Kumiko Kōda (神田 來未子, Kōda Kumiko, born November 13, 1982), better known by her stage name Kumi Koda (倖田 來未, Kōda Kumi), is a Japanese singer from Kyoto, known for her urban and R&B songs. Having debuted in 2000 with the single "Take Back", Koda gained fame for her seventh single, "Real Emotion/1000 no Kotoba", the songs of which were used as themes for the video game Final Fantasy X-2. Her popularity grew with the release of her fourth studio album Secret (2005), her sixteenth single "Butterfly" (2005), and her first greatest hits album Best: First Things (2005), reaching the number-three, number-two and number-one spot respectively.
Though her early releases presented a conservative, quiet image, since as early as 2003 Koda has adopted a sexier and more provocative style. Because of this image, she has become a fashion leader among young women, setting trends such as the ero-kakkoii style. She has also won many fashion awards such as, the "Best Jeanist Award" and the title of "Nail Queen" yearly since 2006. Since the rise in her popularity, Koda has lent her face and songs to many advertisements. In 2006 and 2007, Oricon named Koda as the top selling artist of the year.Jonathan Ross has called her the Christina Aguilera of Japan, while many also compare her career to that of Britney Spears. Koda has sold more than 15 million physical records in Japan alone, making her the 18th best selling solo Japanese female artist of all-time.
Life and music career:
Early life and music interest:
Koda was born into a family of musicians. Her grandfather was a Shakuhachi master and her mother was a Koto teacher; she is the older sister of Misono, current solo artist and former lead singer of Day After Tomorrow. Inspired by her mother, who performed in karaoke bars, Koda, from a young age, had aspirations of becoming a singer. Her school years were unhappy; she described her junior and high school years as "obscure times", as she was bullied due to her "fatness", "shortness", "ugliness", and other factors related to her appearance. During her second year of high school Koda auditioned in Avex's "Dream Audition", where she came in second out of 120,000 participants. She was then signed onto the Avex sub-label Rhythm Zone. Koda's first semi-biographical book, Koda-shiki ("Koda-style") was officially described as "a story about a girl who was filled with inferiority complex pursuing her way".
2000-2004: Early career and image change:
Koda debuted on December 6, 2000, with the single "Take Back"; it was followed by "Trust Your Love", "Color of Soul" (both 2001), and "So into You" (2002). "Trust Your Love" and "Color of Soul" were both Top 30 singles; the former reached number 18 on the chart and became Koda's first Top Twenty single. Using the stage name Koda, Koda recorded "Take Back" and "Trust Your Love" in English and released the singles in the United States under Orpheus Records. "Take Back" peaked at number 18 on the Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales chart; "Trust Your Love" had more success, reaching the top spot on the Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales chart. The single also charted on the Hot Singles Sales chart and Hot Dance Club Play chart, at #19 and #35, respectively. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, Koda recorded the charity single "The Meaning of Peace" with Korean singer BoA as part of Avex's Song+Nation project to raise funds for charity. In March 2002, Koda released her debut album Affection under Rhythm Zone; it peaked at number 12 on the Oricon album chart.
After the release of Affection, Koda released three singles. "Love Across the Ocean", "Maze" (both 2002), and "real Emotion/1000 no Kotoba" (2003). "Love Across the Ocean" and "Maze" peaked at the number 19 and 25 positions. Koda achieved minor success with "real Emotion/1000 no Kotoba", which peaked at number 3 after three weeks on the charts. The songs were used as the opening and ending themes, respectively, of the video game Final Fantasy X-2; in addition, Koda motion-acted the dance moves of one of the characters and voiced the character Lenne in the Japanese version of the game. She released her second album, Grow into One in March 2003. It debuted at number 11 on the charts, and peaked at number 8 in the fourth week of its run.
