Ayumi Hamasaki (浜崎 あゆみ, Hamasaki Ayumi?), born October 2, 1978, is a Japanese singer-songwriter and former actress.[2] Also known as "Ayu" to her fans, Hamasaki has been dubbed the "Empress of pop" or "the Empress of J-Pop" due to her popularity and widespread influence in Japan.[3][4] Born and raised in Fukuoka, Hamasaki moved to Tokyo at the age of fourteen to pursue a career in entertainment. In 1998, Hamasaki, under the tutelage of Avex CEO Max Matsuura, released a string of modestly performing singles that concluded with her 1999 debut album A Song for XX.[5] The album debuted atop the Oricon charts (Japan's primary music charts, similar to the Billboard charts) and held that position for four weeks in a row, establishing Hamasaki's popularity in Japan.[6]

Since her 1998 debut with the single "Poker Face", she has sold around 50 million records[7] with the releases of her nine full-length studio albums, one mini-album, four compilation albums, forty-four singles, and numerous non-studio albums. With the release of her thirty-ninth single, "Startin'/Born to Be...", in 2006, Hamasaki became Japan's female solo artist with the most number-one singles. In addition, the release of Hamasaki's 2008 single "Mirrorcle World" made Hamasaki the only Japanese female artist to have a number-one single every year for ten consecutive years.[8] She is also the first Japanese artist to have her first original eight studio albums top the Oricon charts,[9] as well as the Japanese female artist with the most number-one singles, most Top 10 singles, highest singles sales, and most million-seller singles (this record for most million-seller singles is shared with band Pink Lady and fellow J-pop singers Namie Amuro and Hikaru Utada.)[10]

Life and music career

Childhood and early endeavors

Hamasaki was born in Fukuoka Prefecture[6] and raised by her mother and grandmother, as her father had left the family when she was three and never came into contact with her since.[11][12] As her mother was always working, Hamasaki's grandmother became her primary caretaker.[11]

Hamasaki began her modeling career at the age of seven, modeling locally for institutions such as banks to earn money for the family. At the age of fourteen, she moved from Fukuoka to Tokyo to take various modeling stints as well as acting jobs in such productions as doramas like Miseinen and b-movies like Gakko II and Ladys Ladys!! Soucho Saigo no Hi. She did not meet with much success in these endeavors: she was deemed by her talent agency as too short to be a model, and the projects she acted in were not well-received by the general public.[13][12] Moreover, Hamasaki did not do well in school. Although she originally got good grades, she eventually decided that the subjects she was taking were of no use to her; consequently, her grades dropped drastically and she became a delinquent.[11]

As her modeling and acting endeavors met with little success, Hamasaki's talent agency decided to repackage her as a singer; her first professional musical endeavors were in the rap scene. Nothing from Nothing, her first album, was released in December 1995 under the Nippon Columbia label. When the album failed to chart on the Oricon, the label dropped her.[14] Shortly afterwards, Hamasaki left high school. A high school dropout with no job, she spent much of her time shopping at Shibuya boutiques and dancing at Velfarre, an Avex-owned disco club.[12]

It was at Velfarre where Hamasaki was introduced to her future producer, Max Matsuura, through a mutual friend. Matsuura offered Hamasaki a recording deal immediately after hearing her sing, but Hamasaki was suspicious of Matsuura and turned the offer down.[12] Nonetheless, Matsuura persisted until the following year, when Hamasaki agreed and began taking vocal training.[12] Finding the instructors too rigid and the classes too dull, however,[12] Hamasaki skipped most of her classes. When she confessed to Matsuura that she had skipped the classes, he sent her to New York for training. While there, Hamasaki corresponded with Matsuura who, impressed with her writing, suggested she try writing her own lyrics.[12]

1998–1999: Rising popularity

Music sample:

"Boys & Girls" (1999)

Loveppears was characterized by dance tracks such as "Boys & Girls." Problems listening to the file? See media help.Hamasaki's debut album under Avex, A Song for XX (1999), was unpretentious. The singles from the album—"Poker Face", "You", "Trust", "Depend on You", and "For My Dear..."—were not major hits, although the last three singles peaked in the top ten of the Oricon weekly charts.[12] The album itself was composed of pop-rock tracks, not quite the dance tunes and ballads she would later churn out.[15] However, A Song for XX held the top position of the Oricon charts for five weeks straight and eventually went on to sell over a million copies.[16][6] Additionally, Hamasaki earned a Japan Gold Disc Award (an award somewhat similar to the American Grammy) for "Best New Artist of the Year."[17] The accomplishments of A Song for XX established Hamasaki's popularity in Japan.

