It’s the New Year…Must be time for another Ayumi Hamasaki release!

“RULE” is Hamasaki’s forty-fifth (sweet Jesus) single, planned as the international theme song for upcoming film, Dragonball Evolution.

With this new release, we find our Ayu returning once more to her classic rock roots, Grinding guitars and unstoppable, driving synths, as well as filtered vocals and a shouty chorus propel the track into familiar grungy musical territory (“Evolution”, “GAME”).

Sadly however, I remain unconvinced.

Similar to my sentiments regarding the previous single (“DAYS/GREEN”), I feel compelled to lament that, once again, the new single fails to inspire the same satisfaction presented within I Am…, Rainbow, or even MY STORY. I cannot help but declare the track to be ultimately…safe.

In some ways, I fear that Hamasaki has sonically surpassed her peak position, and is now preparing for a safe route back down toward the summit. She’s proven herself an icon, garnered an impossibly successful record run, and managed to stay relevant in an industry known for shape-shifting. However, nothing she’s done in the past two or three years seems to be connecting with me as well as her earlier work.

Perhaps it’s just my natural progression away from the J-Pop scene in the past few months?

Either way, I hope to be proven wrong in the near future.

The single “RULE/SPARKLE” will be released February 25. Click here to pre-order now!

DL: Ayumi Hamasaki – RULE (Sharebee)

Ayu…Return to the underground dance scene. For me? …Please?