I Am... (Ayumi Hamasaki album)

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I Am...
A body shot of a woman (Ayumi Hamasaki) wearing vines and leaves around her body, letting down her brown hair. As she looks towards a distance, a dove sits on her shoudler whilst standing in front of a desert-like surrounding. The title of the album is superimposed on the image.
Studio album by Ayumi Hamasaki
Released January 1, 2002
Recorded 2000–01; Japan
Genre
Length 70:35
Language Japanese
Label
Producer
Ayumi Hamasaki chronology
A Best
(2001)
I Am...
(2002)
Rainbow
(2002)
Singles from I Am...
  1. "M"
    Released: December 13, 2000
  2. "Evolution"
    Released: January 31, 2001
  3. "Never Ever"
    Released: March 7, 2001
  4. "Endless Sorrow"
    Released: May 16, 2001
  5. "Unite!"
    Released: July 11, 2001
  6. "Dearest"
    Released: September 27, 2001
  7. "A Song Is Born"
    Released: December 12, 2001
  8. "Daybreak"
    Released: March 6, 2002
  9. "Connected"
    Released: April 7, 2003 (Europe only)

I Am... (stylized as I am...) is the fourth studio album by Japanese recording artist Ayumi Hamasaki. It was released on New Years Day (January 1), 2002 via Avex Trax and their Taiwan-based headquarters. It was distributed in two physical formats—a standard CD and Playbutton—and for digital consumption. After the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City, United States, Hamasaki, whom started working on her new project, changed the original music and design direction by emphazise lighter themes than her previous work. As a result, the record delves with hope, peace and love, superimposed on J-Pop-inspired rock music.

Upon its release, I Am... received favorable reviews from music critics. Many publications commended Hamasaki's musical direction and the commercial appeal, whilst some reviewers noted that some tracks were fillers. Commercially, it experienced huge success in Japan, reaching atop of the Oricon Albums Chart. It was certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ) for shipments of three million units.

In order to promote the album, nearly half of the songs from the record were released as singles; additionally, "M" and "Evolution" sold over one million copies in Japan. After its release, she commenced two concert tours within Japan; a tour and a tour, both of which experienced commercial success and spawned live DVD releases. Before I Am..., Hamasaki felt that she would not enter an Asian market; thus, she never performed outside Japan and did not use English in her lyrics. However, shortly after the release of the album, she performed at the 2002 MTV Asia Music Awards ceremony, her first performance held outside Japan.

Background and development[edit]

On September 28, 2000, Hamasaki released her third studio album Duty to critical and commercial success; moreover, it remains her best-selling studio album.[1][2] Additionally, she started recording her fourth studio album after its release, spawning the single "M" in December that year.[3] However, Hamasaki's label Avex Trax planned an idea to published a musical retrospect, but the singer refused.[4] Avex Trax ignored her refusal and went ahead with the plan, releasing A Best in March 2001 as a "competitive strategy" against Japanese recording artist Utada Hikaru and her album, Distance; this resulted into a minor halt towards her new material.[5][6] Subsequently, she returned to various studios in Japan to record new work.

However, Hamasaki became emotionally struck by the effects of the September 11 attacks, and had second guesses about certain material on the album. As a result, she decided to scrap the original musical direction a focus on "lighter themes" such as faith and peace.[7][8] Along with this decision, Hamasaki decided to expand her market by performing outside of Japan; in 2002, she attended and performed at the MTV Video Music Awards in Singapore, her first to do so.[9] During the production and composing phase of the album, Hamasaki became dissatisfied of the results her team had given her for the track "M", so she decided to compose the tune herself.[10] Feeling more happier about the change, she focused on composing and producing more material under the alias CREA.[11][12]

Composition[edit]

Musically, I Am... is a rock album that incorporates elements of J-Pop, electronic music and acoustic-driven instrumentation.[12][13] The record holds 15 tracks, alongside a hidden recording at the end titled "Flower Garden"; this was Hamasaki's second time she performed this strategy, after Loveppears (1999).[11][14] Additionally, the singer provided 10 compositions to the album, the most participation in any of her records.[11] I Am... sees the return of her previous composers and arrangers: Tasuku, CMJK, Hal, Dai Nagao (under the alias D.A.I.) and Naoto Suzuki, whilst the album is solely produced by Max Matsuura.[11]

Despite 16 tracks, it consists of two interlude tracks; "Opening Run" and "Taskinlude", and a varied version of "Endless Sorrow", titled the "Gone With the Wind version".[11] Japanese musician Tetsuya Komuro is credited as an additional composer to the record for his and Hamasaki's single "A Song is Born", which originally featured vocals by Komuro's wife Keiko Yamada.[11][15] Many of the songs on the album shift keys; most shift to a relative key. "M" and "Still Alone" shift to the parallel key; "Evolution" and "Naturally" shift to the dominant and subdominant keys, respectively.[16] The lyrical content on I Am..., as aforementioned, deals with lighter themes such as hope and peace, alongside additional depictions of love and Hamasaki's personal experiences.[7]

Release[edit]

I Am... was released on New Years Day (January 1), 2002 via Avex Trax and their Taiwan-based headquarters. It was distributed in two physical formats—a standard CD and Playbutton—and for digital consumption.[11] According to Hamasaki, the original promotional photography had been photographed by Toru Kumazawa, noted to be a lot "darker" than her previous work with him.[8] However, after the singer's change of theme and direction due to the September 11 attacks, she organised another shoot with Kumazawa. The second round of photography depicted Hamasaki in an outfit covered in leaves and vines.[11] She placed a dove on her shoulder for the shot, as a symbolic message of peace and hope.[11] The CD version included a 24-page booklet that featured shots of Hamasaki in a desert, whilst an additional lyrical booklet came with it.[11] Regarding the change, where she labelled it a "peace muse", she explained;

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.[8]

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics written by Ayumi Hamasaki.