With the release of ayu-mi-x (1999), the first of a set of remix albums, Hamasaki began moving beyond the pop-rock styles that had defined A Song for XX and began to incorporate various styles into her music, including trance, dance, and orchestra. Most of the singles released later that year contained dance tunes; it proved to be a sagacious decision, as Hamasaki earned her first number-one single and her first million-selling single.[18] Owing to the success of its singles, Loveppears (1999), Hamasaki's second studio album, became even more of a commercial success than its predecessor: it held the top position on the Oricon charts and went on to sell nearly 3 million copies.[19]

2000–2002: Commercial peak

Audio samples:

"M" (2000)

The first song Hamasaki composed, "M" is one of Hamasaki's best-selling singles. "Voyage" (2002)

"Voyage", a track from Rainbow, utilizes a gospel chorus in its harmony.

Problems playing the files? See media help. In sharp contrast with Loveppears, Duty (2000), Hamasaki's third studio album, only contained one upbeat dance track—"Audience."[11] The creative process behind Duty was not a happy one for Hamasaki, who described the her feelings following the production of the album as "unnatural", "nervous",[11] and "heart-pounding." However, the title track of the album, "Duty", was the first song in which Hamasaki felt she had expressed herself thoroughly in her lyrics.[11] The album resonated with fans: Duty became Hamasaki's best-selling studio album to date[16] and spawned a trio of hit singles—"Vogue", "Far Away", and "SEASONS"—the last of which put another million-selling single under Hamasaki's belt.[20]

The following year, Avex forced Hamasaki to release her first compilation album, A Best, on March 28, putting the album in direct competition with "rival" singer Hikaru Utada's sophomore studio album, Distance. The "competition" between the two singers (which both Hamasaki and Utada claimed was merely a creation of their record companies and the media) was supposedly the reason for the success of the albums, with A Best and Distance becoming the two best-selling albums of the year.[21] Hamasaki's personal life underwent changes as well: she and Tomoya Nagase, her boyfriend since her acting days,[22] went public with their relationship in the fall.[23]

I am...(2002) marked a number of milestones for Hamasaki. "M," the lead single, marked the beginning of Hamasaki's increased control over her music, as it was the first of the many tracks from the album that she composed herself, under the pseudonym "CREA."[24] (In fact, of the singles that I am... spawned—"M," "evolution," "Never Ever," "Endless Sorrow," "Unite!," "Dearest," "Daybreak," and "a song is born"—all save for "a song is born" were composed by Hamasaki herself.)[a] I am... was also an evolution in Hamasaki's lyrical style: the album was a retreat from the themes of "loneliness and confusion" which had characterized some of her earlier songs.[25] Following the September 11 attacks, Hamasaki, affected by the events, revised her vision of I am..., focusing on issues such as faith and world peace in her lyrics. "A song is born," in particular, was directly influenced by the events;[26][25] the single, a duet with Keiko Yamada, was released in December of the previous year as part of Avex's non-profit Song+Nation project, which raised money for victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks.[27] Hamasaki also revised the album cover, dropping the planned cover and opting instead to be portrayed as a "peace muse," explaining,

“ I had a completely different idea for the cover at first. We'd already reserved the space, decided the hair and makeup and everything. But after the incident, as is typical of me, I suddenly changed my mind. I knew it wasn't the time for gaudiness, for elaborate sets and costumes. It sounds odd coming from me, but I realize what I say and how I look has a great impact.[26] ”

The worldly outlook inspired by the September 11 attacks extended beyond I am.... In 2002, Hamasaki held her first concert outside Japan, at the MTV Asia music awards in Singapore,[28][26] a move interpreted by some as the beginning of a campaign into Asia effected by a languid market in Japan.[29][30] It was ascertained, however, that Hamasaki's status as a trendsetter extended outside of Japan as well:[30] at the MTV Asia music awards, Hamasaki received the award for "Most Influential Japanese Singer in Asia."[28]

