A (Ayumi Hamasaki EP)

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A
An image of Ayumi Hamasaki sitting down in a black backdrop, merging with her black dress. She features dark-red hair in a crop hairstyle, with a long piece of digitally-altered string on her hand with the song and artist title on the left.
EP by Ayumi Hamasaki
Released August 11, 1999
Recorded January–July 1999;
Prime Sound Studio, Studio Sound Dali, Onkio Haus (Tokyo, Japan); Soundtrack (New York City, New York)
Genre
Length 1:15:48
Label
Producer Max Matsuura
Ayumi Hamasaki chronology
A Song for ××
(1999)A Song for ××1999
A (EP)
(1999)
Loveppears
(1999)Loveppears1999
Singles from A
  1. "Monochrome"
    Released: August 11, 1999
  2. "Too Late"
    Released: August 11, 1999
  3. "Trauma"
    Released: August 11, 1999
  4. "End Roll"
    Released: August 11, 1999

A (stylized as ) is an extended play (EP)[A] by Japanese recording artist Ayumi Hamasaki. It was released by Avex Trax in Japan and Hong Kong on August 11, 1999 in 10 different editions, and through Avex Entertainment Inc. worldwide in September 2008. It also served as a single through her second studio album Loveppears (1999), and is her first single marketed as an EP. The EP includes the four original tracks "Monochrome", "Too Late", "Trauma", and "End Roll", all served as promotional single from A, alongside eight remixes. The tracks written by Hamasaki herself, while production was handled by long-time collaborator Max Matsuura.

Musically, A is a pop rock album that is influenced by dance music, a common trait that runs throughout its parent album. Lyrically, the original tracks are written in third person perspective and deal with themes such as nostalgia, anxiety and trauma. Upon its release, A received favorable reviews from music critics as both a collection and by individual tracks. Some of the tracks were highlighted as examples of Hamasaki's best work, whilst some praised the production of the original songs in compared to the album versions. However, a critic from CD Journal criticized the amount of remixes on the EP.

Commercially, the single was a success in Japan, peaking at number one on the Oricon Singles Chart and TBS' Count Down TV chart. It became Hamasaki's second consecutive single to sell over one million units in that region, and was certified Million by the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ) for shipments of one million units. It is Hamasaki's highest selling single, and additionally within Japan music history. No music videos were shot for the tracks, but Hamasaki and the original recordings appeared in commercial videos that broadcast in Japan. Each individual original track has appeared on Hamasaki's greatest hits albums, such as A Best (2001) and A Complete: All Singles (2007).

Content and composition[edit]

A was Hamasaki's first extended play release, and was her first EP to be marketed as a single in Japan. The EP consists of four recordings: "Monochrome", "Too Late", "Trauma", and "End Roll", all written by Hamasaki herself and produced by Japanese musician and her long-time collaborator Max Matsuura.[6] The three songs apart from "Monochrome" were composed by Japanese musician Dai Nagao, who used the alias D.A.I., whilst the latter track was composed by Japanese band HΛL. The tracks were arranged by Naoto Suzuki and Nagao, and eventually mixed by American engineer Dave Ford; the edited versions that appeared on Hamasaki's second studio album Loveppears (1999) were re-vised and mixed by Dave Way.[7] Naoto played the keyboards and synthesizers in all four original tracks, whilst Jun Kajiwara, Naoki Hayashibe, both Hidetoshi Suzuki and Naoki Hayashibe, and Hayashibe played the electric guitar in "Trauma", "End Roll", "Too Late", and "Monochrome" respectively.[7]

Musically, A was described by staff members at AllMusic as a pop rock release.[8] However, like a majority of the sounds throughout the parent album, the original tracks are also inspired by dance music.[9][10][11] A staff member from Japanese magazine CD Journal commented that both "Trauma" and "Too Late" were dance tunes, whilst "Monochrome" was set at a medium tempo.[9] Lyrically, the song was written in third person perspective, a trait that is shared with the rest of the album's tracks.[12][13] The review at CD Journal noted that each track included different emotions and themes; Hamasaki talked about her anxiety in "Too Late", nostalgia in "Monochrome", and "transforming" trauma into positivity in "Trauma".[9]

Release[edit]

