Duty is the third album released by Hamasaki Ayumi. It continued to her growing success and proved to be her biggest album to date, peaking at #1 for four weeks and selling over 2.9 million copies. The singles were successful with all five of them scoring in the top three and two being number one hits. The album’s biggest single was Seasons, which sold over 1.3 million copies.
Released: September 27, 2000
1. starting over
4. End of the World
6. Far away
10. teddy bear
11. Key ~eternal tie ver.~
starting over is a funky intro as it continues that dance sound found in her last album. I think it would have been cool to see this as a full song.
Oddly, we transition into the title track, Duty. This one is more dramatic and utilizes a more intense arrangement with its almost gothic like quality and focus on strings. My favourite part of the song is the chorus as there is an interesting build-up that really helps to intensify everything and make the melody more emotional. I do wish the music pushed a little more in this part as it sounds the same throughout the whole song. It’s a strong song though.
vogue was released as the album’s first single and was the first part of the 2000 singles trilogy. I didn’t really like this song a lot at first, but it has an interesting latin pop quality to it that has grown on me tremendously. It has a really odd structure with large instrumental gaps between different sections of the song. The chorus is really catchy though and I find it one of the strongest melodies on the album.
End of the World sort of continues with the same vibe that the last two songs, but really pushes things further into the rock category. I really like the power this song has, but I do find it to be a bit messy as the guitars just come blaring in and the melody bounces around them and doesn’t feel particularly focused on anything. I actually prefer the verses here. It’s not a bad song, just not my cup of tea.
Luckily, SCAR comes in and is a much stronger album track. This song has a dramatic quality to it as well, but is more of a ballad and has a bit of a folk feel due to its sample. I wasn’t impressed by this song at first, but it has also grown on me a lot. The chorus is a bit slow, but the dragged out feel of the melody really helps to build tension.
Far away was the album’s second single and the second of the trilogy. I feel like the music to this song is the type of sound I love to hear from Hamasaki and with its dramatic pop focus and sprinkles of other genres. There are a few odd transitions between the different parts of the song, but each section is quite strong anyways. The chorus is especially gorgeous, although I do find the music does get a bit overpowering at times. Still a solid song.
Fourth single, SURREAL, is my favourite song on the album. It starts off with a beautiful piano line and some striking synths and a crazy beat and slowly gains more tension as it progresses. I love the contrast with Hamasaki’s vocals as well. The break in the middle of the song helps to create a lot of power for that final explosion of energy and sound in the second half of the song. I love how intense everything sounds and that despite all that, the melody is still really memorable.
AUDIENCE was the album’s final single and was released after the album’s release. It’s my least favourite of all the singles because it brings a bright pop/dance sound that has a melody that just doesn’t fit in this more intense album. I find the contrast of the melody and music to be a bit odd as the music is really dynamic, but the melody is very bright and sweet. The verses are also really great and would have excelled with a stronger chorus. It’s not a bad song though.
SEASONS is one of Hamasaki’s most well-known songs and was the most successful on the album as it was the final part to the trilogy. This is more of a full-on ballad and I feel like it’s one of the songs that is totally “Hamasaki Ayumi” with its pop/rock arrangement and dramatic and dragged out melody. It’s not my favourite ballad from her, but I do think it’s a sweet song and has a nice calmer sound when compared to the first seven songs.
teddy bear is another ballad, but it focuses on the piano. This is a really beautiful tune as it puts more importance on the feeling and lyrics. It’s one of her more emotional tunes and focuses on a lover that left her. The melody isn’t the strongest, but there is a sincerity with Hamasaki’s vocals that helps keep the song memorable.
Key ~eternal tie ver.~ is one of the more forgettable songs on the album. It returns us to the pop/rock sound, but I feel like it is missing something. The melody is actually really nice and I feel it would have benefited more from something a bit more streamlined pop than the rock sound. This is especially evident when the strings come in and help to heighten the songs energy. It has its charms, but sort of falls flat at times.
girlish finishes the album up on a pop/rock note, but is the album’s weakest song. First, Hamasaki’s vocals are more on the “cuter” side of things and it just does not work in this genre. Also, the chorus is just difficult to get through. She sings at a really high pitch and it comes off really piercing and the chorus is sort of just blaring a long. It’s just not for me.
Overall: To be honest, I was expecting to not like this album that much and feeling that it may be weaker than LOVEppears, which I really enjoyed. However, besides the last two songs, this is a pretty solid album. I feel like there is an intensity to it that just was only found a few times in her previous albums but is really present here. It also feels like a good transition into her next few albums. A lot of the songs feel like predecessors to some of her later ones. I was pleasantly surprised and a gem that gets a bit forgotten among her fans.