Ayumi Hamasaki – Party Queen

August 5, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Posted in Ayumi Hamasaki | 3 Comments
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  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 caused quite a commotion earlier this year as details for it began to emerge. Firstly, Ayumi announced her separation from Manuel, her husband, which wasn’t surprising at all but it did lead to a lot of drama. In addition, many were shocked by the record’s provocative covers which had her wearing only her lingerie while others were refreshed by the bold move, especially after the divorce. It appeared that the album was headed into a very dance-centered direction which it does touch upon but only briefly because it eventually delves into deeper and darker material. She does try to shake the album up by working with a new producer, Timothy Wellard, who also made an appearance in FIVE for the production of BRILLANTE and even joined a fan forum to spill details on Ayumi. He eventually fell out of favour with some fans due to his overexposure in her work. With everything surrounding the album, it seemed like she was branching out and trying something new and I was on board for it.

The album begins with its title track, Party queen, and the European electro aspects are immediately apparent as a bunch of crazy synths come to life. It starts off with a computer-like synth riff until it becomes overpowered by an intense drum and synth beat. She sounds a little weird on the verses because she talks her way through them with the sound of clinking glasses and the pouring of drinks in the background. They’re not that interesting but once the music picks up it gets much better and she begins singing to the beat. The chorus is kind of catchy with its raving dance beat and her repetition of “I am the party queen.” However, her tone keeps this from being a top track. She performs with her cute voice and it doesn’t go with the gritty underground sound. The track concludes with creepy laughter and leads to the police sirens that introduce the next party song, NaNaNa. The arrangement is vastly superior due to the sinister and aggressive growl of the electro beats. The gritty and dark melody instantly captured me and her creepy whispering of “tick tick tick tick tock tick” is a great way to start things. Her voice is much better and her lower range goes so well with the disturbing composition. Unfortunately, Tim is included and his sections are so bad. He offers nothing but cheesy and spoken rap-like sections before the chorus that bring the song down, “all the gorgeous boiz/come and make some noise.” After his tragic performances, she manages to salvage with the chorus which has a nice vocoder effect on her voice and the music lightens up but still keeps the infectious synths. This would have been a flawless track if it wasn’t for Tim but, regardless of his inclusion, the raving melody is more than enough to make this a favourite.

The fun continues with Shake It♥ and her vocalizing introduction is very catchy. This is another aggressive track but, unlike the previous songs, this one relies on guitars to bring out a gritty sound. A steady drum beat leads the verses with the occasional spazz of guitar while her voice cynically dances to the beat. Eventually, her backing vocals kick in to make it catchier. The chorus is unexpectedly dramatic with its array of beats and her heightened, rapid delivery. The rock influence comes out as she repeats “shake it” and Tim makes another appearance but only for the backing vocals. Not only is there a whole lot of rock but the bridge throws in a dubstep breakdown that oddly enough shifts to a brass section before the last chorus. It’s very weird but it’s pretty cool. I really enjoy the aggressive sound that she plays with and the heavy electronic elements are glorious. Even the interlude, taskebab, brings the heat despite its silly name. It’s all about rock here and its massive guitar assault is wicked cool. Too bad this isn’t an actual song because the melody is tremendous. It kicks into overdrive as a synth line appears, speeding up and exploding into a duo of rock and electro. This is such a waste as an interlude because it would have made such an energetic rock anthem. Her interludes don’t always make sense with the song that they lead into and that’s exactly what happens here. Not only that, but the album does a complete 180 because from this point on the dance anthems end and it returns to her general style of music. call is a soothing pop rock tune, unlike the hardcore interlude. The acoustic guitar is quite lovely and has a fresh summer air. In the chorus, her voice gets much louder compared to the instrumental which does crescendo quite a bit with it’s arrangement of rock and there’s some sweet male backing vocals thrown in too. While it has a carefree attitude, there’s a lingering sadness that comes through her voice. It’s a gorgeous contrast and the combination of emotions that runs in this song makes this much more than just a typical pop rock hit.

