Ayumi Hamasaki – A ONE

April 7, 2015 at 8:10 PM | Posted in Ayumi Hamasaki | 2 Comments

ALBUM REVIEW
Ayumi Hamasaki – A ONE

1. a Bell
2. WARNING
3. NO FUTURE
4. Anything for You
5. Last minute
6. Zutto…
7. Out of control
8. Story
9. The GIFT
10. The Show Must Go On
11. Walk
12. Movin’ on without you

♦ ♦ ♦

A ONE  is the sixteenth studio album by Japanese singer Ayumi Hamasaki, released on April 8, 2015. It was released in three versions: a CD+DVD edition, a CD+Blu-ray edition, and a CD only edition.

The album kicks off with a very calming introducion called a Bell, and ofcourse it’s filled with bell-like sounds in the very beginning. It eventually becomes something more orchestrated, very beautiful and actually very much in style of Ayu’s classical albums.

If I didn’t know WARNING already I would’ve been blown off my seat now since it’s the complete opposite from the calm and peaceful introduction track. From the moment I first heard it I have loved it, it’s like this album’s ‘Microphone’ (you know, the track on the ‘Rock’n’Roll Circus’ album). Strong music and lyrics and an amazing MV, the Queen strikes back again.

Now NO FUTURE is quite a long track at almost 6 minutes, but it’s striking nonetheless. It sounds very much like what she has done for the last couple of years when it comes to the musical style and that’s exactly what I’ve been missing. It’s energetic, yet calmer than WARNING, and features some amazing vocals in the choruses.

Anything for You is even longer at over 7 minutes, but oh well. It starts off with an amazing piano introduction and it’s clearly one of Ayu’s power ballad tracks (which she usually does pretty well). It’s one of the few tracks I hadn’t heard in previews yet and I have to say it progresses very smoothly for a track this long. It doesn’t drag, so it’s another wonderful new track presented on the album.

Just when you think there will be a couple of ballads coming, Last minute changes the game entirely. Although it starts off like a piano ballad, Ayu’s edgy vocals give away what’s to come. When the second verse comes around a lot of electric guitars and percussion are thrown into the arrangement and it makes it more mysterious and aggressive. I remember calling this the best song on the single it was on and I stand by my opinion, incredible track!

Although released in April, this album even has a winter ballad (at least that’s the way I see it). Zutto… needed a little time to grow on me but I really like how dramatic it sounds in the chorus. In this context (on the album) it makes for a lot of variation in the tracklist and it brings out the highlights in the track so much more. Loved the guitar solo in the bridge too, goosebumps all over!

I wouldn’t exactly call Out of control a ballad, but it’s definitely a more edgy version of some of the previous songs. I like how the verses contain some sort of subtle marching band percussion pattern and that the arrangement becomes bigger and bigger as the song progresses. Although sometimes Ayu’s vocals can be a little too loud, I’m very impressed by this new track.

Story is the first song I come across that doesn’t impress me the way it should. I’m pretty sure I would like it more if I hear it in isolation, but right now with all the other tracks preceding it, it comes off as more generic than it probably should. Nonetheless, counts as a good power ballad.

The most emotional and stunning track on the album has to be The GIFT, I was so impressed by the melodies and Ayu’s approach here that the tears were almost burning in the back of my eyes. If I have to recommend one song to you guys it would be this one, and I’m glad she picked this as the promo song for the album. WONDERFUL ❤

Am I the only one that instantly thought of the song ‘snowy kiss’ when hearing The Show Must Go On for the first time? The ambience and sometimes even the melodies remind me of that song sooo much.. Still, I can hear the differences and it doesn’t make this track boring or unoriginal. It’s sassy and I quite like it, a necessary song after a few ballads as well.

Walk is one of the three official A-sides on this album and it distinguishes itself from the rest with a more orchestral approach in some parts of the song. It’s the sister song to Zutto… since it still owns that winter ballad theme, but the melodies are totally different and more emotional in a way. In some ways not very distinguishable, but breathtaking in its own way.

Ayu doing covers, wow. Ayu doing GREAT covers, even better! I never expected her to cover Utada’s Movin’ on without you and she made it completely her own with the modern synthpop sound. I like the sound of Ayu’s voice in the verses, so different of what she usually does. I remember liking the original version very much and Ayu comes soooo close, great job!

When ‘Colours’ proved itself disappointing for me I was hoping for a better follow-up. The ‘Zutto…/Last minute/Walk’ single was promising, but I didn’t expect Ayu to release such an amazing album now! This tops ‘Colours’ by far, only ‘LOVE again’ is a better album (my favorite Ayu album ever) and that certainly says a LOT. Ayumi has released many great albums and I’m more a fan of her earlier works, but this album exceeds a lot of what she has done before. True, some tracks don’t really stand out 100%, but there isn’t a single bad song on the album. If I have to recommend a song it would be the pure perfection that The GIFT is, but be sure not to miss out on any of the other tracks either!

Favorite tracks: WARNING | NO FUTURE | Anything for You | Last minute | Out of control | The GIFT | The Show Must Go On | Movin’ on without you

OVERALL RATING
starstarstarstarhalfstar
4½ stars

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