Ayumi Hamasaki – A Song for ××

December 6, 2011 at 7:42 PM | Posted in Ayumi Hamasaki | Leave a comment

ALBUM REVIEW
Ayumi Hamasaki – A Song for ××

1. Prologue
2. A Song for ××
3. Hana
4. FRIEND
5. FRIEND II
6. poker face
7. Wishing
8. YOU
9. As if…
10. POWDER SNOW
11. Trust
12. Depend on you
13. SIGNAL
14. from your letter
15. For My Dear…
16. Present

♦ ♦ ♦

A Song for XX is the debut album by Japanese singer Ayumi Hamasaki, and it was released on January 1, 1999. The album reached #1 on the Oricon charts and stayed on the charts for a total of 107 weeks. In 1999 the album became the #16 album of the year. The album is also the #138 best selling album in Japan.

Prologue, a nice instrumental song, opens the album and I have always liked this for not sounding dated. It takes the album right onto a magical path. Short and sweet.

Right into the title track, A Song for ××. It took me a while to actually like this song, but I was sold the moment I saw it performed live. It’s the first hint for Ayu’s musical sound in later years, considering both the pop/rock sound and her great vocals.

This album is filled with new tracks, and the next is Hana. This is one that actually does sound dated, but I’ll have to live with that because it’s almost 13 years later now. This song is a bit bland, although her vocals weren’t terrible and the addition of brass instruments was original. There was a lot of repetition here but the overall sound is okay.

FRIEND features an odd melody in the verses if you ask me, but the song really has a lot of charm. My favorite part is the chorus, and I think Ayumi’s vocals sound more mature here than in most of the other songs on this album. Strangely enough I think this is one of the better simple songs on this album.

I get to deal with a part II that doesn’t even sound like a friggin’ part II. FRIEND II is more agressive than part I when it comes to the arrangement, it features a lot of electric guitar riffs. But this time Ayu is a bit shrieking, and I don’t say that quite a lot. Too bad, because this song is actually pretty good.

The first A-side on this album is the debut single poker face. It’s one of those songs I used to avoid back in the day because it was so ‘old’, I’m always in for the new stuff. But then the song grew on me, and even her vocals have something here. Still, it’s very clear this was only her first single out of fifty…

The first ballad on the album is the lovely Wishing, and to me it almost sounds like a winter song because of the simple arrangement (piano, percussion and bells). Ofcourse she has her shrieking moments in each song, but here’s it’s minimalized such a lot that the song is very enjoyable.

The second single featured on this album is YOU, my absolute favorite from the A-sides. It’s not her best vocal performance ever, but it’s actually the sound of her vocals that drew me to this song. The song itsself is again very 90s with the typical synth melodies, percussion and electric guitars.

At first it sounds like As if… is going to be a ballad again, but it’s actually quite an agressive song with lots of electric guitar solos. If you ask me this song is quite typical, nothing very special or unique about it even though it’s pretty nice.

The first really haunting song on the album is POWDER SNOW, and in my opinion she should’ve hold back a bit on her vocals at some point. I enjoyed the remix for this song more, but the original song is not that bad. I like the piano and strings arrangement and the soft percussion in the background (soft in the verses at least). The song does get better near the end though.

In Trust, Ayu’s vocals are quite bearable even though they’re still high-pitched, but I think everyone (including myself) should stop nagging about that fact. This song has a nice arrangement and an outstanding introduction that immediately identifies the song. Especially the bell-like synths in this track are very interesting.

Another A-side, and the most agressive out of the bunch, was Depend on you, but the whole heavyness thing starts to fade a bit when put onto this album. The music is an interesting blend of rock elements and brass instruments, and it’s quite good but even though this is the original, it can’t live up to the newly recorded version of 2008.

SIGNAL is even more made up from brass instruments than even Hana. Even though it’s an interesting uptempo track with those cute brass instruments and various beat skips, it’s not really a standout track. Vocally it’s one of the most lacking, even though it’s still not terrible.

from your letter has a very surprising intro that reminded me a bit of the musical style of ‘NOTHING FROM NOTHING’. I liked the music from that album, so finding Ayu still puts some of her earliest roots on this album is a good thing for me. Don’t get me wrong, I HATED the rest of that album. Her vocals are very solid here for a change, and for being one of the less well-known songs on this album it’s actually one of the better. Did I just hear a flute…? =D

I thought I was missing something and now I know what it is: For My Dear… ! It would’ve fit better earlier on the album, but still the track on its own is very magical and for once I actually liked the verses better than the choruses. I love how this song starts off very simplistic and then builds into something that almost sounds like a power ballad.

I always though Present was an odd song, and I don’t even know why but thank god it’s not a ballad. It’s quite a cute song with lots and lots of trumpets playing loud notes in the chorus. To me this has always been a ‘well guys, this is the last song, let’s get it going one more time’ kind of song. She pulled it off quite well if you asked me.

A Song for ×× was an interesting album indeed, but not what I’d call bad. Ofcourse I’ve read other articles about this album before I started this review, and I was surprised everyone damned this album because I actually like it! It has grown on me a lot during the past few years and I have come to understand it, and now it doesn’t even matter to me that her vocal techniques were lacking back then. It’s all completely logic, and if the album really was that bad, she wouldn’t have become the Empress of Pop in the end (and this album wouldn’t have sold over 1,400,000 copies in its first year, nor would it have been #138 best album of all time in Japan). I’m gonna take a stand for this album, it needs a little appreciation because it’s a work of art in its own way.

Favorite tracks: A Song for ×× | FRIEND | YOU | Trust | from your letter

OVERALL RATING

4 stars

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