Ayumi Hamasaki – Party Queen

03/28/2012 at 7:30 AM | Posted in Ayumi Hamasaki | 5 Comments
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~Album~

Ayumi Hamasaki – Party Queen

1. Party Queen

2. NaNaNa

3. Shake it❤

4. taskebab

5. call

6. Letter

7. reminds me

8. Return Road

9. Tell me why

10. a cup of tea

11. the next LOVE

12. Eyes, Smoke, Magic

13. Serenade in A minor

14. how beautiful you are

So with no prior singles, except for how beautiful you are which was released not too long ago and is a digital single so it doesn’t really count even though I reviewed it… we have this album with all new songs!

“Party Queen” starts the album off great. A loud and thumping, electronic track. As a concept for the album the song works great because at first it just is this super shining pop track, but with the lyrics it gives off this darker undertone that works really great. When I first heard the song, I didn’t really like it, but it quickly became something I listened to often. The chorus flows extremely well and is pretty catchy. The laughing at the end of the song is an awesome touch. Some people thought it was creepy and weird, but I thought it was just right.

Score – 8.5

“NaNaNa” starts off with blaring police sirens and some heavy synth sounds, continuing the electric theme. Ayu’s vocals start heavily synthesized which was kind of cool, but then it was followed by a very odd rap if you could call it that by one of her new (and very publicized already) backing vocalists, Timmy, almost reminded me of Ladies Night. The following chorus was actually really good, it created a cool atmosphere and Ayu good, confident and controlled. I would have liked the song a lot more with just Ayu’s parts, sorry Tim! ❤

Score – 7

“Shake it❤” continues the, but is the last, electric/synthetic heavy song on the album. Parts of this song reminded me of 1LOVE off of Secret but they are definitely two different songs. The music and lyrics are brazen and kind of in your face the whole time. There was almost a dubsteppy kind of sense to the song which would probably be predictable in today’s music. The chorus was a bit of a let down, the music during it sounded a little cheesy and maybe even cheap, and considering the other parts of the song, I definitely thought it would have been better. Ayu’s attitude while she’s singing kind of makes up for the song’s shortcomings though.

Score – 7.5

“taskebab” is the first of three perfectly placed and actually good interludes on the album. I’ll just come out and say it because everyone else has, it’s kind of Daft Punky. It’s all electronic and synthy as one might expect from that kind of comparison, I suppose. The crazy electric guitar that starts off in the middle of it was absolutely amazing. It gets faster and faster as it leads back into the synthy parts with a melding of the guitar along with it. It sets the tone for the next section of the album in a way.

Score – 8.5

Things get a bit more natural and maintain a slightly upbeat atmosphere with “call”. It’s pretty straightforward as an acoustic pop song. The new male backing vocalists that are featured here (and plenty of other songs on the album) were perfect in complimenting Ayu’s vocals. It can sometimes seem like it borderlines on the generic and even like it’s too typical of an Ayu song but little things here and there keep it interesting and a song I continually listen too.

Score – 8

“Letter” begins a dark descent on the album, though, it itself isn’t that dark. It’s similar to call a bit in that it features prominent acoustic guitar. This time a lot of strings can be heard throughout, especially in the chorus. Electric guitar is also present in plenty of the song of course, and mixed extremely well with the strings, in my opinion, I really liked the sound and atmosphere they created together. Couldn’t help feeling that it should have been on Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus though, as it sounded a lot like Last Links. However, Last Links was one of my favorite tracks from R’n’R Circus, so, no complaints from me on that front.

Score – 8.5

“reminds me” starts with dark and solemn sounding strings and some atmospheric sounds effects, it all comes to a halt as Ayu starts singing accompanied by some prominent acoustic guitar and piano. Things pick up a little right before the chorus but pales in comparison as the percussion suddenly starts and everything gets a bit heavier and rock-ish as the chorus comes crashing in. Ayu sounds amazing and so strong but not overly so like she can occasionally. Vocalizing follows, followed by an instrumental break showing that the structure of this song is a bit different than usual, and I actually really liked that. The last bit of vocalizing Ayu does just before the song comes to an end was pretty amazing and some of the strongest and heartfelt I’ve ever heard from her. Again, the strings and electric guitar mix here absolutely slays me.

Score – 9.5

Everything gets turned up a notch with “Return Road”. A song similar in epicness to some past Ayu songs, but it stands alone and that fact certainly takes nothing away from it. It begins calmly enough, but that all changes once the blaring organ starts, things calm back down again as Ayumi starts singing. Things begin to build and the chorus really comes in quick, almost unexpected with heavy guitar and percussion, Ayu’s vocals are perfection and the chorus is as catchy as it is extremely emotional. Organ comes in again, and is featured in the building up right before the second chorus which I thought was really cool. The bridge is pretty dramatic featuring sharp piano keys and a haunting choir singing thought it fit perfectly in a song like this. This song features some of Ayu’s most outright and brutally honest lyrics ever and you can really tell in her singing.

