Ayumi Hamasaki – Love songs

July 2, 2011 at 1:22 PM | Posted in Ayumi Hamasaki | 4 Comments
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The cover of the CD only edition

Love songs is Ayumi Hamasaki’s 12th studio album and it was released on December 22, 2010. The album reached #1 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 272,653 copies. It was preceded by 3 singles: MOON / blossom, crossroad, and the triple A-side single L.

This cover is a lot better than the other two. I don’t know…it seems more genuine and she’s not doing the duck lips.

♦ ♦ ♦

The album begins with Love song which has a gorgeous opening sequence. There are electric guitars but they’re mainly in the background since strings, piano, and acoustic guitar are the main instruments during the vocal segments. While I think the music is wonderful, Hamasaki’s vocals really keep me from enjoying the song. She sounds so…rough. I guess it was supposed to show off the “raw emotion” of her voice but I didn’t like it.

Then we have crossroad, the first A-side of this era to be produced by Tetsuya Komuro. This is probably my least favorite of all the A-sides but that’s simply because I didn’t think it was very memorable. At least the music, along with Ayu’s vocals, were nice.

I didn’t like MOON at first back when it was released as a single but it sounds more fitting on the album. The instrumental sections with the electric guitars were my favorite parts of the song, especially when those haunting riffs appear during the bridge.

When I first heard sending mail, I was blown away. Ayu has never done a song quite as brazen as this. It features an awesome buildup into a powerful chorus that never lets up. I liked the orchestral setting of the music as well, especially when it all comes crashing down at the end (in a good way, of course). As of now, it’s my favorite song on the album.

I’ve always liked Last angel and I thought it was the standout track back on the L single. To me, the music is very “old school” Ayu because of its trance and eurobeat influences. The LOVEppears album really comes into mind when I listen to this song.

insomnia is the first interlude and it’s just kind of there. I didn’t really care for it but it does give you an idea of what the next track sounds like.

I thought Like a doll was another unique offering from Hamasaki. Like sending mail, she hasn’t done anything quite like it. It starts off pretty normal with piano then transitions into a strange mix of beats, rhythmic synth, and background vocals chanting “like a doll”. Mix in the piano with all of that and you got yourself a pretty good song.

And another interlude! But we should be used to that, am I right? Aria is actually kind of pretty, well half of it is. The single violin at the beginning is nice but then it gets all chaotic at the end which ruins it.

The transition into blossom is kind of sloppy, too. I can’t really say much about this song except it’s like a much calmer version of MOON. I just remember Ayu fanboys being angry over the PV because it features Jejung from Tohoshinki and not her. XD

Ugh…Thank U could have been good except for one big problem. “LA LA LA LAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA~~~~” The adlibbing that pretty much takes up half of the the song is TERRIBLE! The music is nice and has a pleasant dance vibe but the vocals are just so bad. Can I just have an instrumental version instead?

I loooove Sweet Season. It’s such a heartwarming song. I really liked the organic band arrangement and you can thank legendary singer/songwriter Noriyuki Makihara for that. The chorus is really catchy, too.

The final interlude is titled overture and it’s probably the most appropriate out of the three. I say that because it takes the album into a completely different direction. I like to call it the ~epic ballad phase~.

The next three tracks are indeed grandiose and feature sweeping orchestral arrangements. do it again is notable for its English phrases that she repeats and repeats and repeats. The dramatic buildup that appears inbetween these English segments are pretty good though.

November isn’t as orchestral but features strong percussion and light electric guitar riffs. There are some random instruments too that I can’t quite put my finger on but they don’t detract from anything.

To me, Virgin Road is the official album closer and it does a good job in doing that. The arrangement is very well done and I really liked the strings. Now let’s cover the bonus tracks!

Depending on the version, you get either get the studio version or a live version of SEVEN DAYS WAR (originally the B-side on the crossroad single) as a bonus track. It’s a cover of the TK NETWORK song but in a calmer, ballad format. The studio version is nice but the live…I’ll just say it’s rough. However, it is indeed LIVE and Hamasaki sounds all emotional and stuff since it was one of the final performances of that concert…I think. You can’t blame her for that I guess.

All right! I’m not the huge Ayu fan that I used to be but honestly, this album has given me a little more faith in her. In terms of music, Love songs is great and features some of the best arrangements I have heard from her. It was an even bigger shock to me when I discovered that Tetsuya Komuro was behind most of the material (minus the interludes, the only songs that he didn’t compose were MOON, blossom, and Sweet Season). I know I’m super late on that fact. XD It’s just that when I think of Tetsuya Komuro, I imagine outdated 90s Jpop and cheap sounding dance tunes. The big thing that I noticed about the album is that it mainly focuses on pop songs and ballads instead of the overwrought rock material she’s been churning out in the past couple of years.

Pros: Musically, it’s one of her best albums. You can’t go wrong there.
Cons: The vocals on certain songs could have been better. She either sounds good or she doesn’t. Trust me on that, bbz.

BASICALLY…put in a love song, Ayu! A step up over Rock’n’Roll Circus.

Overall Rating

4 stars

Tracklisting

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 [CD only & regular press CD+DVD bonus track] 
      SEVEN DAYS WAR (Live at Yoyogi on Oct.11.2010)
      [CD+DVD/micro SD+USB first press bonus track]

Note: My favorite tracks are highlighted in blue!

4 Comments »

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  1. i love this album!!this is my favourite one after GUILTY and Duty*-* my favourite tracks are: Love Song, crossroad, Last Angel, November and do it again!!!!

  2. Glad to see you back! I’m not a huge fan of Ayumi but this album is pretty good. I agree with the rating you gave it.

  3. Glad to see you’re back ^^

  4. Waaah, im super happy that you’re back and starting off with ayu’s love songs!!!

    I agree with u about ayu’s vocals but i was appreciating them more as i listened to the songs more, like love song sounded soo different to what i had imagined- i thought it might have a ‘days’ like vocal or style when i read the title however i did enjoy the song as well as the rest of the album <33

    and i love the concept how the cover gives a warm vibe when the release date was in december!! genius imo!

    again im supa dupa happy that you're back =D


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