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Music Review: Love songs - ayumi hamasaki

Hello everyone~ It's time for a music review & this time I'll be reviewing Ayu's latest 12th studio album & 13th overall original album, "Love songs". Love songs is set to be released on December 22nd, 2010 with 3 editions: CD-only, CD+DVD & a limited edition USB+MicroSD+DVD set. 3 singles were released prior to Love songs. They are MOON/blossom, crossroad & her 50th single, L.

Love songs CD-only cover Love songs CD+DVD cover Love songs USB+MicroSD+DVD cover
 
 
Tracklist:
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 11th, 2010)*

* The live of SEVEN DAYS WAR is only on the CD+DVD & USB+MicroSD card+DVD editions. The CD-only edition comes with the original mix of SEVEN DAYS WAR, which is found in the crossroad single.

Bold = Song featured in a prior single
Italic = Interlude

---

1. Love song

Love song, being the title track of the album, obviously should be the strongest album-track, and I couldn't agree more.

The song starts off with a strong guitar riff, before Ayu's strong vocals kick in. I have to say, Ayu's vocals are excellent in Love song and the style she is singing in... it's new and very refreshing. Kudos to her for attempting a new vocal style despite being deaf on her left ear!

An interesting note is that around the 1:30 time mark, a guitar riff with the exact same melody as Last angel starts to play and this is so interesting because it feels like Love song encompasses the sounds of the single-tracks in this album; blossom's piano tune, Last angel's melody, crossroad's guitars. It's very amazing, to be honest.

One last thing is that with Love song, the lyrics of the song basically sum up what this album is about - it's beautiful and really manages to combine all the emotions and feeling of the following songs into this title track. The melody and arrangement are fantastic too. Check out the parts where an acoustic guitar plays on one side of the speaker, while an electric guitar acts as the bass on the other. Strings, piano and the drums also come in as fantastic add-ons.

"I’m not confident of living
A life without love"

Love song - ayumi hamasaki
 

Score: 10/10


2. crossroad

crossroad, a single-track on her 49th single of the same name, comes in right after Love song.

crossroad starts mellow and peaceful before there's an ascend in the key and melody right before the chorus, and the chorus blooms into amazing energy. The song sings about choosing our roads, and how different it might have been if we have chosen a different road.

One thing I dislike about crossroad is that during the chorus, the editing of Ayu's main vocal track and the backing vocals clash so badly it sometimes is a pain to listen to.

However, crossroad is still an amazing mid-tempo song and comes very naturally after Love song.

Overall, a solid song.

"I had the feeling that the profile of someone I passed by now
Looked like that of the girl I had known before
But why was I just staring at her back, as she walked away
Without even being able to call to her?"

crossroad - ayumi hamasaki


Score: 9/10


3. MOON

MOON was one of the A-sides on Ayu's 48th single, MOON/blossom.

MOON is a full-on emotional rock ballad which starts off very subtly and quietly. There is a boom coming in the form of an electric guitar and the drums after a few seconds, and the song starts to quieten down as Ayu sings out the first line.

I must say, the lyrics to MOON are extremely beautiful and touching, and the song is very heart-wrenching as well. The song might not capture attention upon the first listen, but gradual listens prove MOON to be a very emotional ballad, like with other Ayu ballads.

The guitar in the bridge is also worthy to take note of, as it is so heart-wrenching and emotional.

One of the better single-tracks in the album, in my opinion.

"I'll give you a gentle song
So that you can believe in eternity for ever
So please don't ask me anymore
With such sad eyes, in a trembling voice
"Do you love me?""

MOON - ayumi hamasaki



Score: 9.5/10


4. sending mail

What appears to be a song with a weird title, turns out to be one of strongest album-tracks.

sending mail starts with a rustling sound, similar to what we hear at the beginning of MOON, before the piano, electric guitar and strings come in slowly, almost creepily, followed by Ayu's voice.

