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THE SHOW GIRL
The things accomplished by one girl
She has always been sending out messages—. From the time she ceased being a teen, till now, when she has passed the 30th mark. The 50th’s message, her heart’s wavering, the reason for living, all put into words and attached to a melody. But it isn’t just her inner heart and voice, her beauty has also been said to represent the times, from when she was a girl and all through her transition into an adult. And the energy source of that is probably her “innocence”. No matter what record she breaks, no matter how charismatic others say she is, she truly believes that deep down, she is just a normal girl. Saved by music, she still remembers the whole experience of being saved. Born in the same age, hurt by the same things, crying, but being encouraged by it all. Such a common life, and because she treasures it, she will not be interrupted when she has something to say. And because there are people she wishes would treasure themselves, she continues to sing. And now, the message she is sending out is one of unwavering love.
Running on and on, without rest for 12 years, holding on to the top status. And the source of power behind it all, above anything else, are the smiling faces of her fans.
“When I went to Hong Kong during the break between tour dates, I was filming, picking new songs, and writing lyrics all at the same time. Though I was tired out by this hard schedule, everytime I went outside, hundreds of fans would be there, always waiting for me. No matter how hot it was, and even when it was raining, they were always waiting. And because they came just to see me, they were all smiling and waving their hands with all their might. Seeing their faces, all negative thoughts, like “I’m tired” or “I’m hungry” or “It’s so bothersome” were forgotten. My heart became glad, and I just wanted to smile back. I told myself “You’re really a lucky girl”. The same thing happens during concerts. There are more than 40 performances altogether in the tour, and there were naturally days when I felt bad. I would be all anxious and thinking things like “Will I be alright?” But once I got on stage, and everyone’s smiling faces seemed to be saying “We finally meet again!”, all my tiredness and anxiety just get blown away!”
An exchange of smiles. The courage and energy from her songs bring pure smiles onto the faces of grateful fans. Hamasaki Ayumi, back when she was in her teens and still a nobody, used to cry while listening to songs. They comforted her and let her see a sweet dream. Now, 12 years after her debut, she decided to release her 49th and 50th singles in quick succession. While listening to some backup samples for fun, she came across one song which gave her courage when she was just a girl. She remembers the experience and feeling of being saved.
I knew it once the song started playing. “Ah, it’s Komuro (Tetsuya)-san’s song!” I’ve heard that the producer had added Komuro-san’s song into the backup sample list, but I didn’t know which one it was. But when I heard it, it was the feeling of “Hey, I know this”… It was full of that TK sound, from that era when I still bought my own CDs. At first, it was just so nostalgic, and I was so overwhelmed with emotion that I could just say “Oh–“. Then, I somehow panicked. (laugh)”
Listening to that backup sample once through, then again, Komuro-san’s piece naturally brought up lyrics in her mind. Naming that song [crossroad], it signified how she herself stood at a crossroads, choosing which path to follow. Then, the song follows her as she walks the path, and tells of the moment when her past and present collide.
“Everyone has to make choices in life, right? And after making a choice, people often feel lost and wonder “Did I make the right choice?”. For me, I often think about what could have happened if I didn’t make the choices I made. However, life only goes forward, you can’t go back, right?”
Throughout the interview, she often uses the phrase “because we’re all together”. People can relate to her lyrics in their society and lives. However, can an icon such as herself ever claim to be “together” with everyone? Since she debuted, she has been true to herself, making choices because she liked things, or because it made her feel good. She never made choices because she was an artist, she made choices because she was a girl alone.
“If there is one part of me that’s stronger than the average person, it’s my faith. Because I can’t come into direct contact with my fans, I have to believe that the things which I want to say can reach them. If I keep worrying about things like “What if people misunderstand me?” or “My message won’t reach them” or “People will see through to the real me”, I don’t think I would have been able to go on.”
In contrast to that, when she has decided something, she will follow it through without help from anyone. And she does not give up with an “Oh well…” either.
“When I make choices? I believe in intuition. Think hard, and reason will sway your judgement, so I don’t. “I like this” or “This feels good to me”, I think that you have already decided right from the very start. And when you make a decision, haven’t you already had an answer in mind from the beginning?”
“Even if I really can’t do something, even if my friends tell me to give up, you won’t hear the words “I give up” coming from me. It may seem childish, but it’s a part of me which hasn’t changed.”
After 12 years, what changed her most as an artist is her feelings towards her fans. In the beginning, what was important was that she sang for herself. Somewhere along the way, “things people can relate to”, “things I want to say”, “things I want to convey” become more important than anything else. Screams become prayers— Her expressions have also become deeper, stemming from a love that she wishes to convey.
“It’s good if my songs can become someone’s motivation to move on. Though I have always thought this, it seems to have become more important to me lately. If I had been singing only for myself, I won’t have come this far. I believe that with all my heart.”
Given courage and a conveyed smile, faith will always link her to tomorrow. She believes that “nobody is truly alone”. And when she smiles at you, know that she loves you from the bottom of her heart.
Hamasaki Ayumi-san, ever since your debut, you have always represented the times, especially in terms of the visual through your beauty and cuteness. So where do you think your skill for catching and understanding the changing times come from?
I myself don’t think that I understand the times. I’m just a girl. I live in the same age as everyone, and just like everyone, I like to eat delicious food, wear cute clothes, put on pretty make-up… Those are mostly things which any girl enjoys, right? It’s the same with music. If we are from the same age group, we listen to the same music, are touched, then energized to go on, right? Lots of other things too, I can relate to everyone else, and I realize that maybe it’s because of that that I can continue singing today. The normal girl that I am allows me to relate to everyone even now. That’s why I like the same things as everyone else at the same time, I dream of the same things. That’s all there is to it, I think.
Any advice you can give to confused girls who “want to fall in love, but have no one to fall in love with”?
That’s the problem everyone has. (bitter laugh) Even the people around me, everyone’s all so powerful and energetic, and they’re all superwomen who have everything, but why do they fail only in the love department? (laugh) I think that it’s impossible for a person to truly have everything. If she has everything, won’t life become very boring? And when the superwoman meets someone worthy and falls in love, she will quit her job, right? So if you haven’t met anyone good enough yet, it probably isn’t time yet. That’s what I feel.
Now that you’re in your 30’s, what about you has changed?
My situation. For each situation, I seem to switch from not caring at all to focusing on it 100%. Even if I used to think “anything goes”, but then I somehow find that I can’t let it go. For example, I used to care so little about make-up and skin care, it was a little frightening. I didn’t think about them at all. But now that I’m 32, to say things like “What is moisturiser? When do I apply it?” is really too hopeless. Now, I’m really meticulous about this. And once I start to notice, I become obsessive about my care regime. (laugh) And though I keep my habit of not wearing make-up at home, I’ve become more knowledgeable about it too.
There are many people who live for the unseen future, but wonder “What will tomorrow be like?” How do you think we should overcome this uneasiness?
I think about this everyday. Before I go to sleep, I’ll think about things like “What will happen when I open my eyes tomorrow?” This depends on age, the older you get and the more you know, the more serious your thinking becomes. We can’t continue to act innocent and go “Hehe~” everytime something goes wrong, like how we did in the past. (laugh) But I think that this is good too. Some people say it out, some people don’t, but we all feel the same inside. Nobody is truly alone, everybody feels uneasiness. So it’s alright! Because I think about it everyday too.