Top 14 Ayumi Hamasaki Songs

So I was browsing around jpopstop.com and I noticed something that I know I shouldn’t have noticed. Ayumi Hamasaki’s 11th album, Rock’n’Roll Circus, to be released April 14th, 2010. Why do I say I shouldn’t have noticed it? Because truthfully I’ve been avoiding all Ayu music news since You were…/BALLAD, yet ANOTHER musical disappointment in my eyes. It wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t GOOD. For that reason I tend to avoid any news of her releasing anything new, because for some strange reason my hopes soar high and I get all excited on the inside.

Why? Because in a time long ago, Ayumi Hamasaki was grandiose in my books. I loved and listened to all her singles and her albums (excluding A Song for XX and most of Loveppears where her voice was just TOO squeaky for my tastes) and her music truly spoke to me, on a level deeper than just catchy pop music. I truly think she’s an amazing songwriter and song-maker. Her music is pop but very unique in its stylings, which explains why so many people either LOVE her or HATE her. Ayu incorporates many unknown elements into the sphere of J-Pop, a true artist in my mind.

For that reason, when I saw she was releasing a new album soon, I couldn’t help but indulge in anticipation and nerves. I’m pretty much over her, but at the same time, there’s this glimmer of hope deep in my soul that hopes this album is a 20 out of 10. I can’t help but dream that her new songs will be just as good (if not better!) than her past songs that have become classics in my books. That is why I’m on memory lane, counting down my top 14 (since the album comes out the 14th of April) Ayumi Hamasaki songs.

Ok, so my Ayu collection is extensive, I have over 100 of her songs on my IPod, and I don’t even have all the songs she’s made either! She’s a prolific songmaker and to narrow my choices down to only 14 songs, there’s been a lot of calculating. First, I went by song plays, but I couldn’t simply trust that. There are some songs that I enjoyed a lot when I first heard them that I put it on repeat for HOURS but now in present times I don’t find very special. So then I went by simply how much I truly liked the song. I’ll admit some songs were simply fads, but most are close to my heart. So here we go.

A Song for XX (030213 Session #2 Take) – If you are an Ayumi Hamasaki fan and you have not heard this version of the song, then you’ve been missing out. This version is SO MUCH better than the original for so many reasons. First off, her voice is actually pleasant. Second, it’s acoustic. Third, there’s so much emotion in the song it can actually bring you to tears. I actually refused to listen to it at first because I didn’t like the original, so why would I like a new version? The song was re-recorded February 13th, 2003 (as told by the title) and given a completely new spin for her A BALLADS best of album. When somebody told me it was re-recorded I thought I might as well give it a try. Man, I was blown away. Not on the first listen. But definitely more and more as I replayed the song. Most Ayumi Hamasaki fans know of her difficult childhood with the self-imposed isolation after her father left the family, and this song is a testament to those feelings. I don’t wanna go into details on the workings of the song, but just know it’s probably one of her best if not the best. A perfect mixture of musical quality with her tear inducing emotional songwriting without sacrificing either. Click here to see her only performance of the song, she’s never performed it since this specific Limited Tour.

HANABILOVE LOVE LOVE this song. SO MUCH. I can’t believe there’s no video to share its awesomeness with the world but that’s okay. Ayu is exploring her musical limits with her voice in vibrato, music box qualities, and another important element in my favorite Ayumi Hamasaki songs: emotion. It’s palpable on the track. It’s heartbreaking and you can tell she pours so much of herself into the song. She first released this song on the single H, which later made its way onto her album RAINBOW, where it outshone every single other song on the album.

July 1stThis is actually my most played Ayu song by 4 plays ahead of A Song for XX (030213 Session #2 Take), I’ll admit I love it though. It has so many dimensions to it, it starts off with this kind of electropop vibe yet goes into this laid back acoustic and then pumps up the energy with hard electrorock sounds. Unlike nothing I ever heard before, not to mention it is relentlessly catchy and most of all, it makes me feel happy. She sounds so happy on this track, and that it turn translates to me being happy. I went through a stage where I played this song everyday for a VERY long time, I think that’s why it’s my most played song from her, every other song didn’t stand a chance. It was also on the epic single H, and then went onto the album RAINBOW, where it definitely made its mark.

