PLAY

play-cover.jpg

Namie Amuro
PLAY
Total Tracks: 12
Oricon Peak: #1 (2 weeks)
United World Chart Peak: #4
Total Sales So Far: 471,898 (As of August 5, 2007)

~~~

     Namie Amuro’s newest album is a triumph. After seven years of mediocre sales and dipping popularity, she is back on top (at least for the moment). With the release of Baby Don’t Cry in late January, one Japanese news source went so far as to say that this was the beginning of a “second age of Amura”. I believe that that is warranted.

~~~

Hide & Seek
Nao’myt
4:37

     Blaring trumpets and a bumping beat introduce you to Namie’s own personal “Funky Town”. Deep synth blares from the speakers as a mega-phoned Namie half-sings, half-speaks over an unexhaustable marching beat. The chorus is pure fun, with even an, “OW!” thrown in, but the minor scales in the background and throughout the melody set this song apart and make it one of the best dance songs, not to mention opening songs, of any album I’ve heard since Queen of Hip-Pop. And the bridge is so exciting. When I first heard it, I was amazed at how much Namie’s voice had improved since her last album.

Full Moon
Nao’myt
3:57

     How do I describe this unbelievably cool song: The Flight of the Bumblebee-esque violin trilling, pounding beats, and an amzing melody pull this song above almost every track. The echoing beats of the ‘instrumenal bridge’ and the subtle yet apparent harmony throughout has me still pretty enthralled with it. Even my friends who don’t like JPop agree that this is one hell of a song.

CAN’T SLEEP, CAN’T EAT, I’M SICK
T.Mura, Michico
3:46

     This song has been around for a while and CSCEIM will probably go down as Namie’s longest A-side title, not to mention that it is in all capital letters. It was her only single of 2006, much to my dismay, and I played it incessantly (all my friends know it now). The smooth, jazzy horns and bounce of this song have become a staple of Namie’s lately, so much so that FUNKY TOWN had almost the same feeling. But this song was fun and summery and FUNKY TOWN was heavier and darker, but not much darker, I mean, this is Namie we’re talking about here. The chorus is in an ungodly register (it’s really high) and I wouldn’t have found my starting pitch for singing it with the instrumental (which is almost as fun as the actual song) if it weren’t for the for the almost mute keyboard deigning to strike in the chorus occasionally. The male perspective, added by Nao’myt, was nice to hear, and probably should have had him featured, but, I mean, how much longer could the name of this song gotten? (!!!) 

It’s all about you
T.Mura, Michico
4:12

     Bring down the house, Namie! Gritty electric guitars push us, even if we were willing, into a punk-ish beat and an almost rabid Namie drives the song to it’s unforgivingly (and unforgetablely) amazing chorus. Even though I don’t speak Japanese, but I could tell that sometimes the endings of verses didn’t fit and sounded awkward, especially the first verse. Breaking glass can be heard at the beginning of every chorus which is a pretty rockin’ touch. The chorus is almost entirely in Eng(r)lish. If I could say one negative thing about this song: it is entirely too long. It just seems to go on forever, and that’s mostly because it’s so redundant. It’s not an amazing song, but it is unique and interesting, and with a little work, you can appreciate it at the least.

FUNKY TOWN
T.Mura, Michico, L.L. Brothers
3:48

     Ah. I smile when I hear this song. It’s balancing act between cartoon-ish pop and sexy dance song is applauded, and if it weren’t for its likeness to CSCEIS, it would have been quite unique. The background beat (a breakneck tapping which turns into clapping at one point), never stops. It impressed me so much that for awhile I would just listen to the instrumental to hear it. That beat hardly ever gets a chance to shine as it gets caught up in the white noise of her voice and the rest of the backing. The ad. lib. at the end is exceptional, and Namie really shows off her pipes, especially at 3:23.

Step With It
T.Mura, Michico, L.L. Brothers
3:47

     This song was my first real favorite on this album and is still one of the more laidback songs on the album, even though it’s fast (if that makes any sense). It sounds like a duet, I can only suppose, with Nao’myt, although it isn’t listed as one. Lastly, towards the end of the song, the guy beings ‘oh’-ing the melody of ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ above the lead vocals, interesting.

P.S. I count this the third time that “Want me” has been used in a Namie song predominately, the most recent being ‘Darling’, the B-side of the single FUNKY TOWN and, of course, ‘WANT ME, WANT ME.” This is just an observation on my part.

