Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

Ayumi Hamasaki – Mad World

We (don’t) find it kinda funny, we find it kinda… good!


Katherine St Asaph: Not a cover, to its improvement or detriment. The piano riff is an almost note-for-note recreation of… what? (Yeah, yeah, I’m the critic here, but it’s not “All My Life,” not “Around the World,” not anything I remember of Charlotte Martin or Tori Amos or Sarah McLachlan or Frank Wildhorn, so… what?) If I favor the clearly worse song of today, blame my craving for musical drama.

Will Adams: The opening piano line made me think some major cheese was approaching, but what followed was robust pop-rock with ornate accents. I’ve usually had reservations with Hamasaki’s voice — tightly coiled, with harsh appoggiaturas springing out — but “Mad World” begins to offer a setting where it could work well.

Iain Mew: A dramatic ballad complete with sad piano, a weeping guitar solo and Hamasaki sounding powerfully on edge, but played at twice the speed all of that suggests. A neat trick.

Alfred Soto: Hey — a power ballad! The piano tinkle and gargled vocal aren’t complements, but when the song proceeds down its familiar path the reassurance of convention takes over.

Mo Kim: Those chord progressions, stop-start percussive motifs, and twinkling keys are straight out of latter-day P!nk’s playbook: if P!nk swept these elements up in a narrative about endurance and perseverance, however, Hamasaki captures more of a questioning in her lyrics, a reckoning with both the beauty of the world and the violence that threatens it. It’s a compelling dimension to read into the same sound, and the songwriting and instrumentation (generous orchestral swoops meeting their match in harsher guitar distortion and heavy percussion) work wonderfully in tandem to bring these themes color. 

Leonel Manzanares de la Rosa: Other than the chord progression in the pre-chorus (Dm – C – A# – G) and that drumless final hook, this would be some average mid-tempo piano rock tune, but Ayumi’s nostalgic-but-no-less-dramatic performance is worth the price of admission. Also, those lyrics are darker than i thought; lines like “The god of fortune laughs/at our immense arrogance” would make my 13-year old metal fan wet his pants. 

Cassy Gress: Ayumi turned that sine-wave vibrato of hers into a quavering sob, and that somehow yanked all the heartstrings I thought I was immune to. The tremolo’d guitar solo lights up the song like sun breaking through clouds.

Ryo Miyauchi: “How am I supposed to keep going?” is a loaded thought to begin with, but Hamasaki expands the scale of the issue tenfold by literally asking the natural world — the trees and the winds — for how it copes. Her voice pours out emotion ’til she’s bled dry, with her over-enunciation still working as a barrier for me. And yet, she asks her question casually like a friend seeking another  for advice: “Hey, just let me know what would you do at a time like this?” Her emotive vocals read less as hopelessness than being exhausted from having to search for the answer on her own for now almost two decades.

Reader average: [8.5] (2 votes)

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