How to fashion a rock phase out of Ayumi Hamasaki videos: Koda Kumi’s “Can We Go Back”

Call it The Ayumi Hamasaki Effect: ever since Hamasaki has skyrocketed to fame, there have been dozens of acts attempting to repeat the formula, sometimes with variation, sometimes barely concealed, all in an attempt to hit the same idol jackpot. In the case of Rina Aiuchi, even when you model your first two albums off said artist’s first two in an attempt to experience the same popularity (although the first album is less a copy than another one of the proverbial uncomfortably close head shots that littered the streets of 1999 like Parliament cigarette butts outside a Spoon concert), you still end up plunging so far down the popularity chain, you forgo your rock phase for adult-contemporary lite and the next average to middling anime theme. And while Koda Kumi has managed to pull herself up by her own dominatrix bootstraps instead of wide-eyed staring in T-shirts and jeans, she’s still not different enough to pass up a chance to have her diva-rock phase, all seemingly culled from the back catalog of Japan’s own Empress of Pop.

From 2001’s “NEVER EVER” to 2007’s “talkin 2 myself,” Hamasaki has gone through all the permutations: mud-caked soul-searching, bouncy pop rock, faux-hawk, leather, and studs, mostly with anger. Lots of anger. Except when it’s sad. Then it’s not just sad, it’s slit-your wrists depressed. Koda Kumi’s new single “Can We Go Back” may not have the lyrical weight of a Hamasaki creation, but it certainly knows where to go for the appropriate pissed-off imagery (besides, of course, that very strange flag-raising thing, brought to you by Coldplay).

From “ourselves.”

From “Because of you.”

From “talkin’ 2 myself.”


4 thoughts on “How to fashion a rock phase out of Ayumi Hamasaki videos: Koda Kumi’s “Can We Go Back”

  1. vinyabarion January 20, 2010 / 3:07 pm

    Koda been biting that finger for a decade… she did it in Selfish, Ningyo-hime… Juicy… well, she bit everything in Juicy but… she is dirty and biting her finger… no she did that in JUICY too… you do have an interesting point though, but isn’t pop repeating itself now apart of it’s manifesto?

  2. Rinoa January 24, 2010 / 1:31 pm

    That is quite an interesting comparison you’ve made… I think it’s quite obvious that avex have been attempting for long to capture the Ayu formula with Kumi. I wonder how Kumi actually feels about this and I’m curious to see how well she’ll pull of her third best album stunt…

  3. Espa January 24, 2010 / 2:39 pm

    I agree with vinyabarion on the last bit. And in regards to the screencaps posted for comparison… None of the visuals or poses in the Ayumi videos shown are completely original. Hamasaki is hardly the first singer to be shown chained to a wall or covered in dirt, even though at times she does these things so well she may as well have done them first.

    That being said, given the ubiquitous nature of her legacy in Japan – heck, Asia period – there’s no way for her to have not been at least a small part of the inspiration behind “Can We Go Back.” There are certain formulas/motiffs that videos like this often adhere to. Kumi’s video (like some of Ayumi’s) simply follows suit.

    Oh, and that flag bit at the end totally reminded me of Soulhead’s album cover for [Naked]

  4. Jennifer February 15, 2011 / 2:33 am

    Remembering both artists belong to the Avex label, so of course there’s going to be overlapping somewhere!
    I agree with all the above comments. It’s like fashion, it goes around in cycles only to repeat itself. For example the 1950s style is back in currently, and quite obviously, there’s a boom of dirt-ridden jpop artists chained to walls. I’m pretty sure it’s been done before

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