RAINBOWI’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t that into the song when I first heard it but its definitely a grower. It’s a genre onto its own, I don’t know how to describe it. Maybe dream pop or something of that nature, it’s airy and floaty. It has a hurt tone to it yet its forgiving, that is what the song deals with. It can be interpreted many ways but I believe it’s just forgiving and accepting her past, and ultimately herself. The ending statement, ‘No rain can’t get the rainbow,’ is just so true, without any of the bad things in the world we’d never get the beauty of it all. Maybe I’m looking to deeply into it but this is definitely a song to listen to and watch the video. Look into the lyrics as well, they’re beautiful. I also find it ironic that the song RAINBOW wasn’t on the album RAINBOW, it was instead released on her best of ballads album A BALLADS.

talkin’ 2 myselfWhat a powerful song, I wasn’t expecting anything good out of the GUILTY album either! Very hardrock and the production value in this song is topnotch. I love how Ayu sounds so controlled in this song yet she totally wants to go off on everyone. The chorus is spectacular, this is definitely one of my favorite rock songs ever. The flow is just too perfect. I love the instrumentals, they’re amazing as well. The way everything shifts for the tone of her voice. Speaking of her voice, it sounds really good on the song and after the electric guitar interlude the slow sung synthesized bridge from 3:25 to 3:37 is so ridiculously addictive and melodic.

STEP youA fad song but at the same time when I listen to it I love it, but I think I completely overplayed it. It’s ‘oh whoa whoa’ hook you in before you know it, the song is very playful and flirtatious, something not often seen of Ayu. The song is definitely club inspired but with its own Ayu twist, it’s kind of dark yet uncharacteristically upbeat, kind of psycho in its own special way. A very unique song, something I honestly cannot describe. Leave it to Ayu to have a relationship song like this. But its my #6 for a reason, so do check it out, the video is one of her best as well. It was first released as a double A-side single along with is this LOVE? and both later made their way to her spectacular (miss)understood album.

MSuch a pretty song. That’s all I can really can start off saying about this song. It starts off with her soft isolated vocals then it comes the instrumentals, in the form of a keyboard, after she starts singing again there’s a soft violin behind her, adding to the sad lonely feel of the song, which only gets stronger as the song goes on. I love the shifts in this song, especially as it starts speeding up, I don’t even know how to describe the music in those moments, only that so many more elements were added in and it’s just piling and piling and you’re just waiting for this climax that doesn’t come until the middle of the song. Oh and when it does, it’s so gratifying. There’s then a slight bridge and then we’re thrown back into the chorus with some harder elements, even some rock elements, one can now distinguish the electric guitar in the background. Can I also say, I’ve never heard anyone sing ‘Maria’ so melodically before in my life and I’m Hispanic! Love the ending as well, so isolating, and the message is so powerful: ‘Beginnings come at random, but endings always have a reason.’ The song is worthy of being on her I am… album, which in my opinion is her best, and its definitely worthy of being a platinum single.

rainy DayOh such nostalgia with this song, I first heard it back in 2008, I believe, it was my 3rd something Ayumi Hamasaki song that I liked. It’s the one that persevered and made it to this list! It’s so sweet and cute, yet sad. I love the twinkling sounds, I feel like there’s a clock ticking in this song, and there’s raindrop like techno sounds, but everything is kept very mid-tempo and stable. There’s no out of nowhere elements coming from the left in this song. Everything is very stable and simple, yet so good. Sometimes less is more and this is the case. The video is beautiful as well, very artistic and old school. This is just a very sweet romantic song. One of my favorites from her. I also love how she incorporates nature into the song. It’s simply an album track on her (miss)understood album but it does have a video accompanying it.

ourselves Dark and foreboding are two words I would use to describe this song. It’s terrifying and ominous and only Ayu could make you feel that from just the first 15 seconds of the song! It has this upbeat instrumental, club pulsing beats but at the same time you hear the dark elements of a horror movie, shrill violins, isolating keyboard sounds, and hollow drums. It’s a melody that ceases to stop until it’s got you under its spell. There’s nothing better, in my opinion than Ayu hypnotically chanting the chorus over and over again, even though she says it so MANY times there’s a nuance of difference to them and you can’t help but listen to them to detect it. She’s gets more insistent as the another chorus goes by in the end, it’s classic emotional Ayu. It’s on one of her best-selling singles, &, and also included on her mini album, Memorial Address.

