Promo Photo for Together When...
|Artist: Ayumi Hamasaki
Release Date: 2007.12.05
Genre: Pop ballad
Label: avex trax
Format: Digital Single
Almost ten years have passed since her debut and yet Ayumi Hamasaki retains a well sized fanbase throughout Japan and the rest of Asia. Throughout all these years, Hamasaki has managed to release at least a studio album and a few singles every year. However it is evident that her amount of releases have decreased drastically, most particularly her singles. In 2006, Hamasaki released only two singles and it seemed that 2007 was going to follow the same fate. The reason might be either the falling popularity of singles or Hamasaki’s desire to have more time relaxing.
Nonetheless avex cannot ignore the fact that Hamasaki’s albums are losing momentum in sales and that more effort and time need to be invested in promoting her upcoming album. Considering the fact that her latest single was not exactly a success with the Japanese audience and that Hamasaki always releases an album in winter, avex had to act fast. Her management team quickly shipped Ayu to Los Angeles once again to record a new song. Working on the safe side, Hamasaki recorded a ballad and refrained from experimenting. Additionally, in order to retain her #1 streak and high sales in singles, avex decided that it was the opportune moment for Ayu to release her first digital single.
“Together When…” was supposed to feature in GemCEREY commercials, having Ayu as the spokeswoman but mysteriously enough, nothing else has been revealed. Additionally the song was promoted on music.jp. The song was selected to promote the album and had a substantial promotional campaign. Digital sales have yet to be revealed but Ayumi eventually managed to hit #1 on all the charts.
In retrospect this decision manages to display a well devised strategy, especially compared to how the last two albums were marketed. Although Ayumi’s albums have always sold spectacularly it is clear that her album sales have gone on a downward slope since (miss)understood. Arguably (miss)understood’s sales didn’t manage to hit the million mark because Hamasaki’s management team didn’t plan the release of this album more carefully and worked at the last minute. In order to release an album by January there was the decision to work with Geo from Sweetbox, which ended up to be too experimental for many fans and the pre-album release of “Bold & Delicious” was the most experimental track from the album. Eventually this single managed to turn off potential buyers rather than attract them. And to top it all, the cover artwork was almost scary. The album’s quality was definitely up to the standards of Hamasaki but the marketing aspects were painfully lacking.
On the other hand, Secret lacked the hype which is usually created by a powerful single. After a-nation, Hamasaki was reported to suffer from an eye infection which has led her to be unable to release a single in fall and consequently avex was forced to release an album at the end of November. Although “JEWEL” was extensively promoted, avex employed the international talent, Leslie Kee to shoot the artwork for the cover and the budget was huge, this was not enough to push the album’s sales and it ended up selling even less than (miss)understood.
The history of her last two albums have probably led avex to think more carefully over the promotion of the new album. The digital single was scheduled to be released on the 5th December, approximately one month before the release of her album. Furthermore a ringtone was released in late November at Chaku-Uta. Having a digital single and giving it the treatment of a physical single ensured that it would produce enough hype for the upcoming album. Furthermore fans are more willing to shell out 200 yen for a new song than 1,000 yen when the album is less than a month away. The marketing strategy is well planned. However the real question is if this new ballad will become a hit capable of pushing the new album’ success…
“Together When…” is once again another of her annual winter ballad. Since Hamasaki has released a huge amount of ballads, it might prove difficult to bring forward a comparable power ballad and bring forward new elements. However I truly felt that this new song did manage to bring around a combination of the two. In many aspects it resembles last year’s winter ballad “JEWEL”, due to the extensive use of piano. However “Together When…” is different by being a power ballad, containing a great deal of emotion and a heart wrenching tone.
The track opens up with a delicate piano and strings segment, which remains present throughout the whole track. Despite the fact that the piano remains to be one of the most used instrument of Hamasaki’s songs, one can appreciate how the piano brings out the melancholic mood of the track in a rather vivid manner. The instrumentals gradually build into a powerful and dramatic finale in the chorus. I particularly loved the violin pieces within the bridge and chorus segments. It was particularly impressive to note how the arrangement for so many instrumentals was really well made. One can observe the whole concept of consistency and how the atmosphere molded perfectly with the lyrics. Once again Hamasaki brings an excellent vocal performance, infusing the correct amount of emotion for every segment of the song.
The lyrics are particularly poignant and hint once again towards her break-up with Nagase. The lyrics display a lot of emotions, particularly guilt, loss, loneliness and regret. Hamasaki expresses her repressed feelings by bringing out a very powerful message. She wished to thank her ex lover but she held back because it gave her a sense of finality. She wished she could tell him that she loved him but she couldn’t because her feelings had faded.
The promotional video of this single was aired a few days after the release of the digital single. It has a short plot included and is set in France. It starts with a cab driver who observes a woman who is sitting on a bench looking delighted at something. She’s watching a puppet show from across the street, which symbolise Ayu and a past lover. The memory of this love brings happiness to her and she watches with joy equaling to the kids watching the puppet show. The female puppet refuses the flowers offered by the male, foreshadowing their break up. The couple keep drifting further apart, however Hamasaki obviously feels regret and hesitation in moving on.
The puppeteer eventually sells the male puppet to a young child, which symbolises their break up. When the screen breaks up and the rain breaks in, the imagery of something getting broken beyond repair is hinted. The female puppet is abandoned in the rain and Ayumi feels miserable because she remembers her loneliness and heartbreak. One can speculate that while the media symphatised with Tomoya, they left her in the side and allowed her to fall apart and even suggested she had a new lover, while she was mourning the ending of her relationship. The female puppet falls on the ground and shatters. Finally Ayumi decides to walk away from her memories and the cab driver feels sympathy for her and opens her the door of his cab, giving a sense of definite finality.
It’s been quite a while since we got a single A-side release and surprisingly enough it felt like a nice change. Personally I was getting tired of her double A-side singles, for various reasons. In any way, despite having only two tracks and being a digital single, “Together When…” managed to become the most well-rounded single for 2007. I felt that everything from this single was a concerted effort, which produced a high quality package. There was not a single thing that left me unsatisfied. The promotional campaign was quite well organized and generous, but it was to be expected since it is promoting the new album. The same thing can be said for the cover artwork, which was shot in the States and her promotional video.
To conclude “Together When…” has definitely been a strong release, with a smart marketing scheme. Up till now the reaction has been relatively positive, with the single topping most of the download and ringtone charts. One could speculate if this single would even become a physical success, but I feel rather doubtful. It has been proven in the past that singles too close to album releases suffer significantly on the Oricon chart, along with increasing the cost in the creation of physical singles. Hopefully the digital revenue for “Together When…” shall be rather satisfactory, to the point where it induces fans to purchase the album.
- Together When…
- Together When…(Instrumental)