Ayumi Hamasaki – FIVE

September 6, 2011 at 10:14 pm | Posted in Ayumi Hamasaki | 2 Comments
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  1. progress
  2. ANother song feat. URATA NAOYA
  3. Why… feat. JUNO
  4. beloved
  5. BRILLANTE
  6. beloved (Orchestra version)

A while back it was revealed that Ayumi landed a tie-in for Namco’s Tales of Xillia. Since Ayumi released an album last December, I expected the new song to be released as a single but she surprised everyone by announcing that she would be releasing her second mini-album, FIVE. I honestly didn’t care much for it until I saw how hot the covers were and I know you’re not suppose to judge a book by it’s cover but I was hoping it would be a reflection of the music.

I’m a fan of the Tales series so the tie-in, progress, helped get my interest up and it’s a typical Ayumi song but it’s very good. In the beginning, it has a dramatic orchestrated vibe going on but that turns out to be a little intro and the song then moves into a stunning piano piece with strings and occasional chimes. Her voice is elegant and emotive. I love when she sings in this tone and the she sounds stronger in the soaring chorus. The strings are more prominent and it takes on the perfect sound for an RPG. It wouldn’t be an epic Ayumi song without a tempo change and after the chorus an electric guitar blasts its way in. The second verse contains percussion while the second chorus features the electric guitar as well as faster strings. It comes together nicely and the rock version of the chorus sounds just as amazing as the ballad version. I wasn’t expecting the bridge to go all out on the rock sound but it’s so wicked. It’s one of the best breakdowns in an Ayumi song. It was clever of Ayumi to start the final chorus slow because the build-up into the rock instruments makes for a great conclusion. ANother song feat. URATA NAOYA marks the second time Ayumi has worked with NAOYA. The strings at the start led me to believe it was going to be a ballad but then the R&B back beat shows up and the song takes on a mid-tempo sound. Their voices go well together and I wasn’t expecting NAOYA to have such a light voice. It’s underwhelming compared to the opening track and the lack of melody change in the chorus doesn’t do it any favours. The song does get better near the end when the melody is altered and becomes brighter. On a positive note, the piano melody is really nice and it’s kind of addicting. It’s not a bad song but it’s lacking something that makes it stand out.

On the other hand, Why… feat. JUNO has that wow factor which is partly due to the extravagant orchestral melody. The gorgeous piano intro does a great job of leading up to the massive chorus melody which then fades into a delicious mixture of a guitar and piano for the verse. I love the addition of chimes because they add a magical feel and for once I’m not annoyed by the use of water drop effects. The chorus is split between the two of them and when they sing together, their voices harmonize perfectly. In the chorus, the melody takes on a rock and orchestral sound while they sing with stronger vocals. The bridge is simply amazing because of their back and forth singing which I adore. beloved is a simple ballad with some powerful moments. The warm, emotional vocals from Ayumi are charming and the composition’s build-up is marvelous. What begins as a piano-driven affair later becomes joined by a gorgeous sequence of strings that gets more elegant as it progresses. The soaring chorus is where she puts more strength into her voice and she sounds so good, especially when she holds the last note. Her vocalizing in the bridge is delightful and the slow chorus is so pretty. At the end, the use of background vocals and percussion beats elevates the song while Ayumi finishes it off with light vocalizing.

BRILLANTE seems to be the track that everyone is crazy about. It is made up of ethereal sounds that are joined by Latin male chanting which is quite a surprise because I’ve never heard a song of hers that incorporated this type of chanting. The Latin vocals get louder while strings and chimes are added to the melody. It settles down for the verse which features guitar chords, percussion and strings. It establishes a calm mood and it has a nice mysterious vibe to it. The woodwinds in the pre-chorus are fantastic and I like the sudden tempo change in the chorus. The chanting comes back and the chorus has an assertive and dramatic feel. It’s a good song and it’s interesting but I don’t see what all the fuss is about. It’s still similar to her other material except with some Latin vocals. Why… feat. NAOYA URATA is a hidden track and it has a different arrangement from the previous version. The most noticeable difference is that Ayumi collaborates with NAOYO again and it goes into an electronic direction. Its orchestral sound is replaced by sugary synths which don’t have the same impact. The computerized vocals are kind of bad and they sound cheap. Ayumi and NAOYA sound better together on this track but it doesn’t have the same feeling as the original. This new mix makes it stand out less and it’s somewhat plain. The final track, beloved (Orchestra version) isn’t what I hoped it would be. The orchestral arrangement actually tones it down rather than elevating it. It’s disappointing because I would have loved for it to have more power.

Conclusion: For an album that I wasn’t eagerly awaiting, FIVE is a solid mini-album. It’s not her best material but it’s a strong set of songs. Ayumi has never been one to include collaborations on her albums, if I’m not mistaken the last time she collaborated with someone was on I Am, but they turned out well. Furthermore, I would’ve liked to see Ayumi dabble into a new sound since this was a mini-album but I can’t complain because she does what she’s best at on this release.

Recommended Tracks: progress, beloved and Why… feat. JUNO

Rating

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2 Comments »

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  1. I just freaking love love LOVE this mini album!! Favoruite song has got to be progress!! I also love love LOVE BRILLIANTE, not quite as much as progress but still I absolutely adore the song! Yeah, I also love Why…feat Juno. I think you slightly underrated beloved, I love Ayu’s warm, beautiful, clear vocals in this track. But yeah, it doesn’t stand out quite as much. Another song is also slightly underrated too, but you are really right about it becoming slightly bland, but not a bad song at all, not a bad song at all.
    Overall, I love this mini album by my favourite Japanese artist!! She’s my favourite artist after Girls’ Generation (yes Iknow they’re completely different, but…) 😀

    • Thanks for commenting! I didn’t think I would enjoy this album but I was pleasantly surprised. She may not be one of my favourite artists but Ayumi always puts out quality music. I should really listen to Girls’ Generation soon! I haven’t heard any of their albums yet :p.


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