Album review: Ayumi Hamasaki - Colours

Album review: Ayumi Hamasaki (浜崎あゆみ) - Colours | Random J Pop

Ayu wants to be the gay loving party queen, the singer of love songs, the club music bitch, but also show that she can be contemporary and keep up with her peers too; but showcases an inability to do all of these things in a way which makes sense for her and her brand and most importantly delivers good songs. And Colours is an unfortunate example of how Ayu and her team just cannot get her shit together and get it right.

Club mode Ayu has not been this turnt since Next Level. Ayu's decision to feature as many as four club records on this album is probably a decision which has been made collectively between Ayu trying to prove she can keep up with her peers - many of whom have shunned ballads and pop records in favour of high energy dance tracks, and also her wanting to build a catalogue of 'bangers' she can perform on tour. After all, it's pretty fucking boring to sit on a swing in a wedding dress and sing a ballad, when you could be surrounded by dancers and whipping your hair under some strobe lights.

The team RedOne produced "XOXO" is Ayu's best original dance record in ever. It's simple, it's catchy, it doesn't sound like it's trying to hard to be anything. It's just a really good song. "Terminal" feels overblown and Ayu feels secondary on it, but the key changes elevate this from being just another piece of trance tripe. Despite Ayu's presence on the song being minimal, the music uniquely feels like an Ayu song, because it features the sweeping dramatic elements of the instrumental interludes which have featured across so many of her albums. "Feel the Love", "Merry-go-round" and "Lelio" on the other hand all feel completely desperate and are throwaway. We've heard Ayu do each of these songs before and we've got Miku Hatsune out here doing them better.

Album review: Ayumi Hamasaki (浜崎あゆみ) - Colours | Random J Pop

The mid-tempo's are a case of strong production, but a mismatch with Ayu. "What Is Forever Love" is a duet with Naoya Urata - Ayu's guest feature bae. The song is very Stargate and Ne-Yo esque. It's a tried and tested musical template which we have heard many times before, but it works. It would have made a nice Winter single had anybody in Ayu's team had a clue. "What Is Forever Love" is a duet, but it's easy to forget Ayu on this track when Naoya is throwing her under a bullet train every 10 seconds. Naoya owns the entire song and is the most prominent vocal on the track. It's a display of great humility on Ayu's part. She is clearly smitten with Naoya having collaborated with him several times now, and it's sweet that she let's him shine on their songs together. But the songs would have been elevated if Naoya was paired with somebody who was a better match with him vocally. "Angel" is produced by US producer Rodney 'Darkchild' Jerkins, although you'd be hard pressed to tell, as "Angel" is not of his signature style at all. "Angel" is permeated by a muted glockenspiel and a rousing chorus which blossoms into a sweep of hard synths and a semi dub step bounce. The music itself is good, sounding like a more synthy take on Beyoncé's "Halo". It very easily could have been the albums big defining power ballad, but Ayu's vocals are so thin and lack the texture and power to do the music any form of justice - so the whole thing just falls flat. Her Engrish also doesn't help, causing the chorus to lose any of its affectionate qualities. Between her wailing off key, off pitch, off beat and wailing ♫ I WANNA BE ANGEEEEEEEEEEL FOR YOU ♫, the song swiftly becomes a mess. But Ayu gets points for trying.

The ballads are your typical Ayu fare. They are all good songs, but what we know of Ayu from her past few albums (every album in fact) is that she's good with ballads. But the problem is that she's done so many now, each one less indistinct than the last, that they become less memorable with each album. To such an extent that her new ballads are overwriting the legacy of her classics. The sound of these ballads is so atypical from the rest of the material on Colours that they sound as though they are from a completely different album. The disparity is far too stark.

Album review: Ayumi Hamasaki (浜崎あゆみ) - Colours | Random J Pop

Colours reinforces that Ayu doesn't have any real concept of what truly works for her outside of ballads. Every time she delivers a song in a style which really suits her, she never revisits it again, almost as though she is oblivious to the fact that it worked. "Next Level" was a nice mid-tempo which wreaked of Frou Frou in the best possible way, delivering a nice ballad with a common time tempo. But did she ever revisit this? No. "Why" from Five was a ballad banger and one of Ayu's best songs in a good while. But she hasn't put out anything like it since. The remix she commissioned for "Wake Me Up" and performed on her Countdown live tour was amazing. But did she use it as a point of reference for any of the club tracks on this album? No. But Ayu will drop a song which is God awful, and then do that shit again. "You and Me" was fucking awful and one of the worst songs Ayu has ever done. Yet she went running back to that shit for "Feel the Love" and gave it an equally awful music video. The woman has no clue. None at all.