The song kicks up in tempo into the second verse and we are thrown in for a surprise at a fast-paced and repeated chorus of four stanzas.

sending mail is a song about the torment of being in love, and wanting to convey your feelings and words to the person you love, but failing to do so in the end.

The arrangement in sending mail is amazing, with little sound bites such as electric guitar riffs, piano runs, and the use of a vocoder on Ayu's voice in the second verse. The end of sending mail sends us into another surprise as we are treated with a violin run.

sending mail is definitely one of the strongest tracks in Love songs, and it's not difficult to see why.

"Being at your side, just being at your side
You smile at me, forgive me, hey
Will such a day ever come?"

sending mail - ayumi hamasaki
 

Score: 10/10


5. Last angel

Last angel was one of the songs in Ayu's 50th single, L, and proving to be another amazing song from Ayu.

Last angel starts with a minute-long instrumental introduction, with strings starting the song. We start to hear elements of electronica and trance music as the beat kicks in, followed by Ayu's "announcement", signaling the start of Last angel.

The verses of Last angel are extremely monotonous, sounding creepy to a certain extent. Ayu whispers her way through the verses in an almost assertive manner that sends chills down the spine. The choruses of the song, however, are filled with melody as Ayu belts out her message.

While coming as a surprise on L, since it was the only non-ballad song there, Last angel seems to fade away on Love songs. Maybe it is because it came right after something as perfect as sending mail, but I personally feel that among the upbeat songs in Love songs, Last angel seems to be one of the weaker ones. I was wishing there was more kick in the song, but the song never exactly reached a climax.

"I had such a love that I couldn't be proud of
And felt guilty about
A merry night and a lonely morning
I repeated such a life"

Last angel - ayumi hamasaki


Score: 8/10


6. insomnia

insomnia is the first of three interludes in Love songs. insomnia starts with an extremely creepy sounding, followed by odd melodies by the strings which adds on to creepiness. The cellos continue to play in a staccato way, almost feeling rigid, while beats start to play in the background, and a strange vocal is heard in ascending notes.

insomnia is very reminiscent of Marionette -prelude- in a previous album, GUILTY. However, insomnia absolutely triumphs the creepiness here, and it's not hard to see why as every second of insomnia gives me the creeps, making this 2-minute long interlude a beauty to listen to.

Score: 9/10

7. Like a doll

Like a doll starts with a waltz-inspired piano melody, before Ayu's vocals kick in, complementing the piano.

The drums start to come in, providing a steady beat. Suddenly, Ayu's vocals reach higher, as repeated chants of "like a doll" come in with the strings and more electronic beats.

Ayu sings again, in a creepier manner adding more personality to the song.

The chorus comes in an almost hypnotic way, which strangely, makes me feel like dancing, as if I'm a marionette controlled by strings.

Like a doll sounds very royal, as if the music itself is fitting for a dance in a castle or something for the princess. Very beautiful piece of music, I must complement.

"If you ignore all your feelings
You won't feel any hurt
But you won't feel any happiness too"

Like a doll - ayumi hamasaki
 

Score: 8.5/10


8. Aria

Aria comes in after Like a doll, and the second of three interludes present in Love songs.

Aria is an extremely peaceful and sweet-sounding interlude. Listening to Aria gives the feeling of walking into a beautiful forest filled with flowers and butterflies, and you slowly make your way out to a crowded and busy small town with people dancing. Not to mention, the faint choir at the background gives a very quaint feel to Aria, settling your heart down.

The sudden musical merges and explosion toward the end further exemplify the beauty of Aria as it ends, beautifully.

Score: 9/10

9. blossom

blossom, another single-track on the single MOON/blossom comes after Aria.

blossom starts off softly with a piano, and the guitar kicks in with the drums giving a sudden climax, before dying down with Ayu's vocals again.

