7.17.2013

Album review: Namie Amuro - Feel

Album review: Namie Amuro - Feel | Random J Pop

Back in 2002, Namie left Pop on somebody's door step, ran as fast as she could and never looked back for 10 years. But much like a curious mother seeking out her adopted child, Namie is at that point of latching back onto what she let go of all those years ago. Feel is Namie coming full circle with herself.

In hindsight it feels oddly like Namie was always supposed to reach this point. With an original studio album titled Past < Future following a best compilation which is references on its album cover, then an album which used an eclipse as its creative motif. Many have already called Namie out for  selling out and being commercial, but what would you expect from an artist who is signed to Avex, started off in a group covering Eurobeat and has been commercial for 20 years!? I can't condem Namie for this when she strikes gold for 80% of this album.

Each of Namie's albums from Style onwards has been heavily based on what is hot in the US at the time of its release and Feel is no different. We get EDM, house, a bit of trance, a splash of disco and a heavy dose of wub-wub only 2 tracks into the album. It would have been very easy for everything to feel cookie cutter as a result of this, but the results are difficult to dismiss when Namie sells each of these songs with much more gusto and self assurance than she ever did when she was transitioning into R&B with Genius 2000 and Break the rules. It also helps that the songs are really fucking good. The haunting euphoria of "Alive". The Dr. Luke esque-warbles of "Rainbow". The big beat drops of "Hands on me". The euro house rave of "Heaven". The island swagger of "La la la". The K-Pop bounce of "Supernatural love". The garage / 2-step kilter of the M-Flo tinged "Stardust in my eyes". Every song has a life unto itself and holds well on its own - which was the one thing Uncontrolled lacked, as the singles from that album only worked when they were put together. Feel is Namie's first album which makes you seriously question the eligibility of Namie releasing something in the West. UK and US radio could play "Hands on me" or "Heaven" in between a Rihanna and a Pitbull track and nobody would question it or wonder 'What the fuck was that!?' Namie could have a strong international 4 single run with songs off of this album easily. Namie isn't just harvesting Japanese wigs. She wants some white girl weaves and hood clips in from bitches in the hood.

To say Namie has a vocal range would be the pot calling the kettle a non singing bitch, when the pot's name is Pamyu Pamyu. But Feel explores her vocal selling in a way none of her other albums do. There's an energy and life in Namie which runs through each of the songs. She sounds ravenously desperate for cock on "Hands on me". Super sassy on "Supernatural love" and seductively reflective on the possibility of actual sex on the beach in "La la la". This is Namie at her most confident. That shy, uncertainty Namie had about her before, it's nowhere to be seen on this album. I guess that's what shitting on Ayu's sales does to a woman.

Uncontrolled marked the first time that Namie had recorded a batch of songs entirely in English, and with Feel continuing on the trend, this is something Namie fans will need to start getting used to. At this rate, her next album will be completely in Engrish. We all joke about how Namie makes up her own language when she sings half of these songs, but for her to do this shows great bravery, as well as an appreciation for her fans outside of Japan and also an ear for what makes a song flow better. There are many chicks in J-Pop who wish they had the balls to sing a verse in English let alone an entire song. Namie's English melds better with the music here than Utada's did for a chunk of Exodus and she doesn't rely on auto-tune and vocoders to mask how bad her English is how BoA did on her English language debut. The only issue with Namie's English on this album is it is so wildly inconsistent. Generally, her English is a shit tonne better than it was on Uncontrolled. Her English on "La la la" is so near perfect that I get emotional and shed a tear every time I hear her sing the first verse and she sounds like an almost fluent English speaker during the rap sections of "Supernatural love" and "Heaven". And yet, we gets 'supplies' instead of 'surprise' and 'parking rot' instead of 'parking lot'. I love Namie. On a good day I would defend this bitch and argue she was talking about issuing aid in Iran (supplies) and that cars are susceptible to corrosion when parked in a particular way (parking rot). But I can't defend this shit when she's able to pronounce the word 'stratosphere' on one song, but not the word 'heaven' on another. I know English is not her first language, but if she's going to start recording the bulk of her songs in English, she needs to brush up on this shit. The issue isn't that she can't pronounce the words, it's that we know she probably can or could if somebody sang the words back to her. Home girl needs somebody to quality control her English across every song.

