Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Ayumi Hamasaki – Brillante

Six-minute J-pop epic, anyone? Evidently, yes!

Iain Mew: Sound-wise, this makes just about everything else sounds small and uneventful by comparison. Ayumi takes her slightly thin voice and rallies an expanse of huge ones behind her, building in confidence and poise as the song goes on. It doesn’t settle for mere grandness though, the arrangement twisting and turning in increasingly elaborate flashes of bravado. The goosebumps really set in as the choir builds to a climax and the filtered strings begin to stutter and falter, bringing the whole glorious procession suddenly coming crashing down into a ringtone. A beautifully strange ending.

Anthony Easton: Like the Ingres painting, but with more complicated racial and sexual politics — can something be orientalizing when it is done by the Japanese, using the lens of western culture, to discuss Arabic culture, that might have never existed in the first place? Also, hot.

Edward Okulicz: Epic in scale — six minutes long — and as ambitious as a track from such a huge mainstream star could reasonably want to be, “Brillante” reminds us that Asian pop can take influences from East and West alike and make it work. The chorus here is spellbinding; the otherworldly romanticism could have been an overreach, but Ayumi Hamasaki’s voice is human enough to ground the emotion in something you can feel and relate to.

Jonathan Bogart: It’s hard for me to conjure much interest in pomp for pomp’s sake — I need something that will undercut, roughen, or somehow rub up against the pomp to give it some context: bigness without a frame of reference is the same size as everything else. Now, I’m sure if I was versed in Ayumi’s ten-year career I’d have that context (a Watch the Throne-type imperial statement, perhaps?), but as it is I can’t do more than nod distantly, the crude American distrust of foreign potentates preventing me from the kind of obeisance required.

Jake Cleland: Holy shit, what have I just experienced? One moment I was on my bed, my grossly hairy man legs splayed carelessly on the filthy sheets, then the next thing I knew the sky opened up and a masked princess showed me the possibilities of the divine universe I’d been distracting myself from with gadgets and pornography. Why did it end so soon? Is that the fate of all such things, the radiance of their glamor so intense that anything short of an eternity seems wickedly brief? Could we trade Lady Gaga for her?

Alfred Soto: I love pomp in any circumstance, but this sounds too much like the opening credits of Mulan 2.

Katherine St Asaph: This is a Sarah Brightman song. Not literally — although Brightman’s big enough in Japan that she may well be a cited-or-not influence — but in spirit. It begins with drift, adds a chant line (the motif of choice for Brightman compatriate Frank Peterson) and a faraway drum loop, then wisps forward like Brightman’s take on Cancao do Mar (don’t make me name other referents.) Ayumi’s vocals are as crystalline as she can manage among the huddled, fleeing strings and oboe melancholia; only the staccato speed-speed-speedspeedspeedup at the end marks this as pop. I will completely understand if you find this overblown and ridiculous; in turn, you’ll have to understand how indelible an imprint sounds like this have made on me.

5 Responses to “Ayumi Hamasaki – Brillante”

  1. If I’d only blurbed this in time, I’d have given it a score of some kind.

  2. Further proof, if any more was needed, that the Western World today just cannot compare in terms of musical creativity and diversity, or lyrics so honest and heartfelt. Compare the music of the most mainstream artists in the West to Ayumi Hamasaki, one of the most mainstream artists in Asia, and see how many different genres she’s tackled over the years, how many times she’s still had the power to surprise and catch us unawares, and more importantly to think and be moved and suddenly feel memories and emotions we never knew we had, through her music and lyrics.

  3. Was that a eugoogly?

  4. Arabic x Western x Japanese x LGBT culture rolled into one chic, compact person. Has this ever happened Stateside? Lady Gaga, notwithstanding.

  5. Depends on your definition of Gwen Stefani, perhaps.