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Archive for the ‘Hamasaki Ayumi’ Category

Hamasaki Ayumi’s 33rd single, entitled INSPIRE, was released on 07.28.04.

INSPIRE is an edgy rock song worth of praise. The song takes off with a somewhat mysterious sound before the crashing and addictive rock instrumentation comes in, really catching the listener’s ear. Ayu then comes in with the first verse and her vocals are a little deep here but very smooth, nicely complimenting the music which has taken on a softer sound. She brings some more vocal power to match the more aggressive instrumentation, making the chorus stand out in the listener’s mind. It’s the pure instrumental section that is the highlight of this song as it begins with a softer rock sound and soon it’s as if the light switches and the listener is carried into the more aggressive and edgier instrumentation perfect for dancing. Then there is the imagery of the sun that re-introduces the chorus with the emphasis on Ayu’s voice as the music remains pretty soft. Rock sounds come crashing back in for the final chorus and then more instrumentation closes the song. INSPIRE is definitely a strong and memorable song, very noteworthy in Ayu’s discography.

GAME serves as the single’s B-side. Opening the song is a very mysterious and cool instrumentation that begins softly and then the first verse begins. Ayu’s vocals support the beautiful music so well that a dreamy feeling is established and soon, the rock sounds come crashing, breaking the listener’s calmness and bringing a more excited feeling. Following there is a distortion in Ayu’s vocals that works well with the music. On the chorus, the distortion is removed and Ayu gives stronger vocals that really compliment the aggressive and edgy music. The pure instrumental section stands out as the coolness and sleekness of the music is spotlighted. GAME is a fantastic supporting song and definitely features a rock sound that the listener can enjoy from start to finish.

In order to promote the single, two PVs were made, one for INSPIRE and one for GAME. The PV for INSPIRE was filmed in Los Angeles and is pretty simple. Ayu casually is seen walking on the street and sees a billboard with the word “INSPIRE” on it and soon the viewer is taken inside the world of the billboard where the rest of the video is done. After Ayu is taken to the beach, she dances with her dancers and most notable is her long fingernails. Easily the best shot of the video is at the end of the pure instrumental section when Ayu’s back faces the camera and there is a tattoo of a butterfly on her back. She looks absolutely gorgeous and it’s definitely eye-catching. The video ends with Ayu going into her limo and then depearting. It’s definitely a nice video and it’s very eye-catching. In order to match the dark atmosphere of the song, the PV for GAME consists of darkness. Ayu is seen rocking out with her band as well as walking past flickering television screens. There isn’t much substance to the video but it effectively communicates the emotion of the song strongly.

Single Ranking: A +

INSPIRE and GAME are both rock tunes tha Ayu shines brightly on. While the A-side is more of an upbeat and light rock song with a dance feeling, the B-side takes on a darker atmosphere. Both songs are enjoyable and allows the listener to go through both sides of rock.

Hamasaki Ayumi’s 37th single, entitled HEAVEN, was released on 09.15.05. The title track was used as the theme song for the Japanese film Shinobi Heart Under Blade while Will was used in a Panasonic CM.

HEAVEN, an emotional ballad, is the single’s A-side. The song begins with an absolutely beautiful instrumentation that introduces the first verse strongly. Ayu’s vocals here really communicate a sorrow that is solidified by the music. Soon the instrumentation strays away from this soft sadness and Ayu gives stronger vocals to match the louder instrumentation. The chorus stands out for just that reason, Ayu’s vocals show off the sorrow of the lyrics. HEAVEN is so pretty and it will give the listener goosebumps while listening, perhaps even making the tears fall.

The B-side of the single is the absolutely gorgeous song, Will, composed by CREA herself. Opening the song is a very pretty instrumentation driven by traditional Japanese instruments to catch the listener’s ear. Ayu then sings two lines with a prettiness in her voice that suits the music so well. The chorus becomes so memorable for the words that feature repeating syllables as Ayu’s voice really carries them strongly. During the pure instrumental section, the beauty of the music is spotlighted before the chorus is re-introduced. As the song ends, there is a lighter feeling that comes through and actually is a nice change of pace. The lyrics for this song are beautiful and Ayu’s vocals are perfect, really making this one of the best songs in her discography.

In order to promote the single, a PV for HEAVEN was made. Done completely in black & white, the video is the perfect visual representation of all the emotions of the song. Ayu sings in a train station and looking at her face, the viewer automatically believes her. The video finishes with all the other people getting on the train, leaving Ayu alone. There is a real honest beauty about this video that captures the viewer from start to finish, making it one to definitely watch.

