Ayumi Hamasaki is feeling GUILTY. For the first order of business, I’d like to address the upcoming release of Hamasaki’s tenth studio album, GUILTY. But before that, I’d like to summarize Ayumi’s career for the majority of readers (who at this point are unaware that this blog exists) who are unfamiliar with the sassy little lady (5’1″!) Ayumi Hamasaki, known as the “Empress of J-Pop,” is often referred to as the Madonna of Japan. I’d say it’s a pretty close comparison. Unlike Madonna, Ayu didn’t do too much to challenge the direction of pop music, nor is she controversial, but she does control her life and music in the same manner. Like Madonna, Ayu’s got the last word on everything, because she understands the importance of image. The one thing I love most about Ayumi is her self-awareness. She openly refers to herself as a product, as in this interview with TIME: It is necessary that I am viewed as a product. I am a product. The “Hi, this is Ayu” person on TV is the person I know they want to see. I understand it’s my role to realize people’s dreams. I’m okay with that so long as my songs are my own. She’s smart too. She knows how to play the game, and every album she has released (nine at the moment) has debuted at number one on the charts. She holds the record for most singles to chart for any female artist, as well as albums. She has broken countless sales records and won dozens of awards. And everytime she attempts to speak English, a baby panda is born. I swear it’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Needless to say, she is absolutely unknown to anyone outside of the Eastern hemisphere. Thankfully, we’ve been blessed with the musical stylings of Soulja Boy and T-Pain. But I digress. Having just broken up with Tomoya Nagase, her boyfriend of over seven years, I was selfishly enthralled by the idea of her “going all Alanis” on his ass for the new album, GUILTY. But according to the tabloids, and Ayumi herself, it seems more like she was the one responsible for the breakup. Earlier in the week on her blog, Ayu was lamenting over losing someone “close to her,” and wishes everyone will feel the album because it represents those emotions. My hopes are high. The thirty second previews have just been released on her official website, and I have to say, I’m nervous about this one. Secret, her ninth album, did nothing for me. Too faux-rock for my taste, except for “Startin’,”1 Love,” and “Kiss O’ Kill.” This one seems to be following the same path, except I have a feeling there’s more sincerity packed into the bunch this time around. I wish she’d return to the days of I Am… , but those days of experimental sound seem long gone. I know she loves guitars and rock, but she truly shined during her trance/dance era. Ayu’s album GUILTY is due to be released January 1st, 2008 and can be ordered at Amazon.