Memorial address – Ayumi Hamasaki (浜崎あゆみ) (2003)

Memorial address is a 8-track mini-album by the Queen of J-Pop, Ayumi Hamasaki (浜崎あゆみ). The mini-album was released on December 17, 2003 on Avex Trax and saw Ms Hamasaki as the sole writer of all lyrics. The record went on to sell 524,028 copies in its first week and more than 1 million in total, which catapulted Memorial address to #1 in the Oricon Album Charts and made it the highest selling mini-album by a female artist in Japan. Three singles were released prior to the mini-album’s release: “& (ourselves)”, “forgiveness”, and “No Way to Say”.

The mini-album

ANGEL’S SONG kicks off the album in the way of a typical fast-paced J-Pop anthem. Breakbeats, spherical synthesisers, and ‘angelic’ choirs make the song a great intro for the record. The lyrics try to provide comfort with lines such as “Feeling weak and heartbroken, uneasy and lonely I wanted some warmth in a faded voice. But then you appeared suddenly as a ray of light in my darkness.” – find all translations here – Definitely a good song to start with.

Greatful days is an uplifting pop song with a disco-beat and catchy sing-along chorus. The breakbeats during the verse are typical of those days – but I surely don’t mind them. Ayu’s lyrics, such as “The sun is shining bright and the waves are rolling on the shore” can be considered cheesy and rather cliché but somehow fit the feel of the song. Not a remarkable song, but a good bridge to the next one.

Because of you is a song, which I boldly put in the pop-metal genre. Why, you ask? This ballad carries a very dark and melancholic feel and is characterised by distorted guitars, heavy drums, and Ayu’s more theatrical belting voice. BONCEBACK did a great job here with the music which fits perfectly with the lyrics that tell a heartbroken love-story. My favourite track so far on the record.

ourselves is a more laid-back R&B/pop song characterised by what could be considered an oriental-style violin riff, which is also underlined by tablas on certain passages. The lyrics and the harmonies of the song are as with the previous song, Because of you, rather melodramatic, which is a good bridge to the next. A very good song.

HANABI ~episode II~ is a hidden jewel in Ayu’s catalogue – at least for me. The half-ballad creates a very strong atmosphere of melodramatic heartbreak and tears with its choirs during the chorus. Au and D.A.I. definitely outdid themselves with the music to this song. I have to admit that I do not really understand the lyrics. Ayu sings about looking ahead but not refraining from looking back. Nevertheless, in the end, she quietly locks the memories away, leaving them to be beautiful. And, as one might expect given the name of the song – hanabi means fireworks in Japanese–, she sings, “Go up into the sky and be scattered beautifully like a firework.” Wonderful song all-around.

No Way To Say is a good pop half-ballad closer to the style of Because of you. Again, more dramatic than uplifting with a heavier and darker feel in the lyrics and music. Not necessarily a remarkable song, but also no placeholder. Can’t be that bad thought, because the single to this song went on to sell 371,200 copies and peaked at #1 in the Oricon Weekly Single Charts.

forgiveness keeps the dramatic flame of the mini-album alive with a slow beat, heartbreaking string arrangements, and a simple but effective piano accompaniment. The lyrics explain why a given fight happened and why the narrator seeks forgiveness. A refreshing different song that matches the context of the record nonetheless.

Last but not least, the title track of the mini-album, Memorial address. The CD in my possession says that this track is a bonus track. Whatever that means. In my opinion, this is one of the best songs in Ayu’s catalogue, by far! The song starts with solely voice and piano until at 1:32 a full band enters the musical picture. Now, an excellent balladesque rock-song thrashes through the listener’s headphones carrying Ayu’s dramatic lyrics about eternal parting. The laid-back but brachial drum beat and the metal guitars give the necessary spice to the song, and the punchy and loud bass guitar holds the entire song together like no other song on the record. What more can I write? Simply, wow!

IMHO

I have been following Ayumi Hamasaki for many years now and own a lot of her releases. Nevertheless, Memorial address is the most complete record in her catalogue. Maybe it’s because it encompasses solely eight songs and none of them are placeholders. It definitely also has to do with the fact that the album follows a certain musical as well as production concept, and since Ayu wrote all the lyrics herself, the lyrics, except for Greatful days come as an entity and are of higher quality as compared to other J-Pop artists.

If you have never heard of Ayumi Hamasaki I can recommend to start with this mini-album. It shows a wide range of Ayu’s talent and still keeps her music true to her style.

Album grade:
Lyrics 8/10
Musicianship 8/10
Production 9/10
Concept 8/10
Total grade 8.25/10

Sebastiano Mereu

YouTuber + host of the #FHTZ online music show with co-producer @simonkurt + marketing & digital content producer + university lecturer