I have the insider story from avex trax itself. Apparently, after announcing the 5-releases-in-5-months campaign for ayumi hotmessaki's trainwreck of a 15th anniversary, Ayu's marketing team gathered in the conference room. The atmosphere was solemn that afternoon.
"What will the third release be?"
That was the question running through everyone's mind, but it didn't take them long to search "ayumi hamasaki discography" on Wikipedia before coming to a conclusion. "Another kurashiku arubamu!" yelled one employee. Everyone stared at him with confusion in their eyes.
"But Mitsubishi-san! We can't possibly do a Party Queen Classical? Its chart position will surely be N/A!"
"That's why we're not going to make a Party Queen Classical. Think about it. 15 years of music. Put the 'Classic' in Classical. DUH OF COURSE WE GON USE HER CLASSICS GURL LET'S JUST POST A POLL ON TA NOW AND ASK WHAT'S THEIR FAV SONGS WHICH WILL OBVS BE LIKE M AND SHIT LOLLLL"
With a CD only containing 10 tracks costing a ridiculous 3,200 yen, you'd think she would be working with prestigious orchestras from North Korea like she did with the Lamoureux Orchestra in France. But nooo this time they are all arranged by random music composers who seem to be picked up from the streets or something.
Upon closer listening, A Classical is actually very different from MY STORY Classical, which can be a good or bad thing depending on how you view it. One thing about A Classical is that the rearrangements stuck a lot to their original arrangements, unlike MY STORY Classical where they actually came up with different arrangements that were still able to complement the songs' melodies.
The best rearranged song on this record is probably You & Me. Yep, murder me all you want, but despite having an absolutely crappy original arrangement, this classical arrangement just blew that shit out of the water along with cracked copies of A SUMMER BEST. This song was the first leaked song I listened to from the album and I was actually really impressed. So impressed, it reminded me that I have not even preordered the album yet. What makes it so amazing is the fact that it completely changes the mood of the song; it sounds more optimistic and uplifting. Plus, I always knew it'd be funny to hear her sing "Oh fliday nai" behind classical instrumentation.
The second best song that really made this record worth buying for me is Love song. This is one of the songs that didn't stick too closely to its original arrangement (but then again that's because it's quite minimally used in this song in the first place). Not only did it retain its aggressive attitude but it brought its level of epicness to levels that your fave can only dream of reaching. Another song that was given massive epic-ifying treatment was M. I like that it sounds all cool and shit at first and then when the chorus comes it's like MARIA AH *BAM* AI SUBEKI *BAM* HITO GA ITE *BAM*
Now let's move on to the shit parts of the album. Because the composers are just so damn uncreative (probably because avex only told them to work their shit 2 days before the album's release) they did absolutely nothing to songs like BLUE BIRD, Days, Voyage and Dearest. Voyage clearly takes the cake in making the whole of Japan fall asleep because everything just sounds the freaking SAME.
On the other hand, the classical versions of Song 4 u and Missing are actually pretty decent, but its effect didn't really impact me mainly because we got orchestra versions for each of them only 1-2 months before this release, so that's quite a pity.
Of course, no one expects A Classical to be an album that you can listen to while you're going for a run. But if you're looking for some background music or some lame shit like that, then this album has done its job, and as a whole album I still think it was a great effort.
One thing MY STORY Classical beats this in is that MY STORY Classical gave creativity and effort in ways A Classical could never have. When you compare these 2 albums side by side, it's extremely obvious that the people who worked on the latter actually knew their shit. A Classical just seems really lazy in comparison.
MY STORY Classical gave a fresh perspective to all the songs, and that's what makes it a well-crafted record. You could hear their experimentation with the layers and everything which adds on to the grandeur that A Classical barely scratched the surface of. You & Me almost achieved that, but not quite as epic / effective. Plus, Voyage may as well been excluded from the damn album because that is 5 minutes that nobody will be able to ever get back.
May I just take a moment to also say how extremely stupid avex is for even putting the poll up for fans to vote for their favourite songs without even stating their motive? (i.e. to put on a classical album) The album can make do with a more diverse tracklist instead of the same old. Can you imagine a classical take on Rule? Holy shitballs.
Listen to previews here.
Album highlights: M, Love song, SEASONS, You & Me