Ayumi Hamasaki – Duty

September 18, 2010 at 12:58 PM | Posted in Ayumi Hamasaki | Leave a comment

ALBUM REVIEW
Ayumi Hamasaki – Duty

1. starting over
2. Duty
3. vogue
4. End of the World
5. SCAR
6. Far away
7. SURREAL
8. AUDIENCE
9. SEASONS
10. teddy bear
11. Key ~eternal tie ver.~
12. girlish

♦ ♦ ♦

Duty is Japanese singer Ayumi Hamasaki’s third full length studio album, and it was released on September 27, 2000. Duty is also Ayumi Hamasaki’s highest selling studio album with sales of 2,904,420 in Japan. The album has been certified 3x Million by RIAJ. It debuted at the number-one position and held that position for four weeks, and it is the 22nd best-selling album in Japan of all times.

Knowing that now, I’m very curious to say the least. starting over still has that 90s influences in the percussion arrangement, though it’s released in 2000. Close, though. Ayumi doesn’t sing, she’s adlibbing all the way with layered vocals. A male voice has some spoken lyrics, but he’s heardly heard. Decent introduction.

From the very first moment I heard title track Duty, I have loved it. I like the dramatic opening with strings and a Spanish guitar, and that theatrical ambience keeps on being heard thoughout the track. Ayumi sings in harmony with herself in the chorus, and it definitly has a nice effect overall. Last year I must have listened to this song about 10 times a day, my gosh. A very very good title track, if not generally the best.

Like my affiliate of ‘Kurayami Monogatari’ said: we’re going bhangra land with vogue! What I didn’t expect was the fact that this track sounds so Indian-influenced with a (well… what actually?) special Indian guitar. Its called a sitar, right? If starting over sounded like the 90s, than this is even more 90s because of the dated ambience. Maybe it’s that little effect far away in the background, sounding like a mixture between raindrops and an audience. It’s a good track, but still not one I’d be dying for to listen to.

Feeeel the depression around you. End of the World sounds as melancholic as its title, and to me it hasn’t even got a decent melody in the chorus. It’s set to give us that depressed feeling, so that came over all right. Ayumi is a good singer, proved, over and over again, so her vocals are better than maybe even in some of her more contemporary songs. The electric guitar solo in this song is very strong, but the rest does nothing special for me.

SCAR opens with a folkish musical arrangement, set to the melody of the traditional English ballad ‘Scarborough Fair’. Since I know that ballad, the melody sounded very recognizeable, and it’s almost like a 2.0 version of it since this is a ballad as well. Heavy percussion, electric guitars and even an organ in the background at some points. I’ve never given this song a good listen before, but now I have to admit it’s one of the better songs on this album!

The next song also comes over as a bit dated because of the altered male vocals in the chorus and introduction. I also noticed that older songs have a sort of echo effect in their percussion, just like this one. Regardless. Far away has got a lovely melody and arrangement, and Ayu’s vocals are pretty nice as well. Another guitar solo in this song’s bridge, and even a better one than in End of the World.

SURREAL then sounds a lot like the music she delivers today with all the rocky elements in it. Also, it reminds me of a song on her album released after this one, I am…(2002). ‘UNITE!’, anyone? The guitars in this track are very dominant, but then the bridge follows a whole different pattern with a prettier, soothing and more melodic theme before we BAM! go right back into rock music again. I think this track can grow on me very well if I give it multiple listens, it’s very nice.

It took me some time before I could actually like AUDIENCE a bit because again it’s like what I’ve heard before: a mixture between fast dance beats and rock. I like the hook very much, but then there’s a baaaad transition into a less likeable chorus. I also think Ayu should make her bridges less sounding alike, because this solo is also very good, but it follows the same pattern as in Far away and End of the World. SCAR should’ve been released as a single, and not this one.

I liked the summer-ish single cover for SEASONS, and it fits perfectly with the music, though it combines both ‘warm’ and ‘cold’ melodies. BUT this is a beautiful ballad that truly makes up for the somewhat repetitive tracks previously. I loved the chorus, and the instruments are very well chosen: a lovely piano, a strong electric guitar and nice percussion and chimes. Well chosen to be the third single!

teddy bear is another ballad, and I don’t know if it’s me or the title but I think this ballad is very very cute. It features only a piano and concentrates a lot on the beautiful melody and Ayumi’s lovely vocals. If you ask me, Ayumi can include a simple ballad like this on every album, since she always sounds very strong on these kind of tracks.

What is it with Ayu, ballads and nice melodies? Key ~eternal tie ver.~ is clearly another slow tempo ballad track, but it features more (and different) musical instruments, such as an acoustic guitar, heavier percussion and a choir. I can only say I like these types of dramatic songs on her very much, and this one even may be a little short in length to my taste.

girlish started out as what seemed like a fun jam session with Ayu and friends, but damn, I hate her vocals in this song! Not girlish, but very childish at some points to say the least! Such a waste, because this song is actually a very GOOD and fun midtempo pop/rock track! The music is nicely put together and the melody isn’t ugly as well, it’s just that Ayu’s own vocals ruined it all! Why the heck didn’t she record a 10th anniversary edition of this song? She would’ve sounded better than this then.

I never gave Duty much of a chance in the five years I’ve been listening to Ayumi Hamasaki’s music. I’ve been focusing mainly on her contemporary work, or just all her albums from I am… on, and I can either say it’s a good thing or a complete shame. In some way it’s good, because I have mixed feelings about her earlier work, such as the albums A Song for ×× and LOVEppears, both released in 1999, one year prior to this one. Because of this fact, it might have been that Ayu still had to grow while she made this album. On the other side: this album DOES have some great tracks that showcase what a wonderful performer she turned out to be nowadays, Maybe the roots for the genius she is right now lie deep inside this album, and they were let out during the making of I am… (2002). This is not a real standout album of hers like NEXT LEVEL (2009) and Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus (2010), but this might be the first sign of her REAL musical talent. In my opinion at least…

Favorite tracks: Duty | SCAR | teddy bear | Key ~eternal tie ver.~

OVERALL RATING

3 stars

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