A was released by Avex Trax in Japan and Hong Kong on August 11, 1999 in 10 different editions, and through Avex Entertainment Inc. worldwide in September 2008. The EP included the four original recordings, plus four remixes, two bonus remix tracks through first press issues of the single, and an instrumental version for the original songs.[6][14] To market each original track in Japan, Avex distributed four different editions of the single by changing the compact disc colors, these being blue, green, orange, and red.[15] For each color, the original recordings included on the track list is shifted down one and each variation were limited to 70,000 units.[15][B] After the single sold over one million units in Japan, Avex Trax distributed a limited gold edition disc that was noted by the company through the liner notes as just a sticker. This edition was limited to 100,000 copies in Japan.[16]

However, after the first gold version sold over its limit, Avex published a second gold disc titled the Shining Gold CD to 150,000 copies in Japan. The disc was made of real gold, and the artwork of Hamasaki was tinted gold.[17] Two promotional 12" vinyls were distributed in Japan by Rhythm Republic on October 16, 1999; the first vinyl featured a remix for both "Too Late" and "Monochrome", whilst the second vinyl included a remix for each original recording.[18][19] The artwork was photographed by Toru Kumazawa, and features Hamasaki in a black dress in front of a black backdrop, holding onto a long piece of white string. The logo on the artwork was the first establishment of Hamasaki's logo/emblem, a staple she has used ever since.[6]

Although the original recordings were promoted together with the EP, each of them were distributed in Japan and worldwide as individual singles. "Monochrome" was remixed by American DJ Keith Litman, and released in North America in early 2001, whilst Eurofen and Bonus Kaos remixed the track and released it in the United Kingdom by Badorb.com on July 21, 2001; the latter release was limited to 486 vinyls.[20][21] American duo Thunderpuss remixed the track "Trauma" and released it in North America through the offices of Avex USA in early 2001.[22] "Too Late" was remixed by Soul Solution and was released in North America through Avex USA in mid-2001.[23]

Critical response[edit]

Upon its release, A received favorable reviews from music critics. In a review for Loveppears at CD Journal, a staff member selected "Trauma", "Too Late", "Monochrome", and another album track titled "And Then" as the best songs. In general, the review commended Hamasaki's songwriting and her vocal delivery.[9] However, a separate review for the A at the same publication was mixed. The review complimented the original four recordings, but criticized the amount of remixes and felt the extra editions were not "convincing" for Hamasaki's fan base.[24] In retrospect, AllMusic's Alexey Eremenko, whom contributed to writing Hamasaki's biography on the website, selected "End Roll", "Monochrome", and "Trauma" as an examples of her best work.[25] In 2015, Japanese website Goo.ne.jp hosted a 24-hour only poll for audiences in Japan to vote for their favorite single released by Hamasaki. As a result, A ranked at number 12, with a rating of 32.1 average percent.[26]

Commercial performance[edit]

Commercially, the single was a success in Japan. It debuted at number one on the Oricon Singles Chart, selling 508,940 units in its first week of sales. A is the 78th single with the highest first week sales, a record that still holds as of July 2016.[27] It stayed at number one of three non-consecutive weeks, and lasted 18 weeks on the top 200, one of Hamasaki's longest spanning singles on that chart.[28] Likewise, it debuted at number one on the Count Down TV chart hosted by Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS).[29] It stayed atop of the charts for two weeks, and lasted 17 weeks in the top 100.[30]

By the end of 1999, it had sold over 1,630,540 units in Japan and ranked at number three on Oricon's Annual 1999 chart. It resulted as the highest selling EP–single by any artist at the time, and was the highest selling single by a female artist.[31] Similarly, it ranked at number six on TBS' Annual Chart, the third highest selling single by a female artist (behind two entries by Japanese recording artist Utada Hikaru), alongside being the highest selling EP–single.[32] In July 2000, the single was certified Million by the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ) for shipments of one million units; this was her second consecutive single to sell over one million units, the first being the previous single from Loveppears "Boys & Girls".[1] As of July 2016, it is Hamasaki's highest selling physical single of her entire career on Oricon Style's data base, and is the 57th best selling single in Japan of all time; it is the ninth highest selling single by a female artist.[33][34][C]

Promotion and live performances[edit]

No music videos were shot for the tracks on A, her first major release to not feature any visuals. However, in Japan, Hamasaki appeared in commercial endorsement videos that promoted each original track from A.[24] "Trauma" and "Monochrome" were used as the official theme songs for two commercials of JT Peach Water drinks, whilst "Too Late" was the theme song for Honda Giorno Crea, and Hal's remix of "End Roll" was featured in commercial for Morinaga.[24] The videos for each commercial appeared on several DVD compilations released by Hamasaki: A Clips (2000),[37] a self-titled DVD,[38] A Complete Box Set (2004),[39] and the digital release of A Clips Complete (2014).[40] "Trauma" and "End Roll" were included on her greatest hits compilation album A Best (2001),[41] whilst "Monochrome" was added onto A Complete: All Singles (2007),[42] To promote the EP, each original recording were performed on Hamasaki's first part and second part of her 2000 concert tour in Japan.[43][44]