The pop rock continues for Letter but the melody here is mellow and transcends into a very elegant state for the chorus. With a larger focus on heavy rock, she begins the verses with luscious and deep vocals. Even though I enjoyed her voice in the previous song, it is much more to my liking here. She sings powerfully and puts a lot more emotion into her intonation which is complimented by the dynamic instrumentation. All of this is enhanced in the chorus, where the strings burst to life and her voice soars beautifully. This isn’t an immensely catchy track but her voice and the dark, passionate production works wonders together. I like this a lot more than I expected I would. reminds me comes on to the scene with its ear-catching introduction of melancholic strings that flourish as they progress. Just as the magnificent procession of strings reaches its climax, it suddenly dies and in its place comes a soft acoustic guitar joined by her sweet voice. The sudden change in tempo and atmosphere is startling at first but the warmth of the acoustics is soothing as are her vocals. However, the song doesn’t stop there because it changes into an explosive rock ballad. Just before entering the massive hook, the electric guitars roar to life and the strings come back with a fury. Her voice is filled with a passion that has yet to be seen on this record and it’s marvelous, filled to the brim with emotion. Her ad-libbing as the strings work their magic is stunning and then the descent into a heavy rock breakdown takes it to the next level. I was expecting a return to another acoustic verse but the song just continues with the chorus. I love the intensity that she displays and it makes this a standout. Her vocalizing at the end creeps into desperate cries that are filled with tremendous pain. She does offer one final taste of warmth as the song calms back into the acoustics for its finale.

Lamenting strings introduce the power ballad Return Road and they lead into an epic organ with the twinkling of chimes in the background. This overly dramatic segment settles down for the verse which is composed of a piano and strings. Her delivery is as soft as the instruments are but this is short-lived because the chorus brings the song to its highest point where the strings and percussion lead her into emotional disarray. The bridge contains a bizarre mix of dramatic strings and the random clash of piano keys that are accompanied by operatic male vocals that reflect her inner turmoil. The final chorus is given an extra punch of drama as the operatic vocals back her up. It’s a little touch that makes a big difference. This is another excellent track and one of the album’s best offerings. Tell me why somewhat follows in the footsteps of the last few songs but in a much lighter way. Her “oohs” at the very start are stunning. With the piano, they create such a haunting introduction that pulls you into its state of sadness. The subtle gloominess that looms around the verses is overwhelming and the percussion adds a sense of emptiness. When it moves into the chorus, strings are added to the mix and her voice takes on a depressing tone that gives the song a stronger emotional pull. This ballad doesn’t contain the surprises or dramatics of the previous ones but that’s what I like about it. It’s a raw ballad that allows her to really express herself and bring about a sense of sadness. It’s very chill and soothing despite its depressing tone. a cup of tea, the second interlude, leads the album away from the dark and tragic tone that the middle section sets up. After the misleading procession of strings at the start, the interlude delves into dubstep territory with a sinister twist. It’s kind of quirky but there’s nothing too amazing about it.

