& (Ayumi Hamasaki EP)

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&
The artwork features a Japanese woman, posing in front of a blue backdrop with a sun beam. The title "&" and 'Ayumi Hamasaki" are imprinted over the image.
CD only artwork.
EP by Ayumi Hamasaki
Released 9 July 2003
Recorded 2003
Genre
Length 34:34
Label Rhythm Zone
Producer Max Matsuura
Singles from &
  1. "Ourselves"
    Released: 9 July 2003
  2. "Greatful Days"
    Released: 9 July 2003
  3. "Hanabi: Episode II"
    Released: 9 July 2003

& is an extended play by Japanese recording artist and songwriter Ayumi Hamasaki. It was released on 9 July 2003, by record label Avex Trax. Hamasaki's fourth extended play, & consists of four recordings; "Ourselves", "Greatful Days", "Hanabi: Episode II", and "Theme of A-Nation 03", with three additional instrumentals of the first three tracks. It was released in two different formats; a stand-alone CD, and a digital EP. The artwork for the EP depicts Hamasaki posing in front of a cloudy backdrop, with the title of the work superimposed over her hair. & contains predominantly J-pop and dance music.

Hamasaki contributed by writing the lyrics to all the tracks, while Japanese production and manager Max Matsuura served as the EP's main producer. & received favourable reviews from music critics who commended the EP's production and commercial appeal. & reached number one on the Oricon Singles Chart, and was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ) for shipments of 500,000 units. "Ourselves", "Greatful Days", "Hanabi: Episode II", and "Theme of A-Nation 03" served as promotional singles, while all but the latter track receiving music videos respectively. & was awarded the Japan Record Award at the 46th Japan Record Awards for Best Pop/Rock Album.

Background and release[edit]

Ayumi Hamasaki announced that she would release a new extended play, marketed as a single, entitled &, and consists of four recordings; "Ourselves", "Greatful Days", "Hanabi: Episode II", and "Theme of A-Nation 03", with three additional instrumentals of the first three tracks.[1] & was released the first single on 9 July 2003 from Hamasaki's 2003 extended play, Memorial Address, and "Ourselves", "Greatful Days", and "Hanabi: Episode II" were included in Memorial Address.[2] & follows the releases of Hamasaki's previous extended plays; Nothing from Nothing (1995),[3] A (1999),[4] and H (2002).[5] & was Hamasaki's final extended play–single up until her 2011 release, Five.[6] & was released in two formats; a stand-alone CD, and a digital EP.[1] The artwork for the EP depicts Hamasaki posing in front of a cloudy backdrop, with the title of the work superimposed over her hair.[1]

& opens with the first track, "Ourselves", which is an R&B tune with influences of "exoticism pop".[7] The lyrics describe Hamasaki's "painful" sense of sorrow and love.[7] "Greatful Days" is a "refreshing" pop song that showcases Hamasaki's "festive" nature, her "pastel" vocals, and a "relaxing" positive message of happiness.[7][8][9] "Hanabi: Episode II" is an answer song to Hamasaki's 2002 song, "Hanabi".[5] It describes Hamasaki's "miserable" state and "struggle[s]" that is transformed into strength.[9][7] "Theme of A-Nation 03" was used for the Avex A-Nation concert tour in 2003, and emphasizes traditional Japanese instrumentals, progressing more oriental J-pop sounds.[7] The next three tracks are instrumental versions of "Ourselves", "Greatful Days", and "Hanabi: Episode II".[1]

Promotion[edit]

"Ourselves", "Greatful Days", and "Hanabi: Episode II" all served as the EP's promotional singles, released on 9 July 2003; the singles did not chart in any Japanese music charts. The singles were promoted through different endorsements deals in Japan; "Ourselves" was used as the televised theme song for Japanese cosmetics brand, Visee, and "Greatful Days" was used as the theme song for Hamasaki's 2004 TV series, Ayuready?.[7] However, by the time the promotion of &, Memorial Address, and her 2003–2004 arena tour was complete, Hamasaki had grown dissatisfied with her position in Avex; she felt that the company was treating her as a product instead of a person.[10] Although Hamasaki initially supported the exploitation of her popularity for commercial purposes, saying that it was "necessary that [she is] viewed as a product", she eventually opposed Avex's decision to market her as a "product rather than a person".[11][12] All three songs featured an accompanying music video, which were included on several DVD compilations by Hamasaki.

