UNIVERSE was Koda Kumi’s 8th album. It was released on February 3, 2010 as a part of her 3rd compilation album entitled BEST ~third universe~. It debuted at no. 1 on the Oricon Weekly Charts with 221,887 copies sold. In all, this album has sold over 371,590+ copies. This album includes the singles from It’s all Love! to Can We Go Back.
1. Step Into My World
2. Can We Go Back
4. You’re So Beautiful
5. Lick me♥
6. Work It Out!
7. No Way
9. Comes Up
10. Physical thing
13. It’s all Love! feat. misono
15. Moon Crying (Live ver. in Taiwan)
I can honestly say while I’ve been eagerly waiting for Kuu’s many albums to leak over the years, I wasn’t waiting as eagerly as her previous albums. That’s probably due to multiple reasons, such as TRICK not living up to it’s hype, the mediocre singles, and then the so-so previews, oh and the fact that it was paired with her 3rd compilation album, which basically means that avex wanted to make sure this album sold well, which I don’t think it will, I could be wrong though. Anyway this album is certainly interesting, so hopefully this review will be insightful and flashy as always.
Now I thought the full version of TRICK was going to be on TRICK, but I could be wrong. Turns out that that melody was used in Step Into My World. So basically that infectious melody and edgy aggressive music was transformed into this. Although I can honestly say that it’s not nearly as infectious or as catchy as TRICK. Still a great opening, but it could have been better.
Yeah so then we come to Can We Go Back. The best way to describe it is a mediocre rock song. Kelly Clarkson should have kept this, Kuu’s vocals aren’t suited for this level of rock, or just most rock songs in general. However while that track was boring and dull I actually liked Work It Out! It’s another rock song, but it’s not completely rock, instead it’s a fusion of rock and electric, I even think I can hear some distortions/vocoder. Maybe the music just sounds more fluid and just better, either way this is the better rock song. And the chorus, catchy as hell. Lots and lots of cool instrumentals.
So now we have the promotion track, the first entitled SUPERSTAR, or as I say su-pa su-ta-ru! That’s somewhat racist but I’m asian, get over it xD It’s sort of like a light pop-rock song, just not nearly as good. This is definitely cute Kuu, who I haven’t liked in ages, that’s why I’d say press the skip button. Also another song to skip, Lick me♥. It’s not nearly as bad as the previous track, but the live performances were just overkill. Not sure how many people can like this, it has grown on me considerably. Comes Up is also another cute track, confirmed even more with the “merry-go-round” line. I like cute, and it’s better than some of the stuff on Kingdom, but it’s not my cup of tea. Cute Kuu could be a tad bit less annoying, but it’s not the worst.
I believe that it’s time for the ballads, well the themed ballads. The 2nd promotional track is You’re So Beautiful. It’s a lovely acoustic based ballad, that still sounds like an exquisite ballad, strings and all. The up-beat tone sounds so vibrant and so lively that I can’t help but love it. I guess you could classify Stay as a semi-ballad. The mid-tempo music is quite nice, piano and synth filled, almost childish at times but Kuu’s vocals make up for it. Now my personal favorite ballad, and the greatest on the album is No Way. This R&B ballad is the best thing she’s done, probably since Yume no Uta. It’s seriously that amazing, I can’t get over all of the amazing synth elements, as well as her vocals, which could have more emotion but their suited perfectly for this song. It definitely matches the whole Universe theme of the album, very far out and spacey to some degree.
But now it’s time for SEXY KUU!!! I still can’t over just who powerful and sexy Physical thing really is. The music is just really sexy, that’s the only word I can think of to describe the music, and aggressive. Certainly another sexy and dance tune is ECSTASY. By far the BEST song on 3 SPLASH this song is another hot number, sort of like a more aggressive and sexier version of TABOO, if that’s even possible. It’s infectious as hell and the beats are insane, and the distortions are pretty hot as well.
And now UNIVERSE gets its own section just because it’s that good. I don’t think Kuu has ever had a title track on her album, think about it. Black Cherry was featured on Kingdom, Kingdom just had an intro, and then TRICK was finally released on a single, and that was only a live version. Anyway for her first title track on an album it’s pretty sexy. It has that signature Kuu sound, edgy, aggressive, fierce, and naturally it’s a dance song, all of her sexy songs seem to be dance now. The music is mostly a mixture of aggressive beats and synth with some distortions. I personally loved the bridge, it sounded so surreal and the music breakdown was spectacular, truly impressive, I just wish it was longer. The chorus was still a little freaky, but fun nonetheless and still a fun dance song overall.
Finishing the album are the ballads. The first is Alive. I can honestly say that it has grown on me a bit, but I’m still not all that crazy about it. I still think the instrumentals are beautiful and all, but I don’t feel that it goes well with Kuu’s vocals, then again maybe her vocals weren’t just good. Could have been better, but it could have been worse. And then you have the live version of Moon Crying, which was sung in Taiwan. It was the longest track too, an astounding 7:47. Her vocals sounded phenomenal live and the whole experience was mind-blowing, an another excellent rendition.
I almost forgot the collaboration track, but then I didn’t since it SHOULD NOT even be on the album since it’s a piece of crap. If anything faraway should have been put on the album, even though it was only so-so.
So what did I think of this album? Despite some of its flaws I can honestly say that I enjoyed this album more than TRICK and Kingdom. When compared to TRICK, there weren’t any tracks that made me want to shoot myself, or tracks that just had me laughing *cough* Bling Bling Bling *cough*, there was just a lot of variety that I liked. As far as Kingdom goes, well Kingdom was pretty much just a mess. Only 1/3 of the tracks really stood out, and most were released as singles. With UNIVERSE it doesn’t depend on the singles to make it a good album. There’s a good amount of balance between strong singles and strong album tracks, as well as sexy, ballad, and cute Kuu. My personal favorites were all the dance/sexy tracks, they’re always catchy no matter what. The ballads this time though were just astounding. No Way is perhaps her first and greatest R&B ballad of all time, truly a work of art. The album itself could have been more cohesive and flowed together better but the good songs are enough to make me like it as a whole complete work. So I have to say that it’s a step up from TRICK, it’s just too bad there’s nothing as fierce as TABOO.
But before I finish I need to say one thing: AVEX IS MONEY HUNGRY/DUMB. Basically the only reason why avex would release this album with the compilation album is because they’re pretty much afraid that it won’t sell enough, and let’s face it, most compilation albums are the highest sellers for most artists (eg. Ayu & Kuu). And the fact that it only includes some of the singles is annoying as well, seriously just release it ALL. I want to see ALL of 4 hot wave, as well as Cherry Girl / Unmei, and Aishou etc. Seriously it would have been better to have maybe one or two new songs on the album and another PV and to separately release a true 2CD + 2DVD compilation album. And apparently Kuu is also declining in popularity, I might even do a special review on this later.
Favorite Tracks: UNIVERSE || No Way || Work It Out!