the next LOVE takes Ayumi to a new style with a velvety smooth classic and jazz composition. The classic elements act as the introduction with Ayumi ad-libbing sweetly before a dramatic clash of strings leads to the inclusion of the silky jazz beat. Her voice gently glides along the piano, setting up a delicious lounge feel. Her voice gains strength as the instrumental spirals into a powerful blend of strings in the chorus. I love how the bridge gains momentum and she sings quickly to the ecstatic tempo change. It’s a really nice change of style for her. It’s a great combination of sultry vocals and instruments while still maintaining a powerful hook. The sound of a ringing phone followed by deranged laughter introduces the next jazz themed number, Eyes, Smoke, Magic. Unlike the last, this one takes a page from Broadway and has her whispering “eyes, smoke, magic” to a snapping beat. It just screams Broadway with its eccentric jazz-influenced melody. Throughout the verses, there’s the occasional spazz of beats that emphasize the theatrical aspect of the track. Midway in, after the first chorus, everything picks up into a sugary breakdown with Ayumi speeding up to the beat. The surprise of instruments never stops because the song continues to throw different elements into the mix. The end captures the finale of musicals because of the brass instruments and her strong ad-libs. The composition is certainly the highpoint and it’s such a drastic sound for her. The one thing I don’t really like is how cute her voice gets in some parts but it goes with the melody pretty well so it’s not too bad. Serenade in A minor is the last interlude and it’s the complete opposite of the others. This one is all about serenity and beauty. The strings carry a haunting atmosphere that is melancholic yet breathtaking. It’s not groundbreaking by any means but you can’t go wrong with a lovely serenade of strings. The good thing about this is that it leads into how beautiful you are perfectly. The final track is a classic Ayumi ballad and it stands out because it’s the only one that boasts a simple instrumentation. The album has been a mixed bag of electropop, rock ballads and jazz and this is absolutely refreshing. Supported by a lonely piano, she graces with her soft voice and despite a very basic set up, I really like how it comes together. Everything is kept to a bare minimum for most of the song and when the strings creep in for the chorus, it suddenly is filled with an uplifting and self-empowering mood. The way she sings the title is sweet and encouraging. The song gets even better when the male backing vocals are added during the bridge and continue into the last chorus where she performs with much more passion. It definitely closes the album on a high note.

Conclusion: Party Queen turned out to be something I was not expecting at all. I was actually looking forward to a complete dance-oriented album where she would let herself go wild. That seemed to be the direction she was heading with the first three songs but once they’re over she reverts back to her usual sound which is disappointing. I would have loved to see her fully embrace the sound that she explored at the start because it would have been so refreshing for her. In addition, there’s a lack of focus because the first part of the album doesn’t have much to do with the latter half. Despite my nitpicking, the songs themselves are not bad at all and most of my favourites come later on. It’s just that I would have really liked her to take a risk rather than stick to the same tired formula. The dramatic nature of the majority of the tracks is fantastic and the main reason they are so enjoyable. They are powerful and extremely emotional, bordering on very dark themes. Party Queen sees her trying to slowly reach out of her comfort zone and hopefully she does an even bigger leap in the future.

Recommended Tracks: how beautiful you are, Return Road, reminds me, Shake It♥, NaNaNa, Tell me why and Letter

Rating

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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

Ayumi Hamasaki – Love songs

January 10, 2011 at 10:43 am | Posted in Ayumi Hamasaki | Leave a comment
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  1. Love song
  2. crossroad
  3. MOON
  4. sending mail
  5. Last angel
  6. insomnia
  7. Like a doll
  8. Aria
  9. blossom
  10. Thank U
  11. Sweet Season
  12. overture
  13. do it again
  14. November
  15. Virgin Road
  16. SEVEN DAYS WAR (Live at Yoyogi on Oct. 11 2010)

Ayumi’s always been an artist that I’ve been on the fence about. Every album she releases has one or two amazing songs that I become addicted to while the rest of the album ranges from good to not so great. Sometimes I get in a mood where I feel like listening to her but that is usually a phase that eventually passes over. However, once in a blue moon she releases an album that makes me stop dead in my tracks. Love songs happens to be one of those albums.

The title track, Love songs, opens up with a gorgeous piano that leads to strings and when Ayumi begins singing the chorus, the acoustic guitar and the percussion takes center stage. In the verses the percussion and the strings are more dominant and Ayumi’s vocals are deep which is when she sounds best vocally. I’m not a fan of her high vocals so any song with her deep vocals is already off to a good start. Her vocals for the chorus are full of energy and she sounds really good. The only slip up this song has is the weird vocal moments where she belts out in an extremely nasally voice. It sounds awkward and puts a dent in the track. There are a few surprises in the arrangement most notably the guitar break and the piano one shortly after it. Starting the album with its title track was a smart move. crossroads picks up pretty much where the previous song left off. The verses consist of strings, an acoustic guitar and Ayumi’s vocals are really nice especially the parts when she speeds up her singing. The percussion kicks in right before chorus, creating a dramatic transition into it. I rarely go crazy over Ayumi’s vocals but her vocals during the chorus are divine. In the bridge, a guitar is included to the arrangement which adds some edge to the track. I’m surprised by how much I love this song and I’m a bit mad that I didn’t check it out when it came out as a single.