Hello
T.Mura, Michico, Angie Irons
3:42

     Are you ready of a key change? ‘Hello’ is a song in minor, but it is cleverly disguised by the songwriters to sound as if it is in major. At 3:12, they finally let you in on the secret because Namie sings blatantly in minor. It’s really a cool and unique song. The lyrics are youthful and fun and for awhile I was even tempted to put it as my voicemail. Heavy effects are used for the background throughout and, especially, at the end.

SHOULD I LOVE HIM
T.Mura, Michico
4:23

     Finally, after just over half an hour of listening, the album finally decided to cool off and take a breather. SHOULD I LOVE HIM is a ballad, and a beautiful one at that. Harkening back to the days of ‘CAN YOU CELEBRATE’ and ‘Dreaming I was dreaming’, a gospel chorus is used to backup Namie’s vocals. Namie pulls off this song very well and puts a lot of emotion in, that the previous tracks lacked because of their speed. The melody is simple and the backups never rarely sing full harmony, but sing the melody behind her and really just create a breathtaking atmosphere for the song. Namie also shows off her upper register and even pulls off some good, heartfelt runs.

Top Secret
Nao’myt
4:29

     “I wanna taste you tonight”… Wow… I think this song is very sexual and Namie is extremely good at being sexy and singing, so it goes without saying that this song is hot. The chorus is downright ear-popping in its speed and lyrical precision. The chromatic bridge and pumping beat drive this song to an appealing end. This song definitely puts the woman in charge and she really cracks that whip she’s been holding…

VIOLET SAUCE (SPICY)
Nao’myt
4:01

     ‘Violet Sauce’ is probably my favorite Namie Amuro dance song, so I was really, really excited about this “Spicy” remix. The excitement was duly noted and this remix rocked my actual song as I got up and danced at hearing that first ripping guitar riff. Above the sung track, Namie yells harmony and even whispers underneath, giving a quite intoxicating sense of auditory stimulation. I’m pretty much sold on her “Violet Sauce”; they should probably bottle it. Susu! (you’ll get it when you hear it)

Baby Don’t Cry
Nao’myt
5:21

     ‘Baby Don’t Cry’ is the sweetest song I’ve ever heard from Namie Amuro. Her vocals are strong without being overbearing, and the tinkling track only adds to its sense of nostalgia. The lyrics are overflowing with love and beauty that never even begins to border on saccharine. This song was a hit for Namie and really propelled this album to number one. I adore this song, plain and simple. 

PINK KEY
Nao’myt
4:40

     This song struck me as creepy: church bells and a whispering, ghostly Namie. But then the synth pop kicked in the front door. It broke through the clouds and shot a rainbow in a crowded square full of smiling people who spontaneously broke into choreographed dance. Okay, okay… what I’m trying to say is that this song is really happy. It’s no ‘Nanairo no Ashita ~brand new beat~’ but it’s pretty darn close. The saving grace of this song from being the lovechild of Disney and Namie is its percussive and lightning-fast lyrics and, while upbeat, most emotional performance of the album. The message is good and I really enjoyed it.

~~~

     In closing, not every track on this album was so automatically enjoyable, but with time I began to get the feeling of the album and finally get into it, which has produced a “second age of Amura” at any rate. After multiple listens, I came to even like the most experimental, some might say, oddest track on the album, ‘It’s all about you’.
     Overall, this album is well put together, masterly mixed, and decidedly adult. While I am no saying this is my favorite album of hers (that’s Queen of Hip-Pop), I am saying that this album is worth a few listens and really allowing yourself to appreciate a new genre and style for Namie, because this album is completely unique for its use of old and new, re-dipping and re-tasting, and even falling back on the gospel-inspired balladry of her earliest recordings.
     Namie’s view of Funky Town was spot on and dance ready. She may be entering her thirties, but she’s still young at heart, and face, and body, and attitude. As my dad always says, “It’s not the age, it’s the mileage,” and when you keep a vehicle in good shape, it can go and go. I plan on hearing more from Namie after this album and she doesn’t seem like she’s in the mood to stop anytime soon. I say, “Congratulations, Namie, for a wonderful album and a promising tour.

Come on, hit PLAY, won’t you?

Advertisements

~ by vinyabarion on August 13, 2007.

One Response to “PLAY”

  1. I absolutely agree with your review. Ever since she got away from TK, she’s just grown by leaps and bounds.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: