LOVEppears may be the second album for Ayumi Hamasaki, but it’s by no means a successor to A Song for ××. Rather, this is an album that knows what it’s doing and who its audience is. LOVEppears benefits from the fact that Ayu was, by then, an established artist who had had her first of many #1 singles. The sounds of LOVEppears have much more of a dance sound to them; her singles at this point were released with a half-dozen remixes each. And, frankly, the music is just a lot more catchy than A Song for ××. It’s not just the singles — the popularity of some of the tracks on this album was enough to warrant their release as singles with promotional videos after the album’s release, a rarity for artists in Japan. (In Japan, singles are typically released in the lead-up to an album in order to promote its release, with accompanying music videos; the reverse is true in the US.)
And yet, I have never cared for this album as much as others in Ayu’s discography. LOVEppears by itself is a very good album, and I really like most of its tracks. When looking at it as part of Ayu’s greater body of work, however, it is not her best album, nor is one of my overall favorites. It’s not one I find myself putting on with any frequency. Were it the only release of another artist, I wouldn’t hesitate to give it more attention. But because Ayu has put out so many great albums, it ends up somewhat average.