Ayumi Hamasaki

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About Ayumi Hamasaki

For most of her career, Ayumi Hamasaki has been the ubiquitous face of Japanese pop. In sales terms, the singer, songwriter, and style icon has outdone all other solo J-pop artists. Artistically, she has achieved her near-divine stature through a seemingly guileless yet carefully calibrated blend of vulnerability, integrity, and passion—and a gritty determination to rock, no matter the cost. Born in Fukuoka in 1978, Ayu moved to Tokyo at 14 and, after a short-lived film and TV career, achieved record-industry liftoff with her 1999 major-label debut, A Song for XX. Since then, Ayu has created a steady stream of dance-floor-friendly hits and touching ballads, with 12 of her first 14 albums topping the Japanese charts. Always evolving, Ayu’s original pop-rock sound eventually integrated trance, metal, hip-hop, and anything else that caught her ear. High-concept videos and elaborate costumes (such as an ivy-draped torso or a casual take on French royalty) add color and drama to her avowals of guilt, doubt, loneliness, and, ultimately, survival that resonate so strongly with fans. As early, reflective blockbusters Loveppears and Duty gave way to entreaties for peace and understanding on 2002's I Am..., for which she composed all the music, Ayu started showing the complexity that would ensure her longevity. Numerous album-length remix projects extended her aural reach into head-banging dance pop, notably on 2002's hour-long collection of "Evolution" remixes. In 2008, Hamasaki revealed she’s suffered permanent hearing loss, but that hasn’t stopped her from continuing to expand her sound on albums such as 2016’s M(a)de in Japan, which integrated traditional Japanese instrumentation with galvanizing dance-pop melodrama; performing live; and living up to her reputation as the Empress of J-pop.

Fukuoka, Japan
October 2, 1978
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