Ayumi Hamasaki (Hamasaki Ayumi, born October 2, 1978) is a japanese pop singer and Japanese idol originally from Fukuoka, Japan. She is commonly called by her nickname 'Ayu'. To this date, she has released seven full-length studio albums, one mini-album, two compilation albums, and 40 singles.
She officially debuted in 1998 with her single poker face. She is the first Japanese artist to have her first original seven studio albums top the charts.
Although Ayumi lived with her mother, she was primarily raised by her grandmother. She has vague recollections of her father as he left the family at around the time she was two, and she has not seen him since. She grew up in a very liberal household where she was expected to do what was right for her without her mother intervening in her affairs, since her mother was always out working to support the family.
In her youth, Hamasaki started her modeling career as a model for a local bank. During high school, she was considered a delinquent because of her dyed hair and short shirts which were considered extremely unconventional in Japan at that time. Eventually she dropped out of high school and moved to Tokyo to pursue a fulltime modeling career.
Hamasaki used the pseudonym 'Kurumi Hamazaki', acting in low budget dramas like Miseinen and b-movies like Sumomomomomo; however, she did not find success. She was too short to become a professional model. As a result, she spent her days wandering the streets of Tokyo, shopping, and dancing at clubs in the Shibuya, Tokyo|Shibuya district. She was "discovered" by her producer Max Matsuura, an Avex trax producer when she was singing karaoke. When he asked her if she wanted to pursue a singing career, she said she agreed, "only because I had nothing to do." Hamasaki was contracted to take vocal training in Tokyo but she stopped attending as she found it too rigid. For a more relaxed atmosphere Matsuura sent Hamasaki to New York, an event she would later say was exactly what she needed. Impressed by the writing style in her letters to him, Matsuura suggested that she try her hand at writing her own lyrics for her songs.
Hamasaki has never had any formal instruction in lyric writing, but is able to draw on her emotions to write her lyrics. Her producer, Max Matsuura has stated repeatedly that she has a gift which only develops with practice and that it is highly unusual for such a young artist to be so articulate and mature in her writings. Also, Hamasaki's song writing abilities have been repeatedly compared to those of Utada Hikaru, although their styles are in fact markedly different.
On December 01 1995, Hamasaki's first album nothing from nothing was released but there was virtually no promotion for the album. After failing to chart in the Oricon top 200, her talent agency and record label, Columbia Japan, dropped her. After being dropped, Hamasaki returned to frequenting karaoke bars and would later meet her future producer, Max Matsuura, there. After hearing her singing, Matsuura immediatly moved to sign her to avex trax.
In 1998, Hamasaki released her debut single Poker Face, which sold 43,000 copies. She subsequently released four additional singles, with Depend on you eventually breaking top 10 with its tie-up as the theme song for the video game, Thousand Arms. She then released her first album a song for xx on January 1, 1999. Her album quickly became certified platinum.
LOVE~Destiny~, her seventh single, was her first #1 single. The title track was specially commissioned for her to be a sub-theme for a drama series SemiDouble, and its b-side featured a duet with Tsunku, the vocalist of the hit band Sharan Q and producer of Morning Musume, called LOVE~since1999~. Starting with the release of boys & girls, her singles changed format from 8cm to 12 cm discs (which could hold more data), following the trend of the music industry. As a result her singles began to feature more tracks, namely, remix tracks. boys & girls would become her first single to be certified platinum. In August, A was released. In an unprecedented move by avex trax, A featured 4 a-sides and 10 remixes. The single sold over 1,600,000 copies and remains her best-selling single. In November, she released her second album, loveppears, less than a year after her first. The album sold over two million copies. However, a controversy arose due to the front cover of the album which feautured her topless with only her hair covering her breasts. The single appears was released on the same day limited to 300,000 prints. Following the release of loveppears, two recut singles from the album were released in the same manner as appears, kanariya in December and Fly high in March of the following year
In 2000, she became a spokeswoman for KOSE Visee, a cosmetics company in Japan. When she appeared in commercials to promoted Kose's lipsticks, a record 500,000 lipsticks were sold in only two days. Her single vogue, which was used as a background music, also benefitted from this commercial, selling over 700,000 copies. She also became a spokesperson for TU-KA and promoted their cell phones. She was constantly featured on front covers of fashion magazines, which featured articles about her successful life and style. From April to June of 2000, she released one single per month, vogue, far away, and seasons, which would later be coined as The Trilogy because of the similar themes in lyrics and connected music videos. September saw the release of her third full-length album duty. duty, like her previous studio albums, topped the charts and went on to sell 2,900,000 copies, making it her highest selling original studio album. On the same day, the limited pressing single, surreal, was released, and it also topped the charts, and with Ayumi Hamasaki Concert Tour 2000 A also topping the DVD charts that week, it made her the first artist to top three charts on the same week.
