Released: December 22, 2010 (Avex Trax)
Back in 2010, Ayumi Hamasaki had a pretty thrilling year with the release of one of her best records in my opinion, Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus. She ws on top, and to continue this reign, she decided to release another album Love Songs, in December that year. Because why? Because why the F not… that’s why. But unfortunately, what I didn’t understand is why she would release a completely J-Pop god-like album at one half of the year, then release a dull and monochromatic album like Love Songs. Whatever the meaning was, it’s still a lil’ bit baffling, but at least it isn’t entire bad.
But I guess it shares one similarity: concept. Love Songs is yet another concept album that discusses the theme of… yep, you guessed it; love. But hasn’t she been doing love record’s for the past decade now? Yep, okay, next. There are just a large number of tracks here that seem like tedious fillers, including dated dance beats (“Last Angel”, “Insomnia”), a bunch of J-pop anthems that literally sound like they came from an anime series or drama show (“Sending Mail”, “November”, “Seven Day War”), or a drabby ballad here and there (“Virgin Road”). To me, this isn’t particularly new to a Ayu-chan album, but with an amount like this, it’s pretty bad considering that half the record isn’t as memorable as the singles (though at times, this can be quite a stretch to imply).
To me, I feel that Love Songs should have been something like a mini-album because, even though most of the songs here make me wanna sleep more than feel engaged, they aren’t necessarily dreadful or bad. The title track is a folk-ridden number that utilizes elements of classic J-pop instruments, which may sound dated, but works well enough. The follow-song “Crossroads” does a lil’ better with the airy aristocratic instrumentation and raw instrumentation, but again, the fact the chorus switches key tones puts me kinda off. Nevertheless, not a bad track in it’s entirety. But for me, the ballad rock-riddled anthems “Moon” and “Blossom” do enough to bring some justice to the record; they are more mature sounding and definitely quintessential Ayu, with an interesting way of manipulating synths and instruments together to make it so fluid and charming.
Throughout the record, Ayu has this unique way of channelling a neo-romantic twist on aristocratic and heavenly instruments to keep the material quite current and meet some sort of middle-ground. The R&B-infused “Like a Doll” may be a little bit under-produced, but it’s still quite cute in areas, but she channels a more contemporary pop rock tune on “Sweet Season” and “Do It Again”, which is was more enticing than the opening material. But the record’s most appealing jam is probably the soft four-on-the-floor beats of “Thank U”, a glorious pop anthem that brings back the ol’ Rainbow and Memorial Address days (though that ear-ache of a chorus where she just sings “La la la laaaaaaaaa” can get to ya). These are the tracks that manage to over-throw the boring pieces of this record, and give a little more to the typical Ayu formula.
Nevertheless, Love Songs is a mixed bag of good and bad. On the good side, we get a handful of tracks that showcase a new direction of sound and channel a charming and sweet side of Ms. Ayu-chan. On the bad side, majority of the content reeks of fillers and tedious moments that cannot be forgotten (which isn’t a good thing). In my opinion, this is either a take-it-or-leave-it type of record; if you are fully in love with the typical dramatic J-pop music, then this is a record for you. But if not, then only a few tracks may benefit your music playlist.
Track list (Bold means best tracks):
- Love song
- MOON *Liam’s favourite*
- sending mail
- Last angel
- Like a doll
- Thank U
- Sweet Season
- do it again
- Virgin Road
- SEVEN DAYS WAR