talkin’ 2 myself

by Rinoa on September 23, 2007 · 10 comments · AddThis

talkin' 2 myself photoshoot
Ayumi on SCawaii, October 2007 Issue
Artist: Ayumi Hamasaki
Product Code: AVCD-31332/3
Release Date: 2007.09.19
Debut Ranking: #1
Genre: Pop-rock
Label: avex trax

Summer seems to be definitely over, especially since many artists have started departing from bubblegum pop and moving towards ballads and melancholic moods. This fall has been highlighted by several enticing releases and one of the singles which has garnered a lot of attention was Hamasaki’s post-breakup single “talkin’ 2 myself”. Taking charge like a true trendsetter, Hamasaki takes over fall with powerful rock music signaling another direction in her musical career.

The announcement of this single was quite surprising, since it was announced quite soon after the release of “glitter/fated“. On the 3rd of August, Hamasaki posted in her Team Ayu blog that she had just finished recording her new single in Los Angeles. Furthermore she sported a new haircut in the photos posted on her blog. Ditching her long golden locks, Hamasaki would opt for a messy short hairstyle.

While promoting the single, Hamasaki wore casual clothes, moving towards a sexy yet more masculine style. While most of 2007 saw her wearing feminine gowns and decorative accessories, Ayumi would opt for shorts, vests, corsets and t-shirts. With her new powerful image, Hamasaki brought her fans two powerful songs to match this change. Many have speculated that this sudden change has a lot to do with her breakup. In a way some can interpret the lyrics to be reflecting on her past and the fact that something has been destroyed, to a certain extent.

The cover artwork has awed several fans for it’s boldness. Using the colours black and red, Ayumi opted to make a very bold statement. The red backdrop is plain but eye-catching, leading the viewer’s eyes on Hamasaki. And in a very clear way, her expression and body reflect the common saying “A picture is worth a hundred words“. One will easily pinpoint how she emanates a powerful aura of aggression and attitude, while commanding attention over herself.

Offshot
Ayu on FM Yokohama

Along with a new direction, this single was promoted in a different manner than how her singles are typically promoted. Hamasaki was scheduled a large variety of radio interviews and her promotional video was streamed on several websites. Barks would release the title song a month prior the release of the single. Also mu-mo would initiate an experimental promotional campaign coinciding with this single.

This single would once again debut at #1 and has managed to peak on the weekly charts. It also managed to peak on the USEN charts, giving it the highest play counts in Japanese radios. Despite the fact that the sales have decreased slightly from the previous single, “talkin’ 2 myself” has managed to peak in several chaku-uta charts, reflecting the fact that people are preferring online purchases over physical singles. Maybe this is an indication that avex needs to make Ayu’s singles more worthwhile to buy for her fans.

 

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1. talkin’ 2 myself

“talkin’ 2 myself” is definitely very different from whatever Hamasaki has ever released in her career, reminding us all why she is still the Queen of J-Pop and won’t give up her throne without a fight. This song brings around powerful rock and orchestra music in a rather refreshing hybrid. However one is able to notice the familiar guitar riffs and synths. The result is a very strong composition with a bitter mood and a haunting atmosphere.

The arrangement is extremely captivating and has managed to create an interesting contrast. In my opinion, the careful choice of musical instruments was central to create the conflicting emotions because the concept of this song is based on the balance between rock and orchestra. Throughout the entire song there is a building tension which seems to be constantly on the verge of overflowing. The song starts off with a haunting piano piece and strings and quickly moves to drums and guitars. As the song processes the instruments alternate between rock and strings until the chorus breaks in and both merge.

To accompany the tone of this song Hamasaki’s vocals are bitter and intense, molding themselves with the constantly changing tone of the background instruments, reflecting complex emotions. I must say that this probably was one of her most difficult songs to sing. The chorus is especially fast paced and the overpowering musical instruments proved yet another challenge. Along with her choreography, this song was hard to perform live, though Hamasaki’s performance of this song gradually improved.

The lyrics are yet another unique masterpiece. Penned by herself, Ayumi writes about facing reality, seeking answers and the struggle to move on after getting hurt. Hamasaki points out that if anyone is unfulfilled it is because they have brought it upon themselves and provides no excuses for the fact that people are carried away by the present technology and temptations and find themselves unable to decide for their own. I really enjoyed the lyrics because they reflected the intricacies of the concept seeking happiness and how many people look for it in the wrong places or getting stuck after facing an obstacle.

The promotional video was another work of Tetsuo Inoue. Personally I have rather mixed feelings towards this director since the only thing he seems to bring around is a lot of random imagery with no direction or aim. However he does tend to bring around impressive settings with creative imagery and underlying themes. This promotional video is no exception. The setting is very dark, desolate and suggests the aftermath of a war. I really enjoyed the aspect of a post-apocalyptic atmosphere, especially with the spotlights, the barbed wire and the fire burning out in the background.

