Ayumi Hamasaki: ‘Sixxxxxx’ – EP Review

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Released: August 5, 2015 (Avex Trax)

Clearly after the release of Ayu’s 2015 studio album A One, she sure had some unfinished business to attend to. And that business, predictably, resulted into her mini-album Sixxxxxx—a title that represents the fact it’s her sixth mini-album and that it features six songs—which, drum roll please… was released five months later. No tea or no shade y’all, but when I heard she was releasing this mini-album, I was just like “Really Ms. Thang? really? You gon’ be releasing this STRAIGHT after A One? Yup, okay then…”.

In all honesty, no other mini-album she has released has ever lived up to the expectations of 2003’s glorious Memorial Address, but with that said, givin’ the fact Sixxxxxx has six songs and half of the set are quite amazing, I would give it a second placement. “Step by Step”, the record’s only digital single, is quite fantastic; the chorus is strong, the instrumentation and arrangement is strong, and quite frankly, this is probably one of her most straight-forward J-Pop anthems that I can enjoy. But straight after this is the breezy summer anthem “Summer Diary”, which I completely live for. I mean, come’ on; the songwriting is beautiful, Ayu-chan’s singing sparkles, and the instrumentation, yet again, is just nice and straightforward. And that’s the aspect I LOVE about Ayu’s music; instead of the bulky key shifts and long-ass dramatic moments, she delivers something quite simple and pretty, and “Step by Step” and “Summer Diary” are pure examples of this technique.

But as a massive fan of EDM music, the SpeXial duet “Sayonara” completely smacked the living shit out of me… because I F-ing LIVED for this jam! Ayumi occasionally dives into the EDM wave here and there, and most of the time, they turn out to be quite good. Here, she allows the typical Western formula to marry both her and SpeXial’s vocals fluidly, and leave the heavy four-on-the-floor breakdowns do their own talking. Pure perfection in my eyes. Just a lil’ opinion too; Ms. Thang seriously needs to do a lot more dance jams, because tracks like these would make me listen to it over-and-over-and-over-and-over again until my ears ache (not really though, but close enough haha…).

…then we have the second half which sound like they were left on the cutting-room-floor of A One for a good reason. “Sorrows” sounds like a less inspired rip-off version of her track “Last Minute” from the album, and those damn key shifts from the verse-to-the-chorus bloody grind my gears (no tea no shade, but yeah I’ve heard this all before…). “Shape of You” is a little more better as a featurette to Sixxxxx, but again, it sounds like something from A One; nothing inspiring nor groundbreaking from an artist like Ayu-chan. The EP’s closing number, “Sky High”, is, yet again, a lot better than the two previous tracks. It follows the generic J-pop sound that kinda reminds me of Ms. Thang’s 2006 single “Blue Bird”—which is a really good song—but again, those damn key shifts from the verse-to-the-chorus bloody get me. Yes, I know, it builds temptation, but for me the verses sound so convincing as a nice, well-rounded song until it reaches the chorus. But I will give her props for being a lil’ more uplifting with the production of the track, considering a lot of these type of sounds convey a real sombre or monotone vibe about them, so, good job Ayu-chan, good job!

Once again, Ayu-chan falls into her recycled pattern of pushing her J-pop sound into another release that shows very little versatility and push. And, for an artist of her status, it’s not good. But having said this, Sixxxxxx has a pretty good selection of songs. It’s a lot more compacted in size, and the production of the tracks (particularly the first three) show that Ayu still has spark in those fingers to pull of a rather emotional hit. Whether it’s a dance track or slow-mo number, Sixxxxxx showcases a few different sides of Ayu, which is exciting.


Track list (bold means best tracks):

  1. Step by Step
  2. Summer Diary
  3. Sayonara (feat. SpeXial) *Liam’s favourite*
  4. Sorrow
  5. Shape of You
  6. Sky High

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