire Outside record sounds like the soundtrack of my life at the moment. Whatever the case, the Pop Diva is back and totally killing it. Check out the snippets of both records, packaged separately, and continue with my review of Outside.
Did you feel it? That ounce of excitement that swells from the pit of your stomach and soars to your heart? I know the feeling, it’s exactly what I felt after watching this same teaser and I knew I had to get my hands on both albums. But let’s start with Outside.
The opening slow tempo/groovy track and concept title gets you in the mindset of the direction in which Kumi went with this record. The artist is here in all her confidence and ready to show once more why she’s the “baddest”. W Face explores both sides of Kumi: the part that everyone sees in music videos and on stage, and the other side no one truly knows, the woman behind the music. She sings about her true guise and how sometimes everything overlaps. But all in all, she’s just being herself and what you see is what you get. There’s definitely a western influence in this track and the ones after. I mean, “Yass bitch, yass bitch, yass bitch slay,” need I say more? And I love that scream in the background too.
ULTRAVIOLET picks up the pace with a more pop driven beat. Love how the track starts with that catchy chorus, and if you aren’t already dancing to this one, the empowering message will have you up and cheering for Kumi as she sings about sticking to what she believes in and never letting anyone or any obstacles stop her from pushing on. The transition is great and stays true to the overall theme of the album. And if you think Ultraviolet showcases her blazing confidence, strength, and commitment to rising higher and higher in whatever she does, Insane takes it to another level. This track… it’s like an inescapable hold on my heart every single time I listen. With a mix of powerful rock, hip hop, and dance elements, Insane is just that: insane. You’re pulled in from the opening melody, fooled into believing this might be a softer tone. Then Kumi gets turnt, voice loud, intense, filled with convincing emotion. It’s a superb production through and through, but that break takes the cake. “One by one, they all fall down oh yeah… one by one they hit the ground…” It calms down your soul a little before hitting you once more with that unbelievably addictive chorus. Damn, I LOVE this song!
Before continuing my review, I just have to take a moment to say how gorgeous her shots are for the album’s booklet. Simple, yet still sexy and tastefully done. And as usual, hair, makeup, and nails are on fleek! Now, back to business.
Speaking of sexy. Koda is giving me life on the more slow tempo r&b track Damn Real. There’s this mesmerizing guitar melody that plays throughout the song and goes solo at the end that I just cannot get enough of. I’m impressed once again with the musical arrangement and how well every instrument compliments each other; from the feel-it-in-your-belly heavy bass to the dewy sound of her voice. No doubt the song’s about a relationship; she sings about getting lost in memories and wanting to turn back time so they can be together because what they have was real. She’s having a tough time with how things turned out, and that emotion flows into the next track.
The gut-wrenching piano ballad, Heartless, depicts a more vulnerable Koda Kumi that will leave you crumpled on the floor in tears. At least, that’s how it affected my poor soul. Her voice is raw and riddled with emotion, moving from low to high with ease, all while holding tightly to that pain. It rattles me with every line and I have a tough time listening without crying. Such a moving song that if you make it to the end without feeling a thing, then you are cold and in fact as heartless as the title.
It’s hard to recover after that shattering number. But thank goodness Kumi changes the mood a little with the sensual and groovy Bassline. Her rap is possibly my favorite part of the song. Sad that I can’t remember if I’ve ever heard her rap before, either way, she killed it. Unlike the previous track, Bassline is all about sexy times. With the way she sings, accompanied by the sensual and bluesy instruments, I’m sure you can use your imagination on this one. I rather enjoy the old school vibe of the song and love that it transitions into the more fast-paced Shhh!
If you remember Christina Aguilera’s belting intro in Aint No Other Man, then you’ll probably say Koda’s intro in Shhh! is clearly reminiscent of that, and it certainly grabs your attention right off. She makes it clear she’s having fun and emphasizes her playful and sexy side throughout. Indeed, Shhh! is a catchy uptempo pop track that will have you on the floor dancing along with Kumi, and she wants you to do that and more in the next.
Bangerang keeps things going on Koda’s playful side. This is the side most of us love to see. She sings about wanting to release tension, escaping whatever seriousness in that moment by dancing and losing herself in music. No doubt a great song for the clubs and it’s as solid as the other tracks so far. Being that this is the 8th song on the album, I’m impressed that she never falters and the concept stays true. It never sounds shaky or out of whack.
My only issue with Wicked Girls is that the song seems kind of short. It’s a more speedy number in every sense, from beat to length, but appealing and fun. Kumi is still dancing her way from worries and is living her life her way. She encourages girls to do the same, to have fun and say goodbye to sad feelings. It’s like an anthem for women to let their confidence show. More like what Koda has been singing about the entire album one way or the other.
I get a sinking feeling in my stomach whenever I get to the last song on the album. But that dissolves quickly whenever I go back to track one. 🙂 Before doing so, let’s discuss Cupcake ft. AKLO. It’s definitely worthy of a spot on W Face, but not sure I like it as the final song. In fact, I feel like Kumi should have switched the two tracks and let Wicked Girls finish the album. The dance number just seems like a stronger closer. That said, I do like Cupcake in all it’s sexiness and that bouncy beat gets my body hiccuping. Silly, I know. But it does something to me that is hard to describe. I just always want to make it clap along with the chorus. It’s a dope track, but again, too short and should have been 9th with Wicked Girls finishing things up. I’m also not familiar with the rapper AKLO, but his parts were pretty good and I’d love to hear more of him. You can do that too > aklo.jp
Overall, W FACE ~Outside~ is a wonderful album with hot, well-produced songs that will most certainly stay on repeat after that first listen. Koda Kumi made my entire year with this one. You’re missing out if you don’t give her the chance to do the same to you too. Trust me, you don’t have to understand Japanese or even be a fan of Jpop to be blown away by this record. It’s just that great. And it’s going to be an even more incredible experience to see her perform these songs on stage. She’s back, and badder than ever!
Released date: March 8th 2017
Label: Avex/Rhythm Zone
==CD TRACK LISTING==
01. W FACE 02. ULTRAVIOLET 03. INSANE 04. DAMN REAL 05. HEARTLESS 06. BASSLINE 07. SHHH! 08. BANGERANG 09. WICKED GIRLS 10. CUPCAKE ft. AKLO
DISCLAIMER: I purchased the standard version from CDJapan, which is only the audio CD and it doesn’t come with the DVD of music videos, because I figured I could get the CD & DVD with Inside since both records have the same set of videos on each. So know that if you purchase both Inside and Outside with DVDs then you’ll be buying the music videos twice (just a caution). There are 10 tracks on each album but they don’t have 10 videos for each song. There are only 6 videos total: Ultraviolet, Insane, Bassline, Wicked Girls, Promise You, and Bridget Song.
CDJapan AFFILIATE LINK below (if you’d like to purchase the CD)
iTunes link > W Face Outside
Credit: Avex Youtube