Ayumi Hamasaki Used To Be Remixed Like What!

Written by Zer0

"Honestly, when my producer Max Matsuura talked about remixes, there was resistance on my part. I wasn't at all okay with it. My producer and I talked about [ayu-mi-x] and decided on it together, but I don't really get remixes. Still, [Matsuura] is a producer who's been influenced for years, decades even, by dance music, and has worked alot on the 'remix' genre, so he really persisted in explaining it to me, and eventually I came to an agreement with him."
--Ayumi Hamasaki, beatfreak magazine, 1999

Okay, so the remixes are kinda Max Matsuura's thing. He was really into club music, which is to be expected given his status as co-founder of the late great Velfarre disco. He was very passionate about his newfound star, Hamasaki Ayumi, having a remix album that reworked her "A Song for XX" album's songs into dance versions. So, despite Hamasaki's misgivings, remixes started happening. And it wasn't just Spring 1999's "ayu-mi-x" album, either.

Hamasaki has released 12 albums in the ayu-mi-x series to date, plus three Eurobeat remix albums and three trance remix albums. She's released six of her songs as remix singles in Europe (including CD and vinyl releases). Around twenty of her Japanese singles have included an extensive collection of remixes, filling out the singles to more than album length. She's been remixed by a veritable Who's Who of electronic dance music, including Ferry Corsten, Armin van Buuren, Johnny Vicious, Junior Vasquez, Fantastic Plastic Machine, the orb, and the members of GTS.

Let's take a moment out to appreciate the golden days of Ayumi Hamasaki's remixes, shall we?

AYUMI HAMASAKI'S REMIX HEYDAY

First off, ayu-mi-x. The "WHATEVER" single, released in February 1999, had featured a dance remix as the a-side and the song's original mix as the b-side. Until this point, Ayu wasn't exactly known for upbeat, danceable tracks, her first album having been a very unassuming, safe pop-rock sound based more on emotional intimacy than dancefloor grinding. But the single marked a shift into dance pop, one that continued when ayu-mi-x was ultimately released in March. The album featured all Japanese remixers, some already well-known and some just starting to get established. The remixes were also released in a 13-disc vinyl box set which featured extended and instrumental versions, as well as vocal tracks so even more remixes could be made by fans and amateur DJ's. Overnight, Ayu went from personal pop-rock singer to club queen.

Ayu's next three albums all included a corresponding ayu-mi-x series of albums. Before the release of ayu-mi-x II, the Eurobeat remix collection "SUPER EUROBEAT presents ayu-ro mix" had already been released. In 2001, when trance looked like it was about to really take off in Japan, "Cyber TRANCE presents ayu trance" was released and featured famous trance DJs from all over Europe and Japan. Beginning with "Boys & Girls" in summer 1999, Ayu's singles were always packed with more than an hour of remixes. Many singles had promo vinyl copies released with a selection of remixes. Many remixes came in dub, instrumental, and extended versions unreleased on CD. "the other side" and "excerpts" series releases included some of those versions after fans demanded them. Ayumi Hamasaki's discography includes over a thousand unique tracks, most of which are remixes and edits of those remixes.

REMIXES IN DECLINE

In 2002, this onslaught of remixes began to grind to a halt. Ayu's last remix-filled single was 2002's album cut single "Daybreak." The following single, "Free & Easy," had a mere four tracks on it, which hadn't been seen since 3" CD singles were still being produced. Fans were disappointed. Many suspected the new CCCD format, which included playback software on the disc, prevented the CD from having enough room to include remixes. However, CCCD album releases were still possible. It looked like Ayu had finally said no to the remixes after three years of consistency.

Ayu's fifth album, "RAINBOW," was the first to not be followed by an ayu-mi-x collection since her career with avex began. After ayu-mi-x 4+selection had included previously released remixes and didn't sell as well as past remix albums, fans were sure no remix albums would follow. A pleasant surprise came with the "RMX WORKS" series was announced for release in September, nearly a year after "RAINBOW". Three remix albums were released the same day with three different themes - ayu-mi-x 5 nonstop megamix, ayu trance 3, and ayu-ro mix 3. The remix albums were more experimental and more generally pop, and fans were disappointed.

