Ayumi Hamasaki: ‘Duty’ – Album Review


Released: September 27, 2000

At the time, Duty by Ayumi Hamasaki did nothing for me. I was getting into the J-Pop ecstasy that everyone had been diving into around the late 2000s–early 2010s, and Ayumi’s work was one of a ka-billion that I got into first. But to me, Duty was jack all; the sound was quite boring, the production felt dated, and her squeaky clean vocals made me put my earphones down on the table. Fast forwarding years later, I never believed I would see the day, but… Duty is actually a great record (AND is a lesson learn to not overlook a record without diving into it respectively… damn Liam.)

Looking back at that time period, I was also into heavy EDM, so the present sound of typical J-pop guitar riffs, hard-hitting drums and quirky synth applications weren’t my style, but thankfully, I’ve grown into it. The only number that got me bouncing was “Audience”, a thrilling suspense of J-dance beats that smashed together an agile rush of arrangements and choruses. This was one of my ultimate favourite Ayu numbers! Fire to this day! Overtime, the maturity that Ayu-chan had adopted since the releases of her debut record A Song for xx and Loveppears was growing quite fast, and the material that appears on Duty actually worked in vein.

The opening intro “Starting Over” sounds like a down-town LA club bopper that blends a sound that could be only similar to some Sci-fi or crime film (stylish I say…). The singer also experiments with a variety of genres, such as a dramatic Latin sound (“Duty”), a twist of Mediterranean realness (“Vogue”), and even dominates the reigning wave of symphonic rock and slight heavy-metal riffs that graced the charts through the dawn of the 2000s (“Surreal”, “End of the World”). But of course, ballads are her namesake (Eehmm, she’s got a life-time career of bloody ballads, so that shouldn’t be a surprise); especially the quintessential J-pop anthem “Far Away”, the nostalgic essence of the brilliant “Seasons”, and a touching heartbreaking lullaby-like song in “Teddy Bear”. Uhhhh, tear jerker til’ the morning.

The only songs that are…. Ehhh, is “Girlish” and “Scar”. The latter track is a guitar-ridden ballad that sounds pretty daff in compared to the material here, whilst the Japanese gospel “Girlish” is kinda crap. Like, kinda crap. Even her voice sounds completely juvenile and child-like *shivers*. Apart from those stinkers, Duty is quite an accessible little album. To think it’s the singers best-selling studio album—its sold over 3 million copies—would be an extreme stretch, but thinking about it, Duty is a nice record. You did good for a youngin’ Ayu-chan.

Track listing (Bold means Best tracks):

  1. Starting Over
  2. Duty
  3. Vogue
  4. End of the World
  5. SCAR
  6. Far Away
  7. Surreal
  8. Audience ~Liam’s favorite~
  9. Seasons
  10. Teddy Bear
  11. Key (Eternal ver.)
  12. Girlish



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