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I have said on many occasions that Koda Kumi’s best albums are her cover albums. So it comes as no surprise that one of Kumi’s best singles this year is a cover.

Rejoice! A bitch has still got it. She ain’t always got it. But here, she’s got it. We are not gonna talk about “Vroom”. 

“Tooi Machi no Dokoka de…” has Kumi Koda getting festive with a hook consisting of the lyrics ‘Happy Merry Christmas’ and a video featuring snow, a christmas tree and a yacht cruise under the Rainbow bridge, because that’s what a rich bitch does when she’s bored one night in December.

“Tooi Machi no Dokoka de…” is a cover of Miho Nakayama’s hit 1991 song and it’s a great fit for Kumi. Not only is it an outright Christmas song, something of which has been LONG overdue from Kumi, but everything about the vibe of the original to how Miho sings; it just suits Kumi down to the ground.

A screenshot from Koda Kumi’s music video for “Tooi Machi no Dokoka de...”. Featuring Kumi in close up, with her hands to her face, showing off her long pink nails.
Kumi Koda – Kumi Koda – Tooi Machi no Dokoka de… | Avex Music Creative Inc.

Kumi’s cover albums were both pretty notable for featuring covers which were drastic departures from the originals. But for “Tooi Machi no Dokoka de…”, Kumi stays pretty close to the original arrangement, with the production style updated slightly to give it a bit more bounce and a more contemporary vibe, whilst still retaining the 80s-ness of the original. It’s wonderfully produced, striking a nice balance between retaining enough of the original arrangement for it to be familiar, but adding just enough newness that it can stand on its own and appeal to an audience who perhaps weren’t fans of the original. Miho’s version is white-girl-dancing around the Christmas tree in an ugly sweater. Kumi’s version is a rich bitch pretending to put a bauble on the tree that she had the help decorate two hours before. Similar, yet simultaneously very different.

Kumi’s rendition of “Tooi Machi no Dokoka de…” sits in that light and jubilant mid-tempo space which has always worked for Kumi and yielded some of her better songs. These aren’t usually the songs that her fans go crazy over. But it’s a sound in which Kumi has maintained consistency with, compared to her other styles of songs that she’s better known for.

A screenshot from Koda Kumi’s music video for “Tooi Machi no Dokoka de...”. Featuring Kumi stood outside on the boat in a pink coat and white gloves, holding up her hand to catch the snow that’s falling.
Kumi Koda – Kumi Koda – Tooi Machi no Dokoka de… | Avex Music Creative Inc.

Kumi Koda’s discography is pretty light on Christmas songs. I end up throwing a whole bunch of her ballads into my Christmas playlist, because they feel festive to me and a couple of them also had a bitch walking around in the snow in the music video. But it’s nice for Kumi to finally have a Christmas song proper in her discography. I think a holiday album full of covers would be a great thing for Kumi to do at some point. Something in the vein of Tatsuro Yamashita’s Seasons Greetings; where she doesn’t just cover traditional Christmas songs, but songs which share the sentiment of a Christmas song with a festive arrangement. Christmas remains a wholly untapped space in J-pop. And Kumi loves to spread herself so thin that I’m surprised that she’s not made an attempt at it. But she really should consider it, as it’d be a great look for her. And I imagine it will be one she considers eventually, for no other reason than seeing what it’s done for Mariah Carey. But to be really frank, between how good “Tooi Machi no Dokoka de…” is, how Kumi was once THAT bitch when it came to winter ballads and how good her cover albums are, a Kumi Christmas covers album is truly a no brainer.

As was the case for most of Eternity ~Love & Songs~ and Color the Cover, Kumi reminds us of how good her voice is. She doesn’t do a lot here, which works for her. She sounds super poised and confident. One of the nicest qualities to Kumi’s voice is her lower register, and she spends a fair amount of time in it on “Tooi Machi no Dokoka de…”. Kumi’s vocals are a little shaky in places. But I’m willing to chalk this up to Kumi doing tours and public appearances non stop for the past year and then travelling to the US to attend shows and gigs on her off days. So perhaps she recorded this song in the midst of this on a day when her voice just needed a well deserved rest. This is the only reason I can think of as to why odd moments are a little shaky, because they are moments which should be easy for her to pull off smoothly and would be easy for anybody. But on-the-whole, Kumi was smart with her approach to this song, opting to not do too much and not stray from the straight and simple way in which Miho sang the original. “Tooi Machi no Dokoka de…” is not a song which requires much.

A screenshot from Koda Kumi’s music video for “Tooi Machi no Dokoka de...”. Featuring Kumi in close up, with her hands to her face, showing off her long pink nails.
Kumi Koda – Kumi Koda – Tooi Machi no Dokoka de… | Avex Music Creative Inc.

“Tooi Machi no Dokoka de…” feels like classic Kumi Koda in the best of ways. It’s safe as hell, but sometimes that’s fine. And honestly, I’d take Kumi giving me safe and good, over the YG Entertainment sounding doo-doo she’s been releasing for the past couple of years.

It’s truly unfortunate that “Tooi Machi no Dokoka de…” was just flung out with no real promo behind it, and that it got sandwiched in between two other digital single releases and the news of another single releasing right before Christmas (which is absolute doo-doo). AND a Driving Hits album coming in January. Because this really is such a good song with a really nice music video and it could have done a lot for Kumi were it released as a fully fledged single. 2024 needs to be the year when Kumi makes better music choices. She’s been in this game too long and has too much material to pour over to get a sense of what works, to keep putting out stuff which does not. And I may be giving a bitch too much credit, but her cover of “Tooi Machi no Dokoka de…” proves that she has SOME sense of what does indeed work for her.

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Single Review: Koda Kumi – Tooi Machi no Dokoka de…