From then on, Koda continued a string of Top Twenty singles with "Come with Me", "Gentle Words" (both 2003), and "Crazy 4 U" (2004). She then released her third album Feel My Mind (February 2004), which debuted at number 7. Koda also covered the theme song of the anime series Cutie Honey originally by Yoko Maekawa for the 2004 live-action film and Re: Cutie Honey. The song, which shared the same name as the show, was included as a bonus track on the album and became the title track of her eleventh single, "Love & Honey" (2004), after the album's release. At the end of the year, Koda released two more singles, "Chase" and "Kiseki". Although Koda had always been known for her changing fashions in her music videos, the video of "Kiseki" marked the beginning of her incorporation of her sexy image into her music videos.
During her image change, Koda stated her concern about what her parents would think. When they approved and supported her, she chose to keep the style that would become infamous with her name: "ero-kakkoi".
2005-2006: Growing popularity:
Koda's first release of 2005 was her fourteenth single, "Hands" (January 19). Less than a month later, she released her fourth album, Secret. Secret debuted at number 3 and became her first album to debut in the Top Five. The album was certified double platinum by the RIAJ for selling 521,000 copies total. Koda then released her fifteenth single, "Hot Stuff", from the album. Shortly afterwards, Koda released her first live DVD, Secret: First Class Limited Live. In 2006, Oricon reported that Secret: First Class Limited Live had set a new record on the music DVD charts by remaining at the top of the Oricon DVD charts for seven weeks in total.
Koda released her sixteenth single, "Butterfly", which debuted at number 2 on the Oricon chart. "Butterfly" was followed by "Flower" and "Promise/Star"; both peaked at number 4 in the weekly chart. In September, Koda released her first greatest hits album, Best: First Things. The album debuted at number 2 on the chart in its first week but rose to the top the following week, giving Koda her first number-one album.Best: First Things sold over a million copies and was certified million by the Recording Industry Association of Japan.
In December, Koda began the "12 Singles Project" in which for twelve consecutive weeks, she released one single per week (nine of which were labeled as limited editions). The first single of the 12 Singles Project, "You", debuted at the top of the chart, giving Koda her first number-one single. Koda then released "Birthday Eve", "D.D.D.", and "Shake It Up" before the end of the year. Koda released the remaining eight singles in the beginning of the new year. The first single was "Lies", followed by "Feel", "Candy", "No Regret", "Ima Sugu Hoshii", "Kamen", "Wind" and "Someday/Boys & Girls". On the same day as she released the last single from the project, she released digitally Koda Kumi Remix Album, which includes remixes of songs from project. "Feel", the fifth single from the project, debuted atop the charts. "You" remained in the Oricon Top Ten during the release of "Shake It Up" and "Lies", making Koda the first female artist to have three singles in the Top Ten of the Oricon Weekly Singles chart. Koda's fashion in this period, in which she wore skin-baring clothes, started the ero-kakkoii trend in Japan. "Get It On", the thirteenth and last single of the "12 Singles Project", was Koda's first digital single; it was followed by her second greatest hits album, Best: Second Session. The album featured all twelve singles along with two new tracks and was released in three different formats: CD-only, CD+DVD, and CD+2DVD. Best: Second Session debuted at the top of the chart with 983,000 copies sold in its first week, making Koda the first female artist with the highest greatest hits album debut sales since Hikaru Utada's Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol. 1. Like Best: First Things, Best: Second Session was certified million by the RIAJ.
After Best: Second Session, Koda released "Koi no Tsubomi" which reached number 2 in its debut week with 140,000 copies sold, and eventually topped 1 million downloads. This was the highest debut week sales for a female artist in 2006, until Ayumi Hamasaki surpassed it with her single "Blue Bird". On July 26, 2006, Koda released her first photobook, Maroc; the book, photographed by Leslie Kee, was tied with her thirty-second single "4 Hot Wave", which was released on the same day. Koda reclaimed the title of highest debut week sales for a female artist in 2006 with "4 Hot Wave"; which also ranked second behind the KinKi Kids. "4 Hot Wave" is Koda's nineteenth consecutive single to debut in the Top Ten since "Kiseki". Koda's next single, "Yume no Uta / Futari de..." (2006), was a musical first for Koda, as she took full creative control over the production of the single and music video; she wrote the lyrics, chose the outfits, and produced the concepts for the videos of both songs. Koda then recorded a cover of the Bubblegum Brothers' "Won't Be Long" with label-mates Exile. "Cherry Girl/Unmei" was the last single Koda released before releasing her fifth album Black Cherry in December. Black Cherry became the first female studio album to stay atop the charts for four weeks since Ayumi Hamasaki's album Duty. At the end of 2006, Oricon named her the best-selling artist of 2006 with ¥12,702,200,000 profit (approximately $136,465,304), and Yahoo! Japan declared her to be the most-searched female artist and tenth most searched term overall in 2006.
