Ayumi Hamasaki: (miss)Understood – Album Review

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Released: January 1, 2006

I’ve always enjoyed rock Ayu-chan. She’s always gone to the extremes with glamour, grittiness and artistic levels when she drives through the force of rock-influenced tracks, so when she was geared up to released her excessive 2006 record (miss)Understood, you can bet that all the J-pop lovers lined up at the stores to get a copy (or, from my experiences, THE GLORIOUS LIMITED FIRST-PRESS EDITIONS)! Unfortunately, it became her first album to miss the one million mark, but still got certified million by the RIAJ… so, at least there were brownie points credited to where it was due!

Annnnywaaay, back to the album. (miss)Understood is by far Ayu-chan’s most focused record, in terms of a genre set-out and instrumentation. Another notable occasion is that the consistency and cohesive structure was strong with this one (may the force be with Ayu). But like always, her album’s open with banging over-the-top fluff; “Bold & Delicious” was one dope jam*snaps fingers*. The singer channelled her inner diva with the track and, with an accompanying choir delivery and messy rock arrangement, this number was one to reckon with! Same goes to the following number “Step You”, which is one of my absolute favourites! It’s a sophisticated punk-ish anthem layered with electronic synths and guitar-riffs that presents a sassy, cunning and intelligent side of Ayu! Get ’em gurl!

How Ayumi conducted her songwriting and image, however, is the key point of this record. In moments like the mysterious 80’s-infused track “Ladies’ Night”, the theatrical art rock sounds of “Alterna”, or the breezy summer number “Beautiful Day”, there is always a shift in sound and appeal, whether it’s her diva realness or just a simple poppy vibe. Goodness, she kept us on our tippy-toes to see what she’s gon’ give us next! But the core tracks hit right in the middle; the title jam is almost like a classic Western heavy-metal anthem, which I adore a lot! But having said that, she get’s funky with the R&B-riddled “In the Corner”, which literally sounds like some theme song to some crime scene TV show. And lord isn’t that spectacular instrumental “Tasking” just a ringtone to have!

For the first time on any of her albums, the more slower numbers intertwine smoothly with each other without any horrid interruptions. The first major step forward is the harrowing melodrama arrangement of “Criminal”, which is by far one of her best rock songs in like… AGES! And to this day, nearly 10 years later, it’s a classic, regardless if it’s a single or a simple album track. But she gives us the more traditional J-pop appeal once the delicate anthem “Heaven” hits, which is absolutely beautiful and well-delivered with its suble piano riffs and electronic drop. Same goes to the harmonizing “Rainy Day”, which may be another great song, but closes the album rather… ehhh, weirdly (no shade, but why there y’all?)

There aren’t really any true errors to (miss)Understood, as all the material blends well together, but if anything, some tracks are just pure fillers… and that’s the truth. I like “Is This Love?” cause it’s a contrast between edgy and soft sounds, but it’s not really much of an album track. It doesn’t really stand-out per say. “Fairyland”, as much as I love, is a little odd too and does NOT represent the record in anyway; definitely a good song, but the black sheep of the record. The only two songs, and ONLY TWO, that aren’t really exciting are “Pride” and “Will”, both B-side tracks which… well, you know why *hint hint ‘B-side’ hint hint*. But apart from those moments, (miss)Understood is a wickedly consistent record that only polishes up Ayu’s discography as a fine collection. It’s fun, it’s sad, and it’s over-the-top! Ahhhhh, the perfect mix for an Ayu record!

Track list (Bold means best tracks):

  1. Bold & Delicious
  2. STEP you ~Liam’s favourite~
  3. Ladies Night
  4. Is This LOVE?
  5. (miss)Understood
  6. alterna
  7. In The Corner
  8. tasking
  9. criminal
  10. Pride
  11. Will
  12. HEAVEN
  13. Are You Wake Up?
  14. fairyland
  15. Beautiful Day
  16. rainy day

4.5

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