Ayu took a step in the right direction out of her comfort zone with Colours, which I do commend. But the end result is still a weak album which is void of any clear form or focus. Colours feels like a really weak attempt at what Namie Amuro has been doing for the past 10 years for her albums. A far cry from the woman who was boldly doing things on her own terms back in her Avex hey day when Hikaru Utada was still active, Kumi Koda was still trying and Namie Amuro was being eclipsed by about every other female artist in the game. Now Ayu is scraping the bottom of the barrel for clues. Working with US producers, clutching at Engrish, hooking up collaborations with DJ Hello Kitty and M-Flo like it's 2005. These choices aren't bold, they're reductive. Ayu has become too complacent with delivering the bare minimum, because she knows that whilst she won't sell as much as she used to, she will sell enough, which is what she seems content with at the moment.

Album review: Ayumi Hamasaki (浜崎あゆみ) - Colours | Random J Pop

Ayu's insistence to cling to the past whilst reaching for something new without knowing what new thing she ultimately wants is hurting her. Ayu seems willing to move in a new direction, which is good because she's acknowledging her need to do so. But Ayu's approach seems to be to regurgitate her old shit because it's the easy thing to do, then throw some stuff at the wall and see what sticks, only to turn her back on it. By this point Ayu should have her shit together and be so confident in her sound that she can effectively play around with it as her peers have done. But Colours is proof she does not have a clue what to do with herself or where to take her sound.

Ayu needs to step out of the music game for a while, figure it out and then return to the scene with a new A&R who can steer her in the right direction, because homegirl is once again in the wrong lane.

VERDICT: What the fuck is a Lelio?

■ XOXO 🏆
■ What is Forever Love
■ Terminal
■ Now & 4eva


  1. Not that I needed any confirmation or reiteration of it, but the great "A STRUGGLE" continues musically, vscsnt emotions, relevance and all the rest. Ayu did at least kill the art direction and promo pics this go round of an era; no other J-pop chick has done so this shamelesly since Utada Hikaru's DEEP RIVER but that's pointless when the collective tunes & vocals blow this hard even still...

  2. It's growing on me. There is only so much you can do with 10 tracks from has-been producers. Some songs musically and vocally sound like they are from a past era (i.e.: Hello new me + NOW & 4EVA) so I feel cheated and betrayed by avex AS ALWAYS. I was OBSESSED with this girl until I realized that the quality of most of her work after Secret just didn't fulfill my needs.

  3. Miku Hatsune.........EL-OH-EL-OH-EL!

  4. Yeah, that's kinda the score I'd give it… now, where's that 'Bon Voyage' review…? (*´ω`)o

  5. It's a damn shame that she brought the hotness with weak ass album...

  6. I'm not gonna lie; I really like this album. There are a few songs on here that can get the fuck out (*coughs in the general direction of Hello New Me and Pray*), but I earnestly think this could be my favorite of the albums from this woman that I've heard (read - I'm a basic bitch with absolutely no taste in music). It's just a shame that Ayu had to ruin half these songs with her horrid ass vocals; Angel and NOW&4EVA (pukes at the Engrish) would have been amazing if Thirstumi or Kuri-chan had gotten a hold of it. Lelio might not have been as bad if Namie had laced it with her standard 500 overdubs. But yeah... Me can endure. Unless an instrumental album of this surfaces (and I mean a real instrumental album, not instrumentals with badly processed background vocals). Ayu can fuck herself in that case.

    Btw, I think Feel the Love is a better song than You and Me. Not that that matters much since I happen to like Feel the Love, but yeah... At least Feel the Love is pure Para Para Paradise throwback without trying to merge it with current dance trends.

  7. whow!!! BRUTAL!!!!!!!!!!!! i love it.


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