Hamasaki's succeeding studio album, Rainbow (2002), was her first album to incorporate English lyrics.[c] Although she did not compose to the extent that she did on I am..., Hamasaki was still heavily involved in the production of the album. The album incorporated a potpourri of musical styles and influences: Rainbow contained rock- and trip-hop-influenced tracks as well as "summery", "up-tempo" songs and "grand gothic" arrangements. Hamasaki also began experimenting with new techniques, utilizing elements such as gospel choruses, strings, and even the yells of an audience.[31] The album yielded three singles, “Free & Easy,” “Voyage,” and “H”; the last became the best-selling single of the year,[i][32] and a short movie, Tsuki ni Shizumu,[b] was used as the music video for "Voyage." Finally, Avex launched a promotional campaign for Rainbow in which those who bought the album online could access a password-protected website that featured a part of the instrumental version of the title track "Rainbow", which did not appear on the album.[31] (However, "Rainbow" later appeared on Hamasaki's ballad compilation/remix album A Ballads, which was released in March 2003.)[33]

2003–2006: Decline in sales

Hamasaki performing in her Arena Tour 2006 A ~(miss)understood~ tourIn April, Hamasaki, under the moniker "Ayu", released her first European single, "Connected", a trance song composed by DJ Ferry Corsten that had previously appeared on Hamasaki's album I am.... The single was released in Germany under the Drizzly label and in Belgium under the label Lightning Records; in both countries "Connected" was released on 12" vinyl EPs.[34][35] Succeeding "Connected", Hamasaki continued to release singles (all of which were remixes of previously released songs) in Germany under Drizzly until 2005.[1]

Hamasaki's first mini-album, Memorial Address, was released in December 2003 and yielded three singles, “&,” “forgiveness,” and “No way to say.” The album became Hamasaki's first to be released in an optional CD+DVD format in addition to the regular CD-only format, a decision which came about as a result of Hamasaki's wish to “relay the atmosphere” of her A Museum concert held earlier that year.[36] Memorial Address, like its predecessors, reached the top spot on the Oricon chart and became an RIAJ-certified million-seller.[37] The sales of Hamasaki's singles began to wane, however: "&" was Hamasaki's last single to sell over 500,000 copies.[38]

In August of 2004, a feud between Max Matsuura and Avex's then-chairman Tom Yoda, regarding Avex's business practices, created division that caused Matsuura and Ryuhei Chiba (president of talent-agency subsidiary Axev) to temporarily resign. However, when Hamasaki along with other Avex performers, including Koda Kumi and Exile, expressed their support for Matsuura, saying that they would follow Matsuura, fears arose that Avex would lose its top performers, fears that led to the sixteen-percent decline in Avex's stock prices by the end of August 2. Avex then immediately held a meeting with Matsuura and Chiba, and by August 3, Avex released a statement saying that Matsuura and Chiba had decided to withdraw their resignations. On the same day, Avex disclosed that Yoda had stepped down from his position as CEO.[39]

By the end of her Arena Tour 2003-2004, Hamasaki had become dissatisfied with her position in Avex: she felt that the company was treating her as a product instead of a person. Consequently, she began to perceive herself as an “alien” or a “robot.”[40] That, along with her dissatisfaction with her previous two studio albums (feeling that they had been rushed jobs), led her to begin work on My Story (2004) early. In contrast with Hamasaki's previous albums, My Story had no set theme to it, nor did Hamasaki attempt to write “something good” or even “something that would give people hope”; rather, she “simply wrote honestly.”[40] As a result, the album contained mostly autobiographical lyrics about the artist's emotions and “reminiscences” of earlier stages in her career; Hamasaki was so pleased with the result that she declared My Story "the first album [she] felt OK and excited about." Hamasaki approached the composition of the music with the same “honesty and freedom” that she kept in mind while writing the lyrics. As she had an inclination towards rock music, the album had notable rock overtones.[41] However, songs of other styles appeared on the album as well; “Honey” was, according to Hamasaki, a “silly song,” while "Carols,” a single, was a piano-driven ballad. My Story and its singles, “Moments,” “Inspire,” and “Carols,” all topped the weekly Oricon charts; moreover, My Story became another RIAJ-certified million-seller.[42] From January to April of the following year, Hamasaki held the nation-wide Ayumi Hamasaki Arena Tour 2005 ~MY STORY~, her first tour based on an album.[40]

