J-POP OVERVIEW

Startin' / Born To Be… - Ayumi Hamasaki



Artist: Ayumi Hamasaki
ISBN: AVCD-30961/2
Release date: 2006.03.08
Debut Ranking: #1
Label: avex trax

Ayumi Hamasaki’s 39th single has hit the stores in March 2006. This single managed to top the charts once again, claiming the title of the most No.1 singles by a female Japanese artist. Instead of following the rules of a typical J-Pop artist, Hamasaki does her own thing and releases a powerful single and reinvents her image and music.

This time we see a mature and sexy side of her with dark straight hair in her covers, where she wears a short furred dress and silver accessories with a black background for contrast. It’s plain that Hamasaki wants to give off a message of confidence and attitude in this single.

01. Startin’ “original mix”

This song is without any doubt the star of this single. It will make you want to dance and prance around the room while listening to it because it’s quite addictive and energetic. Also the promotional video was quite bizarre and unusual, yet it’s not without any humor. It’s quite amusing to see Ayu with an African American guy dressed in the same style as a rapper when she was reported to be cheating her boyfriend, Tomoya Nagase with this “Tim” who fits perfectly this description.

It’s kind of difficult to classify this song within a genre. It definitely has rock and techno influences with a funky tone. The guitar riffs give this track a lot of character and appeal. I’ve also enjoyed how her vocals sound quite unpolished and powerful at the same moment. This song is reminiscent of the song “evolution” and has a similar style to her “LOVEppears” album. Nonetheless it still manages to mantain a refreshing style. The melody is pretty addictive, and quite hip with a Eurobeat flavor.

This song is the theme song of a Playstation 2 game, featured in “Capcom’s Onimusha 4: Dawn of Dreams”. Personally I find this song really fitting for an opening theme for a video game.

Rating: 4.7/5

02. Born To Be… “original mix”

“Born to Be..” is certainly fitting for the Olympics. It starts off with a muffled chorus which immediately breaks into a powerful chorus, which is followed by Hamasaki’s uplifting vocals. It has a lot of postive energy, is extremely catchy and powerful. It easily inspires the listener to imagine an Olympic scene. The use of drums also give this song an almost regal feel to this song. My only complaint was that the arrangement sounded a little awkward. However the composition does pretty much make up for it.

This song seems to be themed around a more innocent and girlish style. In the promotional clip and live performances Ayu is seen wearing hair bands and dresses. This song is the theme song for Japanese broadcast, Nippon NTV Sports Corporate Theme for the 2006 Winter Olympics.

Rating: 4.5/5

03. teens ‘’acoustic version'’

“teens” is a TRF cover, which was covered by Ayumi for their tribute album, “Lif-e-Motions”. This single contains the acoustic version of this cover. She’s done a pretty good job on this one, I actually prefer this more than the original version.

I’ve really enjoyed this song and is my personal favourite out of this single. This song is reminiscent of her earlier ballads which weren’t as emotional or dramatic as her recent ballads. Nonetheless Ayu’s vocals really shine in this song. It opens up with a piano solo followed by the backing vocalists. Consequently various orchestra instruments are played along with Hamasaki’s vocals. The tone of this song is melanchonic, mellow and soothing especially when the chorus breaks in.

Rating: 5/5

Conclusion

I’m quite satisfied with the quality of these songs in this single even if they weren’t anything groundbreaking. One can certainly notice that Hamasaki’s style keeps on evolving and her vocals keep on becoming more refined and unique. I was also pleased to see how much the lyrics, themes and styles of both songs fit both their respective tie-ins.

It’s quite a pity that avex trax has promoted this single so little, with merely three magazine appearances, which weren’t really high profile and only four live performances. Another unforgivable factor is that they let her release promotional clips of poor quality and low budget. This single had a lot of potential and it seems that her label didn’t even make the effort to elevate this single to a hit status which is indeed a shame. Nonetheless I’m still pleased to see this single doing quite well on its own without any marketing schemes.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5

01. Startin’ “original mix”
02. Born To Be… “original mix”
03. teens “acoustic version”
04. Startin’ “original mix-Instrumental-”
05. Born To Be… “original mix-Instrumental-”

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