Ayumi Hamasaki becomes a brand ambassador for some diamond shop and give us a lil’ throwback moment

One of the campaign shots, featuring Ayumi Hamasaki as the brand ambassador for Gem Castle Yukizaki. Wearing a velvet black gown and a whole bunch of diamonds.

Ayumi Hamasaki is a brand ambassador for a jewellery brand. Nope, not Fierce Drag Jewels. Although this would be great and something I could absolutely imagine Ayu saying yes to and seeing it as an honour. But she’s on her rich bitch flex with Gem Castle Yukizaki. No surprises here. Ayu loves her some diamonds and expensive shit. Shout-outs to the “Jewel” music video.

A fair amount of tie-ins in Japan are usually random as all hell. But not this one. Not only does this partnership make complete sense, but there is actually a cool narrative around it which makes it feel... *Looks into the camera* Fated.

Gem Castle Yukizaki was founded in Fukuoka Prefecture, which is where Ayumi Hamasaki is from. And 2023 marked the 45th anniversary of the company, which also marked the year of Ayumi Hamasaki’s 45th birthday.

And if we REALLY wanna stretch another connection for the sake of it, Gem Castle Yukizaki have recently opened a store in Hawaii, and Ayumi Hamasaki has been to Hawaii. More than once. One of her most expensive music videos “Fairyland” was shot in Hawaii. Ayu also worked on songs for Next Level in Hawaii. And Ayu has taken numerous vacations in Hawaii. Shout-outs to rich people and Heisei era music video budgets.

One of the campaign shots, featuring Ayumi Hamasaki as the brand ambassador for Gem Castle Yukizaki. Wearing a velvet black gown and a whole bunch of diamonds.
Ayumi Hamasaki | Gem Castle Yukizaki

When I first saw the campaign images of Ayu for Gem Castle Yukizaki, one of my thoughts was the shoot for Secret, because of the black dress and all of the jewellery. But another was the cover for A Best 2, and it’s because of Ayu’s eyes. As with the A Best 2 album cover, her eyes in these shots are what I am immediately drawn to. Ayu’s eyes probably aren’t what Gem Castle Yukizaki wanted my attention to be drawn to, but this is Ayu. So they already have a level of attention they wouldn’t otherwise have.

I mentioned “Fated” earlier in this post, and there’s a shot in that music video featuring posters for Secret and A Best 2. Look at how all this shit is connected. We’re in the Ayu Cinematic Universe now.

The Gem Castle Yukizaki campaign shots reminded me that not only are Ayu’s eyes her most defining features of her face, but that the eye make up she has in these shots are part of the reason why. This eye make-up style is her signature. From 2006 onward, thick eyeliner and long lashes at the top, thin eyeliner outside of her waterline and a shorter set of lashes at the bottom became something you would see Ayu with constantly. The hair would change. The looks would change. Sometimes even the skin tone would change. But the eyes were always made up in the same way. So it’s nice to see a promo shot where her eyes are a focus and not how much her face has changed. But we gon’ get to this. Because the video...

The campaign video looked way too cheap for a luxury brand. And the stans won’t like what I’m about to say, but I’mma say it anyway. Certain shots draw attention to Ayu’s face in a way that will have people comment on what work she’s had done. Ayu can do whatever she likes with her body. My thing is that she often pulls faces which look odd (she always has for as long as I can remember) and that photographers and directors often seem to shoot Ayu in unflattering ways. So my focus is never how good the shot looks or how good Ayu’s styling is. It’s ‘Why is she fixing her face like that?’. ‘Why did they shoot her like that?’. It’s distracting. And it’s unfortunate that Ayu was shot so badly in the video, when she looks so good in the campaign images.

The campaign video was shot by Masashi Muto, who has worked with Ayu since the very start of her career. He directed one of her earliest music videos “Depend on You” back in 1998 and has continually worked with Ayu throughout her career, directing close to 30 of her music videos. As is the case with her music, Ayu stays working with the folk she’s always worked with, when perhaps it’s time to start shaking things up with some new talent to offer some much needed fresher perspectives on her brand.

But it’s good to see Ayu’s team secure a promo tie-in which not only feels on brand for her, but feels intentionally like something which honours Ayu’s past - which is fitting given that Ayumi Hamasaki is currently on her 25th anniversary tour. And using the white girl with the jelly beans song for this campaign was also a smart choice. Ayu would be better off just pimping her older material for tie-ins from here on out and drawing attention back to her older catalogue, given that so little of what she released after Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus has managed to stick anywhere near as well as what she had released prior.

If you’ve got money, pull up to Gem Castle Yukizaki. And then maybe swing by Tower Records and pick up a few copies of Remember You.

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