Artist: Ayumi Hamasaki
Release Date: January 1, 1999
Label: Avex Trax
Personal Rating: 4/5
2. A Song for XX
5. FRIEND II
6. poker face
9. As if…
10. POWDER SNOW
12. Depend on you
14. from your letter
15. For My Dear…
It’s been a really long time since I’ve written an album review! (Like 2 months ago?) Lately, I’ve been too busy to get to the album reviews but at least there’s not much homework this weekend! I still have a huge Ayumi Hamasaki list to complete so I decided to tackle her album reviews first.
Like most Ayu albums, the first song is always the prelude track. In this case, Prologue starts the album off with an arrangement including the mixture of a solo violinist and a solo pianist. I’m pretty sure Ayu fans would agree that this is a graceful start.
Next up is the cover track, A Story for XX which is one of my favorite songs on the album. During the first part of the song you could hear Ayu’s soft vocals accompanied by a set of quiet strings but as the song progresses, it’s obvious to hear that the song picks up the pace after the first chorus. Sometimes I like hearing her sqeaky voice and sometimes, I just can’t handle it so I guess it’s safe to say that her voice suits the song. (Just an opinion.)
I love how Hana changes the mood of the album with a sudden start of the introductory instrumentals. It really sounded like it came from the late 80’s era because of the jazz instruments and piano supporting the vocals. Although the arrangement didn’t really include a strong chorus, I still thought that the song was pretty fun to listen to.
In FRIEND, Ayumi sings about the joy of sharing happiness with other people and how true friends would always give others their support. Unlike the remixes that were featured in the “Ayu-mi-x” remix albums, FRIEND has a slower flow that has a few instrumental background.
FRIEND II is actually the continuation of FRIEND. (Why didn’t they just make an “album version?”) At least with this version, you could hear some feelings added into the song and it sounded the more memorable.
With poker face being one of Ayumi’s early songs she has written, the single was also one of her first sucessful ones she had released. While also being featured in the “A Story for XX” album, Poker Face was the beginning of her career. Personally, I really thought that it was a good song. The lyrics states about how people’s existences aren’t usually aknowledge by others and how we, human beings are also one of the most solitary creatures on earth. Poker Face was also about “when you find love, it is up to you to nurture it” and how people would try hard to protect love until the end. I liked how it also had a good rhythm (composed by Yasuhiki Hoshino) and how the PV showed the contrast between being lonely and falling in love.
Just like the whole emotional theme of the album, Wishing contributes to that mood by slowing down the pace with ballad elements. Just like some of the songs included in this album, Ayu doesn’t really sing the song so well even though the arrangement was pretty nice. I actually wasn’t really interested in this song just because of the way her vocals were sung.
YOU is a pretty track that focuses more on the vocals than the instrumentals. It may seem boring for people but for some reason, I thought that the lyrics were very powerful when Ayumi was starting out with her J-pop career.
As if… had a very promising beginning but I got disappointed that Ayu’s vocals still sounded a little awkward. Like in most cases, the arrangement was nice; just need to do a little more work on the voice.
POWDER SNOW turns out to be an attempted ballad. Now I honestly liked this song because of how there were some elegent instrumentals playing behind the singer. Except for the end where some instruments just pop out of nowhere.
Trust makes its nice introduction by starting a bit strong at the beginning of the track. Back then Ayumi had really cute vocals and she was pretty young at the time so I won’t complain and compare her vocals. However, there was just something about her voice that bothered me when I heard this song. I thought that Trust was a great track but I think YOU beats it.
Depend on You is probably considered Ayumi’s most used song for concerts and countdown lives since it was a total hit at the time. (And now!) Even my brother was into this song the first time he heard it! (And he’s not really a fan of J-pop.) I thought that the uplifting beats and chorus was a hit and that in my opinion, I think that this is probably one of Ayumi’s best songs that she has ever written. I totally agree with these people who are heard over heels in love with this track because there’s the three elements of music in this song: Melody, chorus and climax. Definately a great example of a sucessful J-pop single! And this isn’t just a typical “Ayumi Hamasaki” song, either! There’s a 10th anniversary version which is sung by Ayumi Hamasaki’s current mature voice. (Because back then, her voice was very cute and squeaky. Well, duh! 10 years ago!)
SIGNAL was another interesting and fun track but I don’t think that it beats Hana. The arrangement on the other hand sounded more powerful during the chorus.
from your letter… sounded a little boring in my opinion but then it proves that Ayu isn’t really strong at the R&B genre. (I personally think that she sings better at pop and ballads.) And like most R&B songs, the song sounded __________ (Answer: repetitive).
I know that many Ayumi Hamasaki fans do not share the same opinion as me when I say that For My Dear… was probably like one of her best songs during the “A Song for XX” era.” I really loved how the song transitions from slow to fast and how her lyrics really portrayed the composed arrangement really well. People do say that it’s a tad boring but when it comes to musicality, it’s pretty much flawless. (Despite her really cute squeaky voice)
Finally, present concludes the album with positive vocals yet a boring arrangement. The thing is that the chorus doesn’t make the song anymore interesting than the verses does.
I thought that the album was okay but Ayu just had to tweak her vocals just a little bit more….she’s good but still needs improvement.
Personal Rating: 4/5