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Latest LA Special Photo Session
Another “INSPIRE” story
THE PASSION OF SUMMER
Hamasaki Ayumi’s Special Photo Story
On a passionate new journey
The path she took to get here, was filled with radiant light.
But the brighter the light, the darker the shadow cast.
That’s why she’s singing,
not to voice her sorrows, but to convey her feelings,
with words and rhythms.
And now, she’s setting out on a passionate new journey—
There was a time, when I thought that I would never achieve happiness
World of Dreams
The final destination, a world of dreams.
To rouse up sleeping passions,
to find the true chracter of overflowing passion,
to get closer to her real feelings.
Why can’t I convey my passions?
There is a wall I cannot scale.
I close my eyes, embrace conflict and irony.
Until that sad aura
became my identity.
Waiting for Love
I can’t hurt, nor can I be hurt.
I can’t endure the pain,
but I can’t run from it.
Even though I never had any conviction,
I still got tired, waiting for eternal love.
Young and Rich
I’ve slowly come to realize,
my own wealth and youth.
I felt a small need to move forward.
However, before I set off,
everything was so unclear.Still, I stepped out.
And then, in order to see her dream again,
the girl fell into a deep deep sleep.
To dig deep into her heart,
and confirm her passions, one by one.
Quote: The possibility of a new door opening comes with the ability to honestly express her passion
Special Long Interview
Dressed as a Latin Muse for this photo story shot in LA, this girl managed to show us a new, charming side of her.
A long interview, about the new confidence she gained from her long tour, the thoughts behind her new song, and even talk of love. The straightforward manner with which she conveyed her thoughts shows off her strong “passion” in a sexy way.
The tour, which started at the end of last year, went on all the way to April this year, and there were even added performances. That must have been tough.
Even though the time up till the start of the performance was tough, once the concert itself got going, I actually didn’t feel that it was that bad.
But there were so many lives. Even if you had the physical energy, were there times when your voice just couldn’t take it?
I did 3 consecutive shows at Osaka, and though my physical self was alright, it was a huge strain on my throat. But, aside from feeling some pain, it was OK.
You were really energetic, weren’t you?
On stage, of course. Because I’m the youngest among all my staff members, I’m sure it must have been tougher for them. (laugh)
For Hamasaki Ayumi’s case, I think you take a very special role when it comes to tours. Aside from being a solo artist, you also take charge of all the production work. For this tour, what role did you play? Did you oversee all of the production work, or did you just concentrate on being a singer?
I do what I always do. First, I think about how to link up all the songs. I decide on details like where to place guitar solos to fill up and support areas where the sound is weak. Next, I hold discussions with the dancers to determine which scenes they should appear in. Lastly, we all have rehearsals, and I think about lighting sequences and bigscreen animations. After all this, then I decide on costumes. That’s the general flow.
So you’re actually more of a producer than a performer.
I do like being a producer.
Have you ever had any disputes over this with your staff?
They’re not disputes, but rather an exchange of opinions, like “Won’t it be better if we do it this way?” For example, when choosing costumes, we’ll hold discussions like “Will this material reflect too much when the spotlight shines on it?”
Once you’ve started touring, there are always changes made to the way you perform, right?
Yep, that does change alot. Apart from the stage, everywhere else like backstage and the audience is crammed with people, and it’s really tough trying to get them to think as one. You also need to deal with morale, plus, different problems will arise everyday, and we have to change costumes, lighting or the staging to adapt.
The lives this time are divided into 2 main sections. The first half doesn’t have any MCs, and it moves forward steadily as a pure “show”. The second half has more casual costumes, and involves the audience more, closing the distance between you and them.
My lives have always been like this.
And at the very end, you put down the mic and shout “Thank you so much!” with your raw voice.
I could always hear everyone’s voices really well from the stage, so I wondered, “If I didn’t have a mic, will people still be able to hear my voice?”
They could, even though the arena was so big.
I think the difference between the first and second halves of the concert is very interesting. Even though I always thought the audience would be overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the show, they could actually experience a closeness with you, just as if you were performing in a small livehouse.
Originally, I wanted to experience the feeling of the world coming together as one, something which never happens in real life. That’s why I thought that if I asked “Is everyone happy!?” during the MC sessions, I will see everyone answering me as one. For example, if you go to a theatre, and the protagonist in the movie asks you “Everyone~, are you enjoying yourselves~!?”, it sort of spoils the whole thing, right? (laugh) It’s the same thing, I wanted to see the world as one, just like in my dreams. And after the encore, I felt that I have become closer to the audience.
