Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Ayumi Hamasaki’ Category

ALBUM REVIEW: Ayumi Hamasaki- GUILTY

Ayumi Hamasaki- GUILTY

… Merry Christmas? YES I KNOW IT’S NOT OUT YET. I can’t help it!! I’ve been waiting for this thing to drop (code for LEAK), and I really just can’t wait any longer to listen to it. I MUST. Ayumi Hamasaki has been diving into the realm of pop-rock for a while, and judging by some of the previews I’ve heard, she threw an album together filled with it. Now comes the moment of truth. Did she do it successfully? Read on to find out. Entering stage left: Ayumi Hamasaki’s GUILTY.

———

The first track is more if an introduction, and I have to say that I really like Mirror. It starts out with odd carnival-esque chime sounds and rough vocals. At first, I didn’t know what to think. But then the guitar kicked in, and the dynamics changed completely. Hamasaki’s vocals are shockingly suited to this song, and she really did a great job with it. It’s a great way to get you into the mood of the following songs, and a fantastic way to usher in the new album. Everything flows well together, and this really sets the standard for the rest of the album.

Vocal Grade: A — Musical Grade: A — Composition Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A

Up next is (don’t) Leave me alone, which, for the most part, follows the same vein as Mirror. The guitar is the best part of the song because of how fantastic the composition is, and once again everything just meshes together with perfection. Other than a kind of off-beat way of holding notes, Hamasaki’s vocal performance is quite good. She does this wierd thing where when she sings a note she does a quick dip like she had a seizure right when she did it. I guess it fits the song, but it’s still a bit strange sounding. I liked the dark rock sound of the song, and I’m shocked at how well she’s pulling it off with that nasally voice of hers. For a mainstream japaense artist, this is pretty out there.

Vocal Grade: A — Musical Grade: A+ — Composition Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A+

Talkin’ 2 myself is the song that really brought my attention to Hamasaki’s ability to sing pop-rock. The song has a really dramatic, sweeping quality that just seems to keep it really entertaining throghout the entire thing. She holds her notes really well, and manages to keep control over her somewhat odd tones that pop up occasoinally. Whoever did the editing on this track is a genius; the manipulations to her voice were top notch, and without them the song would lose a lot of what makes it so interesting. Composition is also amazing. Hamasaki has some talent backing her up. I’m really liking the direction this album is taking. It’s not quite true rock, but it’s really catchy in its own way. I think I’ve gotten used to Hamasaki’s vocals, because it seems that when I look back on songs I didn’t like, I find them more tolerable. When I first heard this song, her vocals always bugged me a bit. But I think they sound better now. I must be crazy.

Vocal Grade: A- — Musical Grade: A — Composition Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A

Next up is the B-Side of her latest single, Decision. I always loved the contrast between the verses and chorus in this song, though her power note is a bit off. Now that I listen to it again, I have to say it does sound better. There are artists that I’ve become accustomed to, such as Hamasaki and Ai Otsuka. Still working on misono, but her latest single was just awful. Sorry, back to the song. Hamasaki does a good job matching her vocals with the power of the background music, and I love the dramatic air of the song. It flows quite well and the composition creates a great direction.

Vocal Grade: A- — Musical Grade: A — Composition Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A

If I could summarize GUILTY in one word it would be… lacking. The song had an interesting feeling, but she sang it like she was staring at a blank wall. Even when the music grew in power, her vocals didn’t give way to any Hamasaki seizures. I just don’t get it. This song could have been so amazing. The church bells and ethereal background music make for a unique vocal track, but it ended up just being lackluster. Even the background whispers weren’t enough to save it from horrible vocal composition. Since it is the title track from the album, I really expected it to blow me out of the water. It simply doesn’t. It’s not dreadful, but it just leaves you saying “That was it?”. It reminds me of Glitter/Fated, which should have been amazing given the build up and fact that it’s her comeback single: it just leaves you out in the cold.

