Ayumi Hamasaki: ‘Guilty’ – Album Review

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Released: January 1, 2008

After the disastrous Secret (no shade y’all, but read my review about it… you will get the jitz of it all), it looked like Ms. Ayu-chan decided to find her inner beast and unleash it with another record. And with Guilty, it see’s her at full flight… well, at times. With 9 studio albums in with Guilty, you could see that it had only because simple pimple business to the Queen of J-pop, where the intensity of change or re-invention was out the window (apart from her image, that is) in favour for the typical “back to basics” mantra.

What I’m really fond about Guilty is that, unlike many of her previous records, this one has a lot more personality (a.k.a. the J-pop queen has got some sass and attitude under them lace fronts and large-as-hell leopard prints on the album cover!).  The opening intro, which in fact is a lil’ snippet of her single “Mirrorcle World”—released in 2008—, opens the record real loud and monstrous but keeps it’s entertaining value at a top-notch high. But the over-the-top realness belts out perfectly with the insanely rock anthem “(Don’t) Leave Me Alone”, the metal-ish number “Talkin 2 Myself”, and the total arena banger “Decision”. All four of these songs are exhilarating but are delivered to the listener’s ear quite well. My lord, no wonder us J-pop fanatics can’t go anywhere without a Ayu song smashed against our ears (well not really, but yeah…).

Guilty has a very remarkable cohesiveness that opens loud, moulds into more personal and sombre material, and finishes in a feel-good manner without any tracks serving as obstacles or forgettable fillers. By the time you reach the extremely melancholic symphonic rock title track, everything smack in the middle spreads a similar essence. “Fated” of course is your typical Ayu-chan J-pop ballad, but it’s not bad in any means. In fact, it’s well-executed and very convincing (one brownie point to Ms. Ayu.) Likewise, the creepy-piano driven number “Marionette” isn’t placed in an awkward position on the album and is actually a pretty decent song, despite having a slight shift in sound—to some degree y’all. But my absolute best track is her ballad “Together When…”. Like gurl, when this song was released, I was praising “HALLELUJAH” to the J-pop gods up in the sky! If anything, “Together When…” is an incredibly outstanding ballad that exemplifies her capabilities as a vocalist and songwriter in fine light. And I’m telling y’all, it’s probably her best ballad in like… EVER! (Stamp of approval has been done).

But if your a dancer and love to shake that bootaaaayyyy, then don’t worry, cause Guilty hooks ya up… well, sorta. It’s not really club-oriented numbers, but the sugary pop fluff “Glitter” has enough thrills and chants to be served as one! It’s kawaii, fun and listenable. Definitely a keeper! The same goes to “My All”, which is almost like a sister track, but just.. the other one (yes y’all, I know the struggles of sibling rivalries hahaha…) But this song is decent enough to carry the ending part of the record. But then WOOP! A romantic ballad to end the album, but if anything, it’s not romantic in the sense of “ooohhhh gooey lovey dovey crap”. It’s arranged as a typical romance number, but the track is actually an ode to a friend of Ms. Ayu’s whom tragically passed away. But having said this, the construction of the track—from her more calmer vocal possession and stripped instrumentation—is brilliant, and serves a more sentimental purpose to the record, and expresses a bit of vulnerability to Ayu-chan’s behalf.

If anything is weighing down the record just a lil’ bit, it’s the interludes. Not to say that they’re bad in anyway. because they are all actually very nice to listen to. It’s just not all of them flow with the album’s sound; “Mirror” is fine enough to open the record, and the soulful ethereal element to “ReBirth” closes the record is sheer brilliance, but the rest are fillers to me. Next… But in retrospect, Guilty was more than just a typical Ayumi Hamasaki album; it’s a really good Ayumi Hamasaki album. The consistency of her sound is there, and the themes are all executed in fine fashion without the bumps and holes. I’m gonna be honest y’all, but Guilty is a killer J-pop record. I’d definitely recommend this to more new-age listens of common J-pop music, because Ayu SLAYED it here.

Track list (Bold means best tracks):

  1. Mirror
  2. (don’t) Leave me alone
  3. talkin’ 2 myself
  4. decision
  5. GUILTY
  6. fated
  7. Together When… ~Liam’s favourite~
  8. Marionette -Prelude-
  9. Marionette
  10. The Judgement Day
  11. glitter
  12. MY ALL
  13. reBIRTH
  14. untitled ~for her~

 4.5

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