Shells: Ayumi Hamasaki “LOVE” mini-album review

Came out November 8, 2012

This is the first of five consecutive releases to celebrate Ayu’s 15th anniversary. Who’s excited? I have to say though, this mini-album is her tiniest yet.

While fans will be delighted with these typically Ayu-ish tracks, I’m sure there will be many people who call this mini ‘boring’ or ‘nothing new’. I, on the other hand, don’t quite agree with everyone saying, “The old Ayu is back!” Trust me, while Ayu’s charm is still there, her sound is much more mature and pleasant compared to her wail in Party Queen and squeaky tone in her earlier works. While I agree that none of these tracks are mind-blowing, I’m glad that Ayu is returning with her charm turned on full blast because I nearly felt like the charm got lost in Party Queen. Her lyrics are beautiful and insightful as usual and I highly recommend that people read them before listening to the music. After reading them, I always appreciate the music much more. You don’t get that with many artists nowadays. Now on to the tracks themselves:

Song 4 u: The piano accompaniment in the opening gives a light feeling that quickly turns dramatic with a heavy chord. However, the sound immediately turns light and very minimalistic again with the first verse. I enjoy this version much better than the Xillia one because where this verse lacks action, it makes up for it in anticipation. The simplistic instrumentals with dark sounding vocals gives the song space to build up to the grandiose sound and epic strings of the final chorus. At first, I wasn’t sure if I liked how the chorus turned out but my doubts were erased when the chorus builds momentum once again to the ‘yea-i-a’ part. I have no other word to describe it other than epic.

Missing: I have no critique for this song because it does everything right. It has a catchy but not too mainstream melody and the instrumentals were light and heavy when they’re supposed to be. The verses build momentum very nicely to the high notes in the chorus. The chorus starts out high but soon takes a dive reflecting the sadness of the lyrics. However, low notes do not mean slowing down because I don’t think this song has a boring moment. The instrumentals are very nice and give a winter-y feel to the song, much like Ballad.

Melody: I have to comment on the beautiful piano melody in the beginning. I love it so much that I’m sort of disappointed that Ayu didn’t save it for another song. The chorus has an unusual melody that takes some time getting used to but I absolutely adore it because it prevents the song from transforming into a typical cheesy ballad that’s sweet but not catchy enough to remember. I love that Ayu can pull off unique songs like Mirrorcle World. True, this song still could have come out of any Japanese artist but I don’t think any of them can make it memorable as Ayu can. She makes her tracks shine with her charm. Her lovely vibrato at the end of each phrase makes my heart feel fuzzy inside. If you think the melody is repetitive, don’t give up. You must listen to the end because instead of a typical ending, Ayu goes up on the last word and it doesn’t even sound squeaky!

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