Symbolic new song “M” featuring Virgin Mary has been released. A majestic poem, coupled with a voice directly conveying her feelings. Here is the song that “cannot exist if not for Hamasaki Ayumi”. So just what does ayu herself feel about her passionate and exciting year of 2000?
2000 has been an exciting year for Hamasaki Ayumi. A trilogy work born from “despair”, her first nationwide tour, done in an experimental style with 2 separate Chapters, and her 3rd album “Duty”, which she calls her “societal piece”. Furthermore, she released her last new song for the millenium, “M”, at amazing speed. All these have set a definite pace for her work’s direction in 2001. With that, this year’s last issue of GiRLPOP presents “The Inside Story of Hamasaki Ayumi’s 2000”.
—When you released the trilogy, you spoke about despair arising from the gap between the things you wished to convey and how the world perceives those things. What is your reflection on that, at this point in time?
“If I were to give “vogue” and “Far away” even just a casual listen now, I’ll still feel lots of emotion. More than singing, it felt like I was squeezing with all my might and collecting all the drops of emotion bit by bit. However, looking back now, I did enjoy myself. Locking myself alone in a hotel room, listening earnestly to the music, and for some reason, close friends would come to visit me every night.”
—Even as you rejected others, you must have been comfortable in a world of your own. So how did you overcome the sense of despair in the end?
“In the end, I didn’t overcome it. I felt it was better that I didn’t. Up until then, whenever I’m with people of an older generation, or those who have been working behind-the-scenes, I feel as if I’m just a follower. And I somehow feel like the church’s teachings are somehow making fun of me. In other words, being in such positions always made me ashamed of myself. However, I’ve come to think that it’s alright to leave the gap open. “Things may seem that way, but that’s not the truth”.”
—So what’s important is not whether something can be seen, but if it really exists. You started preparing for your first tour with such a mindset. Initially, your plan was to release the new album between Chapters 1 and 2 of the tour, right?
“I was impatient. (laugh) For lots of things, I’ve always been claiming that I can’t make it happen, but then I’ll always somehow manage to achieve it in the end, so I had the feeling that things would turn out alright this time too. However, once I started preparing for Chapter 1, I realized that it really was impossible to release the new album then. And since I’ve already announced that I’ll be doing 2 chapters for the tour, I was truly troubled by how I was going to do Chapter 2, and how I was going to change it and give it a different meaning from Chapter 1.”
—But after the troubles, you managed to come up with a unique tour concept afterall. Does it feel magical, seeing the things you’ve imagined come true to that extent?
“I didn’t really think about it when I was doing it then, but when I was editing the videos, wow! I was really shocked. (laugh) Everything was just as I’ve imagined, and I realized that the staff had helped to refine the sets and movements without ayu even realizing it. And though I felt happy, I also felt a little burnt out. To have accomplished so much, I was uncertain about what I can do next.”
—The show was changed a little for each different concert, right?
“I had staff taking videos of every concert for record purposes. For this tour, we had 2 shows at each venue, so Day 1’s recording was of ayu, and Day 2’s was of the dancers. After the 2 days, all the staff would gather and review the videos, then move on to the next venue. We kept that up all through the tour.”
—It must have been tough, but it sounded like fun. Any moments when you felt a true sense of accomplishment?
“Hmm, it was probably when the dancers were doing costume fittings during rehearsals at the gym in Idabashi. The costume designs were thought up by ayu, and the seamstress had put on a costume and was dancing in it. Some stylists were there too, and they were asking, “So, shall we settle for this?” As I watched from the audience seats, I just felt like crying. A costume that I thought would never make it was finally completed, and I was glad that the dancers really got to wear it.”
—So you thought up all of the costumes. By the way, are you good at drawing?
“I’m really horrible at it. (laugh) So it’s really hard to get my ideas across.”
—Making even a single costume must have taken a large amount of energy. And the album “Duty” was born from the tour. In a previous interview, you said that this album held a sense of duty for you.
“I meant for the title “Duty” to convey the idea of “this is what I should do now”, but I feel that it has changed a little. At that time, the tour was going full-force, and I really came into contact with lots of people, even though ayu seldom has the chance to really get involved with people normally. (laugh) But she was meeting with tens of thousands of audience everyday, and it was obvious that she would be influenced by that.”
—Have there been any specific responses to your calling the album a “societal piece”?
“My CEO called me one time to ask, “There’s a company that wishes to use the lyrics from “Duty” album to educate their employees. Are you alright with that?”. The employees of that company also commented that “these lyrics are like textbook material”. Yep, that made me glad. Grown men are reading my lyrics, and though I’m not sure if they feel the same way as I do, I feel that I have gotten through to them.”
—That’s one proof that your idea of “society” has gotten through. Together with the album sales, Hamasaki Ayumi is now one of the winners. How are you going to seize this opportunity?
“I still haven’t really grasped the situation yet. I feel that I shouldn’t do things just because I’m supposed to do them now that I’m in this particular situation.”
—I guess that’s better for you emotionally.
“Yep. It’s a good thing.”
—You don’t have to worry anymore.
—I’m glad to hear that. So, about your new single “M”.
“I don’t really recall the particulars, but a friend told me the story of Virgin Mary one day. Until then, my only impressions of Mary were of her name, and that she must have been a very special person. But after hearing her story, I realized that she was just a normal woman. She loved, had a child… All the things that make a woman a woman have not changed, even through the ages, and I wanted to write about that.”
—So you had an idea for the lyrics first.
“Yes. However, I couldn’t find a song that matched what I had in mind. ayu wanted a song which sounded really cold, but all she could find were heartwarming songs. After searching through about 30 songs, she finally found one she wanted.”
—“CREA” wrote that one, right?
“She’s a new composer. I was really nervous because of that, and the process of fitting word to song was tough. The melody was a series of low notes, followed by a whole spate of high notes which continued on. It was tough. It’s easy to tell from my voice how much effort I had to put in to sing.”
—And that will be your last voice for the 20th century. And to end the year, you have the self-produced Countdown Live.
“Last year, I just wanted to get home as soon as possible, but I want to welcome the new year with everyone as Hamasaki Ayumi this time round. I also want to perform the new songs from “Duty”.”
—Lastly, what’s your mood as you head towards 2001?
“I’ll write happy songs next year!”