Single Ranking: A +

Both songs on this single are beautiful, showing the fragility of Ayu. On HEAVEN, she communicates that sorrow so perfectly that the listener can’t help but feel the emotions with her. Will is the beautiful B-side composed by Ayu herself (under the name CREA) and she does a fantastic job of bringing a traditional sound here. Once again, Ayu delivers a quality single start to finish.

Hamasaki Ayumi’s 38th single, entitled Bold & Delicious / Pride, was released on 11.30.05. Both songs are covers of Sweetbox songs of the same name with newly written lyrics by Ayu herself. Bold & Delicious was used in order to promote the Lumix photo camera by Pasasonic.

Ayu takes an upbeat and fun route on the first A-side, Bold & Delicious. The opening vocalization of “ya-ya-ya-ya, ga-ga-ga-ga, da-da-da-da, wo-wo-wo-wo” is really addictive and really brings out the song’s light atmosphere. Coming next is the first verse as Ayu delivers smooth vocals with a certain sleekness that catches the listener’s ear. It’s the chorus that really stands out as she is joined by a choir who sing “bold and delicious” and Ayu brings out some great vocals. On the final chorus, she delives the best vocals on the entire song as she belts out the title of the song. Vocalizations then bring the song to a close as she says “bold and delicious” in a slightly distorted voice. Bold & Delicious is an absolutely fantastic song and one of Ayu’s most unique ones to date.

While Bold & Delicious is fun and happy, Pride is the pretty emotional ballad. An orchestral instrumentation begins the song, really displaying the song’s emotions to the listener clearly. Ayu sings with a painful beauty during the first verse as she supports the music perfectly. The chorus stands out as the music becomes slightly louder, which takes the listener from that softness into an even more emotional world. She then shows off a little more vocal power on the second verse on the final lines and brings the best vocals on the third verse as she holds her notes with power and emotion. Finishing off the song is the chorus and then more beautiful instrumentation. Pride is the perfect compliment to Bold & Delicious and it’s definitely worth the listen.

In order to promote the single, two PVs were made: one for Bold & Delicious and one for Pride as well. Both videos were filmed in New York and have a similar feel to them, keeping the same look in both videos. The video for Bold & Delicious features Ayu being driven around, dressed in a fur coat as she sings. Her face really expresses her happiness and the song’s atmosphere, making it an enjoyable and carefree watch. There is a darker look for Pride as Ayu sings in a cold and dark place, even drenched by the rain. She looks very pretty and it definitely supports the song’s feel.

Single Ranking: A +

Bold & Delicious and Pride are perfect compliments to one another, making this a fantastic single for Ayu. While the former is happy and upbeat, featuring a choir for accompaniment, Pride is a beautiful and emotional ballad. Both songs are great and show off Ayu’s versatility.

Hamasaki Ayumi’s 1st mini album, entitled Memorial address, was released on 12.17.03. The album features seven songs as well as a bonus track (Memorial address) that further show off Ayumi’s strength at communicating her emotions. The singles released before the album are & (ourselves, Greatful days and HANABI ~episode II~), forgiveness and No way to say.

ANGEL’S SONG opens up the album very nicely. The song starts off with a slightly cool instrumental before the song’s true breezy pop sound comes in. Ayu’s vocals sound somewhat cute here and they work perfectly with the music. The chorus stands out as the instrumentation remains fun and Ayu’s vocals show a little more power. The pure instrumentation section has such a light and fun sound that it stands out to the listener. The following chorus features distortion on Ayu’s vocals to push them into the background and it is an interesting addition to the album.  Pure instrumentation finishes the song off very nicely. ANGEL’S SONG is a great album opener and a standout track on Memorial address.

The album’s summer anthem is Greatful days, a fun pop song that is filled with the sounds of summer. The song starts out with a cool sound before the song’s true sound arrives. Ayumi opens up nicely singing “la la la” repeatedly and following is pure instrumentation. The first verse features some great vocals from Ayumi that really work well with the music to capture the atmosphere of the song. The chorus really stands out to the listener as being very catchy. Ayumi’s vocals sound great with a little more power and the instrumentation remains as catchy as ever. The pure instrumentation section is one of the song’s strongest points as there is a certain atmosphere that really catches the listener’s ear and then comes back to the summer sound with the chorus. The song finishes off with Ayumi singing “la la la,” bringing the song to a great close. Greatful days is Ayumi’s best summer song and is a magnificent piece of this mini-album.

