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Top 10 Best Ayumi Hamasaki Songs
Ayumi Hamasaki (Ayu) is a Japanese pop legend who has made a profound impact on my life. Her lyrics are somber, uplifting, and insightful; her music is often innovative and/or wonderfully famliiar; her arrangements always reflect the emotion put into her work; her vocals, while not critically best, are unique and full of emotion; and her remixes are some of the best in the world.
Over the years a lot of my favorite songs of hers have changed while others are exactly where they were when I first listened to them. This list features the ten songs that I believe reflect her best of the best, in terms of sound, feeling, emotion, and general impact on my life and her career. This list is, of course, highly subjective, but if somebody asked me "What Ayu song do you recommend I listen to?" then this list would be the answer.
Of all the songs on this list, this is probably the biggest magnum opus of hers on here. evolution is a concert staple and one of Ayu's most recognizable songs - it's also my favorite song of all time. The pulsing beat and hectic guitars meld well with Ayu's monotone verses and speedy chorus. It's also the song with one of her most iconic lines ever: "Somehow we're standing here,and we've living through today." To me, this song defines Ayumi Hamasaki.
2. A Song for XX
I could sit here and tell you all day about how this is probably "the song" that launched Ayu's career (in fact, I wrote my undergrad thesis about it), but I won't. All I will tell you, before imploring you to listen to this song is that it is a masterpiece. Ayu's vocals may be shaky in the beginning (although she slams this song now), but her passion, anger, bitterness, and depression all come out for the world to see. It is a song that anybody who has ever questioned "why?" can relate to. The "XX" has been debated for ages, but according to Ayu it refers to her mother, who was often absent in her childhood.
This is perhaps the most beautiful song that Ayu has ever produced. It was concocted as a fan experiment. The first15 seconds of the song were included on special editions of the album "RAINBOW" for fans to listen to and submit their own lyrics for. Ayu eventually picked her favorite submissions and created the song you hear now. It is ethereal, poignant, and includes the symbolic line "No rain, can't get the rainbow", reminding us that we can only appreciate the good that comes after we have experienced the bad. I dare anyone to listen to this song and not feel the least bit uplifted afterwards. Also, the video is very beautiful as well, indicating Ayu's "letting go" of her past, destructive self.
4. is this LOVE?
Although she has released many "rock" songs in her career, this one is my favorite and, I feel, doesn't get enough love. It is "stoically angry" if that makes any sense. In it Ayu questions if the jealousy and anger she feels towards someone could really be considered "love", and it's implied that if it is, then she doesn't want anything to do with it. The video reflects this with her meandering lifelessly around her house while everything combusts behind her. It's not the traditional "angry rock song" - in fact, it's more reflective of how we react in real life as opposed to how we necessarily feel inside.
5 - BRILLANTE
It's been a long time since Ayu has released a song that I instantly connect to in such a way that it ~blows my mind~. And then BRILLANTE came into the world. Before I first listened to it, most of the reviews I read said that it was great and different, so I was pretty excited to hear it. And when I did? I don't think my brain quite "grasped" it the first time. I was too floored by how great the atmosphere was. When I translated the lyrics later I was even more blown away. In it Ayu declares that she must detach from the person she loves and make her own way for the sake of all that is good. It is a painful separation, but a necessary one. Combined with her vocals and the powerful arrangement, it is quite the hit to the brain and the heart. I suggest that anyone who has written Ayu off over the past few years to give this song a shot.
6 - WHATEVER
Going waaay back again, I'm always surprised when this song pops up on my ipod - it's not the first song I think of when I think of "great Ayu songs", but I do think of it that way when I listen to it. It marks the first time she went a completely electronic route on one of her original songs. I guess I can't really explain why I love this song, other than it's electronic ,repetitive, and has interesting vocals. That's probably the only reasons necessary.
7 - Moments
Aside from "RAINBOW", this is probably Ayu's most beautiful ballad. Everything about it is beautiful: the lyrics (lots of nature metaphors about love), the composition (mid-tempo at its best), the arrangement (great strings and piano) and yes, the vocals. It's pure relaxation for over five minutes. And you can't deny how gorgeous she looks in that green dress.
8 - SURREAL
This song is, in a nutshell, "awesome". I still have yet to hear another song anything like it. What starts as a seemingly innocent piano ballad with some low vocals quickly escalates into a power-driven rockish song that is, yes, "surreal". I also love the music video because it features the New Carissa shortly after it beached just off the coast of Coos Bay, Oregon, a town only an hour away from my own. For a real good time, check out this song. There's a reason why it's become a concert staple since its release.
9 - do it again
There's just "something" about this song that is hard to resist. Maybe it's the futility of the theme (doing things over and over again without thinking), or maybe it's the hypnotic over-repetition of the lyrics that will either make you or break you. I'm also totally seduced by the music video, with its nauseating camera angles and apocalyptic imagery. Oh, and Ayu just walking her dogs like nothing's going on. Boo. Yeah.
10 - M
I couldn't make a list of the best Ayumi Hamasaki songs without including this one, the song that "started it all" for me. Way back in 2003 I was cruising the internet for new music, and even though I had heard Ayu's name many times I had yet to actually try her out. A musical friend of mine suggested this one, and upon first listen, I was hooked. I had no idea that I would become the kind of fan that I am now, but I knew it was something special. It is the first song that Ayu composed herself, and harkens imagery of the women of Christianity. Also, the video is just gorgeous.