A ONE by Ayumi Hamasaki -album review-

This is first Ayu album since ages that I've been anticipating like crazy. Each preview sounded so unbelievably good and the songs that we already knew from single Zutto... / Last Minute / Walk were beyond anything I could wish for. It's dominated by ballads which is also a surprise but there's no such thing as too many ballads when it comes to Ayu. I can't even express how much I appreciate this album.

a Bell The only interlude on the album, not what I was expecting knowing how fast the actual first song of this album is. A Bell is soothing and delicate, very beautiful indeed, it's an interesting contrast to Warning and having them one after another is an interesting twist. 9/10

WARNING And so the album opens with the Fast & Furious of Ayu songs that seems to be directed at the constantly complaining fans (hello AHS). It's not the first time Ayu tells us she doesn't care about what others think or that she wants to stay true to herself, try new things or keep the old ones and won't change to suit someones expectations, however, this time she does it with guts. The song is fast, loud, bold and rockish. 10/10

Just to add fuel to the fire she shot a PV that combines the ideas from Because of You, BRILLANTE and Lady Dynamite and mixes all the controversial topics and aspects that the fans tend to criticize like no deep plot, involving dancers (big no-no among AHS members) or poor acting with far too obvious lip-synch. I'm still awed there's no Timmy in this video, that would complete the 'DON'T' list. The song received lots of positive opinions, the video was obviously called boring. I don't mind, it's definitely less interesting than the epic Because of You or the fresh BRILLANTE but I'd say it's pretty much on the same level as Lady Dynamite. Since LOVEagain PVs I have little hopes for great videos like Alterna or Marionette so as long as Ayu looks nice it's enough. Maybe she'll surprise me once again in the future. Anyway, the song is awesome.

"I can count on you never being satisfied"
"I’m not anyone’s outlet for complaints"
"Telling me to follow expectations, asking for too much"
"I’m not scared of losing what I had anymore"

NO FUTURE The most frustrating thing at first was that whenever I heard this song and Out of Control I couldn't remember which was which, they mixed in my mind although they don't have much in common, maybe it reminds me of all the songs that were created and abandonned like Call or Letter, though melody-wise it reminds of November and maybe Bye-Bye Darling. I just hope it won't share the same fate. The song itself has a familiar tune as if it was created during LOVEppears era. I absolutely love the chorus in this song. At first I thought it's going to sound more or less the same from beginning to end and so I didn't expect it to last more than three minutes, therefore I'm even more glad there's a twist in melody near the end (not sure I like it completely as it is but the idea is cool, it may get crazy live) and some great guitars along the way. When you think it's over there's the additional, final line, pretty unexpected. 9.5/10

Anything for You The most secretive song, now I can't believe she was hiding it for so long. At first, the lack of preview made me think it's an interlude. When it started I thought it will be the weakest song on the album but then I started to like it around 1:30 and by 2:30 I was already sobbing tears of joy, the only drawback of this song is partially chipmunk vocal (or is it just me?). I like how I'm expecting a burst of music at some point but it actually slows down and there's a bunch of background vocals going on. In the middle of the fifth minute the tonation seems to get a bit too high for my liking, I guess I prefer how it is sang in the beginning. Anything for You is seven minutes long but you don't feel it, it doesn't get boring, you just fly with it enjoying each second of it. 10/10

Last minute There are songs you feel indifferent about until you see a PV, this time I'm glad the PV came much later. Although I like the simplicity of this video, it kind of contradicts the emotions of the song which is rich and full while the video is simple and the empty space somehow feels like the opposite of what the song indicates. I'm not sure how I'd react to the song if I saw it with PV first. I like Last Minute live more, the music is a bit muffled when chorus starts but it creates an awesome effect. Ayu is precious when creating mid-tempo ballads like this one. It took me a long time to decide whether I like Last minute or Walk more. 10/10

Zutto... I wasn't feeling this song at first, I found it classy and elegant and pretty but not engrossing, I think being able to experience it live at CDL concert in Yoyogi Gymnasium changed my mind. It's very sweet and peaceful although the lyrics are confusing, it's hard to decide if this song is happy or sad. 9.5/10