Fully channelling the rock sound is Because of you. A cold and somewhat eerie instrumental opens the song before the aggressive chorus comes in. Ayu’s vocals sound great and capture the anger that the lyrics set forth. Following the chorus is a great section of pure instrumentation that catches the listener’s ear. The verses are sung with softer vocals to put an emphasis on her words and to serve as a perfect contrast to the powerfully sung chorus. The third verse is sung nicely before the song’s section of pure instrumentation comes in, one of the most memorable parts of the song. Ayu repeats lyrics for emphasis before more pure instrumentation brings the song to a fantastic and aggressive close. Because of you is one of Ayu’s stand-out rock songs and a wonderful piece of the album.

ourselves is an aggressive pop song with rock tints that make it one of the album’s strongest songs. The song opens up with a mysterious feel before the more energetic instrumentation comes in. The hook opens up the song’s first vocals and she sounds great here as her vocals bring the song’s lyrical atmosphere to life. The vocals during the verses are sung somewhat deeply but they work very well with the music. The energy that comes from the chorus is what makes the song pop nicely. The hook and the following pure instrumental sequence brings the song to an excellent close. ourselves is one of the most standout tracks on Memorial Address for its interesting sound and great lyrical atmosphere.

HANABI ~episode II~ appears as the next song. The song begins with a very cool sounding instrumental before the song’s true sound comes in. The instrumentation sounds great and introduces the first verse very nicely. The vocals during the verses have a certain fragility to them that project the lyrical atmosphere beautifully. The chorus features some rock elements that add to the song very nicely as well as more great vocals. With this song, there is a true emphasis on the instrumentation as there are long sections that spotlight the interesting music. It also brings the song to a nice close. HANABI ~episode II~ is a very nice addition to the album and is one of the more interesting numbers on Memorial Address.

No way to say is the album’s strongest ballads as well as capturing the sounds of winter wonderfully. The song starts off with a fantastic pure instrumental sequence before the first verse starts. Ayu’s vocals sound great and soft enough to keep with the music. The chorus really stands out as Ayu shows off even more vocal strength and her vocals really capture the song’s emotional quality strongly. The pure instrumental section is a very nice part of the song and re-introduces the chorus very nicely. The chorus following that sounds great as the instrumentation sounds very light and Ayu’s vocals match it perfectly. No way to say is the album’s strongest ballad and a wonderful part of the album.

forgiveness, a piano ballad, is the official ending song of the album. The song starts off with a magical feeling alongside the piano, which nicely supports Ayu’s vocalizing in the beginning of the song. The first verse features some soft and fragile vocals from Ayu that capture the song’s emotional presence strongly. Soon the song picks up as the instrumentation becomes more varied and it builds up the chorus excellently. The vocals during the chorus are great and continue the song’s emotional quality strongly. The song has a magical quality that really comes out on the pure instrumental section beautifully. The final lines of the song are sung in English and feature some pretty powerful words such as “war and destruction” and “every cardinal sin.” forgiveness is an excellent ballad and a wonderful official finish for the album.

Memorial address (take 2 version), the bonus track, brings the emotions to the forefront in this ballad. The piano serves as the sole instrument along with Ayu’s vocals. She delivers her lyrics with a certain rapidity that really works with the music perfectly in capturing the song’s emotion. The chorus continues the emotional presence as Ayu’s vocals continue to portray the song’s atmosphere and the final note is held so beautifully that the listener takes notice. During the second verse, elements of rock present themselves to give the song a little more variety. The following chorus features more aggressive vocals in order to keep with the music and the final note once again is held fantastically. Following is pure instrumentation before returning to the song’s original sweet ballad sound for a moment. The chorus features a return to the rock sound but in order to suit the last two lines of the song, the same emotional ballad sound returns and brings the song to a close. Memorial address is an excellent bonus track that brings the emotions to the listener strongly. Although the song would have been stronger had the rock elements not made it into the song, it’s a great addition to the album and features absolutely beautiful and heartfelt lyrics.

Album Ranking: A +

Hamasaki Ayumi’s 1st mini album is a collection of fantastic tracks which feature interesting instrumentations, beautiful lyrics and great vocals from Ayu. The uptempo numbers such as Greatful days and ANGEL’S SONG show off Ayu’s fun spirit while she emotes strongly on the ballads like Memorial address and No way to say. Truly this album is one of Ayu’s strongest and most memorable.