I see. I think everyone did enjoy themselves during the performance. When I attended the show in Hokkaido, I saw whole families present, with kids and sometimes even grandmas. Lots of people have been touched by your lives. When you’re onstage and the other members are illuminated by the spotlight, have you tried to look at them objectively?
I have, and I think they look really calm.
I understand how, before the performance, you can oversee things calmly as a producer, but during the actual show itself, can you still observe things with an objective eye?
Yes, and I see lots of things, like “Today, XXX did something wrong here”, or “Enrique-san, were you fooling around?” (laugh)
You’re scary. (laugh) Nobody can escape from you.
Whether I’m feeling happiness or sorrow, I am able to honestly express my feelings and passion
When I look at the tour this time, I felt that, aside from some calm moments, you seemed to have forgotten the distance that existed between you and the audience, and to let yourself be carried away by the music created by the band and dancers. There were moments when you looked like you were absolutely enjoying yourself.
Probably. I felt like I’m split into 2 selves: one that is completely immersed in the live performance, and another in spirit form, watching over the whole thing and seeking confirmation of myself.
Quote: I became able to laugh at the mistakes made during a performance, because I think that being able to enjoy myself during that moment is the most important of all.
I dare say that the self who was totally immersed was the one enjoying herself the most. The feel-good thrill of being able to sing out loud, and the energy and passion coming from everyone. I think it’s really awesome to still be able to see things with a objective eye in such a situation.
Of course, there are moments when I’m totally immersed, but that is only for my own satisfaction. Sort of like “I’m the best right now, aren’t I?” (laugh) But I know that when I’m feeling good like this, I won’t be able to see anything. There are surely things which I wasn’t able to notice during rehearsals. The band, dancers and staff are aware of the audience, so I want to be able to judge the audience’s reactions too.
That’s naturally a professional stance that an entertainer should take. Even though you have been doing it all this while, I think that you have managed to achieve a high-calibre performance again this time. However, this time, aside from having such outstanding performance, you also enjoyed yourself. Like during the more sexy parts, I could feel the passion of life coming from you. It did make me wonder if you have somehow changed. During the tour finale’s MC session, you said “I’ve come to think well of myself, even when I’m at my very worst”, and that made a big impression on me.
Hmm~… How shall I put it? In the past, I hated it when I could not pull off something as perfectly as I could during rehearsals. There are just so many things that need to be done perfectly during the actual performance. For my case, because I do lots of quick costume changes, there were times when I came on stage a little later. When it got really bad, sometimes I had to make my appearance while singing the first line already. (laugh) I totally couldn’t forgive myself for those. Even when the misses did not concern me directly, like lighting, sound or dance mistakes, I felt the same way. After looking at this tour objectively, I realized that there were many mistakes too. However, I laughed at them. I didn’t get angry and demand “Why did this happen!?”, but the mistakes became something funny to be laughed over with everyone.
Does that mean that you’ve become more flexible? Linking up this flexibility with the experience from all the previous tours, where you did really outstanding things.
Yes. “A MUSEUM” was the first time I held a series of lives all at the same location, and the announcement of it was so sudden, so it was really hard both on my physical and mental self. I was a little worried about whether I could pull it off, but when at last, everything turned out well, I felt that my relations with various people became stronger too.
Did you possess that flexibility that allowed you to laugh at mistakes then?
I did. I pointed at it and laughed. In contrast, everyone else were the ones who went “What just happened!?” instead. (laugh) I was able to see that mistakes are just a part of lives. So rather than becoming flexible, I’d say I gained confidence instead. When someone makes a mistake, you need to be confident that the person will be able to make a recovery.
What was it that allowed you to be able to laugh?
Since long ago, I’ve had the notion that “I need to work hard”. Even though that still stands today, I feel that what is more important is that I am able to enjoy myself and be caught up in the moment.
Was there any occasion in general that caused you to think this way? Like, did anyone give you advice, or did anything happen?
I think it’s probably because I found that I could place my trust in the staff, band and dancers.
Rather than being something which you realized suddenly, this feeling accumulated over time?
So it’s been like this for this tour, as well as the new song, but I somehow get the feeling that the way of viewing is different. In other words, while the things which Hamasaki-san wishes for, as well as the goals which you aim for, will never change, the way which you look at them has. Your past music was all about the hardships and ironies of living, and your songs had this “negative aura” about them. From then on, you’ve moved on to talk about “love”, and have become the guiding light which leads everyone to happiness. This time, you have moved on to another new stage again. While holding on to hardship and irony, as well as love and happiness, you seem to have become able to convey the passions in your heart…
I think it’s because I’ve become more honest.
