Ayumi Hamasaki / BLUE BIRD / June 21, 2006
BLUE BIRD / 02. Beautiful Fighters / 03. Ladies Night ~another night~
The last single Hamasaki released was the catchy “Startin'” in March, but the remaining 2 original compositions left nothing but disappointment. However, I wasn’t too bummed out about it; Hamasaki has consistently released singles since her debut poker face, and most importantly, has always released extraordinary summer singles that epitomize, if not define, the carefree, fresh, exuberant feeling of summer. In 1999, it was the dance-pop Boys & Girls, in 2000, she took us on a nostalgia trip with SEASONS, in 2001, she gave us the car jam UNITE!, in 2002, she hit us with a triple threat; independent, july 1st, and HANABI, which plopped us on the beach, threw a loud party, and just like summer, made us cry when it was over before we were ready to let go. In 2003, she hit us with another trifecta, ourselves, a seedy pop song that bordered on psychotic, Greatful days, which stroked our inner Morning Musume, and finally, the rock answer to all of our summer angst, HANABI ~episode II~. In 2004, she took us on a mideastern adventure with INSPIRE and rock-popped us out in tight leather with GAME, and last but not least, in 2005, she flew us all on a plane to Hawaii with fairyland, where we danced in sync, laughed, and accidentally set our wooden shack on fire. The video also got ranked as one of the most expensive ever made, information which she simply ignored and penned alterna, a hauntingly rockish tale of the evils of corporate recording companies…again.
Now it’s 2006 and Hamasaki has continued her two year running streak of three song singles with the release of BLUE BIRD (with no less than three cover variants to collect). Though it’s rather early for her summer singles (most of her summer hits are released in July, the midst of the summer steam), it just goes to show Hamasaki is grabbing the reins and commanding you have a delightful summer…or else. Nothing proves this better than the accompanying PV, where there is so much white sand, dancing, laughing, friendship bonding and yachting, you’re almost disgusted: no matter how great your summer is, you will never have that much fun, you will never laugh that hard, and you will never afford that yacht ride, god damnit. The song only promotes the joyful atmosphere, drawing influence from the catchy dance of “Boys & Girls” and the carefree synth of “fairyland.” The sounds are soft, the beats are light, and the la la’s run aplenty; perfect for inviting the crowd to sing along when performed live.
The second song, “Beautiful Fighters,” oscillates from catchy to confusing. The whistle and marching band stomps à la B-A-N-A-N-A-S have boarded the boat (or yacht) a bit too late but are begrudgingly welcomed. The distinguishing characteristics from “BLUE BIRD” are few, but following the abounding merrymaking in “BLUE BIRD,” one is apt to forgive.
The final “new” song, is a visit to the power pop “Ladies Night,” an original Sweetbox composition that was confused with “Fly high” on first listen, but surprised us when the unusual English phrases were shouted from left ear to right and traveled straight to our hearts. But however much the song was alright, there was always something missing, something that we didn’t like; it resembled the original a bit too much and seemed more copy-cat than colorful. “Ladies Night ~another night~” picks up the fallen pieces and shows us the way it should have been, the way the producer who stayed late one night fiddling around with the song and got it just right before being regretfully informed that the song had already been released to the public carrying the Hamasaki name. Instead of pop, we have an upbeat rockish song that replaces the empowering English commands with electric guitar riffs worthy of any infectious dance-rock from the much hated Panic! At the Disco to the, um, much hated Fall Out Boy.
The fourth song is sort of a bonus track; a dance remix of “BLUE BIRD.” It’s unnecessarily long, and not nearly as good as the original composition, but it’s a freebie I’ll accept.
If you don’t want to get hurt this summer, stay away from this single. Hamasaki delivers punch after punch of catchy pop melodies on her 40th single suited for any summer mix tape that is softened only by that beguiling, innocent smile on her impervious face.