Archive for the 'Ayumi Hamasaki' Category

Ayumi Hamasaki: Days/GREEN

Days/GREEN, Ayumi Hamasaki1. Days

2. GREEN

3. LOVE: Destiny (10th Anniversary Edition)
     or To Be (10th Anniversary Edition)

Days/GREEN is Ayumi Hamasaki’s forty-seventh single, released on December 17th, 2008. It is her second tenth anniversary single, and features remakes, like with Mirrorcle World, of previously released singles, this time from the LOVEppears era.

Of the two A-Sides on this single, Days is by far the weakest. It’s like one of Ayumi’s yearly outburst of mediocrity, her summer songs, but for Christmas. The chorus was nice, but that is really the only good thing about this song, since the rest is just plain boring. Although I have to admit that I really liked those bells in the background.

GREEN‘s first few moments really reminded me of alan’s Sakura Modern, but the rest of the song is completely different. If there’s one thing Japanese musicians almost always succeed at, it’s Oriental ballads with powerful instruments; and while this song isn’t the crème de la crème of that category, it is definitely quite good. The verses were boring for a short period, and I would’ve liked for the dynamic level to go no further than the instrumental introduction, but the chorus fixes all that and creates a pretty memorable track. I’m quite curious about the placement of Mirrorcle World, Days and GREEN on an album, since they’re so different.

LOVE: Destiny is an interesting track. I was sort of expecting something like Hitomi Shimatani’s Destiny – Taiyou no Hana – because of the similarity of the titles (you’ll say that doesn’t make any sense, but that’s how it is, I don’t know why). But the song is a gentle ballad with its common points with GREEN, and I quite liked it, albeit the pretty lame vocals which tended to drag. The biggest disappointment in this song was the lack of a powerful chorus to make it sound more grandiose.

Of the two remakes, To Be is the weakest. It’s not particularly interesting, and the only thing added is Ayumi’s more fleshy voice (compared to her powerfully bland voice at her debut). I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of these remakes, since I’m not a fan of anything Ayumi did before Duty. I just hope she doesn’t release a tenth anniversary album with all of the “best” songs from her two first eras remade…

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Ayumi Hamasaki: Mirrorcle World

Mirrorcle World (CD Edition, Depend on You Edition), Ayumi Hamasaki1. Mirrorcle World

2. Life

3. Depend on you (10th Anniversary Version) or
     YOU (10th Anniversary Version)

Mirrorcle World is Ayumi Hamasaki’s forty-third single, released on April 8th, 2008. It reached #1 on Oricon and has sold 193 016 copies. It commemorates her tenth anniversary as a major label artist, and was released exactly ten years after the release of her debut, poker face.

Very few singles have impressed me as much as RED CLIFF – Shin, Sen –, but Mirrorcle World is definitely very close to it. It is a remake of the powerhouse opening track on her latest album, GUILTY, and opens with gentle music before the little bells and the drums come in. Ayumi has the blessing of a very fleshy voice, and this song really gives the opportunity to do that, especially during the “yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah” toward the end. As for the explosive chorus; very few have been quite as outgoing and powerful, especially for an artist whose comfort zone is pop (well, who knows? she’s been doing very well with this whole rock stuff).

After Mirrorcle World, it is only natural to be underwhelmed by Life. I’ll be frank: I don’t like this song. I think it’s more of ambient song than a song that one listens to with glee, but they pumped too much energy into it. It’s pretty boring, but it’ll do as a B-Side.

There’s nothing much new on YOU (10th Anniversary Version). The beginning is sort of different, but that’s really all. I didn’t like this song to start with, so I wasn’t all that happy to learn it was going to be remade. Depend on you (10th Anniversary Version), on the other hand, is pretty awesome. They did far more with song, which made a pretty dull song really good. The guitar and the synth really made a difference.

Ayumi Hamasaki: GUILTY

GUILTY, Ayumi Hamasaki

Mirror

(don’t) Leave me alone

talkin’ 2 myself

decision

GUILTY

fated

Together When…

Marionette – prelude –

Marionette

The Judgement Day

glitter

MY ALL

reBiRTH

untitled – for her –

*****

Songs in bold are previously released singles. Songs in blue (with a link) have already been reviewed. Those songs will, however, be reviewed in context of the album once more.

*****

GUILTY is Ayumi Hamasaki’s ninth studio album, released on January 1st, 2008. It reached #2 on Oricon, and has sold 568 288 copies. It is her first album not to reach #1.

Opening the album is the fabulous Mirror, a powerhouse of a song. The best part of this song was, for me, the drums which give this album a unique feel. This may be Ayumi’s worst album from a ranking point of view, but it’s probably her best. And there really is no better way to open an album then this kind of a memorable two-minute introduction.

Introducing us to the albums more aggressive sound, (don’t) Leave me alone features some powerful synth along with an electric-guitar based tune. As previously said, this is a song which really sets the mood, and introduces this album as Ayumi’s most unique so far.

Her most aggressive single yet, talkin’ 2 myself confirms any suspicions of a really dark album with influences of metal music. Beside alterna, this is one of her best ventures into rock.

decision follows in the original order of the single. This was a good choice since they are two very similar songs, but at different dynamic levels.

