Ayumi Hamasaki: ‘A BALLADS’ – Album Review

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Released: March 12, 2003

Never one to shy away from conceptual compilation releases, Ms. Ayumi Hamasaki has always been the trailblazer in that field. And what better way to celebrate one of her first entries than the gentle balladry-influenced collection, A Ballads. Released back in 2003, the Kawaii-little record sold over one million copies in good ol’ Japan, which is f-ing impressive for a compilation. But with nearly 15 years carried on its back, how has this record stood the test of time?

Well, if you need my stamp of approval… you’re gonna get it! The album boasts some of her greatest recordings in her career… and gurl, that’s no lie. The opening number—the lullaby anthem “Rainbow”—is by far one of her most impressive and accessible vocal deliveries, and still stands as one of her best! Ahhhhhhhh, the cutesy Ayu with the stripped-down guitar strumming!  Other numbers such as the angelic “Hanabi”, the absolute J-pop classic “Dearest”, and quintessential “over-the-damn-top” Ayu jam “Voyage” helm the record in marvellous spots and are some of her best slow-moments in her career.

Oh yes, and doooooo NOT forget about the ballad mixes of original hits, such as the downtempo electro edit of “Appears”, and breezy and awesome change-up to the 1998 single “You”, and even the ethereal brilliance of the 1970’s cover song “Sotsugyou Shashin” is pure genius. If anything, A Ballads stands as one of her greatest releases because it encapsulates the genuinity and rawness of Ayu-chan. And most of all, it’s consistent, focused and still deliveries effortlessly to this day. Definitely a record to buy, but make sure you have tissues next to y’all.

Track list (Bold means best tracks):

  1. RAINBOW ~Liam’s favourite~
  2. Appears (HAL’s Progress mix)
  3. Key (Eternal Key ver.)
  4. You (Northern Breeze)
  5. To Be (2003 ReBirth mix)
  6. HANABI
  7. M (HAL’s Progress mix)
  8. Dearest
  9. Dolls
  10. SEASONS (2003 ReBirth mix)
  11. Voyage
  12. A Song for xx (030213 Session #2)
  13. Who… (Across the Universe)
  14. Sotsugyou Shashin

4.5

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