Vocal Grade: C+ — Musical Grade: B+ — Composition Grade: B-

Overall Grade: B-

Wait… is this the same fated that was on Glitter/Fated? Sure her vocals are sub-par, but it’s really not quite as bad as I made it out to sound. Maybe this is just a product of my becoming accustomed to Hamasaki’s voice, but I actually… like this song. Maybe it’s just that it fits in better in this atmosphere as opposed to going from Glitter to this somewhat depressing song. I still think that she sounds a little bit bored while she’s singing, but I guess it’s better than her sleep-singing in GUILTY. The music for the song is interesting; based mostly on percussion and an interesting synthetic sound sequence that plays in the background. There’s also a wierd electric guitar sound that appears in the beginning and sporadically throughout the rest of the song, which I suppose gives it an interesting feel. She hits her notes pretty well, but it’s still just so bored-sounding. I don’t know. Maybe I’m crazy. Again.

Vocal Grade: B — Musical Grade: A- — Composition Grade: A-

Overall Grade: B+

As we all know, I’m a fan of Together When… I’m typically opposed to Hamasaki ballads because they rely too much on her weak vocals, but she gives a surprisingly well-wrought performance in this song. I love the simplicity of the music, and since I loved JEWEL from her secret album, the fact that this song has some similarities to it really made me happy. Her wierd vabratta (<– Yeah, I’m not going to pretend to know how to spell that) thing actually works well for her in this song because of how dramatic the violin-guitar combination make the music. It almost adds flavor and feeling to her voice. I like when it slows down in the end, because even though it relys on her vocals, she can sing much better when she’s using a breathy and quiet voice. Definitely one of my favorite songs from her. I think I like it even better now than I did when I first heard it.

Vocal Grade: A — Musical Grade: A+ — Composition Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A+

The next song is Marionette -prelude-, which I don’t really get. I guess it’s  a prelude to the next song, but I have no idea why it was included. Regardless, I have to say that I like the creepy haunted carnival effect that it has. The flute was a nice touch towards the end, and I thought it was an effective instrumental break in the album. It is pretty cool to listen to. It sounds like one of those baby pianos with some synthetic sounds in the background.

Vocal Grade: N/A — Musical Grade: A — Composition Grade: A

Overall Grade: A

I guess next up is the ‘real’ Marionette. The quiet background music does bear resemblence to a toned down version of the prelude, for which I’m glad. This has actually ended up being one of my favorite songs of the album. I love the piano combined with the electric guitar, and it is musically very well done. What I am most grateful for is that Hamasaki’s vocals are absolutely fantastic. Her performance matches the dramatic song, and Im really geniuinely impressed. This should have been the title track for the album, because it is a million times better than GUILTY, and so much more powerful. Hamasaki sheds that odd boredom she seemed to have and really pulls out all the stops for this song. I don’t have any complaints. I guess if you were awarding a prelude based on how good the song was, this would be the one to win. Great job. Fantastic song. My first Hamasaki vocal A+.

Vocal Grade: A+ — Musical Grade: A+ — Composition Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A+

Great, now I’m really confused. Her is another ‘interlude’ type song in the form of The Judgement Day. I can’t say the track is bad, just random. I don’t know why she put another non-full length song track onto the album. Oh well, I guess I’ll just review it. I liked the organ music playing in the background, though I was annoyed when the tempo started increasing. It was wierd because it was hard to follow. I now kind of see that this is a necessary part of the album because the sudden explosion of happiness about to the become needs some sort of introduction. The Judgement Day does it’s job in getting my mind off the dark pop-rock, and on to Hamasaki’s pure sugar pop. I guess this is the only way that I would be able to accept Glitter as a logical track on this album.

Vocal Grade: A- — Musical Grade: A+ — Composition Grade: A

Overall Grade: A

Well next up is Hamasaki’s lackluster/lackeverything comeback single Glitter. I will admit that the song sounds better to me now, but I still have a few key problems with it. Her vocals sound very nasally compared to normal, though I’m kind of getting used to that. I don’t like the wierd crowd chanting that you can hear in the beginning, and I really don’t like the short break where all you can hear is a beat because it doesn’t sound like the rest of the music to the song. It’s like the guitar stops for a moment just so that Hamasaki can stop singing. I don’t know, it just bugs me. Although this song isn’t as horrible as I once thought, I still don’t care for it all that much. There’s just so much that this song should have been that it isn’t. It was a mediocre single, and it should have been better.