2007-2010: Commercial peak and controversy:
On March 14, 2007, Koda released her thirty-fifth single ("But/Aishō"), another greatest hits album (Best: Bounce & Lovers), and a DVD of her second tour Live Tour 2006-2007: Second Session. Her second single of 2007, "Freaky", reached the top spot on the Oricon, giving Koda her fourth number-one single. Koda performed at the Japanese leg of Live Earth in Tokyo on July 7, 2007, and attended AP Bank Fes '07, an conservationist-themed concert, hosted by Kazutoshi Sakurai of Mr. Children on July 15, 2007. At the end of 2007, Koda released two singles, "Ai no Uta" and "Last Angel", a collaboration with Korean boy band TVXQ better known as Tohoshinki in Japan. "Last Angel" was used as the theme song for the Japanese release for Resident Evil: Extinction. On December 1, she held her first performance at Tokyo Dome for her third nationwide and first arena tour. Koda became the seventh solo female singer to perform at Tokyo Dome with an estimated audience of 45,000 people. Having sold more than 7.3 billion yen worth of CDs and DVDs, Koda was again the best-selling artist of the year in Oricon's 2007 year-end rankings.
Koda released her thirty-ninth single "Anytime" on January 23, 2008; it was followed by her sixth studio album Kingdom, which was released in the same format as her previous album. With a little over 420,000 copies sold in its first week, Kingdom debuted atop the Oricon. On January 31, Koda hosted All Night Nippon; discussing her manager's recent marriage and plans on having children, Koda remarked that "When women turn 35, their amniotic fluid goes rotten, so I'd like them to have a child by 35". Because of the controversy instigated by the comment, Avex released an apology stating that as a consolation, all promotion of Kingdom would cease. Additionally, several of Koda's commercial endorsements were placed on hiatus. Koda herself made a public apology on Fuji TV. Despite the controversy, Kingdom remained on top for a second consecutive week. Two months after her controversial statement, Koda released Live Tour 2007: Black Cherry Tour Special Final in Tokyo Dome, her fourth live DVD. Her fourth nationwide tour Kumi Koda Live Tour 2008: Kingdom commenced on April 12, 2008.
Koda's fortieth single "Moon" was released on June 11, 2008. Like "Freaky", "Moon" contained four tracks. The single contained "Moon Crying", used as the theme for Asahi Television drama Puzzle, and a collaboration track with The Black Eyed Peas' Fergie Koda again attended Avex's annual summer concert A-Nation '08. She appeared at all eight shows in Japan and performed with other Avex artists such as Every Little Thing, Ai Otsuka, Namie Amuro, Ayumi Hamasaki, TVXQ, and Maki Goto. In October, Koda released her forty-first single, "Taboo". With around 66,000 copies sold in its first week, "Taboo" debuted at the number-one position and became Koda's fifth single to reach the top. Koda released her forty-second single "Stay with Me" on Christmas Eve, which debuted atop of the chart selling 58,000 copies. Koda's seventh studio album, Trick, was another number-one album for the singer, selling 253,000 in its first week. The album stayed at the number-one spot for a second week selling 56,000 copies. Although the album debuted at the number-one position, this was her lowest selling album since her fourth studio album, Secret.
