Album Review- Ayumi Hamasaki- I am
After Duty, I decided to try this one out because it is her second best selling album.
I am...- The title track. Starts slowly with acapella vocals. Guitars join in later and make this a rock song. For the title track, this was disappointing. Not to mention it sounded similar to most of the songs on this album which were better.
Connected- I am not reviewing the interlude in between. Connected begins with a eurodance beat and keeps it consistent throughout the song. The chorus is especially refreshing. It again, has the heavy electric guitar atmosphere which the following songs emulate. Clearly, this track's biggest strength was the chorus that helped it stand out among the other tracks.
UNITE!- Unite is again a heavy guitar track. This sounded much better on the single but fails to stand out among other similar tracks on the album. The chorus is not its biggest strength because it lacks as much melody as connected.
Evolution- Evolution slows down the heavy guitar atmosphere for a bit then launches fully into it. This is one of my favourite songs from Ayumi and I have always loved her lives. However, though thus tracks stood out, it doesn't manage to be anything special in this album. Ayumi's nasal voice in the chorus can get annoying after a while. The lyrics are nice.
Naturally- Another electric guitar heavy track. In fact, this succession of tracks becomes the album's biggest weakness. All the rock tracks are placed together and all the ballads are placed together. Naturally is the peak of this weakness. It fails to stand out among the other good and competitive tracks. In fact, I only vaguely remember this track. It comes at the point when the listener is saturated with similar sounding rock tracks and this is an easy skip.
Never Ever- This used to be one of my favourite tracks on Best 2 Black. It still is on this album. The song is composed by Ayumi herself. The balladish verse transitions into a powerful chorus. The chimes/bells/music box in the background give a nice feel. The chorus is again a strong point in this song. This manages a better entry than some of the above songs.
still alone- A nice opening with mysterious piano melodies. But the song is very predictable. Ayumi sounds fine on the track and that is the thing that probably saved this track apart from its good placing after all the rock tracks. It is a pop ballad that shines after a string of rock led songs with little variety. The chorus is not the greatest part of this song but manages a decent climax.
Daybreak- This is a strong album track. I have loved it since the first listen. The chorus is the strong point of this song. It has a refreshing 'summer' sound and the power of guitars and Ayumi's improved vocals. I can't believe this wasn't a single track. Ayumi did a live of this. It is placed in a better position than some other tracks.
M- One of Ayumi's best selling singles. It was one of her first attempts at composition. The song starts with a gospel atmosphere and transitions into cheerful pop. A nice song but nothing special. Ayumi looks nice in the PV. Some Ayumi fans around me love this song to bits but for me, it is only average. Ayumi herself has composed better songs.
A song is born- Seeing this song live put me off. Keiko and Ayumi sounded like a pack of squealing cats. However, it was always obvious that Ayumi does more justice to this song. This version is more pleasant than the original track. We now enter the ballad phase of this album. The chorus can be a little pitchy but Ayumi sings this song better than the original.
Dearest- Again, a good track I recognize from Inuyasha and Best 2 Black. The placing was not the greatest but the track managed to sound good. An emotional pop ballad with japanese atmosphere. The lyrics are nice and especially meaningful in the context of Inuyasha. A good ballad.
No more words- Starts very well but leads into a very predictable and boring chorus. Lyrics are nice but the chorus ruined this song. Typical Ayumi ballad.
Endless sorrow~Gone with the wind version~- I still can't forgive Ayumi for putting this in the album instead of the original track. This track fits into the 'ballad phase' better though. It has some beat and sounds like an average pop track instead of the powerful rock track on the single. This track doesn't stand out in the album.
Flower garden- The electric guitars are back again. Not a good ending to the album. The song is cheerful but an inferior choice compared to the other rock/trance tracks on this album.
I always believed this album would be better than Duty after viewing the tracklist. There were a lot of singles in this album and they were among the most successful ones by Ayumi. However, bad placing and similar sounding album tracks did not do full justice to this album. It could have turned out better if the ballads and rock songs had been mixed instead of separated. All the songs are very nice to listen to individually but don't go together in an album. Placing of songs is the biggest weakness in the album. I don't know any other Ayumi album that has as many good songs as this one but a lot of them sound better because the songs are placed in positions where they shine. There was intense competition between good songs but no one won.
Overall, the album is a compilation of great songs but not a good 'album'. Ayumi's vocals are certainly at their best here. I never knew she could manage powerful rock songs without squealing. The vibrato, though uncontrolled, is a nice ornament especially in ballads. Ayumi has also tightened her control over her career by composing songs herself. The tracks composed by Ayumi sound better than those composed by professional composers. She has a lot of flair for composing. After listening to this, it is easy to understand why Duty is her best selling album and I am... is not.
Strong single tracks
Ayumi's lyrics and composition
Bad placing of tracks
Similar sounding album tracks
Quantity over quality
Lacks replay value