Taken from ayu’s official website, visit here.

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8th ALBUM 「Secret」, to be released on 29 November, has been completed! & here we present a special interview to commemorate the release.

Mister kaz: Firstly, I’d like to ask about the meaning behind the album’s title 「Secret」.

ayu: This album is just like its title, but I’m not going to reveal the secrets which I’ve always kept hidden! It may be about the person I am normally, it may be about you… Everyone surely has secrets, I’m 100% percent sure that a person who doesn’t have any secrets exists at all. Similarly, nobody can tell others everything about oneself. However, because we want to understand that (and to be understood) we work hard at preserving the part of ourselves that noone knows about. I, too, have a part that only some people know about, as well as a part that everyone knows about. I call that a secret, and that is what this album is about. I hope that everyone can find, within this album 「Secret」, a part that reflects their secret, or a song that helps them to understand another’s secret. They can listen to it and find out if their secrets are the same, or similar, to ayu’s secrets.

Mister kaz: There is definitely no one who knows 100% about a person, even if they are family or lovers… Even if we wish to know them 100%, there will always be hidden hobbies or personalities which we’ll never know about…

ayu: Yea, there will surely be something we’ll never know.

Mister kaz: I think that no matter how much we wish to know, there will be many things we’ll never know about.

ayu: Yep. A person without any secrets is just without any appeal, and is boring as a person. If we know everything about someone, we stop having interest in that person, and will not wish to continue the relationship. Humans have appeal because we are mysterious, and that makes others want to be with us.

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01. Not yet
words: ayumi hamasaki
music & arrangement: CMJK

Naturally, the album’s opening! A bold song which questions the secrets which I’ve scattered throughout the album, as well as someone else’s secrets… About the secret I’ve inserted into this album, in its various forms, with its various meanings.

And then, the miracles attained here. The miracle I’m talking about in this song is more of an emotion… The fact that I finished the album is a miracle = emotion. It’s not a miracle that I created. There were many other people, the staff working on it, and everyone concerned with the album helped to create the miracle. And these 2 concepts become the base for this album. After hearing about the “secret” and “miracles” in this opening song, will everyone look for them in the rest of the album? That’s the question this song asks.

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02. until that Day…
words: ayumi hamasaki
music & arrangement: CMJK

ayu: This used to be an instrumental track that CMJK-san used, and it was really very short. But because I really liked the guitar sound and the B-melody, I told him that I hoped he could make a full song out of it. As for the lyrics, they surfaced when I first heard the song, and what I wanted to say was all in my head already, so it was all waiting for CMJK-san to write the song. So, I waited… but when it finally came, it was so hard to fit the words in. (bitter laugh)

Mister kaz: Guess you shouldn’t have said that too early on.

ayu: Yes. It was really hard to insert lyrics in the part when the notes kept repeating very quickly. Though I knew what I wanted to say, I need to fit it to the notes, as well as cut it at appropriate places for breath-taking, so that was the hard part. I wrote words on pieces of paper and did a puzzle-piecing sort of exercise at home.

Mister kaz: So it was something like writing out the words you want to say, as well as alternative words with similar meanings, and trying to piece it all together?

ayu: Yes! I wrote all the words I wished to use, as well as their synonyms, and spread the pieces of paper on the floor. Then, I lined up the pieces, changed them around abit, and pieced out the final lyric. This is the first time I’ve used this method to compose lyrics.

Mister kaz: It’s impossible to use this method with 5-syllable words…

ayu: Yes yes! For example, I have only 3 syllables to say “楽しい” (tanoshii=enjoyable, uses 4 syllables), but I don’t know how to say it with just 3 syllables. I worked really hard with the trial and error, but in the end, I couldn’t say what I really wanted to say this time… Though the most important thing is to say what I wish to say, it’s really very difficult since I need to keep to the rhythm count as well. (bitter laugh)

Mister kaz: And the tempo was really fast too!

ayu: There’s no other song that is that fast and keeps the same note for most of the melody. I wish to be really straightforward when it comes to lyrics, so when the staff heard about my troubles, there were some who felt so miserable that they cried!

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03. Startin’
words: ayumi hamasaki
music: Kazuhiro Hara
arrangement: CMJK

ayu: This song was recorded in New York. The studio’s acoustics were really so awesome, and it was very easy to sing. As for the image of 「Startin’」, many people hold a certain image because of the dancers’ performance during the tour and a-nation, but this was originally more of a band-only song. There have been many rock songs like 「GAME」 and 「is this LOVE?」, but this is the first time I’ve challenged this particular vocal style! While singing, I kept feeling amazed that this particular vocal style works well too. So it was the New York studio’s great acoustics and environment which coaxed this new vocal style out of me.

Mister kaz: The PV was completely CG too, so it gives a fresh new feeling?

ayu: That’s right. Director Ishii (Ishii-chan), who shot 「Startin’」’s PV, was my friend since high school. So even when I knew he’s a director, we’ve never actually worked together before. It was awkward because we won’t know what attitude to adopt. (bitter laugh) We were so close in the past, but it would be weird to keep the same attitude during work…

Mister kaz: You need to be an artist and a director!

ayu: Yea. That’s why we’ll need to be formal with each other… That’s surely going to be embarrassing, like a family member coming to watch you work.