The song slowly picks up in tempo as the chorus kicks in with an electric guitar.

blossom is a nostalgic and bittersweet song, with a melancholic guitar solo at the bridge. While there isn't much to say about blossom because it's such a simple song, the simplicity here is the perfection, and Ayu's vocals once again, brings out the emotion in blossom flawlessly.

Amazing song, personally.

"Just as we have protected the naturally-colored flower petals together
We will gently see them through together until the last one falls"

blossom - ayumi hamasaki
 
Score: 8.5/10


10. Thank U

The next song, Thank U starts with a little orchestra introduction as the song picks up in tempo, followed by Ayu's cheery lalalas, which basically is the chorus of Thank U.

Thank U could be classified as one of Ayu's cutesy songs, however, I feel that there is something different about Thank U. The verses, while adorable, has a nostalgic sound reminiscent of 80's J-Pop, and the lalalas are endearing to listen to.

While, I can't say much about Thank U, it is one of my favorites in Love songs, and never fails to bring a smile to my face as Ayu sings emotionally; a song to her fans.

"Because there is no need to promise
That tomorrow will come"

Thank U - ayumi hamasaki
 

Score: 8/10

11. Sweet Season

Sweet Season is one of the single-tracks featured in the 50th single, L.

Sweet Season is a mid-tempo country-inspired song that is relaxing and gorgeous. The songs sings about transcending through the seasons, and is one of my absolutely favorites, even when I heard it in L.

Ayu's vocals are relaxed and nice to listen to, while the music itself gives off a peaceful and happy feel that you can almost imagine yourself sitting on a grassfield in the summer days humming to Sweet Season. The "kira, kira, kira" at the end of the every chorus is almost pleasing to listen to, and puts a smile on my face.

"The tears shining there now
Is the proof that you didn't yield to yourself
The smile shining there now
Is the proof of your happiness, so brilliant"

Sweet Season - ayumi hamasaki
 

Score: 10/10


12. overture

overture is the last of the three interludes present in Love songs.

overture, similar to Aria, is a slow interlude filled with strings. However, while Aria sounded cheerful and hopeful, overture carried undertones of melancholy, almost close to destruction, as the strings slowly play out the painful melody that is overture.

overture almost gives an imagery of walking through a dungeon in a video game; very apt and beautiful.

Score: 7/10


13. do it again

And after overture, comes a string of the three strongest and most amazing songs in Love songs.

First off, with do it again.

The running piano melody in the beginning already gives off a sense of urgency as Ayu repeatedly sings, "dance, dance, dance, do it again, sing, sing, sing, do it again" with an extremely melancholic melody at the back.

The verses are subtle and quiet almost anticipating for more, as the song slowly picks up in tempo towards the refrain filled with electronic beats, while the whole song hits a ritard. (sudden slow down) as the chorus of "dance, dance, dance, do it again, sing, sing, sing, do it again" comes in, totally just giving the song an epic stamp.

The music here actually reminds me a lot of the sounds you hear in battle, and with a touch of that "epicness", makes do it again one of the best songs in Love songs, and extremely hauntingly beautiful too. This is the one song everyone has to listen to.

""Letting go is also courage"
That is something we know as we become adults

But it isn't easy to do
At this time, I've realized that it's"

do it again - ayumi hamasaki
 

Score: 10/10


14. November

The next epic song on the lineup is November.

Now, I'm not sure on how to describe November. It is a ballad quite obviously, but not like the typical ballads you hear every day. November is layered, complex and rich in musical texture it is beautiful.

A "question & answer" musical style starts November, with the bells playing a melody, and an oboe-like instrument playing an "answer" to the "question" that the bells ask. This repeats until Ayu starts the verses.

There is no distinct chorus in November, and this almost feels like a letdown to me, as I feel November is just lacking an "oomph" in its chorus to be completely catchy. However, despite this flaw, the arrangement and instruments of November are perfect and gorgeous beyond words.

Ayu also sounds like she is crying throughout the song, very painfully beautiful. The lyrics to November are equally heartbreaking as well. The musical build up to the last chorus of November is also something to take note of; one of my favorite moments in the song.