Music sample:

"Bold & Delicious" (2005)

Hamasaki took new directions with her music on (miss)understood, as epitomized by the single "Bold & Delicious", which was a funk-influenced song that utilized a gospel-style chorus. Problems listening to the file? See media help.(miss)understood (2006), Hamasaki's seventh studio album, presented the singer taking new directions with her music. Wanting to sing "a song like Sweetbox's," Hamasaki obtained the permission of Sweetbox composer GEO to use demo songs which GEO had intended to use in Sweetbox's then-upcoming album. Hamasaki set to work rearranging the songs to fit her personal vision, drawing inspiration from such motley sources as a pipe organ and even the musical The Phantom of the Opera;[43] additionally, Hamasaki rewrote most of the lyrics.[44] While My Story had been dominated by rock songs, (miss)understood yielded a spectrum of musical styles that encompassed pop, R&B, and rock. "Bold & Delicious," the last single from the album, was a funk-infused dance track that utilized a gospel chorus; the preceding single, "Heaven" was an "ethereal" ballad that made prominent use of the piano; and "Criminal" was a "dark rock song."[45] (miss)understood also set various records for Hamasaki: "Bold & Delicious" became Hamasaki's twenty-fifth number-one single, thus tying her with Seiko Matsuda for the record of most number-one singles by a solo female artist;[46] (miss)understood's first-day sales of 650,000 placed the album not only on the top position of the Oricon but also the United World Chart,[47] a first for Hamasaki. However, (miss)understood became Hamasaki's first studio album that failed to sell at least a million copies.[d] Following the release of (miss)understood, Hamasaki embarked on the Ayumi Hamasaki Arena Tour 2006 ~(miss)understood~ in March, which spanned three months with its thirty concerts, the first in Saitama on March 11, 2006 and its last at Yoyogi on June 11, 2006.[48]

"Secrets" was, appropriately, the theme of Hamasaki's eighth studio album, Secret (2006).[49] In addition to secrets, the album also explored the topic of strong female figures and "painted pictures of love." The title track "Secret", the song "until that Day", and the ballad "Jewel" all depicted the artist's struggles, while "Beautiful Fighters" along with "1 LOVE" were "cheer songs for girls"; additionally, "1 LOVE" and "Jewel" were songs about love.[50] Although the album was originally intended to be a mini-album, one day, during production, Hamasaki "began brimming with things to say" and wrote five additional songs. Hamasaki was enthusiastic over the result and declared it her "best album ever."[50] The two singles from the album, "Startin'" and "Blue Bird," both continued Hamasaki's streak of number-one singles; "Startin'" became Hamasaki's twenty-sixth number-one in total, setting a new record for most number-one singles held by a solo female artist.[51] The album also reached the number-one spot on the Oricon weekly charts, making Hamasaki the only artist to have her first eight studio albums top the Oricon weekly charts.[52] Hamasaki's sales, however, continued to flag: Secret became Hamasaki's first original studio album to fail to become an RIAJ-certified million-seller.[53]

2007–2008: Foray into Asia

On February 28, 2007, Hamasaki released a series of compilation albums titled A Best 2, which contained songs from her albums I am... to (miss)understood and came in two versions, -Black- and -White-. On their first week of release, the two A Best 2 albums held the number-one and number-two positions on the Oricon and the United World Chart, making Hamasaki not only the first female artist in thirty-six years to hold the top two positions on the Oricon album charts, but also the only artist ever to hold the top two positions on the United World Charts with her albums.[54] By the end of 2007, A Best 2 -White- and A Best 2 -Black- became Japan's fifth and seventh best-selling albums of the year, respectively.[55]

Hamasaki performing the song "part of Me" in her first Asia TourFollowing the release of A Best 2, Hamasaki held the four-month-long Tour of Secret from March to the end of June, and performed not only in Japan but also in Taiwan, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, making Tour of Secret her first tour held outside Japan.[56] As a result, the concerts became highly anticipated, and tickets for the Taiwan concert sold out in less than two hours;[57] tickets for her Hong Kong concert sold out in less than three hours.[58]

