Ayumi Hamasaki – Rock’n’Roll Circus

April 22, 2010 at 2:59 PM | Posted in Ayumi Hamasaki | 23 Comments

The cover of the CD+DVD edition

Rock’n’Roll Circus is Ayumi Hamasaki’s 11th album and it was released on April14, 2010. The album reached #1 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 205,058 copies.

What a tacky cover…and her eyes are HUGE.

♦ ♦ ♦

The latest Japanese artist to hop on the circus bandwagon, Ayumi Hamasaki’s Rock’n’Roll Circus is, for the most part, a pretty decent album. My fandom has died down over the past year but don’t get me wrong, I will always like her. During this era, Hamasaki’s music hasn’t impressed me since the single Rule / Sparkle.

The 2 singles leading up to Rock’n’Roll Circus were basically carbon copies of much better past songs (Sunrise ~LOVE is ALL~ and You were… being the biggest offenders). It’s better if you ignore the A-sides because they don’t represent the album at all. I still have a soft spot for BALLAD though. However, Ayu did have some tricks up her sleeve for the promotional tracks. There’s 4 of them which is the most she’s ever done for an album.

The central track of the album has to be Microphone, a hard-hitting rock song that utilizes organs and heavy drums. Don’t look back was interesting because of the Middle Eastern influences and I liked the catchy chorus. My favorite song on the album was Sexy little things, the only song to really fit the “circus” part of the title. It’s quirky, different, and incredibly infectious. There’s also Lady Dynamite, a dance-ish track with electric guitars. It’s too bad that Hamasaki didn’t release any of these songs as singles because they’re all quite good and way better than the actual A-sides.

As for the other new tracks, they’re only okay. count down and Last Links sounded like bad leftovers from GUILTY but meaning of Love was actually kind of pretty. The vocals were iffy but at least it’s better than You were… and Sunset ~LOVE is ALL~. I do like how the album closes with an extended version of RED LINE ~for TA~. After the chanting of Ayu’s minions, the song ends with acapella singing. Anything’s better than Curtain call, right?

An Ayu album isn’t complete without an interlude or two (or four). Luckily, there’s only a short intro track and two interludes, making this one of her longer albums as well. THE introduction was pointless but montage was pretty damn amazing. It’s so creepy and unsettling but the transition into Don’t look back was off. The last interlude is Jump! and I thought was really annoying. The only thing it accomplishes is switching gears from the dark rock tracks and ballads of the beginning of the album to more upbeat pop songs.

Overall, I was underwhelmed. Nothing really stood out besides the 4 promotional tracks (I had the same feeling with Koda Kumi’s UNIVERSE). I was surprised at how much slower paced stuff dominated Rock’n’Roll Circus, too. Upon further inspection, half of the album is composed of ballads or something similar. To add insult to injury, she clumps these slower songs together (tracks 3-6 specifically). I definitely enjoyed the upbeat songs like Microphone, Lady Dynamite, and Sexy little things more. Also, the album is sloppy at times and the interludes are oddly placed. For example, montage would have made a better opening track. The Ayu stans can crucify me for this but I thought NEXT LEVEL was better. At least she tried to be different on that album but on Rock’n’Roll Circus, we get treated with the same ol’ same ol’.

Pros: Ayu does what she does best…and Sexy little things is awesome. ♥
Cons: Too many ballads. The album is not that exciting after multiple listens.

BASICALLY…this album is kind of like GUILTY but weaker. ;D

Overall Rating

3½ stars


1. THE introduction
2. Microphone
3. count down
4. Sunset ~LOVE is ALL~
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]

Note: My favorite tracks are highlighted in blue!



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  1. I was just thinking “why is the title ‘Rock n roll’ if most of the songs on the album were moderately slow?” 0.o Sexy little things was boss :D

  2. I got this album in the mail today and to be honest :/ I kinda didn’t like it much. Lol I actually got kinda bored. I liked NEXT LEVEL better though but I just couldn’t get into this album. I loved Sexy Little Things. That’s my jam.

    Grand review lex

  3. ^ omg you should read the interview for that japanese magazine, it explains the meaning of the album title. it has nothing to do with rock music at all, it’s about herself and her feelings or something like that… well, i thought the album was pretty boring. i started to dislike her songs after “mirrorcle world”, so i wasn’t that suprised anyway.

  4. Nice review. I agree with you there are too many ballads on the songs it kinda slows it down especially when the theme is CIRCUS! I liked the rock tracks though! And Don’t Look Back was great. It’s Better than NEXT LEVEL IMO but not as good as GUILTY.

  5. Nice review :) being a relatively new fan (this is the only album of hers that I’ve listened to fully), I really enjoyed this album, though. I think this is a nice introductory album for new fans, specifically because she does her “same ol’ same ol'”

  6. Ahhh a 3.5 stars?

    True that the tracks she was promoting the album with were totally amazing, catchy and different!!!

    Not that i mean u lex but I do find it uncomfi tho how people are coming out like ”bleh- this is not evolution or UNITE, so lets not like it from the first listen-BAD AYU!” kinda reaction. So she started singing more rockish recently, then people complain it’s not as pop-ish then she shifts then they say its not rock-ish. Come on.