In Europe, however, 2003 showed the beginning of "AYU"'s career as a trance singer. Remixes of "Connected," "M," and other songs, some previously heard and many others new, were released on vinyl and CD under the trance label Drizzly in Germany. These proved less successful and concluded with the release of a "UNITE!" remix single in 2005, but the short series spurned a few classic trance tracks still remembered and respected by Trance music fans all over the world.

In recent memory, Ayumi Hamasaki is mostly forgotten as having been a heavily remixed dance-pop artist. The remixes, once a staple of her quick-paced release schedule, are no longer essential to fans. The recent attempt to reboot the ayu-mi-x series, ayu-mi-x 6 -GOLD- and -SILVER- (as well as the limited edition vinyls and digital albums) barely made a wave. Remixes included on singles vary widely in quality, the ratio of poor quality to amazing remixes is about the same as it always was, but there are now far fewer to choose from.

THE BEST OF AYUMI HAMASAKI'S REMIXES

M "Above & Beyond remix"
remixed by Above & Beyond


No matter how you slice it, this progressive trance track is quite possibly THE Ayumi Hamasaki remix to many people. This version of the song may be danceable, but the melancholy and drama of the original track is maintained. The song elicits cheers when played in clubs in Europe. It's danceable, energetic, and heavenly, and creates a great atmosphere.


SEASONS "H-H remix"
remixed by Naoki Atsumi + MC Rally


Fans know this high-BPM Happy Hardcore track best as the pre-encore song that says "Ayu A-A-A-Ayu Ready?" before Ayu returns to the stage during concerts. This song reminds just about every Ayu fan of the dancing A logo, introduced in 2005. It has been used as the pre-encore music since Dome Tour 2001, however, which showed a (pre-recorded) video of Ayu rushing to the stage from her dressing room. It's been heard by every ayu fan repeatedly since its release, and if it doesn't make you nostalgic, it does make you happy.


Fly high "HAL's MIX 2000"
remixed by HAL


The first remix (unless you count "WHATEVER") to be promoted and played in the PV. This dramatic, powerful version of the first song on LOVEppears is one remix by the then-legendary production team HAL, and it really exemplifies what made their sound unique at the time. All their production tricks are used to good effect. The remix is still just straight up pop, and could have been an alternate album version for the song.

Naturally "dolly Remix" and vogue "Kirari Natsu Ayu Mix"
remixed by CMJK


These remixes were both produced by producer and longtime collaborator CMJK for use in Kose Visee makeup commercials. In both cases, fans heard the remixes in the commercials and simply had to have them. When the CDs came out, they were instant favorites. Both have a magical sound making them uniquely different from the original versions, but making them fit sweetly with the commercials in which they were used.

from your letter (sleeper/spaceborn remix)
remixed by sleeper/spaceborn


Ayumi Hamasaki has a huge fanbase of creative people, many of whom lament the lack of remixes since 2003. The result is fan remixes. The AHS forum holds a fan remix contest every year. This entry, a remix of a song that fans have collectively considered among her weakest, reworks the song completely in a very professional way and turns a weak song into an emotional and heartfelt one. This remix did not win the year it was entered, however, it has spurned copycat-style remixes and has achieved legendary status among fans.

THE WORST OF AYUMI HAMASAKI'S REMIXES

There are many people who really don't want that many remixes. Given the following, they might have a decent case.

NEVER EVER "empty Pot Shuttlecock wood" and UNITE! "No.1 Blueberry Wonderful"
remixed by Kikou Uehara


These remixes use one continuous drum loop throughout (and an unpleasant, grinding, muted one) and the same few lines of lyrics. About 3/4 of the way through, one instrument is added. They're lazy, grating, and awful. Uehara attempts to create an atmosphere or a mood here, but all that happens is an atmosphere of being stuck in a large, greasy, grinding machine whose gears are made of wood and covered in something gross that you can't quite identify. No fan likes these remixes.

HANABI "ARIWA Dub Mix"
remixed by Mad Professor


Well-known Euro producer Mad Professor did the amazingly beautiful Who... "Who Dub It?" back on ayu-mi-x II. I'm trying to figure out what exactly went wrong here. The atmospheric, floaty "Who..." seems to have been produced in much the same way as this HANABI remix, but this one is messy, its levels poorly balanced, its dubbing slightly off-beat. Mad Professor was a pretty consistent letdown after "Who...", as his remixes of "Key" and "HAPPY ENDING" were very weak as well.

