Category Archives: Worth a Listen

Worth a Listen: Ayumi Hamasaki – Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus

Ayumi Hamasaki was one of my first J-Pop loves, along with Hikaru Utada, but unlike Hikki, I haven’t really kept up my love affair with her music.  Recent albums have been a bit homogenous and bland, and she’s been unable to place some fantastic singles she’s had over the past few years (Mirrorcle World and Sparkle for example) within the surroundings of an imaginative album.

Luckily, someone’s lit a fire beneath Ayu, because her current album is one of the best I think she’s released in years.  Including the singles “Sunrise / Sunset Love is All” and “BALLAD / You were…” which were all pretty boring and mediocre on their own, the album contains powerful tracks which prevents the singles from getting dull such as “Microphone“, “Lady Dynamite” and the funky “Don’t look back“, which is the type of track I haven’t heard Ayu attempt for years.  Oh don’t get me wrong here, this album doesn’t ooze originality nor is it overly provocative, but at the same time, for Ayumi it is a little more unique than some of her other works – although the brave attempt in styles in marred slightly by the over-indulgence in a few too many ballads and may leave you snoozing before the faster tempo tracks kick in, they’re tolerable if you know what’s around the corner.  I’m never a fan of a ballad unless it really moves me, and unfortunately none on this album really do it for me – although  it have gained a new-found love of Ayumi’s Sunset / Sunrise single which sounds a lot better spaced so far apart on the album, rather than being placed next to each other on the single.

Worth a Listen?: If you’ve ever like Ayumi Hamasaki, or if you like generic J- pop, this is most certainly worth a listen.  It’s far from one of my favourite albums, but it shows the potential which Ayumi has at a more diverse range of music.  There’s also a whopping 13 vocal tracks, so you’re bound to pick up something you like, whether it be the visual kei inspired Microphone, the sexy Don’t Look Back, the rocky Lost Links or one of the many, many ballads…

  1. The Introduction
  2. Microphone
  3. Count Down
  4. Sunset: Love is All
  5. Ballad
  6. Last Links
  7. Montage
  8. Don’t Look Back
  9. Jump!
  10. Lady Dynamite
  11. Sexy Little Things
  12. Sunrise: Love is All
  13. Meaning of Love
  14. You Were…
  15. Red Line: for TA (Album Version)
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Worth a Listen: ICONIQ – Change Myself

Okay, time for a break from the normal Hello! Project rambling, and to try to introduce a new feature: Worth a Listen.  Completely unoriginal name, I know, but hopefully this will prevent me from doing what I usually do – writing up half an album review, and leaving it there because I can’t be bothered to finish it.

ICONIQ hadn’t really hit my radar until I saw her PV featured on J-Pop Asia for “Crystal Girl“.  Despite the extremely short hair cut, Ayumi Lee (ICONIQ) used to be in a Korean girl band called “Sugar”, which released a few singles in Japan, where she had long hair and that tradition J-Idol look.  In fact, you don’t see many J-Pop stars taking such drastic action with their looks as to shave their heads (despite most wearing extensions) – which also provokes a little more meaning from the album title.  Her first solo album “Change Myself” features a new direction of mixing electro pop with RnB, and includes collaborations with the likes of M-Flo‘s VERBAL and Atsushi Sato from EXILE.  Name dropping aside, the album is pretty catchy – almost like mixing Perfume with Koda Kumi – but with better vocals!  In other words, right up my street.

Worth a listenabsolutely, if you like fresh pop music, although maybe give that Madonna cover a miss.  Crystal Girl and the title track Change Myself, as well as I.D. caught my attention on the first listen.  You might like this if you like female RnB, as well as if you like listening to groups such as Perfume.

  1. Prologue
  2. I’m Lovin’ You (with Exile’s Atsushi Sato)
  3. Change Myself
  4. LoveShineMagic
  5. Bye Now!
  6. I.D (feat. Verbal of M-Flo)
  7. No Distance
  8. Crystal Girl
  9. Like a Virgin (Madonna cover)
  10. Epilogue