Ayumi Hamasaki: ‘Rainbow’ – Album Review

350px-rainbow_01

Released: December 18, 2002

Rainbow was an album that I had actually gambled in purchasing, only because her megahit “July 1st” was featured on it. To me, its one of my personal favourite songs, and is by far one of the most euphoric yet accomplishing numbers of her career, demonstrating the ability to transcend personal stories and lyrics to a seemingly heavy dance beat and additional guitar strumming. This was the style of J-pop that I had enjoyed, the kind where it felt quite ethereal yet very commercial. This was one of the ending track to the record, so that left a very large portion of the album within a softer experimentation of her sound. And to a degree, Rainbow works.

I tell you; You know from listening to the electronic-ridden intro “Everlasting Dream” that this is going to be quite a softer and gentle approach to the singers music… aka, never mind that heavy rock fluff, bring on the synths and strings! The opening vocal number “We Wish” experiments with a rather traditional R&B sound with a bit of typical J-pop flare, which only smooths into the lavish instrumentation of the pop anthem “Real Me”. As a matter of fact, “Real Me” is the first entry here to catch the infection of English language rummaging through the J-pop world, exposing the catchy riff; “A woman never runs away, a woman never hides away”. Gurl, she really feeling the English world here isn’t she!

The real surprising factor about this record is its ability to actually flow well, particularly from the start to near-finish—with the exception of those random moments. But the most appreciating momentum is her experimentation of sounds, particularly with a subtle trip-hop element that scores a hidden melancholy (“Hanabi”), some trippy breakbeat (“taskillusion”), angelic harmonies (“Dolls”, “Voyage”), and a real anime-like composition that literally… and I mean, literally… sounds like it came from some late 1990s or early 2000s movie (Studio Ghibli anyone? Just a small shout out I guess.)

Of course, an Ayumi album is never the same without the louder and chaotic tracks; and if I mean loud as in comparison to the rest of the record… then I mean loud. Anthems such as the classical-sounding “Free & Easy” and “Everywhere Nowhere” start of real ethereal like, giving it a smooth structure to the rest of the material. But once the chorus starts, then it’s hot-as-hell fire on the floor! Even the cheerleading poppiness of “Independent” gets quite thrilling and can be very entertaining! But there are some moments that are questionable. “Heartplace” is an interesting addition, boasting some pretty grungy guitar riffs that could give many rock contemporaries a run for their money (no shade y’all, but I isn’t naming no names here, so get!). But I bet your forgetting this track is on Rainbow, which ultimately makes it a mood killer unfortunately. And “Over” and “Close to You” just get generic and generic by the second, so I’mma have to tell all y’all to just give these a skip.

Despite these fillers, Rainbow is quite a surprising move towards a better and more diverse direction. The fact that Ayu had grown quite significantly as an artist—and lord, her vocals were on fleek too—by the release of this album is quite fantastic, giving that she had already conceived five albums on the way. From the subtle electronica sounds and the more lighter and romantic lyrical content, to the… ehhh, tackish yet weirdly suitable album cover, with her long-ass weave highlighted with multiple streaks (cause that was the “it” thing back then… yes, we are all guilty), Rainbow is quite a good album. Would definitely recommend a J-pop lover to hit a few spins, pronto!

Track listing (Bold means best tracks)

  1. Everlasting Dream
  2. We Wish
  3. Real Me
  4. Free & Easy
  5. Heartplace
  6. Over
  7. Hanabi
  8. Taskillusion
  9. Everywhere Nowhere
  10. July 1st ~Liam’s favorite~
  11. Dolls
  12. Neverending Dream
  13. Voyage
  14. Close to You
  15. Independent

 

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