Greatful Days "PARA ONE remix"
remixed by PARA ONE


PARA ONE's attempt at creating a floaty, bubbly remix ends up just grating on the ears. There are a few fans who like this one, but the vocals (when used recognizably at all) simply don't go with the remix at all.

 

Feel free to comment with your favorite Ayu remixes and Ayu remix memories - and feel free to tear any of the bad remixes a new one!

Thus ends the article proper. I now give you...

AYUMI HAMASAKI'S (ABRIDGED) REMIXOGRAPHY

ALBUMS

1999.03.17 ayu-mi-x
2-disc set including club & dance remixes on one disc and acoustic versions on a second disc.
2000.02.16 SUPER EUROBEAT presents ayu-ro mix
The first ayu-only remix album by avex production team SUPER EUROBEAT.
2000.03.08 ayu-mi-x II version US+EU
The first disc in the ayu-mi-x II series. This one focused on western producers and DJs. Very trance and house based.
2000.03.08 ayu-mi-x II version JPN
The second ayu-mi-x II release featured exclusively Japanese remixers. More experimental and disco styles are included here.
2000.03.08 ayu-mi-x II version Acoustic Orchestra
Like disc 2 of the original ayu-mi-x, this one features acoustic and (synth) orchestral versions. Includes some instrumental tracks where harmonica replaces Ayu's vocals.
2000.03.26 ayu-mi-x II version Non-Stop Mega Mix
Disc 1 is a 74 minute megamix of remixes released in the ayu-mi-x II series. Disc 2 includes new edits and new remixes, including a still in-progress remix of "Far away," a single which had yet to be released at the time. 6 remixes were created using the vocal tracks appearing on the "Fly high" and "kanariya" singles.
2001.02.28 ayu-mi-x III Acoustic Orchestra Version
Acoustic and orchestral remixes of songs which originally appeared on the "Duty" album, released 5 months earlier.
2001.02.28 ayu-mi-x III Non-Stop Mega Mix Version
Club and dance versions of "Duty" tracks megamixed on disc 1. Four of the tracks were included in their full standalone versions on disc 2. Many others were later released in the "excerpts from ayu-mi-x III" series of CDs and LPs, but several still have yet to get a full release.
2001.09.27 SUPER EUROBEAT presents ayu-ro mix 2
The second Ayumi Hamasaki album by SUPER EUROBEAT, featuring new versions of several remixes previously released on SEB compilations. Covers tracks released since the first ayu-ro mix album.
2001.09.27 Cyber TRANCE presents ayu trance
avex's trance production team, Cyber TRANCE, fashioned this remix album. The team consisted of many well-known European DJs. The CD cover featured a screenshot from one of Ayu's Tu-Ka commercials.
2002.03.20 ayu-mi-x 4+selection Acoustic Orchestra Version
This series' "+selection" tag meant that new remixes were mixed in with classic remixes from previous entries in the ayu-mi-x series. Production on this version included some synth manipulation, but more "real" acoustic instruments and string sections than any entry before it.
2002.03.20 ayu-mi-x 4+selection Non-Stop Mega Mix Version
Included many new remixes and several old ones megamixed together on disc one. 7 remixes were released standalone on disc 2, only 3 of which were also on disc one. Many remixes from disc one have yet to receive a standalone release.
2002.09.26 Cyber TRANCE presents ayu trance 2
The Cyber TRANCE production team return with this one-disc megamix album of some new and some old ayu trance tracks. Only a few tracks here have yet to receive any standalone release. Many appeared later on RMX WORKS from Cyber TRANCE presents ayu trance 3.
2003.09.25 RMX WORKS from ayu-mi-x 5 non-stop mega mix
Fans were mostly disappointed with this collection of new remixes, many from longtime collaborators. The remixes were megamixed on one disc and most of them have never received a standalone release.
2003.09.25 RMX WORKS from Cyber TRANCE presents ayu trance 3
One disc of mostly new trance remixes from the "RAINBOW" era forward. Many new producers were featured.
2003.09.25 RMX WORKS from SUPER EUROBEAT presents ayu-ro mix 3
This SUPER EUROBEAT album is the most understated of the series, having more of a pop leaning than a strict Eurobeat sound. Includes remixes of songs released since 2002.
2005.03.24 MY STORY Classical
An album or songs from the "MY STORY" album re-recorded with backing by the Lamoureux Orchestra in Paris, banking on the previous relative success of Ayu's Acoustic Orchestra albums.
2008.03.26 ayu-mi-x 6 -GOLD-
The first release in the attempted reboot of the ayu-mi-x series. More danceable and club remixes of songs released between 2003 and 2008.
2008.03.26 ayu-mi-x 6 -SILVER-
More atmospheric and experimental remixes of songs released since the "Memorial address" era.

