Did you know Ayumi Hamasaki released a new single? Apparently neither did anyone else…

By Preston Phro

Even if you have only the barest passing knowledge of Japanese music, there’s a very good chance you know the name Ayumi Hamasaki. Arguably the queen of Japanese solo pop artists, between 1998 and 2012, she managed to move over 50 million units including both singles and full albums. She’s even crossed international boundaries with numerous fans around Asia and managed to be a star for over a decade in a country where pop stars come and go.

But is her glory finally at its end? While we’d be loath to make any proclamations about the future, the sales for her newest single “Terminal” have been nothing short of dismal, apparently shocking many music industry insiders.

The beginning of October saw the release of a new single for Ayumi Hamasaki’s song “Terminal” off her new album, "Colours," which was released in July. While it’s been a while since anyone could say that the singer was at the height of her popularity, we hadn’t quite realized how far she’d fallen until cold hard numbers smacked us in the face. According to Oricon, a Japanese music ranking site, the singer’s 52nd release debuted at only number 24 – and only sold a scant 2,889 units in one week. This is apparently the first time in over 16 years that a Hamasaki release hasn’t debuted in the top 20.

In Hamasaki’s defense, the actual album sold a bit better, debuting in the number five spot on July 2. Unfortunately, it fell to 16 by the next week and 31 the week after. From there, the album slipped off the charts – not exactly a good sign for someone in the 16th year of their career. And in addition to her dismal album and single sales, it looks like the pop songstress is even having trouble with domestic concerts – though apparently she’s somewhat in denial. After a show with plenty of open seats, she still tweeted that there wasn’t enough room for everyone and that they’d find a larger place next time.

So, what happened to one of the longest lasting pop singers in Japan? Are people finally just done with her?

While we suppose everyone is entitled to having an off-day – or even an off-year – there are a couple different theories going around for the poor sales of her new single. For example, one industry insider suggested that the single and the club remix by Armin van Buuren simply weren’t to the taste of Hamasaki’s fans. The insider suggested that the song wasn’t entirely dance music or J-Pop, but rather a mix of the two – perhaps not far enough in either direction to satisfy fans of either genre.

Another rumor is a bit further into conspiracy theory territory. Apparently there wasn’t much promotion in the lead-up to her album or single release – at least not on the level that we might normally have expected from Hamasaki. Another industry insider suggested that Avex Trax, Hamasaki’s record label, may be giving up on her after her previous release, a maxi single released last December, also only debuted in the number five spot. Could it be that the label simply didn’t bother promoting her new releases?

Regardless of the reason for the low sales numbers, the numbers themselves are apparently quite a shock for many in the Japanese music business. Even if you don’t like J-Pop or Hamasaki’s music, when someone like her struggles to sell 3,000 albums, it’s a worry for the industry as a whole. Obviously, it’s not set in stone that where goes Hamasaki there goes the Japanese music industry, but could it be that this is a sign? As one insider said, even in an age where CDs aren’t selling, you’d still expect Hamasaki’s new release to move units. Source: Rakuten Woman

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Didn't know and didn't care...

-4 ( +11 / -15 )

This album was quite good tbh,surely not like her older ones but better than what sells now in Japan. I hope the idol industry just dies one day,really i've grown tired of j-idols who can't sing and i don't like their cute sons either anymore,Jpop has to move to sth new. Kpop has surpassed Jpop even if Jpopers don't like it,i hope the industry wakes up and moves forward instead of staying steady.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

^ Why do you even bother leaving a comment, Geoff? You don't care yet you have enough care to leave a comment stating you don't care?

4 ( +14 / -10 )

That picture makes me feel warm all over.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

No talent whatsoever, but this photo, she looks really good!!!

0 ( +8 / -8 )

I heard she was deaf in one ear. Is that true?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Non news. Just another useless J Pop queen. Yawn.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

well good for you, you little minx! ;-)

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Hamasaku was a pretty bland type of girl when she debuted. A typical schoolgirl. then she had like 5bsurgeries. Her music is kinda bad for my taste but loved KNARIYA

2 ( +2 / -0 )

2 reasons for her decreasing popularity-

Her strange love life. Engaged to some some Austrian wanna-be Hollywood actor that she barely knew. Broke up with him making the whole excuse that she didn't want to live in the U.S. because of her sorrow for Tohoku people. That didn't last as she quickly got married to some college kid at UCLA.


That is all.....

3 ( +3 / -0 )

If this is signaling the death of J-pop I for one would be VERY VERY happy!

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Simon LieuNOV. 03, 2014 - 07:26AM JST ^ Why do you even bother leaving a comment, Geoff? You don't care yet you have enough care to leave a comment stating you don't care?

It's a protest vote, if you will.

By and large, J-Pop is crap and the idol system is even more pernicious than the record label and pay-olla system that controlled so much of what got played in the U.S. mid-50s through the early-60s (though it really continued on for another decade longer under a different, better disguised manner).

Of nations with any kind of pop music history, it's arguably more difficult to find good Japanese music than good music in North America, the UK, Australia and NZ and even continental Europe. There is still more music television in Japan than in the U.S. or U.K. (I don't consider American Idle or the Voice real music television) and though we have, particularly in the U.S., more music radio, what does gets played in Japan is almost overwhelmingly bad J-Pop and idol crap. And don't respond that the Internet and digital music has made these mediums obsolete, or ,secondary at best, because there is less of this in Japan as well when compared to the N. American or the U.K.

