Rainbow (Ayumi Hamasaki album)

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Ayumi Hamasaki shown looking into the camera, unclothed, hugging her knees to her chest, surrounded by bubbles. The entire image is in shades of light blue, with a strong neon glow effect, except for her side hair, which is in shades of orange and red, and flows down past her knees. Below her is written in all uppercase, "RAINBOW".
Studio album by Ayumi Hamasaki
Released December 18, 2002 (2002-12-18)
Recorded 2002
Genre J-pop, pop rock, dance-pop, electropop
Length 71:42
Label Avex Trax
Producer Max Matsuura
Ayumi Hamasaki chronology
I am...
A Ballads
Singles from Rainbow
  1. "Free & Easy"
    Released: April 24, 2002
  2. "H"
    Released: July 24, 2002
  3. "Voyage"
    Released: September 26, 2002
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3.5/5 stars[1]

Rainbow is the fifth studio album by Japanese singer-songwriter Ayumi Hamasaki. It was released on December 18, 2002, by Avex Trax. Released eleven months after her previous album, I Am..., Rainbow is Hamasaki's first album to include English lyrics, only extremely sparingly used in her previous work. The lyrics on Rainbow share themes of freedom and the struggles of women (a topic she would explore more in-depth on 2006's (Miss)understood). Hamasaki composed some of the songs on the album with Dai Nagao, and acted as its sole lyricist.

While promoting I Am... in Singapore, Hamasaki became disappointed that she had not been able to send a message to people who could not speak Japanese; realizing that English was a common global language, she began writing in English. This resulted in Rainbow including three songs that incorporate English lyrics. "Free & Easy" was released as the lead single from Rainbow on April 24, 2002. Released with a photobook titled Hamasaki Republic, it debuted at number one in Japan and was certified double platinum, becoming the fifteenth best selling single of the year. Second single "H" was a triple-A-side, featuring the songs "Independent", "July 1st", and "Hanabi". It was praised as a career highlight, and was commercially successful; it would reach number one on the Oricon daily, weekly, and yearly singles charts, and sell over one million copies. The third single, "Voyage", would also go to number one in Japan and remain at the top spot for three weeks. Rainbow became Hamasaki's first album to have no singles miss the #1 position.

The album was a commercial success: it debuted at number one in Japan, with first week sales of over 1.016 million copies. In its chart run of 22 weeks, Rainbow sold over two million copies and became the second best selling album of the year in Japan, only after Utada Hikaru's Deep River, which sold over three million copies. Rainbow has sold over four million singles and albums worldwide.

Development and production[edit]

After the release of her album I am..., Hamasaki became more relaxed with giving performances outside the country. After performing at the 2002 MTV Asia Music Awards, Hamasaki felt that by writing only Japanese lyrics, she was not able to bring her "message" to other countries. Realizing that English was a "common global language", she decided to include English lyrics in her songs. "Rainbow" contained three songs with English lyrics.[2][3]

Hamasaki also worked with Dai Nagao and composed some songs under her pen name "Crea". The album was stylistically diverse from Hamasaki's previous works as it included rock- and trip-hop-influenced tracks as well as "summery", "up-tempo" and "grand gothic" songs and experimented with new techniques such as gospel choruses and the yells of an audience. The lyrics were also varied: themes in the album included freedom, the struggles of women, and "a summer that ends in sadness".[4]

Three singles were released to promote the album—all of which became number one singles on the Oricon weekly charts. "Free & Easy" was the album's first single, and also Hamasaki's fourteenth number one single on the Oricon Weekly Charts. The track is said to be the result of a sudden inspiration Hamasaki and HAL had at an actual magazine photo shoot with Free & Easy magazine. The lyrics speak of "self-empowerment and freedom". Hamasaki said, "In Free & Easy, I wrote what I am feeling at the moment. In other words, I want to be a person who lives by taking responsibility for my own freedom, and I want to be a person for whom these words are perfectly applicable." The single also marked a dramatic change in the format of Hamasaki's singles. Singles after "Free and Easy" (with the exception of "No Way to Say") cut the number of remixes on the CD down to two or three, unlike previous singles with up to six or seven remixes.

The second single from the album was a multiple-A-side EP titled "H". It contained three tracks from the album - "Independent", "July 1st" and "Hanabi". The EP also reached number one position on Oricon charts and also became Hamasaki's sixth Million selling single[5] and also made her the only artist to accomplish this feat. The single remains Hamasaki's last Million selling single to date. The lyrics of songs on "H" deal with different corners of life. Hanabi,a "reminiscent of the UK trip-hop/dub sound yet has a somewhat nostalgic feeling" deals with "a summer that ends in deep sadness". Independent is an anthem depicting "Independency" and July 1 is a "summer anthem", which featured guitarist Susumu Nishikawa.

The final single from the album was the Hamasaki and DAI penned "Voyage". The single had major classical influences with strings and violins. The song, like its predecessors, also topped the chart and also became one of Hamasaki's critically praised works. The single also garned the title of Hamasaki's longest charting single (with a total run of twenty-eight weeks). The single's music video became one of Hamasaki's two singles in which a short film was used in place of a regular music video (the other one being 2007's "Glitter / Fated"). The single was nominated for a Gold Disk Award.

