Ayumi Hamasaki – GUILTY

January 10, 2008 at 8:17 PM | Posted in Ayumi Hamasaki | 1 Comment
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The cover of the CD+DVD edition

GUILTY is Ayumi Hamasaki’s 9th album and it was released on January 1, 2008. The album reached #2 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 568,288 copies.

♦ ♦ ♦

Opening the album is the short introductory track Mirror. The mix of fast percussion, chimes, and low key strings are really interesting and they gradually build up to the explosive second half of the track. Electric guitar and thumping drums suddenly blaze through alongside elevated vocals but fade away as quickly as they came in.

The transition into don’t (Leave me alone) is good and flows into an edgy synth line with Hamasaki singing in a lower key. The song is mainly composed of synth but it blends in with an underlying electric guitar. She is slowly coming out of her comfort zone with this song as it is a pretty unique track. It’s also a precursor to the “darker”, more serious tone of the album.

Without a doubt one of the most aggressive songs on the album, talkin’ 2 myself slowly comes in and unexpectedly erupts with quick riffs and dark strings. I still really like this song and it fits into the album very well.

talkin’ 2 myself’s B-side, decision, follows right after. It makes sense to place it right after talkin’ 2 myself because it shares a similar structure from beginning to end, but features stronger riffs and a more powerful chorus. Hamasaki really belts it out at the end with all those “yeahs” too.

Track 5 is my favorite song on the album because it shows the more vulnurable side of Hamasaki. GUILTY is really something else because of the unique electric guitar accompanied by distant piano and drums. The riffs sound very dark and gritty, almost borrowing elements from alternative grunge rock. The song never gets out of control and Hamasaki’s vocals are not strained. The disembodied voice talking in English during the chorus was a strange, yet welcome addition as well.

fated is a great follow-up song to GUILTY since it has the same style, but in a more friendly pop form. The music is still on the depressing side and this is just the beginning of the direction the album takes. This was definitely the better song on the glitter / fated single in my opinion.

Okay, Together When… isn’t exactly new, but I don’t review digital singles so I did a sigh relief when it was included on the album. This song is AMAZING and one of the best emotionally driven ballads Hamasaki has done in a very long time. The song is full of emotion and showcases a great example of how pace and tempo can add to that. The lyrics are really sad and just make everything seem more melancholy.

The next track is the perfect way to set up for what’s to come. Marionette -prelude- is CREEPY. The music is deceptively simple, but oh so effective. It sounds like it came from a survival horror game or something because it certainly builds up an atmosphere. From the music box like chimes to the sound of old rusting clockwork, it gets you ready for the next track.

The prelude was awesome, but how’s the actual song? Marionette does not disappoint and is a huge elaboration of what the prelude offered. It’s the most epic and grandiose song on the album and it includes a more complex arrangement, sweeping strings, and blaring riffs. The dynamics range from the soft chimes at the beginning to the rock orchestra of the chorus. A lot of different and constrasting things were packed into this song and it works brilliantly in the end.

The Judgement Day sounds kind of scary, huh? It’s not as unsettling as the prelude to Marionette, but there are some good moments. I thought the organ was perfect for this interlude and I loved how they got faster and faster when the pace of the music changed to a dance like atmosphere. The funny thing about this interlude is that it leads to the 2 HAPPY tracks of the album.

This is where glitter enters the stage, but it sounds a lot better on the album after that cool interlude. I used to dislike this song A LOT, but it has grown on me and it is a nice change after all those depressing songs, despite being out of place. The summer sound of previous pop songs is definitely there with a catchy chorus to go along with it.

MY ALL is also an upbeat, summer type of song that opens with a bright electric guitar. Just like glitter, this song has a light-hearted and cheery pop sound but I didn’t find it all that memorable. It just sounds nice, but lacks a catchy hook like the previous track.

Well, here’s another interlude. reBiRTH has an ambient opening but I did find the music to be really pretty. Everything just seems to flow beautifully during the middle portion of the interlude where the piano and strings come together.

The album’s final track is a very important song to Hamasaki. The entire album was dedicated to her deceased friend, but untitled ~for her~ was written especially for this friend. The song is very heartfelt with its pop arrangement and it attempts to close the album on a lighter, yet still bittersweet note. I thought Hamasaki accomplished this because the music is a little upbeat side but everything else is just plain somber. She definitely got her message across, that’s for sure.

GUILTY has gotten a lot of criticism by people who think it sounds like everything else Ayumi Hamasaki has done, and they are sort of right. She might be up to her old tricks again, but it’s never sounded so damn good. The album contains her most emotional and serious material to date; each track containing excellent lyrics and so on. Unlike her previous album Secret (which was poor in the construction department), the transitions are smoother and the interludes are better as well. The songs of GUILTY feel more put together and you could tell that Hamasaki put a lot of thought and work into this album because the overall production value is excellent. I guess you could say I’m guilty for enjoying this album. =O

Overall Rating

4½ stars

Tracklisting

1. Mirror
2. (don’t) Leave me alone
3. talkin’ 2 myself
4. decision
5. GUILTY
6. fated
7. Together When…
8. Marionette -prelude-
9. Marionette
10. The Judgement Day
11. glitter
12. MY ALL
13. reBiRTH
14. untitled ~for her~

Note: My favorite tracks are highlighted in blue!

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1 Comment »

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  1. Wow! I enjoyed your article! Its great! My fave Ayu song from this album was Together When. I always cry meanwhile watching pv :'(


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