By July 2007, rumors of a possibility of marriage for Hamasaki and Nagase began circulating through the Japanese media, nearly six years after the couple had gone public with their relationship.[23][59] On July 13, 2007, however, Hamasaki announced that she and Nagase broke up, ending their seven-year-long relationship.[60][61] Hamasaki announced the split on her website, saying that she had "broken off with my lover." Shortly after the break-up was announced, Hamasaki revealed that she and Nagase were no longer living together.[62] The split, which came as a surprise, as reporters had speculated that Hamasaki and Nagase would wed, prompted various rumors among Japanese media speculating the cause of the split. Hamasaki, however, has yet to confirm a reason.[59]

Unlike the creative process of previous albums, the writing of Hamasaki's ninth studio album, Guilty (2008), was not an emotional experience for Hamasaki, nor did it have a set theme. However, according to her, in retrospect, the tracks of the album appeared to "tell a story."[63] Most of the tracks on Guilty were dark; the album had a notable rock tinge,[64] as had many of Hamasaki's antecedent albums. The album contained a number of ballads, such as "Marionette" and "untitled ~for her~", though these also had rock overtones. However, a number of Hamasaki's trademark "upbeat dance" tracks, such as "glitter", appeared toward the end of the album.[65] With first-week sales of around 432,000 copies, Guilty peaked at the number-two position on the weekly Oricon charts, making it Hamasaki's first studio album to fail to obtain the top position.[e][66][67] The singles the album yielded, however—two physical singles ("glitter/fated" and "talkin' 2 myself") and Hamasaki's first digital-only single, "Together When..."—all achieved the top position of their respective weekly charts;[68][69] with around 720,000 downloads sold,[70] "Together When..." also climbed to the top of the monthly download charts, a first for Hamasaki.[71] A short film, 距愛 ~Distance Love~ was used as the music video for "glitter" and "fated." The film, shot in Hong Kong, co-starred Hong Kong actor Shawn Yue as Hamasaki's romantic interest.[72] Finally, Guilty was later re-released as a digital album in twenty-six countries outside Japan, nineteen of which were western nations. That, along with Hamasaki's decision to employ western DJs such as Armand van Helden for her 2008 remix albums ayu-mi-x 6 -GOLD- and ayu-mi-x 6 -SILVER-, has been interpreted as Hamasaki's first step into a global market.[73]

In a January 8, 2008 entry on her TeamAyu blog, Hamasaki revealed that she had become completely deaf in her left ear, and that the condition is inoperable. Hamasaki revealed in a statement that she had been diagnosed with deafness in 2006, and that the problem (possibly tinnitus or Meniere's Disease)[7][67][74] dated back to 2000. After news of her hearing loss broke, Avex experienced a thirteen-yen decrease in its stock price.[75] Despite the setbacks, Hamasaki stated that she wished to continue singing, saying that she would "not give up" on her fans and that "as a professional", she would like to "deliver the best performance for everyone."[76][77]

Hamasaki's latest single, "Mirrorcle World", was released on April 8, 2008. To commemorate Hamasaki's tenth anniversary in the music industry, the single was released in two versions, one containing "You" as its second B-side and the other containing "Depend on You" as its second B-side; both versions, however, contain "Life" as a b-side.[78] "Mirrorcle World" became yet another number-one single for Hamasaki, making her the only Japanese female solo artist to have a number-one single every year for ten consecutive years.

Image and artistry

Audio samples:

"Evolution" (2001)

"Evolution", the second single from I am..., made prominent use of the electric guitar. "Ourselves" (2004)

Traditional Chinese music group Princess China Music Orchestra covered/remixed some of Hamasaki's songs, among which is this re-working of her 2003 song "Ourselves" (from the album Memorial Address). "Walking Proud" (2005)

The 2005 album My Story Classical, a collaboration between Hamasaki and the Lamoureux Orchestra of France, consisted of classical remixes of songs from Hamasaki's 2004 album My Story.

