Nobody else in the Japanese music landscape could have pulled this, a Sphinx-sized ballad coping ideas from the Middle East and summoning what might as well be a chorus from a Greek epic, off. On paper…and maybe on initial listen…this seems bloated and ridiculous, pretty much the opposite of Occupy Wall Street manned by an pop star that’s a super-easy target for hate. Yet here the wealthy triumph, sheer bigness that nobody calling themselves even “middle class” could dream of buying towering tall. Ayumi Hamasaki’s “Brillante” eclipses nearly every J-Pop ballad released this year and maybe in any year, at least in terms of grandness.
To some degree, it’s not an easy song to like. I spent more than a month trying to digest this, will myself to ignore the fact Ayumi Hamasaki might be the polar opposite of an underdog in the Japanese music world. She’s already established herself as a capital “s” Star, and routinely spends millions of dollars on lavish music videos and a ridiculous live show. She has her own pachinko machine, for god’s sake. Hamasaki doesn’t deserve more attention, right?
Nope, she does, because she knows that to get all eyes on her you’ve just got to straight up out-size everyone else. So…”Brillante,” which is a not-complex single James Cameron-ed into something continent sized. This is, to some degree, a ballad and most of the time those crash mighty hard (though, Hamasaki has pulled this off before). Take a look at the lyrics too, and you’ll discover the subject matter isn’t all that “epic” either – it’s a simple breakup song. Pedestrian, yeah?
Well, Hamasaki has the ego to blow these issues into something that sounds like the fall of the Ottoman Empire. The song pretty much speaks for itself, and I also think The Singles Jukebox did a good job touching on the details. The video adds an extra layer of pomp plus intrigue – there seems to be some sort of gender/sexuality commentary going on, but I’m not gonna make a fool of myself on that front. Finding words to describe what is going on here is actually hard…unless you like “big” repeated over and over again….but this thing just looms so much larger than all the other similarly-minded J-Pop trying this. They are dramatic chipmunk to her 10-hour epic sax guy.
So yes, the rich get richer and Ayumi Hamasaki grows larger. Thing is, she deserves it.