This why Geoff and I both T-off on articles about, usually, no-talent talento who may be able to sing, but don't write their music or play instruments. The "who cares?" response is trying to tell sites like JT that there are probably other things they could cover.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

"It's a protest vote, if you will." I second that vote.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Jeff HuffmanNov. 04, 2014 - 03:54AM JST J-Pop is crap and the idol system.

Well, Ayumi Hamasaki sold over 50 million records. I would call that success in any country. Only few have achieve this number in sales in the west. Very few artist are true musicans and many cannot read music. Would you say using few chords on disco and one chord on rap is much better music in the west?

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Hot picture

5 ( +5 / -0 )

sfjp330NOV. 04, 2014 - 06:34AM JST Jeff HuffmanNov. 04, 2014 - 03:54AM JST

Well, Ayumi Hamasaki sold over 50 million records. I would call that success in any country.

If you sales volume as your yard stick, then you missed the point all together. Celine Dion and Katy Perry have sold a lot more "units" than Hamasaki, and they suck too.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

@jeff Huffman,

Compare to the 60's and 70's, the executives and the producer is in charge, and how do you define success in today's music industry?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

sfjp330Nov. 04, 2014 - 08:41AM JST Compare to the 60's and 70's, the executives and the producer is in charge, and how do you define success in today's music industry?

A better question, how do you define success? The world of entertainment, whether it is television, books, magazines, music or movies is full of crap that is financially successful. But is it interesting, innovative or intelligent? I would say in Hamasaki's case, as, again, with 90% of popular music in Japan, it is none of those things. If you think it's strictly a matter of making money, and she's probably made a &%$k load of money for her label and talent agency (though comparatively little for herself), then she's a success. However, in twenty years' time, will anyone remember her, unless she's trotted out to sing her biggest hit for the Kohaku.

For my money, the greatest Japanese pop music artist, and he's much more than this, is Sakamoto Ryuichi. He's probably made a good deal of money over the last forty years, but, next to Seiji Ozawa, he's probably the most respected musician Japan has produced in the post-war era.

With regard to the music produced in the 60s really through the early 90s, producers could do a lot to bring the best out of musicians. It's arguable that George Martin made the Beatles what they were through about 1965. No one, however, could possibly help Brian Wilson without getting inside his head. Berry Gordy was much of Motown. Then there is Todd Rundgren. Nick Lowe helped Elvis Costello make the best of his music. Chris Thomas started with in the studio for the Beatles, produced "Dark Side of the Moon" and eventually the Pretenders' first two albums. Then there are Roy Thomas Baker, Steve Lillywhite, Daniel Lanois, Brian Eno, Prince, Butch Vig and, more recently, Mark Ronson. Ronson, however, only gets to do what he does because he works with studios full of musicians.

However, today, pop music is so DYI (case in point, East India Youth) with less and less being recorded in a real studio, producers and engineers who have a significant impact on how an artist sounds are few and far between. Further, too much has become how you can play with the sound rather than what sounds you are able to create with real instruments. And it really shows, though less than it would have in the days of vinyl. With the majority of people now listening to music digitally on portable devices with crappy little buds, what a good engineer or producer can do is mostly meaningless. Yes, the fidelity is much better, but, by comparison to the days when a good stereo was run on a tube amp and had speakers the size of a small refrigerator, we've almost returned to the days of lo-fi AM car radios by comparison. But I digress.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

J poop. Sorry - never been able to get into J music.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Jeff HuffmanNov. 04, 2014 - 01:15PM JST With regard to the music produced in the 60s really through the early 90s, producers could do a lot to bring the best out of musicians. It's arguable that George Martin made the Beatles what they were through about 1965.

Contemporary musicians never spoke highly of the Beatles, and for a good reason. The Beatles were the example of instrumental mediocrity. George Harrison was a pathetic guitarist, compared with those days of Townshend of the Who, Richards of the Rolling Stones, Davies of the Kinks, Clapton and Beck and Page of the Yardbirds, and many others who were less famous but no less original. There was nothing intrinsically better in the Beatles' music. Ray Davies of the Kinks was certainly a far better songwriter than Lennon & McCartney. The Stones were certainly much more skilled musicians than the Beatles. And Pete Townshend was a far more accomplished composer. The Beatles sold a lot of records not because they were the greatest musicians but simply because their music was easy to sell to the masses, it had no difficult content, it had no technical innovations, it had no creative depth. They were four mediocre musicians that wrote a bunch of four-chord catchy 3-minute tunes. The Beatles belonged, like the Beach Boys to the era of the vocal band. In such a band the technique of the instrument was not as important as the chorus. Undoubtedly skilled at composing choruses, they availed themselves of producer George Martin to embellish those choruses with arrangements more and more eccentric. Musically, for what it's worth, the Beatles were the product of an era that had been prepared by vocal groups such as the Everly Brothers and by rockers such as Buddy Holly. Overall, the technique of the Beatles was the same of many other easy-listening groups: sub-standard.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

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