Problems playing the files? See media help. The influence of Hamasaki's music, sometimes considered one of the major forces in shaping Japan's current music trends,[79] has been attributed to the "progressive sound" of the music as well as her self-penned lyrics,[79] while critics credit clever marketing strategies for Hamasaki's success.[80][13][30] The popularity of Hamasaki's music extends outside Japan;[81] Hamasaki has a "sizable [following] across Asia"[82] and is one of the few Japanese singers whose albums have sold over 10,000 copies in Singapore.[83] Additionally, her album A Best 2 -White- became the best-selling Japanese or Korean album of the year in Taiwan.[84] Because of the widespread influence of her music, Hamasaki has often been compared to Madonna,[85][86] whom Hamasaki cites as one of her influences,[24] along with soul musicians Babyface and En Vogue and rock bands Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple.[87] Also among the artists whom Hamasaki has shown admiration for are American musicians Michelle Branch, Kid Rock, and Joan Osborne as well as Japanese artists as Seiko Matsuda, Rie Miyazawa, and Keiko Yamada.[87] These diverse influences have led to the variegation of Hamasaki's own music, which contains aspects of rock and R&B and spans a multitude of styles including dance, metal, progressive rock, pop, and classical.[15] Hamasaki also utilizes a mélange of instruments and musical techniques including piano, orchestra, gospel choirs, guitars, music boxes, and even effects such as yells, claps, and scratching.[33][31][15]

Early in her career, Hamasaki began commissioning remixes of her songs, a practice that influenced the diversity of her music.[15] Her remixes, found on many of her records including her remix albums, European releases, singles, and vinyls, span different genres of electronic dance music including Eurobeat, house, and trance, as well as acoustic genres such as classical and traditional Chinese music. Hamasaki has employed western as well as Japanese artists; among the musicians she has worked with are DJs Armin van Buuren, Jonathan Peters, Junior Vasquez, Above & Beyond, and Ferry Corsten; the Lamoureux Orchestra of France;[f] and traditional Chinese music ensemble Princess China Music Orchestra.[88]

As Hamasaki is not a professional composer, she frequently employs others to compose her songs. As she explained, "I'm not a professional; I lack even basic knowledge about writing music." However, when she was writing her song "M", she felt that none of the melodies composed by her staff appealed to her, and she decided to compose the melody herself.[11] As she felt that by composing herself, she could produce a result closer to what she had in mind,[25][26] Hamasaki continued to compose some of her own songs, most notably in her album I am..., in which most of the songs are composed by her; furthermore, she took control of nearly every aspect of her artistry for the same reasons. Later on in her career, however, Hamasaki began delegating many of the tasks she had previously handled (including the composition of her songs) to other members of her staff.[89]

Hamasaki's lyrics, all of which are written solely by herself,[c] have resonated among her fans, who praise the "honest and profound nature" of her lyrics.[79] Hamasaki herself has stated that honesty is an integral factor in her lyrics, saying, "If I write when I'm low, it will be a dark song, but I don't care. I want to be honest with myself at all times."[87] Hamasaki, who explained that she has trouble voicing her thoughts, found an outlet in writing, stating that she drew from "[her] own and [her] friends' experiences" as well as her own emotions, the latter which she tries to express honestly in words.[87] This honesty led her to avoid the use of English in her lyrics until the album Rainbow; as she explained, she felt she could best express herself in Japanese.[c] Although "loneliness and confusion" were frequent themes in her earlier albums, Hamasaki has branched out to more worldly themes such as faith and peace;[25] themes in her later albums included love and even themes such as the struggles of women.[50][31][90] In an interview with TIME, she explained that "in the beginning" she "was searching for [herself] in [her] music", adding,

“ My music was for me. I didn't have the mental room to be conscious of the listener; I wrote to save myself. I didn't understand what it was to write songs. But over time I began to see many things, my influence, the responsibilities that gave me.[26] ”

The influence Hamasaki wields extends into other aspects of pop culture, including fashion, and she is often considered a trend-setter and "icon of fashion",[79][91][89] a status attributed to her tight control over her image.[23][6] In addition to appearing in fashion magazines such as ViVi, Popteen, and Cawaii as well as repeatedly winning awards such as "Best Jeanist" and "Nail Queen"[92][80] and earning the title of "Most Fashionable Female Artist" in Oricon's 2006 spring and summer polls,[93] Hamasaki is often sought after by fashion houses such as Bulgari, Juicy Couture, and Christian Louboutin.[79] Such a status has led to Hamasaki's shaping of Japan's fashion scene,[4] where many aspects of Japan's fashions—including clothing, hair, nails, and accessories—have in some way been influenced by Hamasaki.[94][80] As with her music, Hamasaki's influence in fashion extends outside Japan; the trends she has instigated have spread to Asian countries as Taiwan, China, and Singapore.[95][96][97]

