Big summer for Japan’s pop princesses: Ayu, Hikki, Namie

After a string of lackluster releases in the Spring and an absence of releases from some of my favorite artists, the summer is finally lookin’ up thanks to Japan‘s pop princesses (and yes, I am leaving out Koda Kumi and Ai Otsuka on purpose)…

It’s extremely uncommon for Ayumi Hamasaki to go on unofficial “hiatus,” and by that I mean, of course, release anything more than three or four months apart. For the past eight years of her career, Hamasaki has exclusively released tracks within months of each other, either through the medium of singles, remix albums, compilations, or albums. However, following the release of February’s A BEST 2, Hamasaki has ceased to release any new material, instead, spending her time touring outside of Japan in Asia for the first time. As her rigorous concert schedule has taken up most of her time this Spring, fans back home were left pining for new material. Fortunately, it has recently been announced that Hamasaki will release her obligatory summer single on July 18. Although the tracklist is still unconfirmed, it will contain at least two new songs, “glitter” and “fated,” both used in conjuncture with advertising conglomerates (a commercial tie-in for “glitter,” while “fated” will be used in the trailers and as the theme of upcoming movie Ghost Story – I don’t know much about the movie, but you can always check out the official site).

Already fans are speculating about the mood of the songs, as Hamasaki is known for her upbeat and almost nauseatingly summery releases, complete with promotional videos shot teeming with beach scenes and panoramic views of oceans. However, judging by the preview of “fated,” fans should rest assured about at least one half of the single, a slower number outside of “july 1st” or “BLUE BIRD” sentiment.

Kiss & Cry

Hikaru Utada is also slated to officially release a new single in July, however, the single was already up for grabs at Japan’s iTunes on May 31 and has subsequently made its rounds on the Internet. This song is notable for having an opening big-band orchestra feel with heavy drum beats…and most surprisingly, segueways into the melody of “Hotel Lobby,” a song already featured on Utada’s 2004 American crossover album EXODUS.

As per her last few lyrics, the song deals with themes like love that are universal despite a person’s background (“Delinquents, model students, teachers / are all the same when they fall in love“) and also, in vain of “Keep Tryin’,” comments, tongue-in-cheek, on the present face of society (“Dad’s layoff, brother’s internet, mom’s on a diet, diet, diet“). The official single will also contain a second song that fans will have to wait to hear.

Hide & Seek

And finally, in order to finish our big J-pop princess releases, I can’t fail to mention Namie Amuro’s new album, PLAY, set to be released at the end of June. Amuro’s last album, Queen of Hip-Pop made a big splash as the follow up to 2003’s STYLE, and contributed to the changing style of Amuro’s music which now centers around, what else? American-style hip hop, complete with imitations of Lil’ John’s “YEAH!” Since the album, Amuro has released a string of successful singles like “White Light,” “CAN’T SLEEP, CAN’T EAT, I’M SICK,” and most recently “FUNKY TOWN,” all which are confirmed to be present on the album alongside several new tracks. One new song, “Hide & Seek,” has already been released for radio-play and promotion. The song is another hip hop melody with plenty of synth streaks to round out the less than organic sound best played with high bass. Upbeat and with liberal use of Engrish, the song is bound to please fans of Queen of Hip-Pop.


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