Reflecting the surrounding environment Hamasaki’s appearance is quite different from her typical glamorous appearance. Hamasaki sports messy short hair, her body full of grime and an outfit which seems to have seen better days. Another important thing to note is that the outfit she wears has the army pattern designed to it, hinting the theme of war once again. Her backup dancers are also featured in this video and they also reflect the same style. This video displays another attempt at a video with choreography. In several scenes Hamasaki joins her backup dancers, which is always something interesting to see. However I was disappointed to see how limited her participation was.

The scene where the boys are playing soccer in the destroyed setting is quite symbolic. While all the destruction has taken place, life still seems to go on. The boys are testimony of this, with their innocence still intact and the way they still help each other. In the end Hamasaki leaves the scene, confident that even though destruction has taken place, hope still resides in these children and life will simply go on.

Rating: ★★★★★

 

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2. decision

It has been a while since I’ve truly enjoyed a B-side to the point to compare it with the title song. “decision” certainly does take that spot. To be entirely honest, I’m still not exactly sure which of the two I enjoy best, since both tracks have such a high quality. In any way, “decision” is yet another powerful rock track with orchestral influences. Yet this song manages to be more experimental than “talkin’ 2 myself” and provides something different despite having the same genre.

The best thing about this track is how it encapsules so much contrast within it, by alternating between strings and rock. Something which is fairly used by Hamasaki is the fact that they start off in one direction and end in a completely different one. “decision” starts with a melancholic piano piece which gives way to a rock interlude. This trend is consistent, where strings are inserted in the verses and rock are predominant in the choruses. Thus the mood of this song constantly switches from a mournful tone to an aggressive one, giving way to a bitter tone at the ending.

The promotional video reflects a pretty standard rock music video, which is reminiscent of “evolution“. The setting is in an empty arena where Hamasaki and her band perform in front of an empty arena. Despite the fact that there is only one scene available and will probably just sound like a polished concert performance, I still found this video to be quite appealing. The camera angles focus on Hamasaki and her band and manage to showcase their skills. It’s a bit on the simplistic side but it successfully managed to transmit the raw emotion of this song.

Rating: ★★★★★

 

3. fated “Orchestra Version”

It has been a long time since Hamasaki’s spectacular “Acoustic Orchestra” rearrangements. Unfortunately the “Orchestra Versions” are simply not up to par with the previous versions. While the new rendition of “fated” is a beautifully crafted ethereal rendition of the original version, I still can’t shake the feeling that this track is a rushed up cut-and-paste job. Hamasaki’s vocals seem to be too high and comes off as too strong in the chorus. I feel this would have come out much better if it was re-sung to fit the background instruments more since this song was originally sung for a mid-tempo ballad.

In any way, the strings and piano pieces are very pleasing to the ear and seem to provide an atmosphere which fits the lyrics much more. Many fans have pointed out how this version is much more better than the original version and I must say I agree. The elements seem to be more focused on the theme of the song, bringing out the tone with more clarity. I really enjoyed how the strings simply made this song flow to re-create this song as a slow ballad. I feel this track tied up this intense single quite well.

Rating: ★★★★☆

 

Conclusion

It is quite clear that this single was lacking in several aspects. It had a lower budget than her typical releases and less promotion. However this single has managed to be her best single in years, simply because the true essence of the single; the musical content is beyond excellent. The lyrics are superb and reflect Hamasaki’s poignant songwriter skills. The composition and arrangement of both songs are fresh and yet manage in retaining her trademark rock direction and Ayumi’s vocals retain their strength and charisma. Overall, I feel that these factors enough give a lot of quality to this single.

Personally I feel that this single has really shined in contrast to what J-Pop has produced this fall and I’m truly hoping this single will manage to attract much more attention, simply because the quality is quite impressive. In a way, this single might be more of an indication of the third chapter promised by Ayu, rather than “glitter/fated“. This direction sounds quite promising and appealing and hopefully this means that the following releases will have more focus on the musical aspect.

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

 

Regular CD Edition
CD Version
CD+DVD Edition
CD+DVD Version

CD Tracklist

  1. talkin’ 2 myself
  2. decision
  3. fated ‘Orchestra Version’
  4. talkin’ 2 myself -Instrumental-
  5. decision -Instrumental-

DVD Tracklist

  1. talkin’ 2 myself
  2. decision

Purchase this item: YesAsia US | YesAsia Global

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About the author

Rinoa enjoys spending her free time writing articles, most particularly reviews, biographies and news articles. Her favourite artist is Ayumi Hamasaki but she enjoys listening to a wide range of musical talents from all over the world.