Track listing[edit]

Personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from the CD liner notes of A;[6]

Recording
  • Recorded at Prime Sound Studio, Studio Sound Dali, Onkio Haus, Tokyo, Japan in 1999.
Credits
  • Ayumi Hamasaki – vocals, songwriting, background vocals
  • Max Matsuura – production
  • Dai Nagao – composing, programming, mastering
  • HΛL – composing, synthesizers, keyboards
  • Naoto Suzuki – sound producing
  • Jun Kajiwara – electric guitar
  • Naoki Hayashibe – electric guitar
  • Hidetoshi Suzuki – electric guitar
  • Dave Ford – mixing
  • Dave Way – mixing

Charts[edit]

Certification and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Japan (RIAJ)[1] Million 1,630,540[36]

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

Release history[edit]

Region Date Format Label
Japan[6] August 11, 1999 CD single + colored editions
Hong Kong[14] CD single Avex Trax
Japan[18][19][45] October 16, 2000 12" vinyl (titled NYC) Rhythm Republic
12" vinyl (titled TYO)
Digital download September 2008[D] Avex Entertainment Inc.
Australia[47]
New Zealand[48]
United Kingdom[49]
Ireland[50]
Germany[51]
Spain[52]
France[53]
Italy[54]
Taiwan[55]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The classification of A as a single, EP, or album has been disputed. Technically, Avex Trax marketed it as a single and served as the fifth single from her album Loveppears (with it additionally charting on the Oricon Singles Chart). However, the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ) have recognised the release as an album.[1] But this can be furthered disputed as an extended play according to top organisations outside of Japan that define an EP; according to off-related sources such as The Official Chart Company (BPI), About.com, and Enki Village, an EP can typically included an average of four tracks but do not count remixes and alternative version. And knowing that A is a single inside of Loveppears, it can be easily recognized as an EP–single than an album.[2][3][4][5]
  2. ^ To understand the track list changes, visit the link here to view the Master release of A at Discogs.com
  3. ^ There has been a dispute in which is Hamasaki's highest selling single. According to a 2015 publication through AllMusic, the author of the page identified that Hamasaki's 2007 single "Together When..." sold over 3.3 million digital units worldwide, making it her highest selling single overall.[35] Despite the song being her highest selling single overall, it is not recognised through Oricon database as her highest selling single in Japan alone. Based on their ranking, A is her highest selling single in the category (despite it being recognised as an EP), and "Seasons" is her highest selling single without any other additional recordings.[36]
  4. ^ There is currently insufficient evidence to determine what date Hamasaki's digital releases appeared on online retails. The closest source for iTunes Store evidence is at Jame World, whom confirmed Hamasaki's work was released worldwide on iTunes in September 2008.[46]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "GOLD ALBUM 他認定作品 2000年5月度" [Gold Albums, and other certified works. May 2000 Edition] (PDF). The Record (Bulletin) (in Japanese). Chūō, Tokyo: Recording Industry Association of Japan. 488: 8. July 10, 2000. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 29, 2013. Retrieved January 17, 2014. 
  2. ^ Tina. "EP vs LP: What's the Difference?". Enki Village. Retrieved July 29, 2016. 
  3. ^ Heather McDonald (June 1, 2016). "Music Marketing: What Is an EP?". The Balance. Retrieved September 2, 2016. 