Feel is a much more consistent album than Uncontrolled. But that sticking feeling that a couple of the songs were recorded before a musical direction for the album was settled on lingers across it in the same way it did on Uncontrolled. To a lesser extent, but to an extent none-the-less. "Can you feel this love" and "Big boys cry" sound completely out of place and pale sonically in comparison to the rest of the material. "Can you feel this love" isn't terrible, but it's not a song you would ever voluntarily skip to. And "Big boys cry" is just rubbish. I expected better from Dsign music. I am appalled that it took a team of 7 songwriters who were responsible for the perfection that was Girls' generation's "Genie", Jasmine's "B*TCH*S" and Crystal Kay's "What we do" to come up with something this bad.

Namie has done Pop better than Britney did on Circus and Femme fatale. Has done electro and house better than Madonna has done on every album since Ray of light. She has taken a hot steaming dump on so many bitches in Pop. But as good as this album is, I'm still left with a feeling of wanting more and that this evolution in Namie should have come a little sooner. What Feel represents for me is an album which is solid and has many moments of greatness, but is let down slightly because so much of it should have been given a couple of years ago. But I also appreciate that in many regards, Namie was somewhat of a late bloomer. Despite me picking apart this album in the final moments of my review, I admire that Namie once again switched up her sound, stuck with it and made it work. If Ayu and Kumi weren't taking notes after Namie wiped the floor with both of their wigs with Past < Future, then they had damn well better pull out a Muji notebook and take some fucking notes now. Ayu and Kumi need to start switching up their sound and stop playing it safe. You could argue Namie played it completely safe with this album being of a sound which has been saturating the top 20 for the past 2 years. But she still showcases a form of evolution that I've yet to see and / or hear from Ayu and Kumi, who seem overly content with just continual re-hashes.

I find it difficult to rank this album amongst the likes of Past < Future and Play because it offers something entirely different. Play was a hot album because it was a much more refined version of Queen of hip pop. Past < Future was a solid album because it absolutely nailed every sound Namie had been trying to go for since turning over to the Urban sector. Where-as Feel feels like it marks a new turning point in Namie's career altogether.

Comparisons aside, Feel holds on its own as a solid album and is certainly in the running for one of the best produced J-Pop albums of 2013. It is a great addition to Namie's discography and anice showcase of what she's able to pull. I never would have thought Namie could hold her own on some of the styles she exhibits on this album, but she really does own her shit.


Album highlights:
■ Alive ★ J's fave
■ Contrail
■ Hands on me
■ Heaven
■ Poison
■ La la la ★ J's fave
■ Supernatural love
■ Stardust in my eyes

35 comments:

  1. Am I really gonna be the first to comment? Ya'll bitches was harassing J on a daily, threatening to show up on his door step and shit LOL JK where my fellow scanks at?? I had a feeling you were going to give this album a 7.5. Maybe I'm the only one who feels this way, but I didn't think Can You Feel This Love sounded all that out of place. I thought it flowed well with the album even if it wasn't a stand out track. Now "Big Boys Cly" and "Ret Me Retchu go" get skipped with the QUICKNESS! I'm glad you waited a while before posting this review though, because I was quick to shade Namie for going all EDM and western mainstream; however, I would be lying if I said that I didn't think the end result was hot. I would say a lot of the songs on "Feel" are growers. I wasn't initially captivated by "Feel", but I can definitely see myself spinning this album for the remainder of the summer. I currently have it on repeat during my daily commute to work. "Heaven" is my current go to to jam to play in the cash office (bahahaha). I'm still mad I won't be hearing some of these bangers in the club. I so need to do something more exciting then play Animal Crossing while listening to "Hands On Me". A song like that requires that you be nothing less than filthy on the dance floor.

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  2. YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYAAAAAAAAAAAAASSSSSSSSSS!!! THIS REVIEW IS EVERYTHING THAT I NEEDED IT TO BE!!!


    *ahem* I don't have much else to say that you didn't already say in your review, so... :3

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  3. From what you're saying, this album could be what Color Change! and Spin the Music was to Crystal; not in quality, but what it represents to the artist, and I kinda like that idea. I can see Namie making her best album next time; while this might not be it, it has every bop I've been wanting from Namie for the longest. And it shows she is capable of "growth" in a sense. :D


    As for your review, very good! Always good! You have that way of dragging and complimenting together that it feels genuine and trustworthy! Thanks for this ?J! :D

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  4. starlightshimmersJuly 18, 2013 at 3:30 AM

    Excellent review. Fantastic album. Definitely shows that Namie Amuro can rival those Western bitches in sound and style.