Vocal Grade: C+ — Musical Grade: B — Composition Grade: B-

Overall Grade: B-

Continuing the happiness train is the next song MY ALL. This song does incorperate more of the album’s feeling, but keeps up with Glitter tempo and feeling wise. It’s not that bad, but really not stand out on the album. Pretty boring, though I have to say it is better than GUILTY. Her vocal performance is okay, but it seems like she could have added some more diversity into the song. I don’t care for the music because of how generic it sounds, though I did like the guitar during the instrumental sections. If only it was there through the whole song. The percussion is pretty lackluster, and I think this song really could have been more. Not that bad, but overall a very forgettable track.

Vocal Grade: B+ — Musical Grade: B — Composition Grade: B-

Overall Grade: B

reBIRTH is infinitely better and more interesting than the previous two tracks, as the music is ethereal and unique. Unfortunately, it’s another freaking interlude. Checking in at 1:40, it’s one second shorter than The Judgement Day. I don’t really get the point, but I do have to say that out of all the songs of it’s nature on the album, it is the best for sheer originality. I loved the overall ambience and how it built back down to the dramatic core of the album. Everything worked well, and I liked the way it went out in one echo-y beat. Very well done compared to other instrumental tracks I’ve heard.

Vocal Grade: N/A — Musical Grade: A+ — Composition Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A+

The final track on the album is untitled~for her~, which wraps the album up on the beautiful note. Hamasaki’s vocals are very mature and powerful compared to her usual performance, and I have to say that this is one of the most inspirational songs I’ve heard from her, particularly on this album. This is a great way the end the album, as it’s really a top notch song. Probably my second favorite on the album behind Marionette, and a fantastic listen. The music is what gives the song said inspirational quality, as the sweeping quality of the violin and piano chords really build up an air of happiness within a sweet song. Very well done.

Vocal Grade: A — Musical Grade: A+ — Composition Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A+

———

On a final note, Ayumi Hamasaki’s latest album, was surprisingly well done. I was given three singles (two physical and one digital) to go off of, and I was guessing it was going to be okay judging by the fact that only two of the three singles met my musical standards. However, this album ended up being much better than I thought it would. I think that Hamasaki is a bit of an acquired taste if you haven’t followed her for a length of time, because I certainly found myself getting used to her voice and style. Most of the songs are of good quality, and I really ended up liking the album. I strongly reccomend Marionette and untitled~for her~, as they are the best songs on the album in my opinion. Good job Hamasaki. I hope you can keep it up.

ALBUM GRADE: A

Read Full Post »

SINGLE REVIEW: Ayumi Hamasaki- Together When…

Ayumi Hamasaki- Together When...

After listening to Ayumi Hamasaki’s above average single ‘talkin’ 2 myself’, I realized that though often overrated, she does manage to make decent, or even more than decent, music. I hated her Glitter/Fated single, but I’m hoping songs like that just won’t arise again. Together When… is Hamasaki’s most recent digital single, and I decided to review it. So, here it is, Ayumi Hamasaki’s ‘Together When…’.

———

As soon as the opening piano chords of Together When… began, I was reminded of her latest album’s main song JEWEL. It was a good thing since that was one of the only songs I absolutely loved by her. The quiet piano serves the song well, especially since the fact that it gets more apparent during the chorus makes the entire song more dramatic. In case you haven’t noticed, I like hearing dramatic storires in my music, and it’s always a plus. Hamasaki gives a good vocal performance in this song, and it’s a great way to enter the Winter season. Everything about this song works surprisingly well. The violin in there with the piano adds to the calm atmosphere, and the consistency is wonderful. It was very well composed, which i’ve been seeing a lot recently. This is really a great song that is up to par with the recent releases, which have been great.

Vocal Grade: A — Musical Grade: A+ — Consistency Grade: A+

Overall Grade: A+

SINGLE GRADE: A+

Read Full Post »

SINGLE REVIEW: Ayumi Hamasaki- talkin’ 2 myself

Ayumi Hamasaki- talkin' 2 myself

———
As much as a truly hate to admit it, I liked talkin’ 2 myself. I had doubts that Hamasaki would be able to come back into the music scene strongly after I heard on of my least favorite singles by her Glitter/Fated. However, this song caught my attention right off the bat. I loved the heavy electric guitar, because I thought it was well done, and the composition was really catchy. I still am not a big fan of Ayumi Hamasaki vocally, but I thought her performance was better than usual in this song, although it may be contributed to the fact that the electric guitar kind of drowns out her voice… I don’t think this is like most Hamasaki songs because of how rock it is. I will admit that I really like this song. I’ve had it on repeat more than a few times, and I think it’s one of the best I’ve heard from her. I don’t like ballad songs by Hamasaki because of their reliance on her vocals, which, as I pointed out, is weak. I think this makes a great song, and I’m really kind of shocked that Hamasaki pulled off. Well, this is a good single to follow her comeback, though it really should have been her comeback.