Out of control I really love how it starts as a slow ballad and gradually builds up toward the chorus which is mild but strong. This song also reminds me of Call or Letter, I guess they share the same tempo, maybe. I hope it will be peformed live in concerts. I love how the already perfect chorus gets intensified in the second half of the song and then suddenly the music almost disappears and starts building up again. I think it has similar intensity as Walk, the melody itself seems to tell a story with its ups and downs, truly wonderful, made me want to turn the volume up even though it was already high after previous songs. 10/10

Story After hearing the preview I already found it better than The GIFT but I wanted to wait for the full version before making a judgement. It's definitely slower and calmer than most ballad on this album but not as slow and calm as The GIFT itself. I actually like how all the ballads are kind of similar and yet completely different. Story has pretty sedate tempo therefore it surprised me with sudden electric guitars in the bridge and bells near the end. 9.5/10

The GIFT Very classy ballad, reminds me a bit of Beloved or Secret, it's not engrossing but you can definitely appreciate the melody and arrangement, it's the kind of song I'm glad I was able to listen to, yet I don't necessary do it often. It's not as good as Zutto... / Last Minute / Walk single but more polished in several ways. The PV is also pretty flawless and nice to watch. 8/10

The Show Must Go On Many people got enthusiastic with Warning preview but to me The Show Must Go On was the most amazing preview from the new material. It stroke me right away that it shares melody line with Snowy Kiss but despite being similar it was unique in its own way. I think this song was quite risky as it uses the famous line The show must go on known from Queen and is followed by high pitched yeah, yeah which could either result in sounding brilliant or silly. I'm absolutely in love with it but I love the repetition of The show must go on in the background of many verses even more. As I'm writing this I just got to the bridge for the very first time and my jaw just dropped several floors. It's the same song but the arrangement changes for the bridge, it's absolutely mindblowing. It ends with an echo, absolutely amazing, somebody, please take a spoon and scoop me off the floor. I'm already eager to see it live. ♥♥♥ 10/10

Walk It's a bit weird to go back to something so familiar after all the new songs. Usually when new album comes out I tend to leave behind older songs no matter how great they are simply because I heard it many times already and somehow find an engrossing one from the new material. This time though, I feel that Walk is so special: melody, arrangement and lyrics wise, that it is definitely my highlight of this album and favourite song. I'm also happy it's closing the album. The last sentence is promising and honest, and even though we heard it a lot in Ayu's lyrics it doesn't get old. It's weird though that no uplifting song or typical ending song (like e.g. Winding Road or Red Line) has been added at the end but I don't mind. I love how this album starts with Warning which is all about Ayu doing whatever she wants and ends with Walk where she states that she's proud of the choices she made. ♥♥♥ 10/10

Moving on without you. An unexpected last minute addition. I've known Utada Hikaru for quite a long time (since she was still active) and I like many songs of hers but this was the one I felt indifferent about. It has a typical 90's tune and is a bit chaotic, the arrangement wasn't really for me, kind of meh even. I may have liked it if Utada refreshed it a bit but we all know she didn't. I was actually slightly pissed when all the performers for Utada tribute album were announced because I liked most of the songs that were chosen but in my opinion back then Ayu got the least interesting song, I wanted her to perform Final Distance or Be my last, maybe Keep Tryin'. However, I never imagined Ayu could remake a song like this, it sounds fresh and I can actually listen to this version and have fun (it was great live and during the DJ Tora mix). It's probably the only song on the tribute album that I like. 8/10

Tell All (2015 Mix) The beginning is very serene, the first part of the song was actually turned into a ballad and first chorus worked really nice but then the rest sounds to me like the original song, though I do not remember it that much to tell there was a difference withough re-listening to it. It's a good song and while other songs are kind of retro and similar to Ayu songs in the past, this one has the most contemporary feeling, I'd almost say it doesn't fit this album but it actually sounds fresh after all the 90's and 00's kind of songs. 9.5/10

Album rate: 9.4/10