Monday, February 03, 2003

Ayumi Hamasaki: Best


Ayumi Hamasaki: BEST
Genre: JPop
Credits: CREDITS: 2002 Ayumi Hamasaki, Max Matsuura, AVEX Network Inc.
Track Listing:

  1. A Song for XX
  2. Trust
  3. Depend on you
  4. LOVE ~Destiny~
  5. TO BE
  6. Boys & Girls
  7. Trauma
  8. End roll
  9. appears
  10. Fly high
  11. vogue
  12. Far away
  13. SEASONS
  14. SURREAL
  15. M
  16. Who…
I must admit I was never a fan of Ayumi Hamasaki. As my cousin Firsenshi succinctly puts it, “I’d rather listen to nails scratching on a black board than hear her sing.” I hated her shrill nasal voice, especially when she hits the high notes, which is why I never understood how she became such a phenomenal success in Japan. That line of thinking began to change, however, when I heard her sing for the anime Inuyasha. Her songs Dearest and No More Words are still ear-piercing when Hamasaki gets to the high notes but they’ve somewhat mellowed and become very endearing.

Now comes Best, the only album from Avex’s most in-demand artist that I’ve dared purchase. It’s as expensive as every other JPOP CD available in stores nowadays, but all I could say is that it’s worth every penny. Why, Hamasaki-san! Have you been taking your voice lessons seriously of late? That’s the kind of aura Best gives out. Although still sounding like a little girl, Hamasaki seems to have developed a set of stronger, more powerful lungs that bring out a rich new texture in her voice. She actually knows how to modulate now, which I believe, is a tremendous improvement on her part.

Enough with my amazement at her powered-up vocal prowess, let’s move on to the tracks. Each of the 16 songs that compose Best are worthy of being used for an anime, video game, or soap opera theme. They’re that good. Sentimental. Melancholic. Inspiring. There are a few dance tunes, of course, in the form of Depend on You, Boys & Girls, Trauma, and Fly High. The rest… Ah, it’s hard to name a personal favorite, although I like her ballads most. If I were to choose a good ending theme for an anime or video game I’d select To Be, LOVE ~Destiny~, End Roll, SEASONS, and SURREAL, just to name a few. Like I said, selecting a favorite is indeed a difficult task.

Best is actually a compilation of songs from Ayumi Hamasaki’s first three albums namely: A Song for XX, LOVEppears, and Duty. It also looks like I’ll be buying the I Am… album because M, track 15 of Best, is there. I’ll just cross my fingers that the rest of I Am… would be as good as M. Now here’s a tricky question. If I have never been a fan of Ayumi before this, how come I like her songs from the first three albums when her vocal skills would still have been lacking at that time those records were released? Well, let’s just say this is like a “remake” album with better arrangements and polished technique.

Listen to the lyrics. All of them are written by Hamasaki herself. A favorite of mine would have to be Vogue for the sheer poetry of it. With intro and accompaniment that are obviously inspired by the Latin music craze, Vogue’s words sound more like a haiku than anything else. It’s fun and experimental.

Some of her songs show how much of a child Hamasaki still feels especially in A Song for XX. This is a woman who had been unsure and burdened with numerous hurdles. Now manages to exude much confidence in herself. She knows what she lacks but she also knows where she’s good at. This girl really knows what she wants to project and how she wants to be packaged. She speaks a lot about her self-discovery. It’s all seen here. If the lyrics don’t tell you that, listen to her music. Everything just spells IMPACT.

Rating: 9/10



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