  4. ^ Austin, Chris; Blyth, Lucy (April 2013). "Rules for Chart Eligibility - Singles" (PDF). Official Charts Company. Archived from the original on October 2, 2013. Retrieved June 20, 2014. 
  5. ^ Austin, Chris; Blyth, Lucy (April 2013). "Rules for Chart Eligibility - Albums" (PDF). Official Charts Company. Archived from the original on August 1, 2014. Retrieved June 20, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f Hamasaki, Ayumi (1999). A. Avex Trax (CD Single; Liner notes). Ayumi Hamasaki. Japan. AVCD-30050. 
  7. ^ a b Hamasaki, Ayumi (1999). Loveppears (CD Album; Liner notes). Ayumi Hamasaki. Japan: Avex Trax. AVCD-11740. 
  8. ^ AllMusic Staff (August 19, 1999). "Ayumi Hamasaki – Monochrome". AllMusic. Retrieved July 28, 2016. 
  9. ^ a b c d CD Journal Staff (November 10, 1999). "Loveppears – Ayumi Hamasaki". CD Journal (in Japanese). Retrieved July 14, 2016. 
  10. ^ AllMusic Staff (April 10, 2001). "Ayumi Hamasaki – Loveppears". AllMusic. Retrieved July 14, 2016. 
  11. ^ Takeuchi Cullen, Lisa (March 25, 2002). "Empress of Pop". Time. p. 3. Archived from the original on April 3, 2002. Retrieved November 28, 2011. 
  12. ^ Hamasaki, Ayumi (interviewee) (March 12, 2003). "Special Website to A Ballads". Ayumi Hamasaki's official website. Retrieved July 16, 2016. 
  13. ^ "Loveppears". Beatfreak (in Japanese). 142. November 1999. 
  14. ^ a b Hamasaki, Ayumi (1999). A (CD Single; Liner notes). Ayumi Hamasaki. Hong Kong: Avex Trax. AVTCDS-191. 
  15. ^ a b Each of the single's limited edition releases are noted below on the liner notes;
    • Hamasaki, Ayumi (1999). A (Blue Disc; Liner notes). Ayumi Hamasaki. Japan: Avex Trax. AVCD-30050. 
    • Hamasaki, Ayumi (1999). A (Green Disc; Liner notes). Ayumi Hamasaki. Japan: Avex Trax. AVCD-30050. 
    • Hamasaki, Ayumi (1999). A (Orange Disc; Liner notes). Ayumi Hamasaki. Japan: Avex Trax. AVCD-30050. 
    • Hamasaki, Ayumi (1999). A (Red Disc; Liner notes). Ayumi Hamasaki. Japan: Avex Trax. AVCD-30050. 
  16. ^ Hamasaki, Ayumi (1999). A (Gold Disc; Liner notes). Ayumi Hamasaki. Japan: Avex Trax. AVCD-30050. 
  17. ^ Hamasaki, Ayumi (1999). A (Shining Gold Disc; Liner notes). Ayumi Hamasaki. Japan: Avex Trax. AVCD-30050. 
  18. ^ a b c Hamasaki, Ayumi (1999). A (12" vinyl; Liner notes). Ayumi Hamasaki. Japan: Avex Trax. RR12-88131. 
  19. ^ a b c Hamasaki, Ayumi (1999). A (12" vinyl; Liner notes). Ayumi Hamasaki. Japan: Avex Trax. RR12-88132. 
  20. ^ Hamasaki, Ayumi (2000). Monochrome (12" Vinyl; Liner notes). Ayumi Hamasaki. North America: Avex Trax USA. AVA-5. 
  21. ^ Hamasaki, Ayumi (2000). Monochrome (12" Vinyl; Liner notes). Ayumi Hamasaki. United Kingdom: Bob. BOB 2. 
  22. ^ Hamasaki, Ayumi (2000). Trauma (12" Vinyl; Liner notes). Ayumi Hamasaki. North America: Avex Trax USA. AVA-3. 
  23. ^ Hamasaki, Ayumi (2000). Too Late (12" Vinyl; Liner notes). Ayumi Hamasaki. North America: Avex Trax USA. AVA-4. 
  24. ^ a b c CD Journal Staff (August 11, 1999). "Ayumi Hamasaki – A [EP]". CD Journal (in Japanese). Retrieved July 14, 2016. 
  25. ^ Eremenko, Alexey (2016). "Ayumi Hamasaki – Songs". AllMusic. Retrieved July 27, 2016. 
  26. ^ Erik (2015). "What are Ayumi Hamasaki's most popular songs?". Goo.ne.jp; published through Arama Japan. Retrieved July 27, 2016. 
  27. ^ "Best First Week Sales for a Single of All Time". Music TV Program Japan (in Japanese). Retrieved July 28, 2016. 
  28. ^ a b "A – Ayumi Hamasaki" (in Japanese). Oricon. August 11, 1999. Archived from the original on August 18, 2012. Retrieved July 28, 2016. 
