Ayumi Hamasaki – I am…

December 15, 2010 at 7:06 PM | Posted in Ayumi Hamasaki | Leave a comment

ALBUM REVIEW
Ayumi Hamasaki – I am…

1. I am…
2. opening Run
3. Connected
4. UNITE!
5. evolution
6. Naturally
7. NEVER EVER
8. still alone
9. Daybreak
10. taskinlude
11. M
12. a song is born
13. Dearest
14. no more words
15. Endless sorrow ~gone with the wind ver.~+ flower garden (hidden track)

♦ ♦ ♦

This is the fifth album by Japanese singer Ayumi Hamasaki, and it was released on January 1, 2002. It was strongly influenced by the attacks of 9/11, and this caused a change in Ayumi’s musical style; she began to sing less about loneliness and confusion and more about peace and hope. In Japan, 2,231,790 copies have been sold and almost every single (except for Daybreak), peaked at #1 on the Oricon charts.

The first track is kinda peaceful, with Ayumi opening acapella (which may not be such a good things because her adlibbing was dreadful). The sound of distant electrical guitars fills this song, and the composition is very simple. In the bridge, the electrical guitar gives a pretty and booming solo, and in the last portion of the song, Ayu’s vocals are altered by a synth vocoder. Pretty awesome effect! Except for the terrible beginning, this song was quite good.

opening Run then is very dominant, omgosh! It’s sort of an interlude, Ayumi isn’t singing here, and it’s hugely based on synth and guitars mostly. It’s very short, not even a minute long, but a very catchy interlude.

Connected is the first Trance song on this album, ‘composed’ by my fellow countryman Ferry Corsten, hehe. Trance isn’t really my style and I’m more used to Ayu’s rock tunes, but I can actually dig this. In fact, I think I actually like this song more than I am… already, and it may turn out to be one of the best songs on this album. One minus: it’s way too short, I was just getting started! Well, at least Ayu herself gave quite a performance here!

Back to the good ol’ rockin’ tunes with UNITE!, which starts off with a pretty and relaxing piano tune that builds up the tension before fast paced rock comes in. There’s a lot of scratching in this track, quite a nice music effect, and there seems to be no stopping this song. It’s just so ‘there’, Ayu doesn’t hold back at all and she’s all for it. After about three minutes, things are REALLY going down! I quite like this track, honestly.

evolution might be even a more dominant song then even UNITE!, although it starts in the exact same way. With just a piano, you may think this is a ballad. But then again, the tension builds until the guitars and percussion come blasting in. Together with the previous track, this may be the most powerful and strong section of the album concerning the arrangements. Ayu’s vocals in the chorus may not be her best overall, but this track sure is catchy with it’s agressive guitar solo in the bridge!

Then Naturally isn’t as dominant as the previous tracks, it kinda brings back the elements from Connected. It’s more dance stuff with a lot of synths and a catchy percussion rhythm. It features more instrumental parts with some classical instruments, like a piano and such, so Ayu isn’t singing all that much. That’s quite alright, since I like the music in this track very much.

NEVER EVER is as misleading as UNITE! and evolution, but now it’s the other way around. A kind of electro tune swells, but then some bells are taking over. The chorus does feature some more percussion and electric guitars, but this song is quite subtle even though it’s a rock tune. I have come to love the agressive solo’s in most of Ayu’s songs though, so here’s another one. This has to be one of my favourites on this album because of its subtleness.

How come I never appreciated still alone the way it should be? The arrangement is beautiful, and it’s placed wonderfully on this album after so many agressive tracks. This album really needed a midtempo track with sweet vocals (she’s singing in harmony with herself again folks!). She changes to another octave just at the right moment though, it would’ve been monotonous if she didn’t. It’s a decent track, and it keeps getting better near the end with the beautiful guitar riffs.

There’s a reason why the single Daybreak didn’t reach #1 on the Oricon charts. But I just can’t seem to think of it… Crazy, huh? Everything in this song is just greatly alternated, both vocally and musically. Percussion, guitars and bass alternate the pretty strings in the verse, and Ayu’s vocals are both soothing and agressive at points needed. I still don’t see why this song didn’t reach the #1 spot…

taskinlude is as ‘interlude-y’ as it sounds. Well, I love the echoed percussion this time… One of the best ‘tasks’ on an album ever?

Then the song known for its cold melody: M. It kinda reminds me of Ayu’s older work back in the time of LOVEppears, but then still it’s like nothing she has ever done. This is one of the more epic tracks with bells and lyrics about the saint Maria. Again, I like the guitar solo so much, but I think this song doesn’t really fit the ‘modern’ tracks on this album. Maybe a bit misplaced, yet still pretty.

a song is born was written for the 9/11 attacks, and it’s one of the best songs on this album if you ask me. It has a message, the reason why it was written is wonderful and the entire song is just so beautiful and soothing. The entire arrangement gives me goosebumps all over and Ayumi’s vocals are better here than in any other track on this album. This song is over six minutes long, but I didn’t mind at all. If it were shorter, I would have cried, hehe.

Is it just me or do the first notes of Dearest sound like the first ones of ‘Part of Your World’ from the Little Mermaid? Regardless, we have another dreamy ballad here, and if may even come out prettier than ever before after a song is born, which was quite toned down. This song has a ‘happily ever after’ melody to it, especially because of the bells near the end of the song. They remind me of wedding bells, that’s why.

It seems as if the second part of the album is filled with ballads! no more words is also a soothing, dreamy ballad with strings, a pretty violin melody and Ayu adlibbing in the first part of the song. This has to be one of the most pretty and underrated ballads on the entire album, I came to love it for its simple arrangements and Ayu’s beautiful hamonizations. It’s almost six minutes in length and I enjoyed every single second of it.

Endless sorrow ~gone with the wind ver.~ doesn’t remind me of the movie Gone With The Wind at all, if that is what the addition is about (which I don’t think so), but I really like this version a lot more than the original. The piano, strings and guitar wrap the entire track up nicely. This has been my long time favourite track, now it’s just one of the favourites (I have listened to it too many times…). flower garden is the last agressive track before the album ends with a BOOM. This is one of those fun, funky pop/rock songs with all the yelling and clapping. It’s just pure fun, and it ends very abruptly. BOOM. The end. Done : D

I can really recommend this album to everyone who likes Ayu’s music. This was the first album of hers that I listened to, about four years ago, and I instantly loved her music. That’s why she’s now the most played artist on my Last FM account, if this album wasn’t good, than I wouldn’t be a fan right now. The rocky tunes, which she is so well known for, are well alternated with dance, trance, pop and soothing ballads, and she earns another extra point for writing, composing and producing this album herself! I can do no else than giving her almost five stars! The other half… well, decide for yourself =)

Favorite tracks: I am… | NEVER EVER | a song is born | no more words | Endless sorrow ~gone with the wind ver.~

OVERALL RATING

4½ stars

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