LifeThe song starts off with a classic rock sound but then fades into the background remaining only as soft guitar strings and pulsing drum beats leaving Ayu to her devices to lead the song on with her voice. The classic rock sounds return for after the chorus. This song drips of nostalgia and long forgotten love, and reminiscing over hot coffee. It’s emotional but controlled, intentional or not, it gives this element of suppressed feelings to the listeners that is so interesting and unique to listen to. It’s definitely one of her better rock songs, unpretentious and unassuming.The song is solely on her Mirrorcle World single and no other place.

girlish – The song has such personality it could enter and beat Miss Congeniality. It begins with Ayu’s short laugh and a soft electric guitar intro, followed by her soft and sweet vocals, not her best vocal performances but it was definitely endearing. It’s cute and simple, in a very acoustic way. Give way to a lot more instrumentals than usual in any Ayu song, this song is ruled by its rock sounds, Ayu only sings for like 1/5 of the song, in the end it’s even just some random guy vocals going ‘lalalalala’ which she then later joins then in. It’s just so lovely and charming that you can’t help but fall for it. The song is the ending track for her Duty album.

still aloneFrom the beginning keyboard and beats you can tell this song is going to be sad, it just sounds like a typical sad Ayu song yet it still maintains its musical melodic qualities, it sounds very music box but there’s none of that here. Ayu’s voice barely nothing more than a whisper but it sounds strained with emotion, which later comes to a full revelation in the wailing chorus, and I say wailing in a good way, it’s a way of letting out all that she feels inside and it enraptures the listeners with its raw emotion. I could say it’s almost coarse in the emotional scale, and musical one as well, but that makes it only so much more hooking. All in all it’s a memorable song that’s hard to get out of your head once you have listened to it. The song is a simple album track on Ayu’s I am… album.

HANABI ~episode II~HANABI’s angrier and more emotionally unstable sister. Wailing is heard within the first 30 seconds of the song for the chorus, it’s heartbreaking in it’s absolute. The ‘oh whoa’ by the chorus besides Ayu is enthralling and mesmerizing, I also just love the natural sounds in the beginning then leading into the harder rock sounds of the intro. I still think HANABI is more heartbreaking in its acceptance of the breakup transcribed through the lyrics, because she accepts that no matter how much she cries its over. While in HANABI ~episode II~ she just can’t let go and wants whoever it is she broke up with to stay. She can’t take it in this song.  She sounds desolate and abandoned, while all at the same time reflective over what could have happened. Better than the original? No, but definitely meriting a listen based on the overall quality of the song. The song is on Ayu’s best-selling single, &, and on her Memorial Address mini album.

It wasDistorted violins start off the song, also with Ayu at a low register voice, later accompanied by soft guitar keyboard like strings. Then nearing the chorus in comes the rock sounds. The entire song is very longing and sentimental, especially the chorus. I actually believe this song is one of her most underrated songs, its on her Secret album, and its definitely not as trendy as JEWEL or momentum, but It was actually had staying power. The song even ends on uncertain terms, kind of wavering feelings towards the end in her voice. It’s a must listen.

~HONORABLE MENTIONS~

evolution is one of her best tracks ever but for some strange reason it wasn’t in my top 14!

HAPPY ENDING is beautiful and touching. Definitely one of her bests.

So that’s it for my top Ayu picks, any mentions you think should have definitely been up there? Hehe, I left out one of Ayu’s BIGGEST hits, Dearest. Truthfully, I do enjoy that song but I feel so worn out by it.

Published in: on March 13, 2010 at 11:20 PM  Comments (19)  
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19 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Thank you for that insightful post on Ayumi. I only heard of her when I read a news report about her marriage to an Austrian model. I was intrigued about her music and since then, have gone to download some music from her. So far, I only like Virgin Road but I haven’t heard any of those you mentioned. I will look them up online. Thanks!

  2. thank u very much. I am downloading all tracks you mentioned because i think you have a same taste like me. The track: A song for XX session #2 remix is the first (and monochrome,love destiny) and best Ayu’s song I have listened to. I love it very much and in a long time, i always thought it’s original version because i had never heard a remix-version song that far better than the original.
    again, thank for your posting ^^

  3. I like A Song Is Born, Moon, Green, It Was, Moments, Game, Last Angel… basically the meaningful lyrics ones. I don’t like the sexy kind like Rule. Wow, I didn’t know you’re such an Ayu fan, to have 100 plus songs. I like her but her voice is…hmm not the best. Somehow I think she should go into song-writing business if she’s not so pretty haha.

  4. Thank you so much for this post. I really love Ayu. She’s very different from other Jpop singers. Her songs really bring tears to my eyes ❤

  5. I love all on your list, but also Appears, Heaven, and Memorial Address. I think Memorial Address is my favorite!

  6. ‘My All’ forever remains as my favourite song of Ayumi.