  29. ^ a b "CDTV PowerWeb! Ranking Singles Chart" (in Japanese). Count Down TV; published through Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS). August 21, 1999. Archived from the original on June 25, 2008. Retrieved July 28, 2016. 
  30. ^ "CDTV PowerWeb! Ayumi Hamasaki – A" (in Japanese). Count Down TV; published through Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS). August 11, 1999. Archived from the original on June 25, 2008. Retrieved July 26, 2016. 
  31. ^ a b "Oricon Yearly Chart – Singles, Albums, and DVD Releases of 1999" (in Japanese). Music TV Program Japan. December 1999. Retrieved July 16, 2016. 
  32. ^ a b "CDTV PowerWeb! 1999 Annual Singles Chart" (in Japanese). Count Down TV; published through Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS). 1999. Archived from the original on June 3, 2008. Retrieved July 16, 2016. 
  33. ^ "Ayumi Hamasaki Single's Ranking" (in Japanese). Oricon. Retrieved July 16, 2016. 
  34. ^ "Best Selling Singles in Japan of All Time" (in Japanese). Music TV Program Japan. Retrieved July 28, 2016. 
  35. ^ Eremenko, Alexey (2016). "Ayumi Hamasaki – Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved June 27, 2016. 
  36. ^ a b "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'] (in Japanese). Oricon. Retrieved May 21, 2014. (Subscription required (help)). 
  37. ^ Hamasaki, Ayumi (2000). A Clips (DVD Videos; Liner notes). Ayumi Hamasaki. Japan: Avex Trax. AVVD-90069. 
  38. ^ Hamasaki, Ayumi (2000). Ayumi Hamasaki (DVD Videos; Liner notes). Ayumi Hamasaki. Japan: Avex Trax. 
  39. ^ Hamasaki, Ayumi (2004). A Complete Box Set (DVD Videos; Liner notes). Ayumi Hamasaki. Japan: Avex Trax. AVBD-91181~3. 
  40. ^ "A Clip Box 1998-2011, Vol. 1 – Album – by Ayumi Hamasaki". iTunes Store (New Zealand). January 1, 2012. Retrieved July 16, 2016. 
  41. ^ Hamasaki, Ayumi (2016). A Best: 15th Anniversary Edition (CD + DVD + Blu-Ray; Liner notes). Ayumi Hamasaki. Japan: Avex Trax. AVZD-93409/B~C. 
  42. ^ Hamasaki, Ayumi (2007). A Ballads (3xCD Compilation Album; Liner notes). Ayumi Hamasaki. Japan: Avex Trax. AVCD-23676~8. 
  43. ^ Hamasaki, Ayumi (2000). Ayumi Hamasaki Concert Tour 2000 Vol. 1 (Live DVD; Liner notes). Ayumi Hamasaki. Japan: Avex Trax. AVBD-91022. 
  44. ^ Hamasaki, Ayumi (2000). Ayumi Hamasaki Concert Tour 2000 Vol. 2 (Live DVD; Liner notes). Ayumi Hamasaki. Japan: Avex Trax. AVBD-91021. 
  45. ^ a b "A – Album – by Ayumi Hamasaki". iTunes Store (Japan). August 11, 1999. Retrieved July 28, 2016. 
  46. ^ "Avex Artists Available at US iTunes Store". Jame World. September 5, 2008. Retrieved April 1, 2016. 
  47. ^ "A – Album – by Ayumi Hamasaki". iTunes Store (Australia). August 11, 1999. Retrieved July 28, 2016. 
  48. ^ "A – Album – by Ayumi Hamasaki". iTunes Store (New Zealand). August 11, 1999. Retrieved July 28, 2016. 
  49. ^ "A – Album – by Ayumi Hamasaki". iTunes Store (United Kingdom). August 11, 1999. Retrieved July 28, 2016. 
  50. ^ "A – Album – by Ayumi Hamasaki". iTunes Store (Ireland). August 11, 1999. Retrieved July 28, 2016. 
  51. ^ "A – Album – by Ayumi Hamasaki". iTunes Store (Germany). August 11, 1999. Retrieved July 28, 2016. 
  52. ^ "A – Album – by Ayumi Hamasaki". iTunes Store (Spain). August 11, 1999. Retrieved July 28, 2016. 
  53. ^ "Fly High – Single – by Ayumi Hamasaki". iTunes Store (France). February 9, 2000. Retrieved July 27, 2016. 
  54. ^ "A – Album – by Ayumi Hamasaki". iTunes Store (Italy). August 11, 1999. Retrieved July 28, 2016. 
  55. ^ "A – Album – by Ayumi Hamasaki". iTunes Store (Taiwan). August 11, 1999. Retrieved July 28, 2016. 

External links[edit]

  • A at Ayumi Hamasaki's official website. (in Japanese)
  • A at Oricon. (in Japanese)