Hamasaki in a television commercial promoting Boss Coffee, one of the many brands she has advertised during her careerBecause of her "trendy image", Hamasaki has been sought after by numerous brands to endorse their products.[5] Throughout her career under Avex, Hamasaki has promoted products ranging from electronic products such as those of Panasonic and the cell phones of Tu-Ka[13] (a now-defunct carrier) to various snack foods.[6][80] Among the products Hamasaki has endorsed through television commercials are the Honda Crea,[98] Kosé cosmetics,[80] Mister Donut donuts,[99] and Boss coffee.[100] Although Hamasaki initially supported the exploitation of her popularity for commercial purposes, saying that it was "necessary that [she is] viewed as a product",[24] she later protested Avex's decision to market her as a "product rather than a person."[101]

Hamasaki's live performances are often lavish productions that employ a variety of props, extravagant costumes, and choreographed dance steps. Among the props Hamasaki has employed in her live performances are large video screens, fireworks, simulated rain drops, optical illusion stage floors, and a variety of suspended devices.[102][103] Some of Hamasaki's promotional videos are grand expenditures as well: the promotional videos of three songs, "fairyland", "my name's WOMEN", and "JEWEL" are among the most expensive music videos ever made,[104][105] making Hamasaki the only non-American to hold such a distinction.[106][g]

Other activities

See also: Ayuready?

A hand mirror, one of the Ayumi HamasakixHello Kitty products sold at the concerts of Hamasaki's Tour of SecretIn addition to serving as background music for television advertisements, some of Hamasaki's songs have been used as themes for video games and film productions such as television shows and motion pictures. "Depend on You" and its b-side "Two of Us" were used as the opening and ending theme, respectively, of the video game Thousand Arms,[107] while the video game Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams used "Startin'" and "Rainy Day" as its opening and ending theme, respectively.[108] The dorama My Little Chef featured "Voyage" as its theme,[109] while the anime InuYasha featured "Dearest."[110] Finally, Hamasaki's songs "Heaven", "Secret", and "fated" have been used as the themes for the movies Shinobi: Heart Under Blade, Confession of Pain, and Kaidan, respectively.[111][112][113]

On October 12, 2002, Fuji Television began airing "Ayuready?", a half-hour-long talk show hosted by Hamasaki. The weekly show, airing on Saturday nights from 11:30 P.M. to 12:00 A.M., often featured Hamasaki performing songs with the guests, among whom were Goto Maki, PUFFY, and Akina Nakamori. After less than two years on the air, "Ayu Ready?" ended, its last episode airing in March 2004.[114] Also in 2002, Hamasaki began releasing Ayupan, a line of merchandise (mainly figurines) featuring stylized versions of herself. In 2007, Hamasaki and Sanrio collaborated, creating a line of merchandise called Ayumi HamasakixHello Kitty; the products, featuring Ayupan and Hello Kitty together, were sold at Hamasaki's 2007 tour ayumi hamasaki ASIA TOUR 2007 ~Tour of Secret~ and also online at[115] The merchandise consisted of cell phone straps and Lumix cameras adorned with a depiction of Hello Kitty peeking out from behind Hamasaki's "A" insignia;[h] the former product was a result of a collaboration with Sanrio and Japanese fashion brand Ash & Diamonds, while the latter was a collaboration with Sanrio and Panasonic.[116]

Selected discography

Main article: Ayumi Hamasaki discography Original studio albums 1995: Nothing from Nothing 1999: A Song for XX 1999: Loveppears 2000: Duty 2002: I am... 2002: Rainbow 2003: Memorial address (Mini-Album) 2004: My Story 2006: (miss)understood 2006: Secret 2008: Guilty

[edit] Compilation albums

2001: A Best 2002: A Ballads 2007: A Best 2 -Black- 2007: A Best 2 -White- [edit] DVDs 1999: A Film for ×× 2000: A clips 2002: A clips vol.2 2002: tsuki ni shizumu 2002: ayumi hamasaki COMPLETE LIVE BOX A 2002: COMPLETE CLIP BOX 2007: Distance Love