REMIX SINGLES

2000.12.06 the other side ONE: Hex Hector
Includes instrumental & extended versions of Hex Hector's remixes of "kanariya" and "Boys & Girls" from ayu-mi-x II.
2001.01.31 the other side TWO: Junior Vasquez
Includes instrumental & extended versions of Junior's remixes of "appears" and "Boys & Girls" from ayu-mi-x II.
2001.01.31 the other side THREE: Thunderpuss, Soul Solution
Includes extended and dub versions of Thunderpuss' remix of "Trauma" and Soul Solution's remix of "too late" from ayu-mi-x II.
2001.01.31 the other side FOUR: System F, Vincent De Moor
Includes extended & instrumental versions of Ferry "System F" Corsten's remix of "WHATEVER" and Vincent De Moor's remix of "Fly high" from ayu-mi-x II.
2001.11.21 excerpts from ayu-mi-x III CD001
Includes standalone versions of Hex Hector and Rank 1's remixes of "Far away" and Junkie XL's remix of "vogue" from ayu-mi-x III.
2001.12.13 excerpts from ayu-mi-x III CD002
Includes standalone versions of orb's remix of "End of the World" and Hybrid's remix of "teddy bear."
2001.12.13 excerpts from ayu-mi-x III CD003

Includes standalone versions of Mad Professor's remix of "Key" and Scanty Sandwich's remix of "girlish."
2001.12.13 excerpts from ayu-mi-x III CD004

Includes standalone versions of Thunderpuss and Club 69's remixes of "SURREAL."
2001.12.26 excerpts from ayu-mi-x III CD005

Includes standalone versions of Victor Calderone, Keith Litman, and Jonathan Peters' remixes of "AUDIENCE."
2001.12.26 excerpts from ayu-mi-x III CD006
Includes standalone versions of Hex Hector's remix of "SEASONS," as well as all-new remixes of "SEASONS" by Jonathan Peters as opposed to the remix he did of the song that appeared on ayu-mi-x III.
2002.12.15 Connected
Produced by Ferry Corsten. Remixed by Push and Talla2XLC.
2003.10.31 M
Remixed by Above & Beyond, van Eyden vs. M.o.r.p.h., and Tectonic Shift vs Andre Visior.
2004.03.08 Depend on you
Remixed by Svenson & Gielen and DJ SHOG.
2004.10.18 Naturally
Remixed by Wippenberg.
2005.04.18 appears
Remixed by Armin van Buuren, Kyau vs. Albert, and Vince the Saint vs. Villa.
2005.11.17 UNITE!
Remixed by Airwave, Moogwai, ALT+F4, and Robert Gitelman.

VINYL

1999.08.11 ayu-mi-x BOX SET
Includes a disc for each of 12 songs off the "A Song for XX" album plus the b-side "Two of us." Each disc was also sold separately.
1999.10.6 A remixes
Two separate analogs, "side NYC" (with a gold cover) and "side TYO" (with a silver cover). Remixes were previously included on the A single
2000.05.31 ayu-mi-x II version JPN
A 2-LP set featuring remixes from the CD remix album of the same name.
2001.09.26 excerpts from ayu-mi-x III AD001
A highly abridged version of the CD with almost the same name.
2001.09.26 excerpts from ayu-mi-x III AD002
Includes Hybrid's remix of "teddy bear" and Scanty Sandwich's remix of "girlish," also appearing on "excerpts" CDs 2 and 3.
2001.09.26 excerpts from ayu-mi-x III AD003
Includes Mad Professor's remix of "Key" and orb's remix of "End of the World," also appearing on "excerpts" CDs 3 and 2 respectively.
2001.11.11 The M EP
Very limited edition 2-LP set (despite its name). Due to its inclusion of several trance remixes still otherwise unavailable on vinyl even now, it is highly sought-after by collectors and DJs. Includes remixes of M, Boys & Girls, UNITE!, appears, and AUDIENCE.
2008.04.09 ayu-mi-x 6 series
A set of 10 analogs with remixes of two songs each. The edits featured on these collectible picture discs were all released on iTunes as well (and then some).