To round off the year 2000, the single m was released, and became her fourth platinum single, selling over 1,300,000 copies. The song m saw Hamasaki take more creative control of her music. Prior to m, she had always written lyrics for her songs (with the special exception of LOVE~since1999~), but with m, Hamasaki also began to compose her own songs under the pseudonym "CREA". That year, a controversy was started when her compilation album a best's release date was changed to put her in direct competition with Utada Hikaru's second album DISTANCE. Though DISTANCE topped the charts first week, a best topped the following week, and although both albums sold over 4,000,000 copies, this change staggered the sales of both albums.
Later in 2001, her second eurobeat remix album became the second remix album in Japanese history to top the charts, following MISIA's LITTLE TOKYO. When her 4th album's release was delayed, stock prices for avex trax began to decrease, showing the amount of influence she wielded. It was estimated around that time that she was responsible for 40% of the avex trax's profit. In December, her duet with KEIKO of Globe was released as a single for avex's nonprofit project, SongNation, which raised money for the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. On the first day of 2002, her fourth album I am... was released, and like its predecessors loveppears and duty, it achieved double-platinum status, with sales of 2.3 million copies.
The release of Free & Easy in April saw a complete shift in the trend of Hamasaki's singles, away from multiple remix tracks. The single only featured two remixes alongside the title track. The single also threatened to break her string of consecutive number ones, as Kuraki Mai's Feel fine! single (released on the same date), briefly topped the daily charts. However, Free & Easy eventually claimed the top spot only the weekly chart. Her fifth platinum single H was released in July of that year. Like A, this single featured multiple a-sides; however, unlike A, this single did not contain any remixes. Her followup single Voyage had an extended music video to promote it - a short film titled Tsuki ni Shizumu (or Sinking into the Moon), which featured Hamasaki acting for the first time since her idol days.
The much-hyped studio album rainbow was released in December. Though rainbow broke the one million mark in the first week, it was the first of Hamasaki's albums since a song for xx to not reach double-platinum status. The album featured more of CREA songwriting and composition like the previous album, and saw her first use of English phrases in her songs. The album had a massive promotional campaign, where the buyers of the more-expensive initial pressings could access a password-only website that featured a part of the instrumental version of the title track "rainbow" that was not on the album. Once accessed, fans could submit their own lyrics and suggestions for the song. Over 100,000 people accessed the website. The song was later featured on her ballad compilation album a ballads, which was released on March 2003. Though promoted extremely well, a ballads experienced slow but steady sales, and has recently passed the million threshold. Many of the songs on the album had already been featured on her previous compilation album, a best, and the album featured only two new songs, possibly leading to these low sales. a ballads remains Hamasaki's lowest selling album in her avex discography.
In July, m was released. Like the single H, m was a triple a-side single. However, unlike H, it also contained a b-side track, theme of a-nation '03. The follow up single, forgiveness would continue Hamasaki's string of number one singles, but would be considered a huge flop, barely selling 220,000 copies in contrast to & which had neted sales of over 570,000 copies. After the releases of the forgiveness (August) and No way to say (November) singles, she released her first mini-album, memorial address, which only featured three new songs. memorial address was unique because all of the songs, except for the title track (which was a bonus track), had a music video. memorial address was also her first album to be available in CD only or CD+DVD formats. memorial address made her the only female solo artist to have a mini-album go platinum.
The following year was a year of internal strife in her recording company, avex trax. A feud between Max Matsuura and Yoda, an executive at avex trax, caused chaos and also sparked rumors that Hamasaki and other popular artists in avex trax including hiro, Every Little Thing, hitomi, and Do As Infinity might leave the record company. As a result, the stock prices for avex trax began to plunge; however, when Hamasaki sided with Matsuura, Yoda ended up resigning, effectively ending the feud.
Her singles since moments were released in at least two formats - CD only and CD+DVD. moments was used as a background music for her last KOSE Visee commercial. inspire also included Hamasaki's first b-side track since vogue in 2000, 'game'. Her next single, carols, was released in four formats -- CD only, CD+DVD, SACD, and DVD-Audio. In December of 2004, she released her sixth album my story which was certified platinum, selling over 574,000 copies in the first week, and netting sales of over 1,140,000 copies, making it the second highest selling female album of the 2005 Oricon year. my story, like its singles, was also available in CD+DVD package as well as the CD only package.