One of the best songs on Love songs, though I just wish there was a catchy tune in the chorus!

"If I could grow one more wing
So that I could fly freely in the sky like a bird
I want to give you both of those wings
So that you can fly to the place you want to go"

November - ayumi hamasaki
 
Score: 9/10


15. Virgin Road

Virgin Road is the lead-song of Ayu's 50th single, L.

Virgin Road is a touching ballad; a thank-you song from a child to his/her parent... one of the most beautiful songs in the album.

Virgin Road starts with Ayu's tender vocals and piano, before the strings drop in in a beautiful melody. Basically, that's the formula of Virgin Road, but amongst this simple arrangement, is a sincere heart from Ayu, thanking her mother for everything.

As we all know, Ayu & her mum have had rough moments in the past, seeing how Ayu wrote one of her first masterpieces, "A Song For xx" to her mother. 12 years later as the most influential J-Pop singer; a J-Pop Empress, Ayu has matured, and now understands her mother, and so Virgin Road is born.

I can't exactly explain how touched I am with Virgin Road and Ayu's feelings, but I can safely say, this is THE BEST song on Love songs and deserves everything it has to be the leading-song of the 50th single, L.

I have to add the lyrics of Virgin Road are very touching too, and is something everyone can relate to, someday, somewhere in their lives.

An interesting note is that "walking down the virgin road" also means walking down the aisle, a.k.a getting married.
 
"I met a person who said, "I love you and want to protect you"
We start to walk together now
Whatever sadness we may face, whatever gladness we may feel
We promised to live on, sharing every moment together
Please watch over me"

Virgin Road - ayumi hamasaki


Score. 10/10


16. SEVEN DAYS WAR (Live at Yoyogi on Oct 11th, 2010)

SEVEN DAYS WAR, a remake of an 90's pop song, was featured as a B-side on the crossroad single. On the CD+DVD & USB+MicroSD card+DVD editions of the album, a special live recording was featured instead of the original mix on crossroad.

To celebrate the release of 50 singles, Ayu extended her ARENA TOUR 2010 ~Rock'n'Roll Circus~ to a special 7-day live that ran from her birthday to October 11th, 2010.

On the last day, at the last song, with tears flowing out of her eyes, this amazing lady sang her heart out with SEVEN DAYS WAR, and was recorded and placed in this album.

No lying, Ayu was crying throughout the song, and I could feel her emotions, so closely, so loudly.

May I sidetrack a little here to say that, with Love songs, Ayu has taught me a lot, once again.

I used to think that I couldn't live without love, as in the love that comes when you have a boyfriend. But I realized with this album and its songs, that there is more to love than a boyfriend/husband. Love for friends, love for nature, love for music, love for dreams, love for life and love for love... I can't live without those loves as well, and it's just unfair to say that I have never been in love in my whole life, when in fact, I'm in love every day of my life, with the things I should appreciate and cherish.

And I couldn't have realized that, if it wasn't for Ayu.

Ayu, thank you so much for continuing to sing, and releasing this amazing album, because without it, I might still be deluded about love. I will fight, just so I can be myself. I love you, Ayu. <3

"I will fight, just so I can be myself."

SEVEN DAYS WAR

Score: 10/10

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Overall, Love songs is easily one of my favorite albums of Ayu along with MY STORY and RAINBOW.

The message, lyrics, emotions and musically-sophistication of the songs just won me over. I dare to say this is her best album since (miss)understood in 2006.

Kudos to Ayu for Love songs, and for being who she is, always.


*All lyrics translations credit to masa, Misa-chan and tenshi_no_hane from AHS

Comments

Simply amazing! You did a good review on this. I felt like you're deeply sank with Love Songs. I can feel you're emotionally attached to it.

Now, i'm looking forward for my copy in the future. ^_^
You were meant to blog. It has inspired me to start my own blog on barrie dentist

My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!