After a bad decade for Ayumi Hamasaki, Japan's "empress of pop", with controversial releases such as "Colours" and "Party Queen" that were, not only commercial failures, but low points in her discography, "Remember You" is the the singer's attempt to reconnect again with her music and redeem with her audience.
Her first album in over 6 years could best be described as a collection of singles released during the period. It includes nine songs released between 2019 and 2023, in addition to four new tracks (two of them, interludes) and a remix. Surprisingly, despite the large time gap between the singles, they work well within the tracklist, and the record sounds cohesive thanks to the presence of the interludes "Ray of Truth" and "Taskinson" that contribute to the album's separation in three parts.
The first part includes uptempo tracks with rock influences, as in the excellent "23rd Monster", "Dreamed a Dream" and "(Not) Remember You", and electronic dance tracks, like "Nonfiction" and its duo "Summer Again". Personally, I believe that the heavy rock tracks are the highlights of this section. "23rd Monster" has been one of my favorite Ayu singles since its release, and in my opinion, it's a career peak.
We then have the ballad's section, which is mandatory on Japanese albums in general. Here, however, it is surprisingly short, something rare thing for Ayumi. Usually J-Pop ballads are the songs that least capture my attention on albums, and it's no different in this one. The title track, "Remember You", is beautiful, but it doesn't deviate from the Japanese standard, and it sounds like something I've already listened before (probably from Ayumi herself). "Ohia No Ki" was boring to me in 2019 and remains boring in 2023. Easily the most forgettable song on the record. Finally, we have "Haru Yo, Koi", a cover of the classic song by Yumi Matsutoya. Although I really like the original version, I must admit that Ayumi's voice and the new arrangement sound more emotional to me.
The "Taskinson" interlude opens the last section of "Remember You", speeding up the pace again with a heavy, catchy beat. "MASK", a single released a few months ago, follows. It is an electronic and danceable song produced by Tetsuya Komuro, which contrasts with its touching lyrics. Listening to this song on the album, I felt like it grew a lot on me.
Finally, closing the album, we have "Vibees", a powerful song with rock elements that seems out of place for me on the tracklist. Maybe it would have worked better at the beginning of the record. Additionally, we have a remix of "Nonfiction", which doesn't bring anything to the table, and "Just the Way You Are", a ballad as boring as "Ohia no Ki".
"Remember You" will never compete with masterpieces such as "LOVEppears", "I Am..." or "Duty", but it's the best and most interesting album by Ayumi Hamasaki in over 15 years, and will perhaps serve as a great new beginning for the singer.