Namie Amuro – PAST<FUTURE

December 19, 2009 at 12:23 PM | Posted in Namie Amuro | 15 Comments
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The cover of the CD+DVD edition

PAST<FUTURE is Namie Amuro’s 8th album and it was released on December 16, 2009. The album reached #1 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 522,343 copies.

I think the cover is cool but use an older picture to rip, Namie! BEST FICTION isn’t THAT old. XD

♦ ♦ ♦

Namie Amuro is one of those artists that continues impress me with every release and even though I was apprehensive about her new musical direction in PAST<FUTURE, I’m happy to say that I was NOT disappointed. Not in the least bit.

The biggest difference you will hear in this album is that the music is noticably less “hip-pop”. The heavy electropop influences make it quite the departure from the signature style of her past 3 studio albums. You could hear this shift begin to happen when she released WILD and Dr., songs that had a more experimental sound to them. However, the new tracks are where we get the full extent of this “futuristic style”.

That’s not to say that there are some throwbacks to the past. The first 2 tracks FAST CAR and COPY THAT both feature a cool and sleek retro sound. Think of the 60s 70s 80s single. FAST CAR is reminiscent of the roaring 20s while COPY THAT is like a homage to 50s TV spy show theme songs. I can’t tell you how addicting FAST CAR is either.

Going back to the album’s main theme of the future, most of the tracks focus primarily on quick synth lines and flat beats. From upbeat tracks like LOVE GAME, Bad Habit, and Steal my Night, the “hip-pop” sound takes a back seat. This is definitely most evident in FRIST TIMER feat. DOBERMAN INC, the album’s most chaotic track. The synth and vocal layering is pretty crazy. I like how the album ends with a bang thanks to the aggressive Defend Love too.

Amuro has a little more up her sleeve as well with Shut Up, a strange pop rock hybrid. I didn’t really like it though because of the chorus. Even with all these complex upbeat songs, the most pleasant surprise on the album for me was The Meaning Of Us. It acts as the album’s lone ballad and it’s really pretty. Despite not having the big grandiose arrangements of past ballads (Wishing On The Same Star and ALL FOR YOU), I personally loved it.

As a whole, PAST<FUTURE is a really catchy and fun album. I can listen to the whole thing with ease. Even though I don’t think it’s as good as her last album PLAY, Amuro is still at the top of her game. My biggest criticism would be that some of the song arrangements come off as monotone, hidden behind a big production to make this fact less obvious. The biggest offender would be MY LOVE, which was one of my least favorite tracks along with Shut Up. This album does trump PLAY when it comes to vocals though. Even though there is a lot of vocal layering going on, I can’t ignore that Amuro’s voice is more polished here.

Pros: Experimentation done right! All Amuro has to do now is perfect it.
Cons: There are “so-so” tracks that don’t stand out.

BASICALLY…the verdict is still waiting on if the past is indeed lesser than the future.

Overall Rating

4½ stars

Tracklisting

1. FAST CAR
2. COPY THAT
3. LOVE GAME
4. Bad Habit
5. Steal my Night
6. FIRST TIMER feat. DOBERMAN INC
7. WILD
8. Dr.
9. Shut Up
10. MY LOVE
11. The Meaning Of Us
12. Defend Love

Note: My favorite tracks are highlighted in blue!

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Namie Amuro – WILD / Dr.

April 8, 2009 at 6:21 AM | Posted in Namie Amuro | 11 Comments
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Tracklisting
1. WILD
2. Dr.
3. WILD (Instrumental)
4. Dr. (Instrumental)

This is Namie Amuro’s 33rd single and it was released on March 18, 2009. The single reached #1 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 102,413 copies.

Namie Amuro once again delivers a large helping of FIERCE with WILD, a high octane electropop track. There is a lot of energy in the music and it’s filled with funky synth riffs and constant beats so it’s bound get to you up and moving. There is a heavy emphasis on the aggressive chorus and it tends to repeat a lot, but I can forgive that since it’s pretty catchy. Above all else, the song is just plain fun. I still prefer the material on the 60s 70s 80s single, but this song is slowly winning me over.

The other A-side, Dr., is WEIRD…but in a good way! I was like “OMG what’s going on?!” when I first listened to it. It’s not as upbeat as WILD, but holy crap there are surprising moments. The main arrangement is laid back but still features a lot spacy and far out synth with light beats. However, those “marching band” sequences are so random and different from the rest of the song. Amuro’s vocals escalate and the rhythm becomes a lot more faster paced. That being said, those are my favorite parts of the song.

Overall Rating

4½ stars

Namie Amuro – 60s 70s 80s

March 25, 2008 at 8:31 PM | Posted in Namie Amuro | 15 Comments
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Tracklisting
1. NEW LOOK
2. ROCK STEADY
3. WHAT A FEELING
4. NEW LOOK (Instrumental)
5. ROCK STEADY (Instrumental)
6. WHAT A FEELING (Instrumental)

This is Namie Amuro’s 32nd single and it was released on March 12, 2008. The single reached #2 in its first week, then #1 in its second on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 289,251 copies. All of the songs were used to advertise Vidal Sassoon haircare products.

