"In the beginning, I was searching for myself in my music. My music was for me. I didn't have the mental room to be conscious of the listener; I wrote to save myself.”
Ayumi Hamasaki (often stylized as 'ayumi hamasaki', Japanese: 浜崎あゆみ), often known as Ayu, is a Japanese singer-songwriter who has been dubbed the Empress of Pop because of her popularity and widespread influence in Japan and throughout Eastern Asia. She is known for her tight control over her artistry and ever-evolving appearance in addition to the numerous domestic records she holds. She is the best selling female and solo act in the history of Japanese music, and has earned the most #1 singles both consecutively and overall.
Nothing from Nothing (1995; pre-Avex album)
A Song for XX (1999)
I am… (2002)
Memorial address (2003; mini-album)
MY STORY (2004)
NEXT LEVEL (2009)
Rock’n’Roll Circus (2010)
Love songs (2010)
FIVE (2011; mini-album)
Party Queen (2012)
LOVE (2012; mini-album)
again (2012; mini-album)
LOVE again (2013; contains the songs from LOVE and again, plus new material)
All Just a Dream: “Sweet Season”, subverted in “ourselves” in that we think it’s all a dream, but then—#*@&!!
Audience Participation Song: Many songs have "Para Para" dances, which are taught beforehand. These would be "Trauma", "independent", "MY ALL", "RED LINE -For TA-" and "Sweet Season". To a lesser extent, songs like "UNITE!" and "AUDIENCE" count. The audience is also expected to respond during the very 'call & response' songs, "evolution" and "Boys & Girls".
Barbie Doll Anatomy: Seen quite understandably in the music video for "alterna" - which features Hamasaki being turned into a robotic singing machine with this kind of anatomy.
Bilingual Bonus: English can be found in quite a few of her songs. Various signs and posters in her music videos as well come in different languages: English in "Endless Sorrow" & "Startin'", French in "Together When...", Thai in "talkin' 2 myself", etc.
Body Horror: Hamasaki finds a doppelganger of herself in the music video for "Ladies Night". The horror part? When said doppelganger turns around to face the camera, she's entirely faceless.
Conspicuous CG: Not too surprising, but this is found in a fair number of her music videos. "forgiveness" is probably the biggest offender, however.
Costume Porn: She's had a number of lavish, intricately designed concert costumes over the years.
Cover Version: Has covered a number of old songs: TRF's Happening Here, TM NETWORK's SEVEN DAYS WAR, Matsutoya Yumi's sotsugyou shashin - not including the times she's performed live covers as well.
Darker and Edgier: While Hamasaki is known for going head-on with dark themes in her work, one example is particularly notable: following her 2006 album "Secret", which featured plenty of uplifting, happy tracks such as "BLUE BIRD", "Born To Be...", "Startin'", "Beautiful Fighters", etc., came her 2007 album, "GUILTY", which was largely inspired by the suicide of a close friend and featured a total of two uplifting tracks.
In "GREEN", a song that seems to be about homosexuality (though one can never be too sure, with Hamasaki's artistically ambiguous lyrics), the video features a story of unrequited love between Hamasaki and her female dancer Midori.
If one interprets the "BALLAD" performance from Arena Tour 2010—a Romeo & Juliet-esque theatrical performance—in a certain way, it could easily be implied that Midori's place in the Love Dodecahedron is the one in love with Hamasaki.
Gratuitous English: Pops up occasionally, such as the chorus of "Real me". Other than that, she is a fairly decent English speaker, as can be seen in this interview.
And that was in 2006. Recently she's spent a lot of time in both America and the UK, met up with fans and communicated in reportedly decent-to-good english, and has even been tweeting overseas fans in English as much as possible.
Grief Song: "untitled ~for her~" was written to a close friend of Hamasaki’s who died in 2007. The upcoming album that year, GUILTY, was dedicated to her. "Memorial address" was, as rumor has it, written for her father who left when Hamasaki was around three years of age.
Then comes 2013 and "untitled for her... story 2"
Handicapped Badass: She's completely deaf in one ear. She was warned not to continue singing and touring. She's now been touring for 15 years straight; I think she's got the badass part down.
Hidden Track: "kanariya" comes after "Who...", "Memorial address" after "part of Me", and "flower garden" after "Endless Sorrow ~gone with the wind version~"
Hitler Cam: We get this shot in her music video for “Ladies Night” features her dressed as a dictator or military leader, addressing a crowd of clones.
Humans Are Flawed: A key theme in many of her songs—especially important to her is the acknowledgment and reminder that she herself is flawed, something she readily accepts and that her fans sometimes don't.
Hymn to Music: "Microphone", which is apparently written to music itself.
Meeting you was fate Because you're always The one who teaches me what it means to be me Who gives meaning to my existence
Jump Scare: The ending of the "ourselves" PV, and the ending of the "ladies night" PV.
Let's Duet: She and Urata Naota on the song "Dream ON", along with all her duets on her show Ayuready?.
Laughing Mad: Played with. In her cute, upbeat, party-anthem track "Party Queen"—which upon further analysis (and thanks to Hamasaki confirming it herself), is actually a deconstruction of the party girl image and emphasizes the loneliness and sadness inherent to being a 'Party Queen'. At the end of the song, even after the music stops playing, laughter can be heard that a few fans have claimed sounds oddly deranged—which really drives the whole point of the song home.
Leitmotif: "Happening Here" acted as one during HOTEL Love songs.
Lighterand Softer: After the emotional gut-punch that was GUILTY, 2009 saw the release of "NEXT LEVEL", which was significantly brighter.
"A Song for XX “030213 Session #II”", "Ladies Night ~another night~", the ballad intro to "evolution", "Endless sorrow ~gone with the wind ver.~" and her multitude of acoustic and orchestral rearrangements.
The 10th Anniversary Versions of "Depend on you", "LOVE ~Destiny~", "Who...", "TO BE", and "YOU".
Many of HAL’s versions of her songs can be considered rearrangements instead of remixes.
"Sunrise" and "Sunset ~LOVE is ALL~".
Shout-Out: One to Lupin III in Countdown Live 2007-2008.
Talking to the Dead: A few of her songs could be interpreted as this, as they're usually written—not just about—but to a deceased person important to Hamasaki.
Talky Bookends: Her “Startin’” video begins and ends with two friends continuing a conversation. This is played for humor, as the video is a parody of multiple pop music influences and artists.
The Oner: The music videos for “HEAVEN”, “Curtain call”, and “Daybreak”.
Translated Cover Version: She used compositions and some arrangements from Sweetbox for "Ladies Night", "Bold & Delicious", "Pride", "rainy day"/"Every Step", "Beautiful Day"/"Beautiful Girl", and "In the Corner". While Hamasaki’s lyrics aren’t exact translations, some of the songs deal with similar themes as the English versions.
Unpleasable Fanbase: Everything she does is scrutinized and criticized heavily, mostly by her online fanbase. This isn't entirely unsurprising; she was heralded as one of Japan's absolute icons for an era, and while she's still active in the music scene, fans who were around for that era can't help but compare everything she does now to then. Nothing will satisfy them unless it has "2001" slapped on it somewhere.