Score – 10

Emotions stabilize but don’t let up with “Tell my why”. As straightforward as call is, this song works well as just a straight up pop song. A little investigating finds that Ayu bought the rights to the music from some Greek composers. The original song being called “Sose me” meaning Save Me by Greek singer Ivi Adamou. Ayumi takes most of the cues for the vocals from the original song, although she makes some parts her own and of course the lyrics are strictly her own as well. Ayu’s version feels a little bit more involved musically than the original composition, I’ve listened to both and have to say I prefer Ayu’s even if it just came down to the music itself. Again the lyrics themselves are top notch but that has never been in question for Ayumi’s songs.

Score – 9.5

I was so ready for “a cup of tea” to be an actual song but I’m at peace with it being an interlude. Like I said, it’s placed perfectly and works well to break up up the previous section of the album with the next. The music itself seems pretty chaotic and features a British man continually saying “Hello, would you like a cup of tea?” which I thought was funny but still cool in a way. However, this interlude, in no one, prepares you for what’s to come.

Score – 8

Get ready for two songs unlike anything you’ve ever heard Ayumi Hamasaki sing before, starting with “the next LOVE”. The music instantly invokes this jazzy, lounge, old world feel, I’m talking 30’s-40’s here. Classy piano keys and prominent brass take center stage here as you can imagine. Ayu ends up really fitting in with the soft, yet powerful and sultry vocals that vary quickly in intensities that one might expect from such a genre. The bridge was quite interesting, the pace quickens and all I can see are flappers dancing. Here’s where the term “concept” really comes into play on this album.

Score – 8.5

Things get really fun with “Eyes, Smoke, Magic” the song continues the theme that the next LOVE starts except this time there’s a sense of whimsy to it. The song starts with a ringing telephone, someone picking it up and laughing crazily, followed by a whispered “Eyes, Smoke, Magic” accompanied by some snapping. Again, male backing vocalists create a great dynamic here. In general, the song is probably the epitome of the concept Ayu is trying out here with these two songs. All in all, with the vocals, music and sound effects the song is just a lot of fun to listen to, certainly nothing but typical on an Ayu album, or any pop album for that matter, but I think that’s what makes these two songs so refreshing.

Score – 8.5

“Serenade in A minor” feels like it takes a solemn hint from the past two songs for it’s composition at first. It’s all strings and it’s absolutely beautiful to listen to. There’s really not much else to say about it, other than I feel like it’s a perfect transition into the end of the album.

Score – 9

how beautiful you are” is a perfect way to end such a great album. It’s a wonderful song with a great message and beautiful arrangement. It has this nearly timeless feeling about it.

Score – 8

Final Note

I feel like Ayumi put a lot of hard work and emotion into this album and quite frankly it shows. Of course the writing is top notch and the music is fantastic as well. What’s great about it is that it is probably one of the most cohesive albums Ayumi has ever released, the structure of it is truly solid. I know I’ve rated her past few albums fairly high and that’s because I like them of course, but this one is definitely one of the best albums she’s released in recent memory. Regardless of any rating I could give it or even sales in my opinion.

Overall Rating

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5 Comments »

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  1. Excellent review! It’s great to see someone finding positive things to say about this album; there’s been far too much negativity surrounding it, and all I think rather prematurely and “jumping the gun”. I’ll admit the album covers aren’t the best; the one out of the three that I actually like is the close-up of her when she’s clutching the funky shoe, but musically I think Ayumi is still at the top of her game.
    Again, great review. I look forward to reading more of your material! Japanese music is love!

    Rae

    • Thanks so much!
      Yeah, people are always so ready to bash something, which is why I enjoy writing my reviews because more often than not I see positives where others see negatives, that’s just my taste I guess lol

      But yeah, glad you liked it, plenty more to come

  2. At first, I thought I wasted money on buying this album. I was so excited to get it, and upon the first listen, I just thought it was bad for her….but I listened to it a second time, and each song quickly grew on me–especially “Return Road”, by far the album’s stand out song! LOVE this song–Ayu connects with it, and takes you on a journey down that road. LOVE it.

    The only songs I DON’T LIKE are “Eyes, Smoke, Magic”….sounds like broadway and cheesy broadway at that. Not good at all. And “How Beautiful you are”. I think the reason why I don’t like the latter is because of her vocals…..not her best.

    And if I had to criticize something overall about the album, I would say her vocals are not their best. But that is OK. They are not bad either. She sounds more raw in this album, and I like the cadence of her words on the songs.

    THis album really is great and I urge people to listen to it a few times first.

    • Yeah, I have to agree that when Ayu’s really connected to the song and her vocals sound raw is when I love her the most. reminds me and Return Road are honestly two of Ayu’s best songs in my opinion because of that.

  3. […] Ayumi Hamasaki – Party Queen (hextan.wordpress.com) […]


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