After coming all this way, were there times when circumstances needed you to “put on a sorrowful expression”, or maybe “to put on a joyful expression”?
Yes, there were. Sometimes I needed to be happy, sometimes I needed to be hurt, it always depends on the situation. In contrast, there were times when I could not be happy even when I needed to be, or to keep sending out messages about Love and Peace when I can’t.
Sorrow or joy, no matter what the real person is feeling, as a representative you have to conform to everyone else and the times, and to feel as they do. Something like this?
Yep, but humans are not simple creatures with only one face. No matter how important or trivial something is, we will always be troubled by it. However, whether that matter is worthy of being conveyed to others is up to ourselves.
I feel that the new song talks about this issue straight to our faces. Holding on to both joy and sorrow, INSPIRE’s lyrics tell us clearly to open our hearts to love and dreams. The theme this time is Latin-inspired. When Latinas face sorrow, these girls don’t lose spirit, but sing and dance to concentrate their passion. That’s why we feel that they’re so beautiful and shining, and wish to become more like them.
Singing about fortunate things, writing about good events, it’s totally not about that at all. It’s just about living honestly. I don’t feel pressure from my surroundings to do things which I don’t want to, not any more.
The mobile phone is the best tool for lyrics writing
When did you write the lyrics for the new song?
About May, right after the end of the tour.
So, are your feelings from the tour reflected in the lyrics?
Yep. However, I didn’t purposely wish to make use of the experiences I got through this tour. I was just looking back at the long tour, and wondering how it has impacted me.
So how did the lyrics come about? Some people have come up with great ideas while in the bathroom.
When I think “Let’s write!”, nothing will come, so I don’t think about it. Nothing inspirational came about in unexpected moments too.
So is there a switch that can turn on the “Let’s write!” mode?
When I have no more time. (laugh) Even if I finish something early, my feelings can change again, right? Things written in haste at the last minute tend to be more straightfoward and honest, so I drag it out as much as possible, and when there’s no more time, I panic and write. I write them on the mobile phone, while I’m typing messages to my friends.
Yep. I write lyrics on my mobile.
Not on the computer?
You can’t type on the computer with just one hand. (laugh) It’ll be really slow. So there’s lots of saved mail on my mobile phone, with all the lyrics I’ve written. So it’ll be a real mess if I lose it. (laugh)
Why is the mobile better?
Probably because I can write wherever I want. For the computer, you have to think “Yosh!”, then turn it on just for that purpose. And while that’s happening, the image in your mind will shift. Because the mobile has a shorter waiting time, what I write will retain more of its original image, so that’s why it suits me.
So when you’re writing lyrics, you won’t let anyone else see them?
Isn’t it the same thing when you’re typing messages? And when I finish a track, I just key in my manager’s number and send it off, it’s really convenient.
Were there times when you couldn’t express your feelings because you’re typing on a mobile?
No, actually, it’s good because it keeps me calm. For example, when you write by hand, you’ll think about writing nicely and keeping your lines straight, and when you do that, when you look at it during recordings, you’ll just feel that there’s something wrong.
Wrong refers not to pleasing yourself, but how it will appear objectively?
Yes yes. With handwritten lyrics, one becomes subjective.—It’s the same with your lives. It’s not about appearing any way you like, but to look like a professional in the critics’ eyes. Though there are people who express themselves in their own style, as what they are themselves, I think that it’s good too.
It’s human nature to always have a part of yourself that you keep calm. Even while you go “Wow–!” with your friends, there’s always a part of you that’s standing apart and watching from the distance. That’s why we’re not easily overwhelmed. That objective, calm part of you will always go “So it’s happened” no matter what occurs. Without it, I think we’ll be very anxious people.
Though we’ve already talked about this, I think that you’ve managed to surpass this objective side with this tour, to become closer to your “real” self, and so could enjoy yourself. Did you really feel happy?
As to that, I’m surely more confident than I ever was before.
Brimming with life, you really did appear very sexy… To add to that, a music programme show last night crowned you champion as the “Artist one wishes to be in love with”. Though I’m not sure if that “love” includes the physical relationship as well. (laugh)
Wow, I see. (laugh)
Lover’s Condition: The ability to be yourself
What are your conditions when it comes to relationships? For example, must it make you feel “healed” or “excited”, as well as preferences such as age.
The ability to be himself… I wonder if that’s a preference.