Mister kaz: What does ayu think of Director Ishii?

ayu: He understands what I want without me saying it. So it was easy to work together, and I was sure we’ll come out with something good! Most of the scenes are CG, so I had to act mostly in front of a green screen, but Ishii-chan made it all work! I felt that it’ll all work out because I believe in him!

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04. 1 LOVE
words: ayumi hamasaki
music: Yoji Noi
arrangement: H/L

ayu: This is in the new vocal style too. I think I’ve never had a strong vocal style till now. It’s like shouting… I never planned to sing it that way, but the melody and lyrics drew my voice out and it became this vocal style. It was a new discovery, that I can be drawn out in this way. The lyrics are bitchy, sharp and very strong too. However, a thin veil hides the sorrow within.

Mister kaz: This song was arrranged in a rock style, a surprise from H/L-san! And the PV director was Sunaga-san… My personal image of Sunaga-san has always been like 「Greatful Days」, bright and enjoyable but with a hint of surrealism.

ayu: Probably. Were you surprised?? I knew it was alright to voice out crazy things with Sunaga-san, so I did. After it was done, it was a really cool PV! But! Pole-dancing really hurt. (cries) I was covered in bruises the next day! (laugh)

Mister kaz: Really?? But you seemed fine during the filming.

ayu: It’s the same during concerts, I’m fine during the show because I am concentrating on something! So I don’t feel the pain… But it really hurt the next day. (laugh) Getting out of bed was hard enough. I was trying to get up, but my neck and back were hurting, and my body won’t move. (laugh) I’ve never banged my head or stretched my body that way before.

Mister kaz: Where did it hurt the most? Neck or back?

ayu: No. My right palm which gripped the pole! Since filming started in the morning till the next morning, my right palm had been gripping the pole and supporting my weight… So it was all red. I now think that pole dancers are awesome!

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05. It was
words: ayumi hamasaki
music: Naruya Ihashi
arrangement: tasuku

ayu: This was one of the songs that was submitted during the making of (miss)understood album. Though we didn’t use it then, I realized that I really liked it, so I got tasuku to do an arrangement. As for the lyrics, I wanted to write one without a clear ending, a song that ends on a confused note. About how many things have happened, but one still doesn’t have a clear mind, and in the end, one is still lost. We often wonder if we’re forcibly prolonging something, and if it’s right to do so. We also feel regrets after. I wanted to write about the real human world. And because I’m sure everyone thinks this way too, maybe we can share these feelings.

Mister kaz: Life is somehow a series of regrets… But we still need to live on. By the way, this song has the same conclusion as 「Over」, but is somehow still different.

ayu: That song was more about “let me end this”.

Mister kaz: But there seems to be more feelings of confusion and regret in 「It was」, compared to 「Over」.

ayu: It’s not something pretty and easy to express. Life is uncool and pathetic, but we still need to live on, that’s the feeling of this song. However, 「It was」 is not just about regrets, it’s also about facing forward and moving on! In life, it’s not about whether you have regrets or not, or whether you’re cool or not. What is important is to face forward and move on!

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06. LABYRINTH
music & arrangement: H/L

ayu: The melody is really pretty. Though I don’t sing in this piece, it contains a meaning regardless of the presence of words, and has a message. So why is 「LABYRINTH」 inserted here (between 「It was」 and 「JEWEL」)? What does 「LABYRINTH」 mean? I hope you’ll think about it, and if you can find out why, I’ll be really glad.

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07. JEWEL
words: ayumi hamasaki
music: Tetsuya Yukumi
arrangement: Shingo Kobayashi

ayu: This is a song which leaves a big impression. It’s been such a long time since we had a solely piano piece, so we really tried to use the piano to tell all in this song. It’s been so long, so it feels really fresh and nostalgic. Like I’ve returned to my past self… I’ve sung this many times on TV programmes, so everyone probably already has an impression of this song, but it’s a song that is really really very important to me, and will slowly become even more important in the future. That’s this song.

Mister kaz: The PV was by Director Takeishi, right?

ayu: When we were filming the PV for 「JEWEL」, I felt that Takeishi-san is the only person who can visually project the song, so I requested for him without hesitation. So that PV was not by chance, it’s natural that it’ll turn out the way it did. I think it’s a really awesome work.

Mister kaz: Makes you feel “That’s our Director Takeishi!”, doesn’t it? We couldn’t even tell which parts were real and which were CG, it was that great!

ayu: Yep. It was all shiny and sparkly throughout, so pretty! Just how long did it take to edit all that? Makes me want to view the production process.

Mister kaz: Exactly!

ayu: Ahhh~~!!! I need to tell everyone that the making-of is so so interesting too! (laugh)

Mister kaz: That’s right! You won’t believe the things (mysterious) that can happen behind the scenes of this magical PV… (laugh)