Thursday, July 12, 2012

Jpop Album Review- Ayumi Hamasaki- A Ballads

Ayumi Hamasaki has her own distinct voice and style when it comes to ballads. Her ballads have been famous for their emotional appeal and sincere lyrics. Here's a review of her most successful ballad compilation.

Rainbow- What can I say? This tracks has it all- emotion, good singing, heartfelt lyrics and suitable arrangement. Rainbow is a nostalgic ballad which starts off with guitar in a fantasy atmosphere. Ayumi's airy vocals gradually join this powerful symphony and create an unforgettable track. Its video and lyrics represent the theme of the album. It is about discovering and believing in yourself. I love Ayumi's songs that deal with lyrics about self growth. Rainbow definitely deserves a 5/5 from me and don't miss this album out because it is only in this album.

Appears- After the powerful Rainbow, Appears is a little bland. I've never heard her loveappears album so I can't say what the HAL arrangement did to the original track but it sounds quite decent. The chorus can be a little too upbeat but the song has a good vibe and is not overly boring or stereotypical.

Key~eternal tie version~- Key has been my favourite tracks since Duty but it doesn't quite stand out on this album. The chorus (anata wa...) is the climax of this song and it gradually deteriorates and disappears. Nevertheless, a great track despite being overshadowed by the high pitched appears. The lyrics are simplistic compared to other Ayumi tracks.

You~northern breeze version~- I haven't heard the original again but this song stays true to its title. It is very breezy after other serious ballads and has a light 'spring' feel. The chorus is not very powerful but breezy and pleasant. Ayumi has re-sung this song in a much more pleasant voice.

To Be(2003 rebirth mix)- To be is a more or less typical Ayumi ballad with a good guitar arrangement. It carries the album forward well but doesn't particularly stand out. Ayumi's voice in this era were less nasal than her previous eras and had more range and agility than the present. This combo makes all the songs sound better.

Hanabi- Hanabi is partly composed by Ayumi and she has done a great job here. It starts off mysteriously. The chorus is a little boring compared to the verses but the song has a nice effect overall. The arrangement was the best part of the song.

M (Hal's progress)- M has never been one of my favourite songs from Ayumi Hamaskai despite it being a fan favourite. Considering that, his version actually sounded good. Yeah, it took forever to start but the HAL arrangement added more depth and atmosphere to the parts where she sings nasally and destroys the song. The verses were always good and shine more in this mysterious arrangement. I have actually begun to like M after this album. The lyrics, as always are beautiful especially the last sentences.

Dearest- Finally, a song with its original arrangement (after Hanabi). Dearest is the formula that Ayumi ballads today follow. Ayumi's emotions come across in the song. The arrangement is well done considering it was Inu Yasha's ending. It has that old japanesey vibe. The chorus is where the emotions explode.

Dolls- Even in this good album, Dolls is one of my least favourite songs. The arrangement is very good but the chorus is rather weak and boring. Not to mention, it is repeated endlessly. The verses are good but I would've liked a more powerful chorus.

Seasons (2003 rebirth mix)- This mix really doesn't do anything to Seasons. It is exactly the song I heard in Duty. Seasons is one of my favourites and stands out on this album as well. The instrumental intro was well done.

Voyage- I really like the musix box in the beginning. The song starts off with the chorus and then comes to the darker sounding verses. A nice, traditional ballad with lot of loose Ayu vibrato. It was around this song that her vibrato began to get really annoying.

A Song for xx 030213 session#2- This song was completely ruined by the arrangement. It begins late and sounds unspectacular compared to the original version. Ayumi's voice has gotten heavier since her first album and that really shows in that 'hitori kiri de' in the end. The end borders on nasal. It sounded fine but not like the masterpiece it is. Again, the lyrics flow from Ayumi's heart and save the poor arrangement.

Who... across the universe- I've never heard Who before but I fell in love with it on the first listen. The verses are better than the chorus because they sound dark and full of pain and longing. A simple piano arrangement is used for this song that makes Ayumi's vocals stand out. The chorus is quite typical but Ayumi does a good job singing it. She is not too nasal or too airy here. The vibrato is optimal too.

Sotsugyo shashin- This song is a cover of a Yumi Matsutoya classic of the same name. The arrangement was quite good. Ayumi sings this song as well as Yumi Matsutoya if not better. The songwriting is good. This song is a perfect conclusion to this ballad compilation.

Overall, a very good compilation and Rainbow is reason enough to buy it. Ayumi's ballads from her albums up till Rainbow are included in A Ballads along with two new songs. If I haven't convinced you yet, let me say that her voice sounds good on this album. It was sung in an era where her voice had the least faults. It has much more replay value compared to other Ayumi albums. The arrangements did not significantly ruin any song (except one or two). There were absolutely no filler tracks and how many albums can match that feat? I totally sell A Ballads to any ballad lover and Ayumi Hamasaki fan.

Overall- 4.6/5


New songs
No filler tracks
Good overall atmosphere of album


Some songs were worse than original
Some songs sound nasal at some points

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