The title track "Rainbow" that gave the album its title, was not included in the final track listing of the album and it was later included as the lead song in the ballad compilation A Ballads. However, initial pressings of the album included a password to a website to listen to an instrumental preview of "Rainbow" enlisted as the "00" track of the album. Also first versions of the song were used in the TV commercials for promoting the album.

Release and chart performance[edit]

Released in December 2002, Rainbow entered the Japan Oricon Albums Chart at number one, with about 445,000 copies sold in its first day. In the weekly chart, the album reached the top position, selling over one million copies. The album also topped the monthly chart and reached number two on yearly chart, behind Utada Hikaru's Deep River.

The album has sold about 1,857,870 copies in Japan and has been certified 2× Million by the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ). Since Loveppears, "Rainbow" became Hamasaki's first studio album that did not break the two million mark. Worldwide, the album has sold about three million copies. A digipak edition was also released featuring all four covers of the single to commemorate the sale of the millionth copy. Rainbow is the 89th best selling album in Japan of all times[6]

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics written by Ayumi Hamasaki. 

No. Title Music Arranger(s) Length
1. "Everlasting Dream"   CMJK CMJK 1:33
2. "We Wish"   D.A.I HΛL 5:10
3. "Real Me"   D.A.I CMJK 5:26
4. "Free & Easy"   Crea + D.A.I[Note 1] HΛL 5:00
5. "Heartplace"   Crea Tasuku 6:06
6. "Over"   CMJK Toshiharu Umesaki, Atsushi Sato 5:05
7. "Hanabi"   Crea + D.A.I CMJK 4:56
8. "Taskinillusion" (instrumental) Tasuku Tasuku 1:20
9. "Everywhere Nowhere"   Pop CMJK 4:35
10. "July 1st"   Crea + D.A.I Tasuku 4:22
11. "Dolls"   Crea HΛL 5:56
12. "Neverending Dream" (instrumental) Umesaki, Yuta Nakano HΛL 1:35
13. "Voyage"   Crea + D.A.I Ken Shima 5:08
14. "Close to You"   Crea Seiji Kameda 5:47
15. "Independent+" ("+" is a hidden track) Crea + D.A.I Tasuku 9:53


  • Recording – Hiroyuki Shiotsuki, Koji Morimoto, Motohiro Tsuji, Satoshi Kumasaka, Yasuo Matsumoto, Yoichiro Kano, Yuichi Nagayama
  • Mastering – Shigeo Miyamoto
  • Directed by – Yasuyuki Tomita
  • Mixing – CMJK (1), HΛL (3) (12), Koji Morimoto (6, 9, 10, 11, 14), Satoshi Kumasaka (1, 8), Yasuo Matsumoto (2, 4, 5, 7, 13, 15), Yoshiaki Onishi (3)
  • Programming – CMJK (1, 3, 7), HΛL (2, 4, 11, 12), Tasuku (5, 8, 9, 10, 15), Atsushi Sato & Toshiharu Umesaki (6), Takahiro Iida & Yoshinori Kadoya (13), Nobuhiko Nakayama (14)
  • Guitar – Takehito Shimizu (2, 4, 6, 12), CMJK (3, 7, 9), Masato Ishinari (3), Tasuku (5, 8, 10), Yozo Nakatsugawa (5), Norihiro Ishizuka (9), Susumu Nishikawa (10), Hirokazu Ogura (13)
  • Strings – Gen Ittetsu Group (5, 13), Yuko Kajitani, Miyuki Onuma (11)
  • Strings arrangement – Ken Shima (5, 13), Yuta Nakano (11)
  • Backing vocals – Junko Hirotani (7, 13, 14), Andrea L. Hopkins, Daniel Morgan, Yasuhiro Kido (13), Kayoko Wada, Takao Saito (14)

Charts and certifications[edit]


Date Title Peak position Weeks Sales
April 24, 2002 "Free & Easy" 1 9 weeks 486,520
July 24, 2002 "H" 1 24 weeks 1,012,544
September 26, 2002 "Voyage" 1 28 weeks 679,463
  • Total Single Sales: 2,181,983
  • Total Album and Single Sales: 4,039,853


  1. ^ Crea is the pseudonym of Ayumi Hamasaki.


  1. ^ Greenberg, Adam. "Rainbow - Ayumi Hamasaki - Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved October 19, 2014. 
  2. ^ Tsuriya, Takako (March 1, 2007). "Honey Trap". Cawaii (in Japanese) 8 (75): 19, 21. 
  3. ^ Original text from Cawaii: "英語を解禁にしようと思ったのは、アルバムの「Rainbow」からなんだけど、あのころMTVなどで賞をいただいてアジアでパフォーマンスするって い うようをことか何回か続いたの。そのときに、日本語だとやっぱけ傳れってをいかもっていう気がしちゃって、単純な少女はやっぱけ世界共通語だよな~っで 思ったんだよね。"
  4. ^ "Ayumi Hamasaki's director's notes on Rainbow". Avex Marketing Inc. Retrieved April 9, 2008. 
  5. ^ "RIAJ List of Million Selling Releases of 2002" (in Japanese). Retrieved 2010-07-01. 
  6. ^ 歴代アルバムランキング