Ayumi Hamasaki – RAINBOW

May 16, 2013 at 6:47 PM | Posted in Ayumi Hamasaki | 1 Comment

ALBUM REVIEW
Ayumi Hamasaki – RAINBOW

1. everlasting dream
2. WE WISH
3. Real me
4. Free & Easy
5. Heartplace
6. Over
7. HANABI
8. taskinillusion
9. everywhere nowhere
10. July 1st
11. Dolls
12. neverending dream
13. Voyage
14. Close to you
15. independent +

♦ ♦ ♦

RAINBOW is the fifth album by Japanese singer Ayumi Hamasaki, released on December 18, 2002. The album charted at #1 on the Oricon charts on its first week selling 1,016,482 copies. It sold 1,856,919 copies in 2003, becoming the #2 album of the year. It charted for 22 weeks and sold a total of 1,857,870 copies.This album review was requested by Surreal18.

everlasting dream is the introduction track for this album and it has quite an ethereal sound to it. Short but sweet, and it even has some lyrics which Ayu sings with a soft voice. Great to get into the mood.

Somehow WE WISH continues some of those mystical vibes the intro had despite being a bit more agressive and uptempo. Synths, electric guitars and drums make up this song and for some reason the synths remind me a bit of 90s music. Ayu’s vocals were not top notch in the beginning of the song and the chorus might not be the best one either, but eventually the song takes off and I really enjoyed all the aspects.

Real me serves as the album’s female empowerment track and again it has some mystery to it. A bit foreboding at first, but the chorus is very bright after that. Being a pretty catchy song I find nothing wrong with the arrangement. It’s the English in the lyrics that bug me (“Woman could be having fun / Woman could be like a nun” ??). Right. Work on that English, Ayu. Other than that I do like this.

The first single to appear is the impressive Free & Easy, produced by HΛL who did so many tracks for Ayumi. The song has a long orchestral opening followed by a piano section and Ayu singing the first chorus. And just when you feel peaceful listening to that, the music explodes around you for a while and it literally scares the heck out of you. I actually call this song the ‘bipolar song’ because of those HUGE differences, but not in a bad way because it actually kicks ass! Judging from what I’ve heard before, this was an excellent choice to be an A-side.

Heartplace takes the album into a midtempo track that focuses more on guitar music in the arrangement. It has its big moments, but other than that I think this is a great way to relax a bit after the impressive Free & Easy. In contrast to Real me, this song features English lyrics that actually sound English (albeit still not perfect). It speaks of being free to do anything you want, how empowering is that?! In my opinion, this track is the most stunning one until now.

The first real ballad on the album has arrived. Over has the elements of a winter ballad (percussion, piano and chimes), but it keeps everything simple and yet ambient. I’ve heard people say this track wasn’t very exciting, but this track was always one of my favorites on the album because of the lovely arrangement, the melodies and the overall emotion it has. Although it’s a beautiful ballad, the overall feel (and the title ofcourse) tells me this is not a song with happy lyrical content. Still, I enjoyed this very much.

HANABI is the next ballad and probably Ayu’s most popular one because everyone seems to love it to death. Not that I don’t, ofcourse. I think it’s not a typical ballad because it combines the soft and cute chimes of a music box with more foreboding strings and percussion. There’s a lot of devotion in Ayu’s vocals here, enough to probably appeal more to an audience that still has to get used to her voice. Despite being a bit darker, I loved this.

Ayu always has a ‘task’ interlude, varying from taskinst to even taskebab, but this time we have taskinillusion. It’s just a short interlude with a piano, fast percussion and some electric guitars in the background. Ayu’s chanting is in there too, more tangible than audible which is a great effect.

everywhere nowhere almost gave me the creepers when it opened with its ominous sounds and Ayu’s mysterious voice speaking in English. It’s the darkest song on the album yet when it comes to the verses with its deep bass and many synths. The chorus however is much lighter with more electric guitars and a lighter tone to Ayu’s vocals as well. Plus, it was about time we had a real dance track around here.

Somehow July 1st has always been a favorite of mine and it’s one of the first tracks I think of when I see the album art. Despite the simple start with just an acoustic guitar, the song takes off rapidly into one of the summer tunes that was on the summer single of the album (‘independent’). There’s some tension as the song builds up from verse to chorus, and that’s what I love about it. And the dance/rock ambience ofcourse, the track sounds even better after everywhere nowhere.

Dolls is probably the saddest ballad on the album and a bit like what she did with some ballads on her previous album ‘I am…’ . Like Over it comes in the form of a winter ballad with a lot of piano notes and chimes, even a lovely harp, but it’s slower and has even more emotion to it than said song. It’s a soothing song, but after two dance tracks I find myself drifting off now and then. Still I don’t think this is a bad song, it’s beautiful on its own.

neverending dream is supposed to be the continuation of the introduction track, but it takes me a while before I find the similar aspects in both songs. No Ayu this time, but it’s just a nice interlude I guess.

Staying in the ballad section for a little while longer, we have Voyage next. Being one of my absolute favorites on this album because of its gorgeous arrangement, I’m glad it’s finally here. The fact that it takes on a more harmonious and orchestral sound makes it stand out for me already, but Ayu’s vocals are amazing here as well. I think this is her best vocal performance on the entire album to be honest. No flaws at all, perfect song.

Close to you is the forgettable ballad on the album, not only because it’s the third ballad in a row but because it’s pretty flat. It reminds me of wedding bells at some times and it’s soothing because of that, but Ayu’s vocals don’t reach a highlight here. Nothing wrong with the song otherwise, but still when I compare this to the other tracks there’s a certain emptiness coming from this.

Last but not least, we have the summer song independent! Being one of my favorite tracks on this album, I admit I have waited too long for this song to appear and sweep me off my feet. I enjoy the happy ambience with a lot of handclaps and background chanting, electric guitars and great vocals so much, I can recommend this track to everyone since it’s probably the strongest on the entire album. A great way to go out with a bang!

I must say I never saw RAINBOW as one of Ayu’s strongest albums and it certainly hasn’t been my favorite album of hers, but there is definitely some good material that I enjoyed very much! The first songs were some I had to get used to, and some of them may still come of as a bit lacking, but then we have the strong tracks that blow you away and at the same time make the album balanced again. In the end, I was more pleased than dissatisfied with this album. It didn’t show much of Ayu’s versatility, but the fact that this was her first album with some lyrics in English made clear she was progressing and thinking about the future a lot. That’s why the creative process of the album adds another plus to the rating for me.

Favorite tracks: Free & Easy | Over | HANABI | July 1st | Voyage | independent

OVERALL RATING
starstarstarhalfstarblankstar
3½ stars

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1 Comment »

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  1. Thanks for the review! Well, I have to say that “RAINBOW” is in my top 3 albums (I don’t really know which album of hers is my favourite) – it has great lyrics talking about hope, dreams, freedom, sorrow, strengh and it’s her most atmospheric/ethereal (like you also mentioned) album. Also, her voice is very vibrant like in her previous album “I Am..”.The only part where I don’t really like her voice is We Wish’s chorus.The rest is pure magic..


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