MOON starts off with soft instruments but it quickly changes to a more rock oriented sound. The song returns to its soft sound for the verses where she sings in a nice delicate tone. The best part of the song is the rock driven chorus where her vocals are strong and once again I love the sound of her voice. I heard this track when it came out as a single and I passed up on it because it didn’t interest me but it sounds a lot better on the album. For the bridge, a fantastic and gritty electric guitar is added which leads to a slowed down version of the chorus. Despite being a long track, it’s really nice and doesn’t overstay its welcome. I previously stated that Ayumi’s albums always have a song that is simply irresistible and amazing and sending mail is that song. You would think with its title it would be sweet or light but it’s the darkest song on the album. I adore the arrangement of the song. The piano and strings are dramatic and Ayumi’s fast singing is engaging. The verses are superb and create a great build-up for the chorus which is the star of this song. The chorus literally catches you off guard with its hard percussion, strings and Ayumi’s powerful vocals. There are some vocoder effects thrown into the song after the first chorus before she begins the second verse. Ayumi always delivers with her dark and aggressive songs and this is no exception.

Last angel has a promising start with magnificent strings leading into foreboding drums. It sounds awesome and seems like the song is going to be epic but sadly all that disappears when Ayumi starts singing. The piano and strings sound nice but I would have preferred the arrangement at the start of the song to be used. Ayumi’s vocals are good but the parts when she sings in a soft voice sound dull and it ruins the flow of the song. The best part is definitely the chorus because of her strong singing and the gorgeous strings. This song has been given lot of praise and I don’t understand why. It’s a decent song but it could have been much better. Seriously, the first interlude, insomnia, sounds like something right out of a horror film. It’s dark and creepy and I love everything about it. The strings, synths and piano all come together to create one of Ayumi’s most memorable interludes. Like a doll seems to have trouble deciding whether it wants to be a cheery song or a dark one. One minute it has a sweet piano and the next minute it’s dramatic and dark with Ayumi singing “like a doll.” I actually like the way the song turned out and the part when she repeats the title is my favourite because of how creepy it sounds. The chorus is quite energetic and light which contrasts nicely with the darker elements of the song.

Aria is the second interlude and it consists of beautiful strings and heavenly backing vocals. I love when the instrumentals crescendo and the atmosphere becomes so ethereal. It’s another really great interlude. blossom is one of Ayumi’s songs you swear you’ve heard before but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The verses are predictable but the chorus is where the song shines as rock elements are added to the song. It feels very familiar and has that typical Ayumi feel but she sounds great and it’s quite catchy. This is one of her better summer songs because of the few twists that are added to the song especially the  electric guitar in the bridge. The first time I heard Thank U I thought it was a long interlude. About 60% of the song consists of Ayumi singing “lalalala” along with backing vocals. This could have easily resulted in a disaster but surprisingly Ayumi manages to make it work. The verses are quite cheerful and she sings in quick and cute vocals and the bright atmosphere of the song is contagious due to the light melody. The constant barrage of optimistic “lalalas” gets drilled into your head and I can’t help but love it. Sweet Season has a vibrant arrangement and it’s got a bit of a country feel to it. Ayumi’s performance on this track is nice and I love the uplifting feel of the chorus. It’s a very simple song and I appreciate that aspect of it. It’s a nice listen and the electric guitar in the bridge spices things up a bit.