    I feel like ther’s always these different approaches and vibes from her albums every single time so i find them pretty entertaining and fun- also her music seems like its becoming more personal to her and/or fans than plain market stuff.

    thnx anyway for the review.

  7. phew FINALLy you review this!!! anyway so agree with you the album aim’t too bad but its clearly pretty boring

  8. I think the thing I didn’t like about this album was that the upbeat songs were all mostly in the second half and I prefer albums it the other way around. I still like NEXT LEVEL more, but this was a good album too, imo. Sexy little things was my favourite new album track too ^^

  9. Spot on review Lex. Since getting the album I’ve grown fonder of some songs (e.g. microphone) and more distant from others (e.g. count down). But whatever… Ayu’s still got it I think.

  10. I couldn’t believe that I would ever prefer NEXT LEVEL over any other of her albums. ._. Thanks Ayu~ <3

  11. RnRC was such a messy album that even now I don’t know what to think of it except for that I love it. But I’d say that both NEXT LEVEL and GUILTY are much better than it.

  12. REALLY? “same ol’ same ol'”?! this album switched up so many things. Minus “You were…”, every track was fairly distinctive. some people are never happy. -.-

  13. ^ More like some people are getting tired of Ayu doing the same thing over and over.

  14. @boby
    I think we complain because it’s all just mediocre crap, but we just wanna say it’s the genre so we don’t sound as mean. : P

  15. I loved it! ^__^

  16. I’ve been a fan of Ayumi Hamasaki for six years now and I feel like this is her weakest album to date. The only track that I feel comes from her heart is Don’t look back. I think the days where she would compose the music for her songs were the best! “I am…” (the album) is a pure music gem.

  17. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and all that jazz, but I feel like some people just don’t get this album at all…

  18. I like the upbeat tracks A LOT, but the ballads are just meh. I hope her next album has less of them. :P

  19. Please enlighten me then.

  20. I honestly do understand why people are underwhelmed with this album and feel it is the same rehashed songs from her career but that’s because they’re suppose to be. Ayu said she was “going back to basics” and this is it. If you’ll noticed each song does sound like a song from some of her eras. For example, Microphone sounds like Kiss o’ Kill meets Talkin’ 2 myself. Sunset has the atmosphere of LOVE~destiny~ and Don’t look back has hints of vogue and INSPIRE. Many people also find meaning of Love to be similar to Days (Although I actually hear some of secret in the beginning, did you? lol). Each song takes note from her previous songs.

    But as always the songs true value are reflected in the lyrics. The obvious songs being count down (about her left ear) and Don’t look back (about her career). I find the lyrics this time around to be very well written and personal, like with GUILTY (one of my favorite Ayu albums lyrically).

    I also want to point out, in my opinion, this album is full of “mirrors.” If you look closely almost all of the songs have a “reflection.” Sunrise/Sunset being the most obvious. Also Microphone and Sexy little things. The title of the album is called “Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus,” Microphone is the MOST rock’n’roll sounding track on the album, Sexy little things is the MOST circus sounding track on the album. Each track is on extreme sides. Also, count down is about her hearing loss in her left ear, however, Last Links represents the hearing loss by only having audio on the right ear. Lastly, the track order – which by the way Ayu explains, is all mixed up because it’s like a “circus” – also has a reflection. Two to be exact.

    The first half of the album is hard, dark and somber and the second half is light, fun and tender. The interlude montage leads into the mid-point of the album, Don’t look back which at this point Ayu says not to look back at her older works. After Jump! we go into the new phase where tracks like Lady Dynamite and Sexy little things appear signifying her new direction. Both songs sound like they could have been on NEXT LEVEL, one of her most experimental albums.

    Anyway these are my thoughts. I could be wrong about everything, but I feel that the songs are deeper than what is lead on. These songs don’t rely on “pushing boundaries” musically as much as they rely on the heart of the songs – the lyrics. She’s already tried something new with NEXT LEVEL and I’m sure she’ll try something new again. But I think this time around she wanted follow her heart.

    I respect your review and opinion of the album, please tell me what you think of mine. :)

  21. Actually, I think you raise some really good points. I had no idea count down was about her ear, for instance. In retrospect, it makes more sense the way you explained things. I still think this is one of her weaker albums though. I usually enjoy her releases but this is the first album that I didn’t really care for since MY STORY (I only liked the A-sides and “About You” on that one lol).

  22. Yeah count down is heart breaking to me. I cried LOL.

    Especially at this part:

    “I don’t laugh nor cry
    I experienced despair so much in the past
    That I became empty, I feel nothing

    I hear some distant sound
    You see? The end will begin soon
    I’ll accept it as it is
    On my left side
    I need no compassion”

    But then in its “mirror song,” Last Links she says:

    “Yes, we live on
    Putting our feet down on this blue Earth
    Even if all the sorrow continuing to spread in this world
    May not be healed”

    Like the “sorrow” is her hearing loss and she has to move on even if it can’t be healed.

    You should really check out the lyrics for this album, they’re all amazing! :)

  23. This album sucks!

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