On March 25, Koda released two albums, Out Works & Collaboration Best and Koda Kumi Driving Hit's sic. The former is a compilation of collaborations with other artists and the latter is a remix album.Out Works & Collaboration Best and Koda Kumi Driving Hit's debuted at number 7 and 6 respectively. Koda's forty-third single, "It's All Love!", was released on March 31, 2009. The single, a collaboration with her younger sister Misono, debuted atop the Oricon, making the sisters the first siblings to have a single top the chart in its initial week. The second song from the single, "Faraway", was used as the theme song for the manga-based movie Subaru. On July 8, 2009, Koda released her forty-fourth single, "3 Splash". The single debuted at number 2 on the charts making it Koda's thirty-third Top 10 single. Following the release of "3 Splash" was her forty-fifth single, "Alive/Physical Thing", which took the number-one spot on the single charts.
2010-2011: Celebration of the 10th Anniversary:
On January 20, 2010, Koda released a new single titled, "Can We Go Back", which is a cover of a bonus track on Kelly Clarkson's 2009 album All I Ever Wanted. On February 3, 2010, Koda released a new best album, Best: Third Universe, and her eighth studio album, Universe, which are packaged together under the name of Best: Third Universe/Universe. On July 7, 2010, she released her 47th single, "Gossip Candy", which peaked at number 4 on the Oricon chart. On September 22, 2010, she released her 48th single "Suki de, Suki de, Suki de./Anata Dake ga", two ballads and a rerecorded version of "Walk". The DVD release of her tour "Kumi Koda Live Tour Universe" was released on October 6, 2010. A week later Koda released her first cover-album Eternity: Love & Songs, on which she covers songs from the 70s, 80s and 90s. Koda didn't release a number-one single in 2010, her first time since 2004 not to do so. On December 5, 2010, Koda held a concert celebrating her 10th Anniversary named "Fantasia", where she performed a selection of songs from all over her career. The concert was filmed for DVD release and held at Tokyo Dome.
2011-2012: 50th single, 10th album, marriage and motherhood:
On February 2, 2011, her 49th single "Pop Diva" was released and on February 23, 2011, Koda released "Eternity -Love & Songs- at Billboard Live" an audio DVD of her performance at Billboard Live Tokyo in October 2010, where she performed many songs from her Eternity: Love & Songs cover album. She released her ninth studio album named Dejavu on March 2, 2011. Koda is planning to release Koda Kumi Driving Hit's 3 in March. Kumi Koda is featured in the Far East Movement song Make It Bump, which was only released on the Japanese edition of their album "Free Wired". On May 18, 2011, Koda released the DVD of her "Fantasia" concert entitled "Kumi Koda 10th Anniversary: Fantasia in Tokyo Dome". Alongside DVD, the concert was also released in Blu-ray format. Her previous concerts were also re-released in Blu-ray format. Koda's 50th single was released August 17, 2011. The single is titled "4 Times" and includes four songs as well as four music videos to accompany them (Such as her previous 2006 summer single, "4 Hot Wave"). Since it is Koda's 50th single, it was released in two different special limited edition commemorative versions. One comes with 50 Kumi Koda 50th Anniversary post cards and the other with a special digital camera. Immediately after the release of "4 Times", it was posted on her official website that her 51st single, "Ai Wo Tomenaide" was to be released September 21, 2011. The song charted at number 4 on the Oricon charts. November 29, Kumi Koda became the only Japanese star to perform at Mnet Asian Music Awards. During the press conference before the MAMAs began, she said how she was still friends with the members of TVXQ and Minzy from the Korean girl group 2NE1. On November 30, 2011, her 52nd single, "Love Me Back", was released, debuting at number 5 on the Oricon charts. On December 7, 2011, Koda's tenth album album was announced for release on January 25, 2012. The album is entitled 'Japonesque' and comes in four different types; CD, CD+DVD, the DVD containing music videos, a limited edition featuring a B4-size, 32-page booklet and a CD+2DVD edition which would features additional live content alongside the music videos. On August 1, 2012, Koda released a remix album called "Beach Mix", which included a new song and a new music video, titled "Whatchu Waitin' On?" This was the first release of any content since Koda gave birth. It was at this time that Koda announced a nationwide arena tour of Japan in 2014 for the album 'Japonesque'. It was announced in August that "Go to the Top" would be released as Koda's 53rd on October 24, 2012. The single went to number 1 on the Oricon charts, her first in three years to do so. Her 54th single "Koishikute" was originally set for December 5, 2012, but was pushed back to December 26, 2012. However, it had been released on iTunes Japan the original date; and subsequently peaked at #7 on the Oricon chart when the physical single was finally released.
