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October-December 2000

Ayumi Hamasaki

Interestingly enough, there have been very few attention-grabbing new male solo artists over the last several years on the Japanese pop music scene. This stands in sharp contrast to the number of female stars, such as Hikaru Utada, aiko, Mai Kuraki, Yuki Koyanagi, Ringo Shiina, and Misia. These talented artists are wildly popular not only among adults but even among elementary and middle school students. The most prominent among them now is Ayumi Hamasaki.

Following her debut in April 1998, Hamasaki quickly captured fans with her unique, high-pitched voice and her distinctive look. So far she has released 21 singles and 11 albums, 8 of which are remix versions. Most of these releases have sold more than 1 million copies. In fall 2000 Hamasaki released her third original album, Duty, which has recorded sales of over 3 million copies.

photo Ayumi, or Ayu as she calls herself, also grabs a lot of attention for her fashion sense. Because she wants to express her true self, she designs the costumes she wears onstage. This makes her a fashion trendsetter for middle and high school students. At her concerts she changes costumes after almost every song, so it is just like going to an "Ayumi Hamasaki fashion show." Talk to the fans after one of her concerts and you are likely to hear comments like, "I just love those boots she was wearing with the black dress and ten-gallon hat." It's not only her music, but also her fashion that leaves a strong impression on her fans.

Hamasaki tries to express herself just the way she is in her lyrics, all of which she creates herself. "I can't write a lie, and I don't want to sing about fictional worlds. I want to write honestly and objectively about real experiences my friends or I have had," she says. Although she likes entertaining her fans with her different looks, her outward image is completely contrary to the anxiety and loneliness that she expresses in her lyrics. Many fans are struck by the contrast between Hamasaki's appearance and the depth of her lyrics. There are even fan sites on the Internet that analyze her lyrics.

With her vocal ability, good looks, fashion sense, and lyrics, Hamasaki looks as though she will continue to attract more and more fans.

Photos:Ayumi as she appears on her single Never Ever. (Avex Inc.)