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International Wota » Blog Archive » [Blogs] Channel-Ai Reviews Latest Ayu Single UNITED STATES
September 26, 2007 at 1:09 pm

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Flick UNITED KINGDOM November 18, 2007 at 9:58 pm

Thanks for the review! I have to admit I do prefer Ayumi Hamasaki’s rock songs really :)

Reply

jenny MALAYSIA October 9, 2007 at 10:21 am

Wow!!!
I will be her fan 4ever!!!
The song ‘talkin’ 2 myself’ it was sooo cool!!
and the song ‘decision’ I like the music and ofcaz her voice!!!!

and thx!!! ^.^

Reply

Rinoa September 30, 2007 at 5:12 am

Thanks octocoffee. Yep I’m planning to review Shinku :)

Reply

octocoffee September 30, 2007 at 12:55 am

Ayu’s released another spectacular single! I completely love every aspect of this single, it was extremely enjoyable. talkin 2 myself had great lyrics and I listen to it when I get pissed or upset at someone. decision was an awesome song as well, I think it complemented talkin 2 myself without sounding garishly similar. fated “Orchestra version” is a fantastic rendition of the original and I think it brings out the emotion of the song more. Awesome review, Rinoa!

Octo

PS: On a relatively off-topic note, are you going to review Shinku? -nudgenudge-

Reply

Mikakun September 29, 2007 at 9:53 pm

It’s like the war of the J-Pop Throne is starting up again..

Utada Hikaru and Ayumi Hamasaki both hit back with amazing singles…
Both saw a dip in their careers slightly, with singles that sounded manufactured, then both release awesome awesome singles around the same time..

Lot’s of good stuff!
Haha

Reply

Rinoa September 29, 2007 at 6:34 pm

Alright so you feel this song is not different. That’s fine though I can’t find where the “mash” is, to be honest. It might have a similar “feel” to other songs because Hamasaki focuses mostly on the pop-rock aspect, rather than go on an experimental direction. Can’t exactly go completely experimental with a title song if you want to sell. However it still managed to come out as different and fresh. Lyrics sounded fine to me too, especially since she’s been writing song lyrics for a huge discography.

I said “decision” is reminiscent of “evolution” because it has certain elements which are similar. The hairstyle, performing with a band, the lights in the beginning and the whole “rock” feel. It’s not a matter of a back story but more of certain details which remind fans of this previous video. It’s definitely not up to the level of “evolution” and sounds like a low-budget job to me.

Reply

Brian UNITED STATES September 28, 2007 at 11:16 pm

To me it seems like ‘talkin’ 2 myself’ is a mash up of previous Ayumi rock songs. That bits and pieces of hits were taken and put together to make another hit. Consistant doesn’t need to be so exact.

The opening guitars are great. The verses are good. The chorus to me is trying to be strong, but sounds like talking. It was very difficult to listen to the chorus a few times. The structure of this song follows Ayumi’s norm. Verse 1, Chorus 1, Verse 2, Chorus 2, Bridge, Chorus 1 & Chorus 2. I wish she’d step it up and bring fresh and new takes on song writing.

The PV was good. Though I have no idea why hip hop/break dancing, though small amounts, would ever be included into a rock song. The idea of it sends chills down my spine. The two genres have been mixed before, but done equally. Aerosmith and Run DMC shared an awesome duet in the past incorporating both genres. This video, and song, just has rock and thrown in break dancing for reasons unknown and unfitting.

I do not understand how ‘decision’ is reminiscent of ‘evolution’. In ‘evolution’ Ayumi has a story. The factory pop girl singing a song and recording a video with the execs in the background running the show. ‘decisions’ is more of a random ‘have a band and back up singers look like a live performance’.

Ayumi looks stunning in it. Though I was left wanting more and being let down. For the life of me, and my own personal opinion, back up singers are just that. Everytime I see PECO and Princess, I feel like Ayumi is a lead singer in a group of girls that don’t have their own solo.

It was great to see her normal band though.

_______

If this seems negative, it isn’t. It is to simply state the things I felt when I read your review and didn’t see. Sharing of different take.

=)

Reply

Aprilis CANADA September 27, 2007 at 2:06 am

After watching ‘talkin’ 2 myself’ PV I got excited, thinking Ayu is finally hitting it big again. It’s been a while since I’ve enjoy one of her singles like this, and I hope she continues with this trend.

‘decision’ is a real interesting piece. I couldn’t pick up the strings, but the piano “solo” is a real nice touch to it.

Reply

sakuranbo UNITED STATES September 24, 2007 at 6:09 pm

YEAAHHH AYU xD!
this single is seriously “edgy” compared to her over songles :p
but i enjoyed it^ ^ cuz it’s different from her other singles x]
thanks for writting a review!

Reply

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