No. Title Music Arranger(s) Length
1. "I Am..." Ayumi Hamasaki[Note 1] Tadashi Kikuchi + tasuku 5:31
2. "Opening Run" (Instrumental) CMJK CMJK 0:57
3. "Connected" Ferry Corsten Corsten 3:19
4. "Unite!" Ayumi Hamasaki HΛL 4:59
5. "Evolution" Ayumi Hamasaki HΛL 4:40
6. "Naturally" Ayumi Hamasaki CMJK 4:16
7. "Never Ever" Ayumi Hamasaki Chokkaku 4:40
8. "Still Alone" Ayumi Hamasaki CMJK 5:54
9. "Daybreak" Ayumi Hamasaki, D.A.I, Junichi Matsuda Tasuku 4:48
10. "Taskinlude" (Instrumental) Tasuku Tasuku 1:20
11. "M" Ayumi Hamasaki HΛL 4:26
12. "A Song Is Born" Tetsuya Komuro Komuro 6:16
13. "Dearest" Ayumi Hamasaki, D.A.I Naoto Suzuki 5:32
14. "No More Words" Ayumi Hamasaki, D.A.I Suzuki, Tasuku 5:41
15. "Endless Sorrow" (Gone with the Wind ver.) Ayumi Hamasaki CMJK 5:12
16. "Flower Garden" (secret track) Ayumi Hamasaki, D.A.I   2:38

Release history[edit]

Region Date Format Catalogue Number
Japan January 1, 2002 (2002-01-01) CD AVCD-17037
Taiwan
Hong Kong
China 2002
  • Initial pressing
CD AVTCD-95550
  • SCD-598
Cassette
December 25, 2005 (2005-12-25)
  • Second Press
CD

Charts[edit]

Oricon Chart (Japan)[17]
Release Chart Peak position First Week Sales Sales total Chart run
January 1, 2002 Oricon Daily Album Chart 1
Oricon Weekly Album Chart 1 1,751,360 2,308,112 25
Oricon Monthly Album Chart 1
Oricon Yearly Album Chart 2

Singles[edit]

Date Title Peak position Weeks Sales
December 13, 2000 "M" 1 18 weeks 1,319,070
January 31, 2001 "Evolution" 1 17 weeks 955,250
March 7, 2001 "Never Ever" 1 12 weeks 756,980
May 16, 2001 "Endless Sorrow" 1 11 weeks 768,510
July 11, 2001 "Unite!" 1 17 weeks 571,110
September 27, 2001 "Dearest" 1 16 weeks 750,420
December 12, 2001 "A Song Is Born" 1 10 weeks 441,410
March 6, 2002 "Daybreak (re-cut single)" 2 9 weeks 197,140
  • Total Single Sales: 5,759,890
  • Total Album and Single Sales: 8,068,002[citation needed]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Crea is the pseudonym of Ayumi Hamasaki.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hamasaki, Ayumi (2000). Duty (CD album; Liner notes). Ayumi Hamasaki. Avex Trax. AVJCD10061. 
  2. ^ "Best Selling Albums in Japan of all Time" (in Japanese). Music TV Program Japan. Retrieved October 24, 2016. 
  3. ^ Hamasaki, Ayumi (2000). M (CD single; Liner notes). Ayumi Hamasaki. Avex Trax. AVJCD10061. 
  4. ^ Ayumi Hamasaki (performer) (2004). Hamasaki Ayumi: Light and Shadow, Despair and Decision at age 25 (Documentary). Fukuoka, Japan: Nippon TV. 
  5. ^ True, Chris (2012). "Ayumi Hamasaki – Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved October 24, 2016. 
  6. ^ Hamasaki, Ayumi (2001). A Best (CD album; Liner notes). Ayumi Hamasaki. Avex Trax. AVCD11950. 
  7. ^ a b "Empress of Pop". Time. March 25, 2002. p. 5. Archived from the original on December 28, 2007. Retrieved February 2, 2008. 
  8. ^ a b c Takeuchi Cullen, Lisa (March 25, 2002). "I have very clear ideas of what I want". Time. p. 1. Retrieved February 16, 2008. 
  9. ^ Takeuchi Cullen, Lisa (March 25, 2002). "The Many Faces of Ayu". Time. p. 7. Retrieved April 17, 2008. 
  10. ^ Shikano Atsushi. Rockin'on Japan. February 2001. Volume 165.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Hamasaki, Ayumi (2002). I Am.. (CD album; Liner notes). Ayumi Hamasaki. Avex Trax. AVCD17037. 
  12. ^ a b Takeuchi Cullen, Lisa (March 25, 2002). "I have very clear ideas of what I want". Time. p. 2. Retrieved January 2, 2008. 
  13. ^ Kitazawa (April 8, 2008). "Hamasaki Ayumi against the Music". YesAsia. Retrieved May 13, 2008. 
  14. ^ Hamasaki, Ayumi (1999). Loveppears (CD album; Liner notes). Ayumi Hamasaki. Avex Trax. AVCD11740. 
  15. ^ Hamasaki, Ayumi (2001). A Song is Born (CD single; Liner notes). Ayumi Hamasaki, Keiko Yamada. Avex Trax. 
  16. ^ Ayumi Hamasaki - Piano Solo - New Piano Sounds Top 25. Volume 7. ISBN 978-4-89638-944-9
  17. ^ "I am… 浜崎あゆみのプロフィールならオリコン芸能人事典-ORICON STYLE". Oricon.co.jp. Retrieved 2012-02-23.