The final interlude, overture, is the most relaxing of the three. I love how nostalgic it feels and the woodwinds are gorgeous. Everything about this interlude is incredible and its fantasy sound is divine. do it again begins with a frantic piano and Ayumi singing “dance, dance, dance/do it again,” and “sing, sing, sing/do it again” repeatedly which is accompanied by dramatic strings. I adore the English lines and find them very captivating. The woodwinds in the verses are so beautiful and she sings calmly for the most part until the chorus where the music picks up and she begins to sing faster. This song is also quite dark except for the bridge where the melody changes and becomes light with extravagant strings and some light drums. The final chorus features some “lalalas” in the background which add a lighter feel to it. This is one of my favourite tracks on the album. November has one of the most memorable melodies because of the delicious xylophone and harmonica. Ayumi’s vocals are really sweet and I love the instrumentation in the verses. Halfway through the first verse the percussion is added and the song becomes a mid-tempo and her vocals become livelier. The chorus uses sweeping strings, a lovely piano melody and Ayumi sings with great emotion. I love the build-up in the bridge as the strings become more dramatic right before the final chorus.

Virgin Road has a fantastic melody with its orchestrated feel. The crescendo in the verses with the strings is nice but that’s all the verses have going for them. Ayumi sings this song like the rest of the ballads on the album so this song doesn’t have anything that makes it stand out. The chorus is enjoyable because of its dramatic atmosphere and her higher vocals. This isn’t a bad song but it doesn’t have anything going for it either. It’s not that memorable compared to the other ballads on the album.  Depending on the version of the album, the final track will be different. SEVEN DAYS WAR is a cover of TM Revolution and it’s a nice ballad. She sings in her lovely deep vocals and the backing piano is so soft. I love the mature tone she employs and the gradual inclusion of strings, background vocals and percussion. The build-up leads you to believe that the chorus will be huge but the instruments die down a little and Ayumi’s vocals become calmer. However, the song does hit its climax in the bridge and the arrangement reaches its full potential with chanting backing vocals. The final chorus is livelier and the upbeat arrangement makes it standout more. The integration of the chanting vocals in the chorus works wonders and gives off an epic feel. SEVEN DAYS WAR (Live at Yoyogi on Oct.11.2010), as you can see by its title, is a live performance. I don’t usually listen to her live performances but this is good and the live arrangement gives it a grandiose feel. This isn’t as great as the original but it’s not too bad either.

Conclusion: Love songs is a huge improvement over Rock’n’Roll Circus. The ballads were much more memorable minus a few near the end. This album is very cohesive so there isn’t any one song that ruins the flow of the album but this also causes a few problems. An album should be cohesive but that doesn’t mean the songs have to sound identical which is what happens to some of the songs on the album. The first half is amazing but near the end you feel like you’ve heard all the songs already. Despite this, the album is one of Ayumi’s best efforts.

Recommended Tracks: sending mail, do it again, crossroad, November and Love song

Rating

Ayumi Hamasaki – Rock’n’Roll Circus

July 19, 2010 at 7:15 pm | Posted in Ayumi Hamasaki | 2 Comments
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  1. THE introduction
  2. Microphone
  3. count down
  4. Sunset ~LOVE is ALL~
  5. BALLAD
  6. Last Links
  7. montage
  8. Don’t look back
  9. Jump!
  10. Lady Dynamite
  11. Sexy little things
  12. Sunrise ~LOVE is ALL~
  13. meaning of Love
  14. You were…
  15. RED LINE ~for TA~ (album version)

I was highly anticipating Rock’n’Roll Circus because of all the hype surrounding its release. When the tracklist was released I was surprised by how fierce some of the titles were and couldn’t wait to hear how they would sound. Unfortunately, the album did not live up to my expectations.