In February 2013, Koda released her 2nd cover album 'Color the Cover' fronted by a somewhat controversial cover of late rock-singer Hide's hit Pink Spider; as well as other popular hits such as Kome Kome Club's "Shake Hip!" and Kenji Ozawa's "Lovely". The album peaked at #3 on the Oricon chart and charted for 17 weeks. Furthermore, in March, continuing the 'Driving Hit's' series, Koda released her 7th remix album 'Driving Hit's 5'.
In March, Koda embarked on a Japan-wide arena tour for the album Japonesque.
Koda's musical style is mainly Japanese Urban and R&B; however, it was only after Koda signed to Rhythm Zone that Japanese Urban and R&B became her main musical styles. But throughout her career her musical style has spanned additional styles such as rock, hip-hop, electropop and dance.
Koda has even explored the themes of sexuality and taboos in her lyrics. While listening to the music of "But", the first thing that came to Koda's mind was homosexuality. Regarding the theme of homosexuality, Koda said in an interview: "I'm the type of person who thinks that in a relationship it doesn't matter what sex the other person is. No matter who they are, it doesn't change the 'I love this person' feeling, does it?" The video for "Taboo" portrayed homosexuality and other "taboo" subjects to deliver Koda's message of "there really is no such thing as a taboo". She also said of "Taboo"'s themes, "Instead of trying stuff out and experiencing it, we put up a 'No' sign, we never try to break the taboos" and "Sometimes we shouldn't retreat into safety, we should have courage to do things. Those are the feelings kin the song." Such themes are also present in her music videos: she has incorporated her "sexy" image into her videos since "Kiseki" through sexually charged dances and skin-baring outfits. The video of "Ima Sugu Hoshii" featured two males in sexual positions, and the video of "Juicy", which also featured sexual posturing, was censored in Taiwan.
Lyrics and composition:
Since the start of her career Koda has been writing the lyrics to her songs. On her second studio album, Grow into One, Koda wasn't as much involved with the writing of the lyrics, as only four songs were written by her. Koda's control over the writing of the lyrics grew with her thirty-third single "Yume no Uta / Futari de... ". The single was originally intended to be a single song about "happy love", however Koda felt the melody had represented both the elements of happiness and sadness. She wrote the lyrics for both songs to represent the sadness and the happiness. In doing so Koda ended up creating two songs with the same melody. She remarked, "It was a first time experiment for me, but I was able to convey how happiness and sadness are two sides of the same coin." Koda lists Janet Jackson, Christina Aguilera, and Beyoncé Knowles as her inspirations; she has also stated that when she produces, she "is like a different person"; thus, she refers to herself in the third person and "looks at herself objectively".
Koda was not as involved concerning the composition of her songs. "Milk Tea" (ミルクティー, Miruku Tii), from Black Cherry, marked the first time she composed a song. Her involvement in the composition stage grew during the production of her seventh studio album Trick.
Koda won her first award at the 47th Japan Record Awards for Butterfly on January 1, 2006, and was awarded "Triple Crown" at the Japan Gold Disc Awards on March 10, 2006, for pocketing three awards: "Pop Artist of the Year", "Pop Album of the Year", and "Music Video of the Year". She continued to win more awards for this song; on May 27, 2006, the MTV VMAJ's awarded Koda with "Best Female Video" and "Best Video of the Year" for "Butterfly", and "buzzASIA from Japan" for "Trust You", a track from her album Secret. Later in 2006, her song "Yume no Uta" from her 33rd single, "Yume no Uta / Futari de...", garnered Koda more awards. She was a Grand Prix winner at the 39th Japan Usen Grand Prize.