I had previously explained that Ayumi’s title tracks aren’t particularly good, or at least aren’t the best part of the album. And that’s the case with GUILTY. It has a few common points with talkin’ 2 myself, but the gritty guitars and the very deep tone of this set it apart from the latter. It gets us ready for the next track, which is far more low-key than the two previous ones.

fated was present along with glitter to us as one of Ayumi’s greatest mistakes, but in the album it sounds many times better. The low vocals still remind me a lot of HEAVEN, but in this context, it’s a good thing.

Released as a digital download before the release of this album, Together When… is a heartfelt ballad. This song also has a few common points with HEAVEN, although the more powerful instrumentals make it sound a bit different, especially the guitar during the chorus. It’s one of my favorite songs on this album.

Before we get to the next track, we are treated to a little prelude, Marionette – prelude –. And when I say this song is creepy, I mean it’s creepier than Kanon Wakeshima’s still doll. It’s pretty much your typical horror movie-type orgel, but it makes you feel nervous and insecure with the elevating level of tension.

The actual song, Marionette, sort of continues the whole horror movie-type music, but with more oriental influences. Everyone really likes this song, and although I, too, like this song, I don’t think it’s the best song. I think the chorus is too outgoing for it’s own good, and seems to come out of nowhere after a very, very silent verse. But still a good song.

We come to the second of three interludes, The Judgement Day. Whereas Marionette – prelude – had the freaky attribute, this song has the whole religious, prayer-type epic thing going for it, and a really fast, techno-inspired section toward the end which I thought would’ve made a great full track.

Bizarrely enough though, next are the two happy songs on this album. As much as I try to like it, glitter still sounds horrible to my ears. And why it was even placed on this album, since it sort of destroys the atmosphere, I don’t know.

MY ALL, although a joyous song, does have more dark side-notes. It’s pretty much a filler between glitter and the next two tracks, because without this buffer-song, it would’ve sounded pretty weird. I prefer this type of joy far more to the summer-song Ayumi-type pop without looking back, or forward.

reBiRTH sounds a lot like a Sting or The Police track taken and made a little bit spookier to fit with the context. But don’t get me wrong, I actually like this song, especially when the oriental violins come in.

Closing the album is a gentle ballad, and a sort of letter to her dead friend, untitled – for her –. Although you’d expect a very sad song, Ayumi dishes up a far more joyous song, more of a “we will remember” rather than a “I can’t live without you” song, if you see what I mean. I really like what she did with this song, and I have to compliment her on some really nice lyrics.

GUILTY was indeed a form of guilty pleasure. The arrangement was virtually flawless, even though the ending was sort of sloppy. The message of this album, beginning with the dark (don’t) Leave me alone and talkin’ 2 myself, and then ending with the half-happy untitled – for her –, is, melodically, that although there will be pain in everyone’s life, the positive ending everyone waits for will come. Ayumi’s best, most brilliant and meaningful. Although “Guilty” might just apply to those godawful nails. (笑)

Ayumi Hamasaki: talkin’ 2 myself

talkin' 2 myself, Ayumi Hamasaki1. talkin’ 2 myself

2. decision

3. fated “orchestra version”

talkin’ 2 myself is Ayumi Hamasaki’s forty-second single, released on September 18th, 2007. It reached #1 on Oricon and has sold over 110 000 copies.

talkin’ 2 myself is a step more toward her album GUILTY with its powerful electric guitar-based tune and the aggressive vocals. It’s a lot better than glitter and even fated, presenting a far darker side to Ayumi (although it should be common knowledge to any Ayu fan that the diva does psychologically suffer under her stardom), which, frankly, I like very much. I would’ve never thought the pop diva would tread into dark, almost metal, rock, and it worked stunningly well.

Ayumi is another of the few artists who create fantastic B-Sides. Although decision is almost the exact same as talkin’ 2 myself when it comes to structure, I really like the adventurous sound it brings to the otherwise completely dark talkin’ 2 myself. It features some very calm verses and then a powerful chorus, and the sound does suggest that, although she is alone (talkin’ 2 myself), she will continue to do what she does.

I prefer the original, but  the orchestra version of fated is interesting. It does lack a certain something, but it’s a welcome addition to the single.

Ayumi Hamasaki: glitter/fated

glitter/fated, Ayumi Hamasaki1. glitter

2. fated

3. Secret

glitter/fated is Ayumi Hamasaki’s forty-first single, released on July 18th, 2007. It reached #1 on Oricon and has sold  166 203 copies in Japan, and over 244 00o copies worldwide.

We all remember them… fairytale, BLUE BIRD… all those pretty bad summer songs by Ayumi, and now we have glitter, a pretty bad song by pretty much anyone’s standards. First of all, it sounds too much like a cocaine-induced version of BLUE BIRD with over-joyous vocals and a horrible beat. Even the divas have their missteps; and this one is Ayumi’s.

fated is much, much better. It features the more aggressive sound to be later heard on GUILTY. It bears a resemblance to HEAVEN, with its slowly evolving tune, although this one does it much faster. This single really makes it obvious to me why everyone’s saying her album GUILTY is too much like her old stuff. It’s just a collection of all the bits of songs that Ayumi has produced in her then nine-year career, sloppily rearranged.

Finally comes Secret, the title track of her eighth album. One thing must be said about Ayumi: she has never had a really good title track. This one, like most, isn’t bad, but it’s nothing special either, and that’s pretty much the role of a title track.