THE introduction is a nice opening and I like how dramatic it sounds because it compliments the next track. The organ in Microphone is awesome and leads right into a blast of guitars. This is the rock track of the album and it’s very aggressive. Ayumi’s vocals are powerful and help set the tone of the song. The only complaint I have is that the verses are underwhelming. They sound too calm and aren’t as aggressive as they should be. There’s nothing really special about count down except for its lovely arrangement and dark vibe. The piano melody is great but the same can’t be said for the vocal performance which leaves much to be desired. The song feels dull and it shouldn’t be because the arrangement of the song is interesting. Sunset ~LOVE is ALL~ is much better with its calm summer vibe. The instruments and synths are gorgeous and make the song feel peaceful. I really liked this song and was surprised to read that not many people enjoyed this track. The song does drag on towards the end but it isn’t that big of an issue. BALLAD has a really epic and oriental feel to it. I didn’t like this song at first but it has grown on me and Ayumi sounds much better here than she did on count down. The bridge of the song is amazing as you get to hear the beautiful instruments. The arrangement of the song makes it the albums best ballad.

The acoustic sound of Last Links was quite a surprise and I loved how the rest of the instruments burst into the middle of the verse. Too bad the chorus is a dud and brings the song down completely. This song suffers from the same problem as count down. The albums second interlude, montage, is a dark orchestrated piece of music. It sets the mood for the albums best and most epic song, Don’t look back. This is what I’ve been waiting for, a track that’s unique and captures my interest. The Arabian influence of the song is interesting and compliments the songs dark and angst vibe. Ayumi doesn’t have many songs like this and she should continue to make them because it’s fantastic. This is the gem of the album simply because of its audacity. Jump! is the final interlude and it’s pretty pointless. There wasn’t a need to have two interludes so close to each other. Lady Dynamite intrigued me because of its bold title and was one of the songs I looked forward to listening to. The song doesn’t deserve the title because it’s absolutely generic and a huge disappointment. The song is ridiculously boring and even the arrangement isn’t able to salvage it. This song had so much potential to be good but I guess that’s what happens when you judge a song based solely on its title.

Luckily, Ayumi redeems herself with the quirky and insane, Sexy little things. This is another one of the albums highlights and the opening synths are crazy. This is the song that most closely reflects the feeling of a circus. The synths right after the first chorus along with the drums is phenomenal. There is one aspect of the song that I feel could have been better and it’s the vocals. It’s different to see Ayumi sing in the cute tone that she uses in the song but it would have been better if she sang this song differently. However, that is just one minor problem and the song is still exceptional. Sunrise ~LOVE is ALL~ is pretty much just Sunset ~LOVE is ALL~ with an upbeat makeover. The song is much more summery with its livelier arrangement and vocal performance. It’s not quite as good as Sunset ~LOVE is ALL~ but I still enjoyed it. meaning of Love has a simple arrangement but her vocals are grating during the chorus. This is a typical ballad and there’s nothing interesting about it. The arrangement of the song is a little too simple thus making the song sound bland. You were… is an improvement over the previous song and Ayumi sounds great. The song is nice but other than that it’s your typical winter ballad from Ayumi. Rock’n’Roll Circus closes off with RED LINE ~for TA~ (album version) which has an upbeat and catchy chorus. The verses lack the feeling that the chorus has and come across as a little plain. The song also runs on too long and could have easily ended around the four minute mark because the rest of the song is just the instruments that finish off with a cappella singing.

Conclusion: I was severely disappointed with Rock’n’Roll Circus because many of the songs came across as bland and uninspired. The production is great but even then the songs just don’t sound as good as they should. The tracks that are good are the ones where Ayumi was brave enough to experiment with and they save the album. Ayumi should have had more tracks like Sexy little things and Don’t look back because these were the standouts on the album. There are also too many ballad and most of them aren’t even that good. Ayumi has ballads that put these ones to shame and it’s tragic that even the good ballads aren’t even close to what Ayumi is capable of. I might sound too harsh but I went into this album thinking it was going to be amazing and came out confused and disappointed. Despite its obvious flaws it still has some surprising tracks.

Recommended Tracks: Don’t look back, Sexy little things, Microphone, Sunset ~LOVE is ALL~ and BALLAD

Rating

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