My academic background is in Japanese language and culture. I love gaming, and I particularly love "The Legend of Zelda" series.
Kumi Koda is a Japanese pop artist with an extensive discography and a legendary career as one of Japan's most successful and memorable female solo artists. She is a chameleon who infuses club dance hits, soaring ballads, optimistic pop songs, and the occasional emotional rock track into all her albums.
From her origins as a teen RnB idol, Kumi has blossomed into a woman in control of her messages and images. She has always written a majority of her lyrics and even taken control of the composition of her songs at times. There are few such high-profile women in J-pop who are as proud of their careers as Kumi Koda is.
I've been a fan of Kumi since 2003 with the release of her first "sexy" single, "Crazy 4 U". I've seen her go from a struggling singer trying to leave her mark on J-pop to one of the most celebrated divas of the day. That said, even I admit that it was nearly impossible to create a satisfactory list here. By the time I got to the latter half, I interchanged songs until I almost gave myself a headache. But I am confident that these ten songs represent the best of Kumi Koda and her career.
Kumi Koda's Top 10 All-Time Best Songs
- "POP DIVA"
- "Physical thing"
- "Ai no Uta"
- "Real Emotion/1000 no Kotoba"
"Baby come with me I'ma show you something you've never seen before." The first line of this hard-hitting dance song is about as iconic as Kumi's own sexy image. "TABOO" takes everything great about modern pop music - electro synth arrangements, slick compositions, sultry vocals, and of course mysterious lyrics - and mixes them into one flawless song. The thing about Kumi's music is that none of them are really her "greatest song" by default, but for me, this is the song that blew me away and made me think "this is what all music like this should be". I love this song just as much now as I did the first time I heard it when it dropped a few years ago. This song is J-pop perfection.
Following the great success of her peak in 2006, Kumi released "BUT" as the first single of the infamous "Kingdom" era. At the time it was her first song to sound anything like this - percussion based and sexy. While other songs have followed in its steps since then, "BUT" is the original and still the best. No other Kumi Koda song can touch the frisky playfulness of "You know you love you / self" like "BUT" achieves. Until "TABOO"'s release a year later this was my favorite Kumi song. I think I played it about 200 times the month it was released. And it's still a great song to jump around to.
3. "POP DIVA"
I for one didn't think "TABOO" would ever have a worthy successor, but with "POP DIVA"'s release in early 2011 I was proven wonderfully wrong. This song is a great combination of fun and flirty all packaged up in dance-club worthy synth beats and kitsch vocals. While this song is more "dance" than "TABOO", however, it doesn't quite match the lyrical prowess (in fact the lyrics in "POP DIVA" are pretty much just silly) or the sultry air. But "POP DIVA" is definitely a great introduction to the badass side of Kumi Koda.
Our first ballad on this list is also one of Kumi's oldest and her first #1 single. "you" was the first single released in the 12 Singles Project and became an instant hit in Japan. Its heavy chorus drives an emotional drill right through the heart, and Kumi's forlorn vocals tell the story of a woman hurting. She has released a plethora of ballads since 2005's "you" (most of them released once a year since then) but almost none of them can match the greatness of this one. It was her first truly great ballad and hardly touched since then.
There is almost no song as otherworldly as "V.I.P.", which on the surface is nothing more than just another Kumi club banger. But the more you listen to this song the more addictive and more fun it becomes. It's impossible to watch the video and not recall the hot dancing every time the bridge pops up. When the "woah woah woahs" cut in it's like falling down the rabbit hole to Kumi Club Land. "V.I.P." hasn't been out long enough to see if it'll eventually climb up the ranks on this list, but either way, it's a hot number to get started with. (Just make sure you get the single version and not the inferior album version featuring T-Pain. You're welcome.)
6. "Physical thing"
"Physical thing" is a cover of a song by the same name by British singer "Nosheen". I've heard the original, and this is a case of "original is not the best". Kumi brings her sexy sensibilities to a song driven by synthetic percussions and keeps the heat up for the full three minutes. "Physical thing" is the spiritual successor to "BUT" much like "POP DIVA" was to "TABOO". But just like that previous comparison, "Physical thing" is good but not good enough to surpass the first to come along. Regardless, it's nothing to sneeze at and ranks high in the best Kumi songs.
7. "Ai no Uta"
The second (and final) ballad on this list is "Ai no Uta", a simple ballad focusing on strong vocals carrying across a catchy chorus. Backing this song up is a sad instrumental comprised mainly of strings. (And I will take my string ballads over my piano ballads any day.) There's nothing much to say about "Ai no Uta" that can't be experienced just from listening to it. Just take my word that this song deserves its spot on this list.
Apparently, 2011 was a great year for Kumi Koda music. "KO-SO-KO-SO" was on the same single as "V.I.P." above, but takes a slower, more sensual approach to the naughty lyrics and electro beats. The song is straight up about the things two consenting adults may do with each other (as portrayed by two consenting adult women in the video!) and that feeling pulses with every beat in this song. I guarantee you will feel 10x sexier than you already do when you listen to this song; however, I am not responsible for any frustration that may accompany it.
"Driving" is the first and only song on this list not from a single release. Instead it's an album only track from the album "TRICK", and gets its kicks from its quirky beat during the verses and its overwhelming choruses. It's the perfect "driving" song, fit for popping down the top on your car and blasting down the freeway at illegal speeds. (Note, I am not condoning this behavior. Take that up with avex, they have more money.) It's also become a concert staple for fist pumping and even inspired Kumi's annual remix album the "Driving Hit's" series. This is "the" song on this list to just let loose and have a ton of fun with.
10. "Real Emotion/1000 no Kotoba"
Finally, our last song on the best of Kumi Koda was, at one time, her most iconic song. As the theme song to "Final Fantasy X-2", "real Emotion" single-handedly saved Kumi's career from extermination before it could ever take off. The song itself was her poppiest yet and solidified the direction her career would soon be going in. Many years have passed since this song came along, but it can't be forgotten as "the Kumi Koda" song before Kumi even became a household name.
Wilfred on January 13, 2015:
I don't listen to the songs, cos I read at work and that would just be anniyong to the rest of the orifice. (Also, I may be a bit thick, but when I have tried to listen, couldn't fathom out how!)I do, however, usually read what you have to say about the songs. I have to admit that I have never heard most of them, but it's always good when I have.Anyway, what would you replace it with? My suggestion weekly pug update.