A BALLADS was Ayumi Hamasaki’s 2nd compilation album, more specifically it was her first ballads compilation. It was released on March 12, 2003 and reached number 1 on the charts with 561,127 copies and would go on to sell over 924,902 copies in 2003. That however made it a disappointment in sales as it had only sold about one-fourth the copies of her first compilation album A BEST. To date it has sold 1,041,000+ copies, however even though it barely sold 1 million copies and was labeled as a low selling best of album. But as the sales of physical albums and singles lower, and as digital becomes more popular, album sales have plummeted to levels that should A BALLADS have been released now, and sold over 1 million copies, it would be in the top 5 and it could even be the number 1 album of the year. So while it might not be seen as successful then, today it would be successful, also you could consider this a remix album as over half the tracks were remixed. Those that bought the first edition copies could chose from 4 different covers along with the original. And the reason why A BALLADS had two Ayumis on the cover was to symbolize her feeling that she had only herself in this world.
2. appears “HAL’s Progress”
3. Key ~eternal tie ver.~
4. YOU “northern breeze”
5. TO BE “2003 ReBirth Mix”
7. M “HAL’s Progress”
10. SEASONS “2003 ReBirth Mix”
12. A Song for XX “030213 Session take #2”
13. Who… “Across the Universe”
14. Sotsugyou Shashin
RAINBOW, the title track of her previous album. This is the name of her previous album entitled RAINBOW and was used to promote the album. Those that bought RAINBOW, the album, were allowed to download part of the instrumental and submit their own lyrics. It begins with an acoustic guitar along with the piano playing, what a fantastic beginning. Ayumi’s vocals in this song are quite soft and sound so lovely. She begins to sing the verses, and you can hear some background voices singing too. The chorus is the best part of the song, while it’s not to catchy it still manages to sound so good. And towards the end you can hear the word “Rainbow” being sung. What a beautiful way to begin A BALLADS.
appears “HΛL’s Progress” the first of the remixed songs. As you can see this song was arranged by HΛL to make it fit the ballad theme. It begins with some ominous music but then changed into a more modest sounding music with the piano and keyboard playing. Despite it being a ballad it’s roughly fast for a ballad. I actually like the song appears and this version is no exception. The music after the verses sound so beautiful and fit the ballad appearance. I especially love the orchestra in the music and the overall sound. What a great song.
Key ~eternal tie ver.~ the first original song, and I say that it hasn’t changed at all. This song was originally released on her 3rd studio album entitled Duty. And it was already a ballad so it wasn’t remixed in any way. Whether I decide to review Duty or not I will give this song a fair review. Now even though it’s a ballad it doesn’t sound exactly like a ballad. In the chorus of this song Ayumi’s vocals become more powerful and sound so good.
YOU “northern breeze” a popular track with a new spin. Now from what I’ve read Ayumi re-recorded this song as her voice had changed since it was first released. I can honestly say that this song is actually pretty good, I thought it’d be kinda dull, but boy was I wrong. The verses and chorus is simple but still finds a way to sound so good. And the music is really catchy as a bonus.
TO BE “2003 ReBirth Mix” begins with some odd yet beautiful and catchy music. This song wasn’t changed as much as the previous song, as it sounds quite similar, but some more percussions were added to give it a more ballad feel. I haven’t really heard the original version, but if it sounds half as good as this then it’ll be good.
HANABI lit. Fireworks. This song has remained the same as it is originally a ballad. It was released on her H single, and her album RAINBOW. It’s such a lovely song and fits in just right with all these ballads. Here is the original review for HANABI.
M “HΛL’s Progress” another re-arranged song by HΛL. I loved the original version of M as it was such a great song that has a little rock feel to it. In this version the song has been lengthened and has more of an orchestra/piano feel. It begins with the orchestra playing along with the piano and then Ayumi begins to sing. Instead of the electric guitar providing the bridge an electric organ takes its place. And with that it has a church feel to it along with a little scary edge. Finally the song ends with a beautiful piano ending. Here is where you can find the review of the original version of M.
Dearest a beautiful pianno ballad. This song in my opinion is the ballad of the era in Ayumi’s I am… Era. It still sounds as great as ever and manages to find a spot among the other beautiful ballads. The chorus outshined everything else and it sounded so good. For the full review of Dearest click here.
Dolls, the mythical ballad. Dolls was originally on her 5th studio album RAINBOW. It finds a home here in the compilation album along with all the other lovely ballads. Here is the full review of the song Dolls.
SEASONS “2003 ReBirth Mix” another beautiful ReBirth mix. It begins with the piano playing and it sounds as good as ever. This song wasn’t changed as much as some of the others due to it already having a ballad quality, all that was changed was really some instruments, really the percussions. The chorus starts off a little odd but finishes so fantastically. What a great song. And I will do a full review of the original version soon.
Voyage, the sweet music box ballad. This was another song that has remain untouched by change. It was released as its own single entitled Voyage. It was also placed on her 5th studio album RAINBOW. With a beautiful chorus this song shines through.
A Song for XX “030213 Session take #2” the longest named remix track. In case you’re wondering, the numbers in the remix stand for the date in Years, Months, Days so it was recorded on February, 13, 2003 and we can assume that it was recorded twice before it was perfected. It’s quite a lovely song from Ayumi. Not bad at all, the ballad quality adds and gives it the perfect music. There are some guitar parts but they sound to fit in here. What a great remix.
Who… “Across the Universe” the final remix. The original song was the last song on her LOVEppears album. I’m not to sure what the original sounded like but this is a great version. Ayumi’s vocals sound so calm and fit the music very well. The chorus of this song is amazing and sounds so serene. The perfect final remix.
Sotsugyou Shashin lit. Graduation Photograph. This is a cover song of the same name made famous by Matsutoya Yumi. This is the first cover song that Ayumi has done to date. It’s a very sweet song and has such a beautiful aroma around it. The music sounds so peaceful and beautiful. The chorus could use some work but it’s still so fantastic. This was the perfect way to end Ayumi’s first Ballads compilation.
Overall Review: A BALLADS was such a lovely and beautiful collection of ballads. Compared to that of the ballad compilation that have been released up to now, it sounds superb. All the ballads were beautiful and sounded fantastic. Now some were better than others and others needed some help. In spite of that this album has managed to live up to the name A BALLADS.
Final Grade: 95A