Ayumi Hamasaki – Party Queen

March 15, 2012 at 5:47 PM | Posted in Ayumi Hamasaki | Leave a comment

ALBUM REVIEW
Ayumi Hamasaki – Party Queen

1. Party queen
2. NaNaNa
3. Shake It♥
4. taskebab
5. call
6. Letter
7. reminds me
8. Return Road
9. Tell me why
10. a cup of tea
11. the next LOVE
12. Eyes, Smoke, Magic
13. Serenade in A Minor
14. how beautiful you are

♦ ♦ ♦

Party queen is the 13th album by Japanese singer Ayumi Hamasaki, released through iTunes on March 14, 2012 and a planned physical release on March 21, 2012. The album was preceeded by only one promotional single, how beautiful you are. The album was released in 5 versions: a CD-only version, a CD+DVD version, a CD+2DVD version containing her latest Countdown Live show, a SPECIAL LIMITED BOX SET containing the “ayumi hamasaki ~POWER of MUSIC~ 2011 A LIMITED EDITION” tour and a Blue-ray edition.

I didn’t expect Ayu  to come out with an electro song, but I always thought it fit her pretty wel. I had to get used to Party queen at first, and especially her voice (she sounds so different, what happened?). The people clinking their glasses in the background fit the overall mood of the song, it’s really a track to bring you in kind of a party mood. So it’s a nice opening track to the album, kind of a warm-up for the rest of the album.

NaNaNa is another electro song so I guess this is the direction she went for this album? It’s a more aggressive song than Party queen and in my opinion it sounds way better and it even flows a little better. The only thing I’m on the fence with is the male singer. True, he makes the song hot but also a little cheesy. I’m happy to hear some of Ayu’s old vocal tone back in this song, finally I get the idea I’m listening to HER album instead of that of another singer, hehe. I actually liked NaNaNa quite a lot!

Shake It♥ is the third dominant song in a row and each one is better than the previous one if you ask me. This song focuses more on electric guitars, brassy elements and some synths and not so much on the overall electrosound and beats. It almost seems like Ayu found herself more at home in this song (which seems quite logic because it brings on a more rocky side), but I don’t get the dubstep part and the awkward brassy part that follows.

The first ‘task’ interlude in like… six years? And omg yes it’s filled with electric guitars and percussion! taskebab has the strangest title ever (and it makes me hungry) but it is such a breath of fresh air for some of us out there that are complete Ayu rock-tunes stans. It’s a pretty hot interlude, still with some cute synth riffs that really fit the song, but the album really needed this to get into the next part of the album.

call sounds like the perfect song if you ask me. It’s a lovely pop/rock song, exactly what I’d personally want from Ayu, and I loved the melody in the chorus. Okay, her vocals are way too loud in the first chorus, but other than that I’m totally surprised by the perfection of this track. I’m a big fan of Ayu songs like ‘Secret’ and ‘Last Links’ and this one fits right onto the list. Goosebumps baby..!

I had a feeling right from the start that I would love Letter as much as call, and I was right because it follows the same musical style but then with a lot more dynamics to it. The strings give the song a great sense of emotion and for a change I love Ayu’s ‘renewed’ vocals. She doesn’t sound as fragile as she used to at times. Again, her vocals are way too loud at some points but they’re so much stronger. I fell in love with the chorus’ melody ❤

Speaking of emotion, reminds me sounds like one heck on an emotional song. It has ‘pathos’ written all over with a great strings section leading into a more acoustic verse with nice and soft vocals by Ayumi. The song builds into something so strong and powerful it tends to blow you away right after the first chorus. The bridge is so strong and dominant, it puts the song in a totally different light. We’ve come full circle with the last acoustic part of the song to even things out a bit. Third song in a row that I really love, oh my gosh we’re actually getting somewhere.

Return Road: ‘Microphone’ much? However, the first part of the song sounds like it could easily be a winter ballad, but the chorus proves to be another strong one here. So you could say this is more of a huge power ballad with lots of drama through the use of strings, and the arrangement features some percussion and elecric guitars as well. The pipe organ makes this song so epic, I love that effect! One negative: the haunted bridge and the freakin’ weird male chanting. What the f is that guy doing…

Tell me why is a song I didn’t expect from Ayu, not even on this album because it’s pop straight forward. I like the simplicity, although the ‘oh-oh, oh-oh‘ chanting parts are probably the most memorable ones. Not the best song on the album because it’s quite forgettable, it lacks something I can’t come up with. Still not a bad song if you ask me.

Another interlude, this one bears the cute title a cup of tea although it’s not cute at all: it’s friggin’ dubstep alright. I like the use of strings to make it a little more melodic, but oh well… I just don’t get it.

Thank god the next LOVE isn’t dubstep but oh my.. what is Ayumi doing here? Is she going soft jazz?! This is getting really weird since she also manages to pull it off! I wouldn’t have thought Ayu could tackle the classy jazz genre, but the proof is right here. I actually liked this and I’m not a jazz fan at all. This is a unique piece of work, goodness. I’m gonna cherish this.

Eh.. did I say too much? Eyes, Smoke, Magic is a bit… weird. Ayu is trying to do a cabaret/kind of seductive ‘Moulin Rouge’ song and I think she just pulled of an epic fail. This song is so not her, she shouldn’t have gone any further than the next LOVE since that was already quite a shock. I don’t like her vocals either. Definite no-go.

Serenade in A minor is another interlude so thank god that means the cabaret part is over. This interlude (the third one on the album for goodness sake) is just a strings solo so it’s pretty but nothing flashy. Simple, it’s pretty if you’re into classical music. I’m not a big fan but still this is pretty, just a bit out of place.

Finally how beautiful you are. It didn’t surprise me this was an intimate piano ballad with soft vocals (she sounds just like she did on previous albums, my gosh). The soft beat that drops in after the first chorus was perfect and that moment gave me a little bit of goosebumps to be honest. When it comes to pretty, this song is the definite number one. It’s a lovely ballad and it was the best choice to be the digital release. Love this, it was the best choice for an album closer too ❤

Well this album was… strange! The first three songs almost gave me a heart attack. I mean.. they’re okay, but if the entire album had that kind of style I probably would’ve been depressed by now. Then taskebab came in, and it was almost like a preview for the next 5 songs of which most of them were close to pure perfection. To me, that was the best part of the entire album, call, Letter and reminds me top notch. Right after a cup of tea desperation hits with the disasterous Eyes, Smoke Magic, but the last track evens it all out for me. This album was the strangest hybrid of pop/rock, electro, jazz, cabaret and dubstep I’ve heard in my entire life, but that’s probably what makes it so special after all. It will probably grow on me.

Favorite tracks: call | Letter | reminds me | the next LOVE | how beautiful you are

OVERALL RATING

3½ stars

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