On May 26, 2007, Koda won three awards from MTV Video Music Awards Japan for the second year in a row. "Yume No Uta" was nominated in three categories and won "Best Female Video and "Best Video of the Year". Koda herself won a special award known as "Best Stylish Artist Award". At the 2007 Best Hit Kayōsai Koda's "Ai no Uta" earned her the Grand Prix in the pop category, also winning one of the golden awards for the 49th Nihon Record Taishō.
Koda, while having success on Oricon charts with physical CD sales, maintains success on online music sales as well. It is reported that twenty-two of her music videos chart the top 100 most downloaded videos, with four of her videos dominating the top five, and having "Koi no Tsubomi" top the Overall Downloads Chart, which thirteen of her other songs chart. She has sold more than 15 million records in Japan.
Kumi Koda won the "Hottest Asian Artist" at the MAMA (Mnet Asian Music Award) 2011.
Kumi Koda and director Mika Ninagawa won the "Music Short Excellence Award, Cinematic Award" for Pink Spider at the Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia 2013 (abbreviation: SSFF &ASIA).
Koda has been known for her "sexy" image. In 2003, she started a cleavage-baring trend when she appeared in advertisements wearing a metallic bra. Her 2004 work with the anime movie Cutie Honey continued this image, and in 2005, she began the "ero kawaii" or "ero-kakkoii" trend in Japan and was partially responsible for making the wearing of lingerie in public more acceptable in Japan. Koda's image has inspired other artists: Korean singer Ayumi Lee and American Japanese expatriate model-singer Leah Dizon, both known for their use of sexuality in the image, are inspired in part by Koda. Singaporean newspaper The New Paper suggested that her sexy image was responsible for her sales--she outsold "reigning J-pop queen" Ayumi Hamasaki in 2006 and 2007. In 2006, Koda began winning awards for being a new trendsetter in Japan, including the "Best Jeanist Award" on September 4, 2006, and the title of "Nail Queen" for her nail art on November 21, 2006, by Japan Nail Expo.
In 2006, when the popularity of Japanese singers was declining in Singapore due to the rising popularity of the Korean wave, Koda's sexy image garnered her popularity in the region and renewed interest in J-pop. James Kang, marketing director for Warner Music in Asia, noted that Koda's sexy image is popular not only with men but also with women, even "Japanese aunties", because she uses her image to "make a feminist statement ... She's constantly telling women to believe in themselves and do what they want to do". In 2007, it was proposed that the term "ero-kakkoii" be added to the Japanese Encyclopedia of Contemporary Words.
In August 2007, it was rumored that Koda was dating SMAP leader Masahiro Nakai. The media questioned the artists' agencies on the matter, neither agency had confirmed or denied the rumors. In September, during a variety show that Nakai was a semi-regular on, socialite Dewi Sukarno was discussing her ideal boyfriend mentioned that Nakai and Koda were dating. It was also rumored that the two would get married before Koda's 25th birthday. In the December issue of Josei Seven, it was "confirmed" that the two were dating.
The couple has been dubbed as the "national couple", a nickname last used in the early 1960s when actor Akira Kobayashi married enka singer Hibari Misora. However, some have denied that the relationship is real, claiming that Johnny Kitagawa orchestrated the relationship in order to move SMAP to the Avex label; websites have claimed that Koda is just a cover up for Nakai's real girlfriend.
On December 12, 2011, these rumours were finally proven false, as it was announced through Kumi Koda's official site that she was engaged to Kenji03 from Back-On Kumi then announced on December 16 that she was eight weeks pregnant. This was discovered after returning from the Mnet Asian Music Awards in Singapore. The two married on December 22, 2011.
On July 17, 2012, Koda gave birth to the couple's first child, a son.