  7. I started liking Ayu since I found out that Kim Jaejoong is starring her MV entitled Moon/Blossom. I find the song comforting yet sad. I love that it has a rock-ish part. Its just unique.

  8. I love Heaven and Hanabi the most! woot!

  9. DEAREST. .
    I really Love that song. .it describes my story with SHOICHI. .
    Thx a Lot. .

  10. DEAREST. .
    I really Love that song. .it describes my story with My DEAREST ONE. .
    Thx a Lot. .

  11. i haven’t watch yet~
    but i m going to watch~

  12. Not bad but I would have included Immature on the list. I love how her voice swings along with the dance beats. I also love how the lyrics are positively optimistic while simultaneously naive but become less so as the song progresses (and ‘matures’). For example the early line says “Isn’t it okay to sometimes have days when we think to ourselves we MUST HAVE BEEN born obtain happiness?” while in the later line she says “Isn’t it okay to sometimes have days when we think to ourselves we were born TO ONE DAY obtain happiness?”「僕らはきっと幸せに成る為に生きて行く~んだあ~って思うひがあ~有ってもいいんだよね?」VS.「僕らはいつか幸せに成る為に生きて行く~んだあ~って思うひがあ~有ってもいいんだよね?」The difference is subtle but the second line is less certain; revealing a hint of melancholy whether happiness will actually be obtained. The last refrain is the same as the first showing her recovery of optimism and courage but still shows happiness is still something in the future and not yet realized. Hits me square in the chest every time I hear that tune.

    Also Audience is a great track too. Maybe it’s because it is the tune that made me first notice her but that one also has a special place with me. Check these out when you get a chance.

  13. I’m not really a fan of her voice back during A Song for XX or Loveappears but I absolutely ADORE AUDIENCE. I first heard it when she performed it at her Secret Tour and it was spectacular and such a great way to open her concert.

    And her lyrics are always so meaningful, that right there from Immature really makes me wanna go check it out!

  14. hello ayumi hamasaki!!! Im from MALAYSIA… Im LOve U s0 muCHHH… OGENKIDASUKA AYUMI…….. PLESE COME AT MALAYSIA WHEN U CAN.

  15. I love Far Away! It is my favorite right now.

  16. I also love Hanabi. My favorite version is actually the cybertrance remix HANABI (Large remix) on “RMX WORKS from Cyber TRANCE presents ayu trance 3”.

    I think my most favorite track is “End roll” and all the remix versions on the album A (black). But really all her music resonates with me.

  17. “ourselves” wasn’t that horror feeling,and not all my favs could made to your top 14,like BLUE BIRD,Evolution,Dearest,Fairyland,and others.I do like your 14s!

  18. I enjoyed reading your insightful and well written reviews on your top Ayumi Hamasaki songs. I like that you chose songs that stood out not because they were mainstream and whatnot but because they touched you on a more personal level. A lot of these songs I haven’t heard with a few I have on my collection. Most of all, I get to introduce myself to more Ayumi music that weren’t inclusive in her best singles album list. The ones that were just found in the original albums are the ones I’d like to hear. Ayu has her ups and downs but theres no denying she’s made a dent and her name in J-pop history with her unique song writing skills and vocals. I hope to hear more of your reviews. You are one intersting Hispanic invididual.

  19. I’m from Argentina (sorry if my english isn’t very good) and love Ayu songs very much. I like most of your top14 songs (the most recent was “It Was…”). I like other artist too and there was a time where some others asked to me “why you hear Ayumi?? She hasn´t the voice and the talent of Hikaru Utada who really is an artist” Yeah, I love the both of two in equal but my answer was “because no other can give feelings in that intensive way like Ayu an she does it the most of her career. Hikki wins in voice, Ayu in fellings” (to me the japanese artist are the best giving feelings with music, and Ayu and Rimi Natsukawa are the best of the best on that).
    yeah, some new albums of her are focusing more on basic occidental electro-pop, but she has songs that preserve the old style (like “Now & 4eva” in Colors album, for me). Thats makes the difference beetwen Ayu and other pop artist around de world (for me), or beetwen an truly pop artist and the flat-pop product artist. For example, I like the old style of the latin pop artist Shakira but now she have only 1 or 2 songs that are somewhat of the true artist.
    I really wish a concert of Ayu in my country (i read a post of a person that wish an Ayu concert in Malaysia; I thought you have much big chance to see Ayu un your country than me…)


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