Ever since 2000, Koda Kumi has been releasing dance track after dance track that had listeners hooked. While she didn’t get popular until 2003, Koda Kumi worked to keep her fame by proving to listeners that she has what it takes to be a superstar. She continues to be a popular figure in the business that shows no signs of stopping.
Ever since she was born Koda Kumi had been surrounded by music. Her grandfather was shakuhachi, an end-blown bamboo-flute, and her mother was a koto, a 13-stringed instrument, master. Her mother also frequently sang at karaoke bars which inspired Koda to become a singer.
In her second year of high school, Koda auditioned for Avex’s Dream Audition. She ended up getting second out of 120,000 applicants and was signed to Avex’s sub-label Rhythm Zone. It was there where she gained her R&B influence by listening to the music that influenced fellow labelmate m-flo. She later debuted in December 2000 with her single Take Back.
Hard Beginnings for Koda Kumi
Take Back didn’t do too well in Japan as it reached number 59 on the Oricon charts. When she re-released the song in English, it did very well on the U.S Billboard Hot Dance Music charts as dance track remixes were extremely popular during this time. However, at this time her music was failing to get her anywhere in Japan, and on top of that stress, she began to gain weight which her label looked down upon. Koda took it upon herself to do through a rigorous diet and exercise plan.
Koda worked with her label mate, Korean superstar BoA on song The Meaning Of Peace as a part of the Song Nation compilation album which was a fundraiser to help the people affected by the September 11 attack in the U.S. While the song was a success, Koda didn’t feel like the song was her success. Koda continued releasing songs that wouldn’t do too well in Japan, and she was on the verge of giving up until she was approached by a producer, Yoshinori Kitase.
Rise to Fame
Kitase recruited Koda to sing a couple of songs, Real Emotion/1000 no Kotoba for the game Final Fantasy X-2. The songs reached number 3 on the Oricon charts and soon after her popularity began to rise. Her second album Grow into One was released in March 2003 and it peaked at number 8 on the Oricon charts, partly due to the additions of Real Emotion, 1000 no Kotoba, and To Be One, a song that was used to promote Final Fantasy X-2 online, in the album.
With the success of these songs, Koda had to prove that she wasn’t a one-hit, well three-hit, wonder to the masses. She was put to the test with her following singles and albums. Her following singles, Come With Me, Gentle Words, and Crazy 4 U all charted within the top 20, but her third album, Feel My Mind charted at number 7 which elevated her popularity even more. While the album had a lot to do with her success, Koda underwent an image change that changed her career for the better.
Sexy Fashion Icon
When the music video for Crazy 4 U was released, fans were shocked to see that Koda traded in her cute generic idol look for a much more mature and sexy image. While Namie Amuro spearheaded the sexy look into the mainstream, Koda Kumi further expanded on it and ended up being a major influence to the style as well. Her branch of the style, ero-kakkoii, or sexy-cool plays with fashion in ways that the mainstream wasn’t ready for. This drastic change cemented her presence in the Japanese music industry for decades to come.
Her Biggest Controversy
After her image change, her albums began to sell very well, and they charted very high on the Oricon charts. This allowed Koda to embark on her first public tour, Secret First Class Limited Live which led to many more successful tours that led her to perform at the Tokyo Dome various times. Koda was on a roll, and it looked like nothing could derail this superstar’s career.
Koda was met with her first big controversy in 2008 for making a rude comment about child bearing. While a lot of people thought this would be the end of her career her apology was taken well by the masses. She’s managed to stay out of controversies after this incident and has released music that continued to top the charts and her concerts continued to be massively successful.
Koda Kumi Today
Her most recent album, re(CORD) which peaked at number 4 on the charts upon its release in 2019 is her latest success. 2019 marks her 20th anniversary in the business and Koda celebrated by reflecting on her career through her tour re(LIVE). She recently began releasing a documentary series about the making of her re(LIVE) tour.
For the latest on Koda Kumi’s activities, check out her official site.