Kuoko has today released her new album titled ‘Troubleshooter’ via Kabul Fire Records. Solid pop with a set of memorable grooves, Kuoko is an artist who has a vision, and that vision is present in every track on this album, including her new single, also released today, titled ‘Crisis Queen’, included on ‘Troubleshooter’.
I find it hard to find a favorite track on ‘Troubleshooter’. I like them all, for separate reasons. Overall, however, I love her gift of songwriting. She writes for the hook. But there is an individual style embedded in each of these tracks. While different in every song, there is an overlaying sense of original style that reveals itself as signature.
Hamburg based electronic singer-songwriter, producer and musician Kuoko delivers a succinct final track ‘Crisis Queen’, lifted from the sophomore album ‘Troubleshooter’ released on 1st December through Kabul Fire Records.
Kuoko displays a fiery confidence based on personal truth, ‘Crisis Queen’ is peppered with hints of drum & bass, garage and pop, awash with nods to fellow luminaries like Nia Archives, Peggy Gou and Kenya Grace, all effortlessly delivered through Kuoko’s silkysmooth approach. Kuoko’s understanding of music is pure empowerment, whether in the form of energetic anthems made for the dance floor or through her personal and introspective lyrics. Having graced the billboards on New York’s Times Square as part of Spotify’s EQUAL campaign, her debut self titled album in 2021 garnered over 20 million streams globally.
About the album, Kuoko says: “Troubleshooter” is an album about chaos. A reflection on being human in an overwhelming, digital society. The emotional peaks and valleys that come with the uncertain path as an artist, a declaration of love to DIY, but also the hurdles that arise in the process. Musically, the album represents a willingness to experiment with new genres that have inspired me greatly along the way. I find talking about my weaknesses and stepping out of my comfort zone very empowering and hope that it gives other people something to take with them. With the high tempo of the songs and the general danceable dynamics of the album, I have also managed to transform negative aspects of my experiences into positive energy.”
Musically, Kuoko refers to her signature synth sound and catchy melodies while including new musical influences in an organic and refreshing way – on songs like “Loser,” a French House-inspired summer track reminding of Daft Punk and Peggy Gou. The accompanying music video, again created with her long-term collaborator Jasmin Luu, who is like Kuoko part of feminist film collective SEOI, shows Kuoko immersed in one of her real hobbies: gaming. Lyrically, the song deals with the art of failing, a topic close to Kuoko’s heart, who as a DIY musician faces many daily problems and challenges. To Kuoko, the most important thing is to learn to accept failure to move on – in her own words: “I would rather be a loser than the one who never dares, I would rather mess it up a hundred times,” speaking openly about failure is Kuoko’s way to turn “weakness” into strength.
Being a musician in a fast-living society also comes with responsibilities though. Reflecting on her own tendency to exploit and overwork herself, Kuoko highlights the importance of taking a break on her dreamy pop tune “Take It Slow,” a danceable track that isn’t slow at all but awaits with unexpected tempo changes. Despite its up-beat sound and happy moments, “Troubleshooter” deals with serious topics and is a yearning for connection in digital times. That wish for belonging is most noticeable on the singles “All I Want” and “Firework,” in which Kuoko puts the lyrics at the center with her clear and subtractive production.
Not only thematically Kuoko draws inspiration from the latest discourses, but also musically she finds ways to refer to influences from the international pop music scene, playing with vocal harmonizers and Drum ‘n Bass-inspired beats that may remind of emerging artists like Pink Panthress (“Hurt Yourself”). With LILA SOVIA as guest feature on “This Is Fine” Kuoko invites one of Germany’s most promising rap newcomers on the album. The title refers to today’s meme culture and wraps a heavy topic like climate crisis into a chill sounding Lo-fi beat.
With “Troubleshooter” Kuoko achieves to deliver a sophomore album that manages to sound exciting and relevant in an overcrowded musical landscape. Her lyrics give insight into her reality as a mixed race Vietnamese / German music producer aiming for equality in a music world where more space for diversity needs to be created.