Vocal Grade: B – Musical Grade: A – Consistency Grade: A

Overall Grade: A
I thought the music from decision was actually really pretty, although I feared as soon as I heard it that the song would rely on Hamasaki’s voice. However, after the slow music ended, I was greeted with more electric guitar, which was a huge relief. I think that talkin’ 2 myself definitely is a stronger song, but I still think this is a pretty good song. Again, Hamasaki’s vocal performance isn’t really pleasing, although it’s better than most of her vocals. I really enjoyed the nice guitar solo that appears in this song, and the music in general. As with most songs from Ayumi Hamasaki, the music is clearly the better part of the song.
Vocal Grade: B- — Musical Grade: A- — Consistency Grade: A-

Overall Grade: B+

SINGLE GRADE: A-

Read Full Post »

Ayumi Hamasaki - glitter / fated

To be completely honest, I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be reviewing Ayumi… I’m finally accepting what I’ve known all along, whcih is that she isn’t talented at all. Her voice is weak and really whiny when she tries to hit any kind of daring note. I’m sorry to all Ayumi fans, but she can’t sing. And when she does, it’s not good. Ayumi’s music has been acceptable to me because the music is usually nice, and when she makes really boring songs, it’s really difficult to tell that she has a horrible voice. Listening to this album, I took the time to imagine these songs sung by other singers, and realized that Ayumi can’t sing. She really has never been able to. Only sad excuses for entertainment. It’s been the people around Ayumi making her popular and ‘talented’ this whole time, and I’m kind of becoming aware of it. However, I do like Ayumi as a vetran of J-Pop, so I will respectfully review her newest single ‘glitter/fated’.

———

Well. To start… Ayumi’s vocals in this song are nasally and unpleasant to me in this song. I don’t enjoy listening to this song, but this time, I don’t think she can do much better. Ayumi has continually put out the same thing, none of it all that good. Ayumi’s voice is much better suited to songs such as ‘1 LOVE’. I actually liked that song, unlike Glitter. The song’s beat is really obnoxious, and I feel that it overpowers her vocals {Maybe a good thing} a lot. Her talent, what little of it she has, is absent in this song, and it is really just a pitiful single… Ayumi can do somewhat okay things with her voice, but this is not one. It may just be me who thinks her voice is really nasally in this single in particular, but that’s what I feel. Also, the song is really boring and seems to lack direction. Ayumi was tolerable before, and she had some shread of ability, but even that isn’t present in this single. I’m sorry, but I have to be completely honest in this and grade it accordingly…

Vocal Grade: D+ — Music Grade: C

Overall Grade: C-

Fated is really the same level of talentless as Glitter. Her vocals are better because she’s basically singing within the same samll range of notes for most of the song. I could just see a bad grade coming after Glitter. Fated is only a bit better because of the guitar in the background and the soft beat combined with the fact that Ayumi’s vocals are so held back that there is no way to make a mistake. I have seriously seen Ayumi do better, even though it isn’t a ton better. Fated is boring, at best, and lacks any type of life in Ayumi’s voice. I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t even put it on my ipod. I’m sorry Ayumi fans, but this single is not her best work. At all. Well, I can say that this song is an improvement on Glitter by a very small margin, but it’s crap compared to everything else she’s done really.

Vocal Grade: C- — Musical Grade: C

Overall Grade: C-

Secret‘s only redeeming quality is that there are nice guitar chords in the background. Voice is dead, and the song is generally boring. I don’t know how much I can really say about this. Not really good at all. Her voice is kind of all over the place, and again, whiny. She’s really just lacking in this single. She has done much better, and I have given her much higher grades. I don’e know if Ayumi is discouraged by the success of Koda Kumi or what, but she appears to have given up. Sorry Ayumi, but this single was not good. Nice try, but it wasn’t enough.

Vocal Grade: D — Musical Grade: B

Overall Grade: C-

SINGLE GRADE: C-

Read Full Post »