????? / ayumi hamasaki, also known as Ayu, was born on October 2, 1978 in Fukuoka, Japan. She is an award-winning Japanese singer, and one of the most popular and influential artists to come from Asia. Apart from being a singer, Ayumi is also a songwriter, a model, an actress, and a composer. Ayumi started her musical career in 1994 and released her first album "NOTHING FROM NOTHING" in 1995; the album was not successful, and she was subsequently dropped by her record label.
In 1998, Hamasaki released her first single, poker face, via the Avex Trax label, after being discovered by label head Masato "Max" Matsuura partying at the avex-owned club, Velfarre. Hamasaki's debut album, "A Song for ××", was released in 1999, and won her a Gold Disk Award. She has since sold more than 50 million records in Japan alone with the releases of her 9 full-length studio albums, 1 mini-album, 4 compilation albums, 45 singles, and 17 remix albums, becoming the top selling solo and female artist and the 4th top selling Japanese artist in history. With the release of her 40th single "BLUE BIRD", Hamasaki's single sales passed the 20 million mark, making her the first solo and female singer to reach that milestone.
With the release of her 45th single "Rule/Sparkle", Hamasaki currently has 20 consecutive #1 singles (starting from "Free & Easy") and 32 #1 singles in the Japanese ORICON charts. In addition, she is the first Japanese artist to have her first original 8 studio albums top the charts.
Hamasaki released her ninth studio album, GUILTY on January 1, 2008. Shortly after the release, Ayumi revealed that she had become completely deaf in her left ear, and that it is inoperable. It is believed that she suffers from tinnitus, and Ayumi has known about the condition of her left ear since 2007 after an examination. She also stated that she would continue on with her career for her fans, explaining that "nevertheless, I would like to continue as a singer. That's why I would like to continue singing until I reach the limit with my remaining right ear".
In addition to serving as background music for television advertisements, some of Hamasaki's songs have been used as themes for video games and film productions such as television shows and motion pictures. "Depend on you" and its b-side "Two of us" were used as the opening and ending theme, respectively, of the video game Thousand Arms, while the video game Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams used "Startin'" and "rainy day" as its opening and ending theme, respectively. The dorama My Little Chef featured "Voyage" as its theme, while the anime InuYasha featured "Dearest." Finally, Hamasaki's songs "HEAVEN", "Secret", "fated", and "Rule" have been used as the themes for the movies Shinobi: Heart Under Blade, Confession of Pain, Kaidan, and DragonBall Evolution, respectively.
Official site: http://avexnet.or.jp/ayu