Are you looking for a passionate relationship…
Not really. When I was young… No, I shouldn’t say that. (laugh) When I was youngER (laugh), I didn’t want to show my other half anything other than my good points. That applies to everyone actually, everyone wants to be with others only when they’re at their best. Like, when our hair looks good, or when we have some make-up on, or when we look good in so many outfits that we can’t choose which to wear. Everyone wishes to look their best, even when they’re saying goodbye. Also, in the past, I didn’t dare to meet with the guys I liked when I didn’t have a reason to do so. For example, we met up only when there was a goal to accomplish, such as watching a movie, or having a meal together. However, as I became an adult, I feel that the most important thing is to still be together even though there’s no ultimate goal. Even when we’re doing our own things, to still share the same space, isn’t that the most important thing?
Like, even when together, you’re reading your own book, or watching your own TV programme?
Yes yes. To see and be with the “permanent real me”, instead of the “temporary special me”.
Quote: I feel that the most important thing is to still be together with the one you love, even if there’s no ultimate goal.
So you don’t choose partners based on whether they make you feel anything special, like feeling healed or excited?
I want someone who doesn’t make demands from others, the type who wants to try to solve things himself, whatever happens. Someone who won’t try to just sit down and talk about it, or to beg others to help him. He’ll try to do things himself, as much as he can from beginning to end. Even if he requests for help from others, he will still wish to see the results for himself.
So, he’s the type who’s really easy to get along with?
Nope, rather, he’s the type who probably says things like “You can just depend on me”. However, because he’s kind-hearted like that, he won’t get along with those who can’t trust him enough to rely on him.
In terms of work, I think that many other artists demand that their partner possess a high-level job. In other words, “a man must be manly!” (laugh)
Hahaha. Nope, I don’t need that, nor find it particularly attractive. However, I just dislike tiresome people. People who are tired of their work are just tiresome all the way. I also dislike men who are pretentious and love to show off, or those who spend all their time preening before a mirror. (laugh) As long as they are not these types, I’m fine with anything else.
While it is true that anyone can easily fulfill your requirements, I feel that it’s actually not really easy.
People cannot be understood immediately, and their real selves are probably totally different. When people finally see what a person is really like, they get tired of that person really easily.
That’s true. That’s why I said it’s not easy. You can’t even try to pretend.
Hahaha! I’m really good at seeing through lies. (laugh) I’m also not a boastful type. Some people like to use a really loud voice when talking, as if to boast. When the other person talks so loud that his voice leaks out from the phone, isn’t it annoying to the people around you? I don’t want to be that sort of person. This doesn’t apply between lovers, but among friends as well.
It’s not just about feelings?
Nope, it IS just about feelings. (laugh)
(laugh) So it’s best to be more sensitive.
You don’t say things like “Oi, be more considerate, will you!” to someone whom you love, right? If it gets to that stage, I’ll just distance myself from that person.
If you can’t stand the person, it’s best to withdraw yourself.
Yeah. Until then, I just store up all the tension and stress within myself.
It is hard to intervene directly when it comes to someone else’s faults.
Of course. It is hard to say it clearly.
However, when you were youngER (laugh), did you just strike back immediately whenever you’re provoked?
When I was youngER (laugh), I did.
Hahaha. Oh yeah, I’ve heard that you’ve been wanting to try surfing. Have you challenged it yet?
Nope, I haven’t had the chance to go, because everyone around me keeps saying things like “It’s dangerous, don’t do it”.
But it really is dangerous. You’ll have to swallow lots of seawater, the board’s fin can cause injuries, you may even collide with other surfers…
But even if I try to be more careful, there’s always the chance that someone else’s board will come flying my way.
And depending on the location, the bottom of the sea might be rocky instead of sandy, it’s quite scary.
(whine) But I really wanna try. It’ll be OK if I do it in Hawaii. Because it’ll be my first time, please write a nice entry for my “Special Surfing Documentary”. (laugh)
To be great at singing didn’t cross my mind…I just wanted to be more honest
Sea of Dreams
After opening her eyes,
she sees a nostalgic sight, the sea, which she made a promise to.
Is this the past, or the future?
The vines of passion wraps around the girl,
and become her memory’s guide
for a new journey.
Fall in Love
The grail, created by their own hands
with the sworn words “we’ll stay together always”.
She washed it with the wind and the waves,
and left it at that seashore, filled with memories.
And there it lay, the evidence of never-ending love.
The happiness and sorrow
which used to rule her heart
are now both precious to her,
things to embrace with a smile.
That’s why, she becomes able
to convey the passion in her heart.
That’s why, she can start out
on a new journey.
and Never Ending
So, the journey of passion continues—