Released: February 8, 2013 (Avex Trax)
Ayumi Hamasaki’s 2013 studio album Love Again is as predictable as it could get. Having flourished with a slightly similar conceptual record back in 2010—the timid Love Songs—Ayu-chan most have said to herself, “You know what? F it, I’mma release another record like my other records.” And that’s the result of Love Again, a frilly J-Pop record that discusses nothing but forbidden love, lost love, current love, and… well, anything with the title love in it, to be exact. But unlike most of her records, Love Again is one of those golden moments that manages to be compacted quite nicely.
Ms. Ayu has always had an issue with the delivery of her songs on a wholesome record, and it’s probably one of her best records to smash this theory over. Opening the album is “Wake Me Up”, a catchy pop-rock anthem with essences of electropop and dance music. To be honest, I could have mistaken this as a US Top 100 jam, because it’s pretty convincing. But that entire Westernized affair is cut short with the following songs “Song 4 U” and “Missing”, two elegant ballads that borderlines on engaging deliveries and typical J-pop predictability. But after these moments, the gentleness graces over the heartfelt ballad “Sakura” and love anthem s“Melody” and “Sweet Season”, three songs that manage to showcase a more vulnerable and convincing side of Ms. Ayu. I’ve always loved Ayumi’s way of channelling a stripped-down ballad rather than an over-the-top theatrical one, and she does it well on here.
Love Again handles a pretty forward-thinking method of cutting out an over-throw of dance tracks, and only fits three into the mould. The first of the bunch is the fast-pacing guitar driven song “Bye Bye Darling”, which again, boasts elements of electronica and dance sounds, and delivers some strong choruses. “Snowy Kiss” is a lil’ more dramatic, heavily dependent on synths and bass instruments, which I completely LIVE FOR! But the dud of the bunch is definitely “You & Me”, a dated EDM number that sounds like some cheap-as-hell US number that has some pretty banal songwriting (eeeehhkkkk, no tea no shade but… all tea, all shade Ms. Thang). I’m always sucked into the vortex of Ayu-chan’s stunning rave-induced tracks, and nearly 80% of the time are F-ing BANGERS, but the latter track is just cheap and boring.
Elsewhere, Love Again is riddled with uninspired fillers. The romantic ballad “Petal” takes ode of her Love Songs record with no improvement or thrills, whereas “Untitled for Her… story 2” may be quite sentimental, but Ayu’s voice doesn’t flow as well as the original prequel did. At the start of the classic Disney-esque tune “Gloria”, it seems like a well-executed inspiration from the Love Songs record, but is completely ruined by the rock-breakdown during the chorus, and “Ivy” is completely skippable… dot com. For a first, there is a strip in interludes, narrowing them down to only two entries; a dubstep-inspired “Task’n’Bass”, and the rather tedious “Glasses”.
To say Love Again is probably her most cohesive release in years is acceptable, but it’s still at a generic Ayu-chan standard with no spark or improvement—though I would prefer this over Love Songs. It has it’s catchy moments, and the songwriting and conceptual consistency stands out to be one of her bests. Nevertheless, Love Again is an alright record with both good and filling tunes.
Track list (bold means best tracks):
- Wake me up
- Song 4 u
- Bye-bye darling *Liam’s favourite*
- snowy kiss
- Sweet scar
- untitled for her… story 2
- You & Me