Year Title Format 2000 ayumi hamasaki concert tour 2000 A 第1幕 VHS, DVD, VCD 2000 ayumi hamasaki concert tour 2000 A 第2幕 VHS, DVD, VCD 2000-2001 ayumi hamasaki COUNTDOWN LIVE 2000-2001 A VHS, DVD, VCD 2001 ayumi hamasaki DOME TOUR 2001 A VHS, DVD, VCD 2001-2002 ayumi hamasaki COUNTDOWN LIVE 2001-2002 A VHS, DVD, VCD 2002 ayumi hamasaki ARENA TOUR 2002 A VHS, DVD, VCD 2002 ayumi hamasaki STADIUM TOUR 2002 A VHS, DVD, VCD 2002-2003 ayumi hamasaki COUNTDOWN LIVE 2002-2003 A DVD, VCD 2003-2004 ayumi hamasaki ARENA TOUR 2003-2004 A DVD, VCD 2004 ayumi hamasaki A museum ~30th single collection live~ DVD, VCD 2004-2005 ayumi hamasaki COUNTDOWN LIVE 2004-2005 A DVD, VCD 2005 ayumi hamasaki ARENA TOUR 2005 A ~MY STORY~ DVD, VCD 2005-2006 ayumi hamasaki COUNTDOWN LIVE 2005-2006 A DVD, VCD 2006 ayumi hamasaki ARENA TOUR 2006 A ~(miss)understood~ DVD, VCD 2006-2007 ayumi hamasaki COUNTDOWN LIVE 2006-2007 A DVD, VCD 2007 ayumi hamasaki ASIA TOUR 2007 A ~Tour of Secret~ "LIVE + DOCUMENTARY" DVD


Twins Teacher (1993) Battle spirits ryûko no ken (1993) Sumomo mo momo (1995) Miseinen (1995) Like Grains of Sand (1995) Gakko II (1996)


a.^ "Connected", a single composed by Ferry Corsten, is not considered by Avex as part of Hamasaki's official discography, as the single was released under Drizzly Records. However, "Connected" appeared on I am... b.^ The official title of this movie is 月に沈む (written in kanji and hiragana.)[117] However, the title is sometimes written in its romanized form, Tsuki ni Shizumu.[118] c.^ Two of Hamasaki's songs released prior to Rainbow, "Love ~since 1999~" and "Audience" incorporated English lyrics. However, the lyrics of "Love ~since 1999~" were not written by Hamasaki, and the only English that "Audience" comprises is the sporadic use of "Yes"; therefore, these songs are usually not counted among Hamasaki's songs which incorporate English.[119] d.^ It is disputed whether (miss)understood or My Story should be considered Hamasaki's last million-selling album, as the RIAJ lists (miss)understood as a million-seller, while the Oricon claims that (miss)understood sold just under 900,000 copies.[120] However, it should be noted that the RIAJ's certification is based on the number of albums shipped to stores, while the Oricon gathers its tallies from the retailers themselves. e.^ Hamasaki's first-week sales were the highest for that week (the first week of January.) However, Oricon's year only has fifty-one weeks—the first and second week of the year are combined. Kobukuro's sales for the combined two weeks were slightly higher than Hamasaki's, giving them the number-one position. f.^ For a comprehensive list of Hamasaki's Avex-sanctioned remixes released in Japan, see Hamasaki's discography at g.^ This is according to MSN. If the claims of the tabloid The Sun are to be trusted, the production costs of the video for George Michael's "Freeek" were around one million pounds (nearly two million U.S. dollars),[121] making Hamasaki the second non-American with such a distinction. h.^ The symbol in question is this one: . It is pronounced "A" and is used either as a substitute for the letter a or to represent Hamasaki's name. In fact, the titles of five albums, Rainbow, A Best, A Ballads, A Best 2 -White-, and A Best 2 -Black- utilize this symbol; the proper titles of these albums are RINBOW, Best, Ballads, Best 2 -White-, and Best 2 -Black-, respectively. i.^ All records and charting positions in this article apply only to Japan or Japan's Oricon charts unless otherwise stated.