Monday, January 9, 2012

J-POP : Ayumi Hamasaki Top 10

In my first J-pop post, I covered Namie Amuro. In this post, I cover another huge, well-established J-pop singer but with a very different music style: Ayumi Hamasaki.

How I Discovered Her Music:
On Pandora when I first was getting into J-pop, she was one of the first artists I heard and liked. I was familiar with her name long before though.

Music Style:
Distinctively "J-pop" but not bubblegum pop. She often uses traditional instruments like acoustic drums, strings, piano, and electric guitar but with a pop sound. Her songs are often mixed 3/4 pop, 1/4 rock.

Additionally, she has a pretty good singing range with strong vocals and frequently uses vibrato when holding notes.

Interesting Trivia:
  • For her songs, she usually writes the lyrics and sometimes composes.
  • Her album "(Miss)understood" covers tracks from Sweetbox's songs.
  • She has become deaf in one ear.
  • Can be considered the "Madonna" of J-pop.
  • Her nickname is "Ayu".

DJ PJ's Ayumi Hamasaki Top 10 (2006-2011)

10. Sunrise (2010)

I like how the percussion starts off simple and then builds up to the chorus. The chorus melody is so theme song-ish. lol.

9. Step You (2006)
Ayumi often incorporates rock elements into her songs, and this is an example of it.

8. Lady Dynamite (2010)
With it's big beat like elements, this song totally can be OST music for a movie. I imagine the movie would be about a couple of guys trying to pull off a big heist. lol.

The video is like... a Japanese version of SF's Folsom Street Fair. heh.

7. Jewel (2006)
Aside from upbeat pop songs, Ayumi also does many good ballads so I threw one into my top 10. The background is simple but nice. I love the chorus melody; it gives me goosebumps.

6. Love 'n' Hate (2009)
As soon as I heard the first few seconds, I knew this was going to be an epic song. The string riff and heavy beats makes this an exciting song.

5. Is This Love? (2006)
A more rock-sounding song from Ayumi. Love the intro when the heavy electric guitar riff comes in. Also like the contrast of her soft voice coming in and the instrumental quieting down. Then it transitions back into an epic rock song.

4. Sparkle (2009)
Yowzers, she looks pretty hot in this video. =P Not so much the outfit but more the hair, makeup, expressions and poses. But anyways, about the song... lol. This song is a good change of pace and shows she can do electronic music too.

3. 1 Love (2006)
Another song with "love" in the title. lol. This is a rock track. The verses sound freaking bad ass with her vocals on top of the bass guitar. I also like the rhythm and progression of the chorus vocal melody.

2. Why... (2011)

There are two versions of this song, both are #2:

The "original" version. The style is more Ayumi-like.
Featuring K-pop artist Juno. I love when J-pop and K-pop artists collab!

The "remix" version. The style is more hip-hop.
Featuring Urata Naoya. I'm surprised the K-pop one wasn't the hip hop version.

1. Next Level (2009)

This song just makes me feel good. The chorus is so uplifting. Although I can't say for certain, the chorus seems like it has an Asian\pentatonic scale. I like how the verse and pre-chorus feels like one big transition for the chorus.

Lastly, this song reminds me of a certain someone, but I'll spare you the details. =)

Top 10 honorable mentions: "Fated" (2008), "My All" (2008), "Like a Doll" (2010).

I hope you see now why she's one of the top artists in Japan. Her style is a good mix of pop and rock. I'll end this post with a video of Ayumi that I like:

Asians don't have small eyes.


  1. Some great content here, I see, rather hear why she and the band so popular. The next level is definitely my favorite of them all.

    ... and apparently they actually still do stuff like music videos over there? So much cool stuff comes from Japan...

  2. thanks for checking out my list. i'm happy to introduce her music to one more person. (^_^)