Ayumi Hamasaki’s Winter diary ~A7 Classical~ [Updates + Review]

Can Ayumi conquer the orchestra?

Well, well, well. Ayumi Hamasaki is preparing to take over Japan with her new classical-inspired remix album, Winter diary ~A7 Classical~ (yes, it most likely is named after A ONE + sixxxxxx… I guess we’re lucky it wasn’t SEVVVVVVVEN). “Winter diary” is, of course, thought to be the sequel to “Summer diary,” released earlier this year. Yes, this year. This will be, what, the fourth release she’s taking out this year? Her dedication is unmatched!

Take a listen to a preview of “Winter diary,” possibly her most Christmas-sounding song ever, here:

Here we have “Step by step”:

Finally, take a listen to a preview “Last minute”:

Now for the overall review! (Looking at the track list, I can’t help but wish “Shape of love” and/or an extended version of “a Bell” had made it as well…)

WARNING: WHAT?! I love this! I imagine this sounds even better right after “a Bell” from A ONE edits playlist. I love the power that this classical version kicks off with—it’s not as abrasive as the album version. I’m happy this worked because I had some doubts about how it would sound… but, nope, it’s incredible. I can fight an army to this!

Step by step: This is nice, though I don’t understand why it’s after “WARNING.” It should’ve gone somewhere in the “Summer diary” – “Sky high” area, but that’s ok. As good as it is, it doesn’t add too much to the original and doesn’t feel 100% crucial. Nevertheless, if the album version is too loud and in-your-face, this might be the version for you.

Sorrows: Ehh… The arrangement is great but what in the world is happening with these extremely low vocals in the first verse? I can hear her just fine in the rest of the song (or at least most of it), but she’s definitely lost somewhere in the mix (as is the case with a couple of other songs, unfortunately). Still, it’s an innovatively transformed version of a rock-driven track that is worth keeping. Just pray that a re-mixed and remastered version comes out soon, I guess?

Last minute: Well, holy Jesus, this is a great rendition of the A ONE fan-favorite. It’s dramatic, full of bass and tinged with urgent strings; it’s fantastic. The back vocals have been lowered in this mix, which actually works for the best since they were too upfront in the album version. It’s nice to hear the main vocal shine this time around.

Summer diary: It kicks off and ends with joyful strings and that’s pretty much all I remember about it. The original is untouchable for me in all its cheesy glory and unfortunately this isn’t the masterpiece it could’ve been for me. It just comes and goes.

Sky high: A true improvement! While the original is as delightfully cheesy as “Summer diary,” I thought it could benefit from a classical arrangement. It certainly has!

NO FUTURE: Ooh I like the clavichord addition to this—it’s reminiscent of the acoustic version of “Daybreak.” The vocals aren’t as piercing as the original, which works for this reworking of “NO FUTURE.” It would benefit from being a little less busy, but no real complains.

Out of control: This quickly became my favorite song from A ONE and I’m glad the ~A7 Classical~ version is worthy of its existence. I love brass and this one has it in spades, as well as a non-programmed snare drum—AKA, I’m in heaven. One minor issue, I wish it built up to a climax instead of remaining as loud throughout the entire track.

The GIFT: WHERE IS AYUMI IN THIS? IS SHE EVEN SINGING? She is utterly hidden in this rather unsurprising rendition of “The GIFT,” a song that most fans already don’t love (but I do, don’t worry!). Was this even previewed before sending the CD to print? It starts nice enough with a harp and complementary strings… then it suddenly seems like the string section became jealous of all the attention Ayumi was receiving and got closer to their mics. Meanwhile, Ayumi is struggling to be heard above the wave of an overwhelming orchestra. That reverb sure isn’t helping.

The Show Must Go On: The orchestra is really jealous now. They’re completely battling her in volume, it’s unbelievable—I can barely hear the title itself (though I don’t think anyone is angry that the “Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah” was lowered to almost mute)! This one just doesn’t work all that well, in my humble opinion. It might as an instrumental, but as is, it’s too busy, too unfocused and messily mixed. Shame, this could’ve really been excellent had it been executed with more care.

Winter diary (Original mix): OK, this isn’t going to be winning any awards anytime soon (unless the video turns out to be mind-blowing), but it’s FINE. Who doesn’t love a somewhat well-pronounced “Silent Night”/“Feel the love” mashup intro in Christmas? No one? Never mind. I feel like creating an orchestra version of this first and then releasing the Original Mix on her next album would’ve been a smarter move. However, from the feedback I’ve seen from fans, they’d rather it stay hidden here.

Note: “NO FUTURE,” “WARNING” and “The Show Must Go On” feature Okabe Machi as guest violinist.

While you wait for your copy of Winter diary ~A7 Classical~, make sure you also preview Ayumi’s 90’s-club-ready rendition of “Many Classic Moments” for the #globe20th -SPECIAL COVER BEST-, out December 16!

Teaser Movie Released:


(Sources: Amazon Japan)
Winter diary ~A7 Classical~
Winter diary ~A7 Classical~
The Good
  • Powerful arrangements.
  • Lowered back vocals.
The Bad
  • Poor overall mixing.
  • Occasionally too stuffed.
  • Step by step
  • Sorrows
  • Last minute
  • Summer diary
  • Sky high
  • Out of control
  • The GIFT
  • The Show Must Go On
  • Winter diary (Original Mix)
In Japan

On a daily basis, I am overcome by Ayumi Hamasaki's greatness. I can be found listening to her music 24/7 by the local canal.
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