#albumoftheday = Ayumi Hamasaki: “I am…”

Today’s #albumoftheday is Ayumi Hamasaki’s 2002 masterpiece I am…, which is one of my favorite J-Pop albums of all time. I suppose I might also say that it’s one of my favorite J-Rock albums of all-time, too, since it’s arguably the most rock-flavored album in Ayumi’s extensive discography.

Ayumi Hamasaki is one of the most popular J-Pop stars of all-time. She’s as popular in Japan as Madonna is in the United States, a veritable living legend and pop idol icon.

The thing I love about I am… in particular is how edgy and experimental it is. Ayu, as she’s affectionately called, used a similar palate for its follow up album, Rainbow, but I prefer I am…, finding its songs to be somewhat catchier. I’m not sure what English language music to compare it to. I suppose it does bear some resemblance to David Bowie’s 90s music and it certainly was made using a lot of loops and other Pro-tools type technology that had just come into the picture less than a decade prior. One album that I would compare it to is the original Russia version of the duo T.a.T.u.’s 200mph In the Wrong Direction. It has similar hooks and electronic flourishes. To that end, there’s a bit of a drum ‘n’ bass or jungle music vibe to I am…

Unlike a lot of J-Pop albums, Ayumi’s I am… is available on Spotify in the United States and other countries so you shouldn’t have any trouble tracking it down. I would start with the emotional “evolution” or the powerful anthem “UNITE!” but this is truly an album that deserves to be listened to from start to finish. It’s definitely not a record where they put all the best songs as the first few tracks and then the rest is filler. I honestly do not feel like a single track on this album is filler.

Was I am… an album that changed my life? In a lot of ways, yes. It was the first Japanese music album I ever bought and I’m almost positive that it was also the first Asian music album I ever purchased as well. And having loved this album so much lead me to buy many other Japanese music albums and that eventually led me to start buying Korean and Chinese music as well. So I am… certainly was my doorway to Asian music, which became a big part of my life. Sometimes I wonder if I would’ve somehow found my way to Asian music if I hadn’t spontaneously bought I am… at a Japanese bookstore over 20 years ago. I probably would have but perhaps it wouldn’t have happened for several more years and I would have subsequently missed out on a lot of good stuff.

If you’ve never listened to Japanese music before, this album would be the perfect place to start.



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