The concept of this single is quite interesting. The 3 featured tracks all sample a popular American song that was from a specific decade in chronological order.

A little dash of old fashioned Motown fused with modern R&B is the best way to describe NEW LOOK, the song that represents the 1960s. Sampling The Supremes’ Baby Love, the track is all about high fashion (the lyrics containing several fashion references too). Being my favorite of the 3 songs, everything about it is just plain infectious and catchy. Since the chorus is the main focus of the song, it tends to repeat a lot near the end, but that’s okay because it’s so good. Namie Amuro’s vocals are at their absolute best and it was kind of funny hearing her sing Internet acronyms like “LOL” and “OMG” (thank the lyricist MICHICO for that).

Representing the 1970s, the thumping track ROCK STEADY is next. It samples Aretha Franklin’s song Rock Steady and contains a strong influence of the original track, thanks to its overall soulful sound. Amuro’s take on the song adds frequent beats, fast paced vocals, and lots of energy. I thought it was the least impressive of the 3 songs, but I’m only saying that in comparison to NEW LOOK and WHAT A FEELING. It’s still a well done track.

Finally, the last song represents the 1980s but in an electronic dance club kind of way. WHAT A FEELING samples the famous synth line from Irene Cara’s Flashdance… What a Feeling, but everything else is completely original. I enjoyed the distorted beats and offbeat synthesizers alongside Amuro’s high octane vocal performance.

60s 70s 80s definitely contains Namie Amuro’s best material to date. Each song on it pays homage to a decade of American music, but they also provide a modern spin on them which really spices things up. The way the songs were sampled was clever and I liked how they were utilized because they don’t deviate from the new, original work that is presented. Amuro’s currently on a hot streak right now so let’s hope she keeps delivering the goods.

Overall Rating

5 stars

Namie Amuro – PLAY

July 14, 2007 at 2:28 PM | Posted in Namie Amuro | Leave a comment
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The cover of the CD+DVD edition

PLAY is Namie Amuro’s 7th studio album and it was released on June 27, 2007. The album reached #1 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 516,319 copies.

♦ ♦ ♦

 Quite possibly one of the best opening tracks on an album EVER is the highly infectious Hide & Seek. Words cannot express how much this song blew my mind when I first heard it since it clearly showcases Amuro’s newly refined R&B style. I also loved the mix of whistles, brass, and percussion beats that are incorporated into the song.

Track 2 was another surprising song. Full Moon is odd because of the different sounds in it but the chorus really makes up for it. Like in the previous track, it uses an awesome marching band rhythm.

I have always liked CAN’T SLEEP, CAN’T EAT, I’M SICK so it was great to hear it amongst the newer songs. It doesn’t sound outdated at all.

The next track, It’s all about you, features the electric guitar as the main instrument of the song. It’s something you don’t hear in a Namie Amuro song that often but it was first utilized in her 1997 song Concentration 20 (make you alright) and this song feels like an updated and much better version of it. I was impressed with the overall package in the end.

Even though FUNKY TOWN is my least favorite of the previously released A-sides on the album, I still find it to be a fun song. It can get a little silly at times especially towards the middle of it.

Track 6, Step With It, is a nice mid-tempo track. The only problem I had with it were the male background vocals going “Ohhhhhhhhhhh“. They were really annoying to be honest.

Track 7 is more of a dance club song compared to the other tracks because it is slower paced but has rhythmic vocals and beats. Along with Hide & Seek, Hello was an album promotional track that also had a PV filmed for it.

Should I Love Him? is the only slow jam on the album and it’s not that bad. Amuro’s vocals are fantastic but I thought everything else was kind of boring.

Track 9 cracks me up. Top Secret opens with Amuro saying “I wanna taste you tonight. Hit me.” and I couldn’t help but laugh. That’s beside the point because this is an excellent song. The music is more aggressive and the verses feature fast vocals.

The ’spicy’ version of Violet Sauce is a much needed update of the original. The new version sounds so much better because a lot of toned down elements of the original (the electric guitar and main percussion) are elevated and have a stronger presence in the song.

The last two tracks on the album represent the lingering ’pop’ side of Amuro’s music. Baby Don’t Cry was Amuro’s most commercially successful song in years because it definitely sounds more mainstream. However, I love this song because of its calm and relaxing atmosphere.

Since the album opened with an awesome song, it should close with one too, right? That’s exactly what Pink Key does. It’s an inspiring song with lovely lyrics and a poppish clapping rhythm. I love the English lyrics in the song too: Now it’s time to find your way.

PLAY easily gets my pick for most surprising album of 2007. Namie Amuro does all the right things with this album and it’s superb from beginning to end. Compared to her other albums that have ventured into the full blown R&B style, this is her best one. Now that Amuro has found the brand of music that suits her best, I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us in the future.

Overall Rating

5 stars

Tracklisting

1. Hide & Seek
2. Full Moon
3. CAN’T SLEEP, CAN’T EAT, I’M SICK
4. It’s all about you
5. FUNKY TOWN
6. Step With It
7. Hello
8. Should I Love Him?
9. Top Secret
10. Violet Sauce (Spicy)
11. Baby Don’t Cry
12. Pink Key

Note: My favorite tracks are highlighted in blue!

