Ayumi Hamasaki last year had a quiet year – just the one mini album! However, has the Queen of J-Pop spread herself too thin again?
“Progress” opens with a sweet piano intro which slowly builds upon the vocals with strings before the track explodes into a dramatic stadium rock track. The transitions are great as it really takes the title of the track and squeezes lots of progressive transitions into five minutes. It’s a catchy melody too!
“ANother Song feat Urata Naoya” see’s Ayu turn to R’n’B beats and smooth vocals and Urata’s vocal’s suit Ayu’s and they mingle around each other’s range very well. It’s a light and breezy track and is very pretty to the ear. “Why… feat Juno” again see’s Ayu collaborating with another grande pop rock track. It sounds like a lost track from My Story with its huge drums and power chords.
“Beloved” to me sounds suspiciously Christmas tinged and has all the hallmarks of an Ayu power ballad but as it fails to stand out from many of her others, I was left a bit indifferent to it. I will say the bonus track which showcases the Orchestral version is ten times better. The closing track of the mini album is “Brillante” which is massively epic with some excellent string work, epic male choirs and catchy melodies. It’s unique to her current collection and shows there’s still plenty of exploration for her to yield yet.
Five is a mini album of varying fortunes. It’s great to see Ayumi duetting with other artists as they add flair and new paths to her work. When she returns to what she does best though, things sound tired and resown. If anything, it shows how on autopilot, Hamasaki can still make mean pop songs but what this needs to now do is give us something new for the new album that came out this month.