Her 35th (and first double a-side) single, STEP you/is this LOVE?, debuted at the number one spot for the daily, weekly and monthly Japanese charts in April. It eventually sold over 345,000 copies and would be the highest selling single from a female artist until overtaken by Mika Nakashima's Glamorous Sky single. Yuna Ito's Endless Story single would sell only hundreds less than STEP you/is this LOVE? by the end of the Oricon year (end of November), and would surpass "STEP you/is this LOVE?" in sales just a week after the end of the Oricon year (making it higher selling for the 2005 calendar year, but not for Oricon year).
Her 36th single, fairyland, was released on August 3 2005 and again, claimed the number one spot on the ORICON, and sold over 315,000 copies. The single included a b-side track, alterna.
Her 37th single was heaven, the theme song for the movie SHINOBI and was released on September 14 2005. It debuted at #2 to Kanjani 8's single, and then on day two it fell to #3. Starting day three, it has been #1 on daily charts, and snatched the #1 position for the week selling 170,000 copies, only 6,000 copies more than the #2 single. This is Ayumi Hamasaki's 12th consecutive #1 single starting with Free & Easy in 2002. This also broke the record of the most singles a Japanese female artist has in the top ten (34 out of 36 singles), and the second most singles an artist has had in the number one position (24).
Hamasaki's latest single, titled bold & delicious/pride, was released on November the 30th, 2005. Though it claimed the number one position for the first day; for the rest of the week it fell first to number two, and then to number three. Surprisingly, however, it claimed the number one weekly spot (beating out the second place competitor by slightly more than 1,000 copies), making bold & delicious/pride Hamasaki's 25th single to hit number one, tied with Seiko Matsuda. This is Hamasaki's 13th consecutive number one single. Due to poor sales (barely 84,000 copies sold in the first week), this single could be her least successful since WHATEVER, released in 1999.
At the end of the year, Hamasaki performed her COUNTDOWN LIVE concert as usual, with an appearance also on the annual Kouhaku Uta Gassen. In its 56th year, it was the seventh time she had attended (all of them consecutively), and she performed fairyland. Countdown Live 2005-2006 DVD will be released 23rd of March 2006.
The album, (miss)understood, hit stores on the first of January, 2006. Upon release, the album shot straight to #1, becoming her seventh consecutive #1 original album and her 11th #1 album in total. Besides claiming the number one spot for the daily, weekly and monthly Japanese charts in January 2006, (miss)understood also hit the number one spot on the United World Charts with a debuting sales of 653,830, making it the first album to reach the first position in 2006. However, it seems as though the sales have capped off to around 10,000 copies a week, and may be Ayumi's first studio album not to reach the 1 million mark.
The initial pressings of the album included two photobooks -- one for the CD version (entitled off my day), and another for the CD+DVD version (entitled on my way). The DVD version will include all PVs that were made for her 2005 releases (excluding my name's WOMEN) -- STEP you, is this LOVE?, fairyland, alterna, heaven, bold & delicious and pride, as well as an alternative PV for bold & delicious (called the “Side story”). Two new PVs were also included -- ladies night and rainy day made their debut on the disc. “Making-of” clips for STEP you, is this LOVE?, fairyland, alterna, heaven and pride feature also.
Ayumi's 39th single "startin' / Born to Be..." was released on the 8th of March 2006. "startin'" is used as the opening theme of video game Onimusha|Shin Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams, while "rainy day" (featured on her (miss)understood album) is the ending theme.
"Born To Be..." is the official theme song for the Japanese television coverage of the 2006 Winter Olympics. The third track on the single is an acoustic version of the TRF (band)|TRF song "teens", which Hamasaki also recorded for a compilation album, due to be released later this year.
Recently, Ayu released her newest single, "BLUE BIRD". That was on the 21st of June. It features the song "BLUE BIRD", a very summery song, many fans say it's very much the same as "fairyland". Then, there's "Beautiful Fighters", the music of this song is almost like an intro movie of a new Japanese anime series. Many fans wanted to hear the new remix of "Ladies Night", called "Ladies Night ~another night~, which was first featured in a Panasonic Lumix Commercial. The vocals are the same as in the original version, only the music is really different. This time Ayu chose to use a nice and cool rock theme. And last but not least, there's the remix of "BLUE BIRD", "BLUE BIRD "Harderground mix", a great and summery harddance/hardstyle remix of the lovely "BLUE BIRD" song.
The 40th single comes in three variations, there are two CD+DVD versions with different covers and these two differ in the containment of the "Making of"'s. And there's always of course the CD version. In Japanese stores, if you buy the CD version with one of the two (or both) CD+DVD versions, you'll get a free poster. You can find more info about this on Ayu's official site. (Yesasia has a better, but limited offer, check it out!)
I have almost all of Ayumi Hamasaki's songs.
She has a lot of remixes.
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