Namie Amuro – FUNKY TOWN

May 9, 2007 at 2:27 PM | Posted in Namie Amuro | Leave a comment
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Tracklisting
1. FUNKY TOWN
2. DARLING
3. FUNKY TOWN (Instrumental)
4. DARLING (Instrumental)

This is Namie Amuro’s 31st single and it was released on April 4, 2007. The single reached #3 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 54,030 copies.

FUNKY TOWN is addicting to say the least. This song does sound a little similar to CAN’T SLEEP, CAN’T EAT, I’M SICK because of the brass but a little less aggressive in the R&B department. The background voices kind of annoyed me at first, but I got over them rather quickly. In conclusion, you could say that this song is FUNKY, but in a quirky kind of way.

The B-side is DARLING, a stylish song that has a nice, sensual sound. The rhythm is pretty infectious and I thought Amuro’s vocals fit the music perfectly.

Overall Rating 

3½ stars

Namie Amuro – Baby Don’t Cry

February 12, 2007 at 2:22 PM | Posted in Namie Amuro | Leave a comment
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Tracklisting
1. Baby Don’t Cry
2. Nobody
3. Baby Don’t Cry (TV MIX)
4. Nobody (TV MIX)

This is Namie Amuro’s 30th single and it was released on January 24, 2007. The single reached #3 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 144,081 copies. The title track was used as the ending theme song for the drama Himitsu no Hanazono.

I really liked Baby Don’t Cry because it managed to be an up-tempo song with great dance beats but at the same time, it maintained a calm and soothing atmosphere. Amuro’s vocals are at their best and they really stood out during the bridge.

The B-side was originally supposed to be on the White Light / Violet Sauce single, but it was shelved for unknown reasons and it is now featured on this single. Basically, if White Light wasn’t a Christmas song, you would get Nobody. It features the same musical arrangement of White Light but the Christmas feel of the song has been removed to make it sound more R&B. Most of the lyrics different are as well, but not all of them (the chorus is still the same). I loved White Light so I thought this song was great too.

Overall Rating

4 stars

Namie Amuro – CAN’T SLEEP, CAN’T EAT, I’M SICK / Ningyo

September 12, 2006 at 2:22 PM | Posted in Namie Amuro | Leave a comment
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Tracklisting
1. CAN’T SLEEP, CAN’T EAT, I’M SICK
2. Ningyo (人魚)
3. CAN’T SLEEP, CAN’T EAT, I’M SICK (Remix)
4. CAN’T SLEEP, CAN’T EAT, I’M SICK
    (Instrumental)
5. Ningyo (Instrumental)

This is Namie Amuro’s 30th single and it was released on May 17, 2006. The single reached #2 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 79,525 copies.

What a weird title for a song. CAN’T SLEEP, CAN’T EAT, I’M SICK is actually a very energetic and upbeat song with a blaring brass section and strong R&B beats. The additional MALE vocals in the song are a little annoying at times but now I don’t really mind them. Also, the chorus is really catchy.

A lot of fans have expressed their dislike for the next track, Ningyo. This is Amuro’s first cover of a Japanese song (NOKKA was the original artist back in 1994) and the first song title of her career to be in Kanji. The main reason fans didn’t like this song was because it was different from what Amuro normally releases now. It doesn’t feature any R&B at all and it stays pretty faithful to the original version. The song has a very traditional enka feel to it and Amuro’s vocals are quite nice.

Track 3 is a remix of CAN’T SLEEP, CAN’T EAT, I’M SICK. The remix adds some electronica elements to the song and for some strange reason, they blend really well with the already present brass section. Aside from that, it’s not that special, but still good.

Overall Rating

4 stars

Namie Amuro – White Light / Violet Sauce

September 7, 2006 at 10:37 AM | Posted in Namie Amuro | Leave a comment
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Tracklisting
1. White Light
2. Violet Sauce
3. Violet Sauce (Anotha Recipe)
4. White Light [Instrumental]
5. Violet Sauce [Instrumental]

This is Namie Amuro’s 29th single and it was released on December 16, 2005. The single reached #7 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 71,746 copies. The second track was used as the theme song for the Japanese release of the movie Sin City. There was supposed to be a third song on this single but it was shelved for unexplained reasons.

White Light is my first Namie Amuro song and I instantly liked it on the first listen. I love the opening beats and the entire R&B Christmas theme the song presents. Amuro’s vocals are very gentle and the music is relaxing. The song ends with the sound of jingle bells.

The next track, Violet Sauce, is completely different from the previous track. It combines R&B beats with some very slight electric guitar riffs. The bridge is simply amazing in my opinion and is the highlight of the song. The strangest thing about this song are the lyrics. What exactly IS the violet sauce and what do you dip in it? (LMAO)

The remix of the previous track, Violet Sauce (Anotha Recipe), is a strange twist to an already strange song. The music is toned down and Amuro’s vocals are just plain weird. She whispers during the verses and her vocals are more lower pitched in the chorus. The remix also features a cameo from Nao’ymt, the producer of all the songs on this single.

Overall Rating

4½ stars

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