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
CD Journal (positive)[7]
Hot Express (positive)[9]
Listen Japan (positive)[8]

& received favourable reviews from music critics. A reviewer from CD Journal commended the EP's production, and highlighted all the singles as stand out tracks; the reviewer highlighted its "music quality" as a positive note.[7] Kondo Yang from Listen Japan was positive in his review, stating that & was a sign of growing "maturity" in Hamasaki's music. He also felt that her "charisma" and "personality" was a reason why & became successful.[8] Eri Kato from Hot Express was positive in her review, commending Hamasaki's songwriting and composing skills, particularly with "Hanabi: Episode II", and the music arrangements. She later praised them as "unique masterpieces" and [9] Alexey Eremenko, who wrote the biography for Hamasaki on AllMusic, highlighted "Ourselves" and "Greatful Days" as one of the extended play's and Hamasaki's long-career stand out tracks.[13]

On the Japanese Oricon Singles Chart, & reached number ones on its debuting week, her third consecutive EP to have reached number one, and her sixteenth number one single overall.[14] The EP lasted sixteen weeks in the top 100, selling 591,000 units,[15][A] and was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ) for shipments of 500,000 units.[16] & is Hamasaki's final single to sell over 500,000 units, and her only post-single to achieve a close achievement of the limit is "No Way to Say" with 400,000 physical and digital sales.[15][17][18]

Track listing[edit]

CD content[1]
No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. "Ourselves"   Ayumi Hamasaki Max Matsuura 4:34
2. "Greatful Days"   Ayumi Hamasaki Max Matsuura 4:39
3. "Hanabi: Episode II"   Ayumi Hamasaki Max Matsuura 4:56
4. "Theme of A-Nation '03"   Ayumi Hamasaki Max Matsuura 6:16
5. "Ourselves" (Instrumental) Ayumi Hamasaki Max Matsuura 4:34
6. "Greatful Days" (Instrumental) Ayumi Hamasaki Max Matsuura 4:39
7. "Hanabi: Episode II" (Instrumental) Ayumi Hamasaki Max Matsuura 4:56
Total length: 34:34

Charts[edit]

Chart (2003) Peak
position
Japan Weekly (Oricon)[14] 1

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Japan (RIAJ)[19] 2× Platinum 591,000[15]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Sales provided by Oricon database and are rounded to the nearest thousand copies.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Hamasaki, Ayumi (July 2003). & (Liner notes). Ayumi Hamasaki. Japan: Avex Trax. AVCD-30497. 
  2. ^ Hamasaki, Ayumi (December 2003). Memorial Address (Liner notes). Ayumi Hamasaki. Japan: Avex Trax. 
  3. ^ Hamasaki, Ayumi (December 1995). Nothing From Nothing (Liner notes). Ayumi Hamasaki. Japan: Avex Trax. 
  4. ^ Hamasaki, Ayumi (August 1999). A (Liner notes). Ayumi Hamasaki. Japan: Avex Trax. 
  5. ^ a b Hamasaki, Ayumi (July 2002). H (Liner notes). Ayumi Hamasaki. Japan: Avex Trax. 
  6. ^ Hamasaki, Ayumi (August 2011). Five (Liner notes). Ayumi Hamasaki. Japan: Avex Trax. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h CD Journal Staff (11 July 2003). "Hamasaki Ayumi / & out of print" (in Japanese). CdJournal. Retrieved 13 December 2015. 
  8. ^ a b c Yang, Kondo (11 July 2003). "& by Ayumi Hamasaki" (in Japanese). Listen Music; published by Yahoo! Music Japan. Archived from the original on 2004-08-11. Retrieved 13 December 2015. 
  9. ^ a b c d Kato, Eri (11 July 2003). "& by Ayumi Hamasaki" (in Japanese). Hot Express; published by Yahoo! Music Japan. Archived from the original on 2004-08-11. Retrieved 13 December 2015. 
  10. ^ "The First-Time Stench of Being a Human". Oricon Style (in Japanese) (49–1275): 17–19. December 27, 2004. 
  11. ^ Ayumi Hamasaki (interviewee) (2004). Hamasaki Ayumi: The Heartbreak and Decision in Light and Shadow (Television). Japan: NTV. 
  12. ^ Takeuchi Cullen, Lisa (March 25, 2002). "I have very clear ideas of what I want". Time. p. 2. Archived from the original on 2007-12-12. Retrieved January 2, 2008. 
  13. ^ Eremenko, Alexey. "Ayumi Hamasaki – Songs". AllMusic. Retrieved 30 November 2015. 
  14. ^ a b 浜崎あゆみのリリース一覧 [List of Ayumi Hamasaki's Releases]. Oricon (in Japanese). Retrieved August 17, 2014. 
  15. ^ a b c "オリコンランキング情報サービス「you大樹」" [Oricon Ranking Information Service 'You Big Tree']. Oricon (in Japanese). Retrieved 21 May 2014. (subscription required (help)). 
  16. ^ ゴールドディスク認定作品一覧 2003年1月~7月 [Works Receiving Gold Disc Certifications List (January to July 2003)] (in Japanese). Recording Industry Association of Japan. August 10, 2003. Retrieved January 22, 2014. 
  17. ^ ゴールド等認定作品一覧 2003年11月 [Works Receiving Certifications List (Gold, etc) (November 2003)] (in Japanese). Recording Industry Association of Japan. December 10, 2003. Retrieved January 23, 2014. 
  18. ^ レコード協会調べ 1月度有料音楽配信認定 [Record Association Investigation: January Digital Music Download Certifications] (in Japanese). Recording Industry Association of Japan. February 28, 2014. Retrieved March 4, 2014. 
  19. ^ "Japanese single certifications – Kumi Koda – 3 Splash" (in Japanese). Recording Industry Association of Japan. Retrieved 13 December 2015.  Select 2014年月 on the drop-down menu

External links[edit]