Party Queen, released on 3.21.12, is Hamasaki Ayumi’s 13th album.
The album starts off with its namesake 「Party queen」 as a voice says “party queen” over and over with a gradually growing techno beat. Around the 30 second mark, Ayu comes in, but I was thrown back for a second because her voice sounded a bit nasally or she’s purposely singing in a slightly higher pitched range. For a song called party queen, I was thinking she would maybe sing a bit more energetically. Not that the song isn’t energetic or exudes that party feeling, cause it does, but her vocals leave a little left to be desired.
「NaNaNa」 begins immediately with police sirens before a heavy rock sound gradually comes in. The instrumental is pretty heavy with some synthesizer and electronica as well as Ayu sings with a sultry voice coupled with autotune. After she sings, “kiss kiss kiss me,” a male vocal comes in and speaks in English. As you’d probably guess if you listened to this song, it’s a pretty suggestive line. Throughout the whole song, the instrumental is pretty much the same so everything blends together. More police sirens come near the end of the song, reminiscent of the beginning of the song.
Next up is 「Shake It♥」, which has a soft guitar instrumental before it comes in at its full volume as Ayu sings “Oh, lie, lie, lie” (I’m actually not sure if she’s saying “lie” or not, it’s a bit hard to tell). The instrumental quiets immediately besides an electric guitar in the verses as Ayu sings in a low key, speeding up in the bridge, before the percussion joins the guitar in the chorus. I’m kinda confused about this song, especially near the third verse where there is a little blip of a different instrumental and then it goes back into the guitar.
「taskebab」 is another rock song, this time more pure rock compared to Shake It♥. It’s really more of an interlude than anything else, with a neat mix of guitar and I’m assuming electric keyboard (or maybe some more electronica) for the second half of the song.
A quite ominous sound starts off 「call」 before it goes into a calmer guitar and percussion instrumental. Ayu starts off with mid-paced vocals as her vocals echo slightly. The chorus brings in a heavier instrumental, this time with a male chorus as well providing ad-libs. I actually quite like this one, it kinda gives a nostalgic feeling for some reason…
「Letter」 brings us even more rock in a similar vein to call. There is a bit of orchestra backing up the guitar and percussion, which makes for a neat grand sounding rock instrumental. The chorus instrumental doesn’t change too much, but Ayu’s vocals have a slight overlay to them (not sure with what effect). It has an airy feeling to it, but that might be because of the slight echo to Ayu’s vocals.
A dark orchestra begins 「reminds me」, which is quite telling already. The orchestra gradually goes higher in key before completely coming to a stop for the verses. Instead, for the verses is an acoustic guitar and piano. The chorus suddenly becomes quite a heavy mix of electric guitar, orchestra, and percussion which is greatly contrasting, but a nice move as it brings emotion to the song.
「Return Road」 begins with a solemn orchestra instrumental before being completely shattered by a fast paced organ. Which of course completely stops once we get to the first verse where instead a very calming, twinkling orchestra replaces it as the instrumental. Ayu sings with a slight sadness to her vocals but as soon as we get to the chorus, everything from the beginning comes back at once, bringing such a busy instrumental, I’m not exactly sure what is what. The third verse completely goes in the opposite direction as well as a gothic orchestra and high key piano fill in the instrumental.
「Tell me why」 starts off immediately with a piano instrumental and Ayu’s ad-libs. The verse is driven by the percussion and soft piano as Ayu sings in a low key. The chorus brings in a subtle change with the addition of an orchestra. There’s something about the way Ayu is singing that is bothering me, but besides that, the rest of the song is really nice.
A quick paced violin starts off 「a cup of tea」 before replaced by synthesizer/electronica sounds. Everything is overlayed in a sort of radio-effect, almost as if it were a LQ song, but it’s not. Another interlude.
A romantic orchestra starts off 「the next LOVE」 which is quite befitting. Almost like out of Cinderella or any other fairytale with a ball in it. Ayu starts off with some “lalala” ad-libs and suddenly the brass/sax makes a sharp note as the instrumental changes into a slightly sultry, jazzy instrumental instead of the deceiving romantic orchestra in the beginning. Ayu sings in the same fashion following the mood of the instrumental. The chorus is dazzling as the instrumental pulls all the stops and Ayu sings along, as if she were a jazz singer on stage. Then it changes to a quick beat jazz song near the end, fun!
Interestingly enough, the sound of a ringing telephone starts up 「Eyes, Smoke, Magic」 along with a evil giggle. A voice whispers “eyes, smoke, magic” while snapping, which brings us into a cute nostalgic band instrumental (my brain is being stupid right now and I can’t remember the name of the style). Ayu sings along with the beat of the instrumental along with a male vocal. It’s a fun, quirky song.
The album brings us its last interlude with 「Serenade in A minor」, a beautiful orchestra instrumental in, as suggested, A minor.
So the album ends with 「how beautiful you are」 which was released as a digital single. It’s a simple piano instrumental and Ayu’s vocals in echo-y fashion. One thing I really liked about this song was how the PV represented it as accepting of all types of love (homosexual, heterosexual, and many more). It’s a simple, but beautiful song.
This is a really wonderful album. There are a lot of good songs in this album, my only problem at times would be the way Ayu uses her vocals but in some songs she managed to express her vocals very well. I enjoyed call, reminds me, and Eyes, Smoke, Magic is also a fun song.