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  5. Richard Brandon HernandezJuly 18, 2013 at 4:21 AM

    On point with the review, this album was a step up since her last one

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  6. Gran review, este álbum es muy sólido. También ame alive y la la la

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  7. Tetramorium jediJuly 18, 2013 at 4:24 PM

    I like the flute intro of "Big Boys Cry" but the song and her voice on in are bad as you said. Great review, great album nonetheless.

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  8. I am really surprised with Namie. I don't know a lot of her discography, but I've always been half and half on her up until now because despite her take-no-shit demeanor, she never really looked invested in anything she was doing. She looked straight up miserable. I don't know WHAT new life was brought into her this time around because she's smiling, making the most of that voice and hitting me with some surprising beats. I love what she's doing right now. I wish BoA would do the same!

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  9. the word "safe" does not even apply to this album in the slightest!! i expected some namie engrish songs from this album given the direction she took it in uncontrolled, but this is such a revolutionary suprise move for her. for her to do something so different, americanized, main-stream, and dance heavy is just plain ... AWESOME!!!! Gotta agree most of the songs were right on except the obvious suggestions and I just didn't care for la la la. idk but it was just a little too repetitve for me. Other than that, no complaints!!! seeing how this is now my favorite album of this year by far, ayu and kumi better get their shit together for realz. Past > future will always be my fav album by her but this album has some of the best songs shes ever recorded. hands down.

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  10. You made some good points that I previously made like how Namie should have been at this point in her career some time ago. Uncontrolled should have never even known the sweet embrace of life to begin with.

    And the 2 songs you mentioned are the 2 I always skip.

    Overall I like this Album. Much more than I thought I would. But she needs to return to Japanese and stop this. I feel cheated that my Japanese Album is in English.

    I will say that as much as people keep comparing these songs to what is playing over in the States, not really because nothing is really this sonic. Except for Stardust In My Eyes. We have all heard that song somewhere else before. But for the most part it still has Nihongo-esque Poppy quality and vibe to it that you don't get in the states.

    All she would have had to do is sing these exact same songs in Japanese and they would sound right at home and all this talk would cease. Sorry Namie and her team of everything. These songs are Japanese songs sung in English. Nothing more. A huge redeeming factor.

    Now come for Kumi and ayumi all you darn well please. Come all over them. But that little swipe at Utada. I will sling shade your way of the kind that killed the dinosaurs. LOL for real!

    Let's stay cute and pretty. Yes Ma'am. =]

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  11. I have to agree a bit. I appreciate the attempt at all but I don't know how I feel about her thinking the songs would "flow" better in her version of English. Maybe certain sections, sure, but I still don't think it was that necessary. I've heard lots of Language A songs that flow just as well as Language B songs if they changed the lyrics well.

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  12. Nice album, to me is already the best of the year. I wish BoA would do something like this in a near future. Just like Namie, she needs to take another point in her career.

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  13. starlightshimmersJuly 20, 2013 at 8:43 PM

    A big chunk of the songs are originally written in English. Namie Amuro decided to sing them in the original English because she felt that it flowed with the beat better and the meaning would get lost if it was translated to Japanese.

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  14. LMAO at "HBIC" in the tags.


    All of you hypocrite bitches that were hating on Namie, were proved wrong. Where's your stupid shade now?

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  15. "Put 'em Up" is that song.

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  16. I'm gonna "Ignore -nore -nore" you.

    I know that's rude.

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  17. My favourite album this year so far. I just got it yesterday :3

    Btw Namie is second in the World Album Charts. That's amazing!

    http://allcharts.org/music/world/albums.htm

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  18. I always enjoy reading your reviews. :)

    "FEEL" is hands down one of Namie's best produced albums thus far. I'm proud of her for going back to her "dance roots" despite people calling her out for it. I think the dance genre suits her better in my humble opinion. "FEEL" is definitely more polished than "Uncontrolled" and I'm loving this new direction she's taking.

    However, I still personally feel half of the album lacks novelty and sounds like blatant "bandwagon" Western top 40 tracks that I've heard in the last 3 years. I'm aware that Namie's past 7 albums all have Western influences but to me her previous albums have their own unique charm that separates them from her peers works. Unfortunately I didn't get that same feeling with this album but I still appreciate her effort. And I agree, this album should have been released over a year ago to match the trends.

    Despite my criticisms, I would rather have Namie broaden her sound at the cost of me not enjoying everything she does versus her not evolving her sound at all. This album still has to grow on me a bit more though.

    "FEEL" is merely a stepping stone for her next album which I'm sure will have a more refined and original sound. "Past<Future" still remains my favorite Namie album but I have a feeling she will release an album that will rival it in the future.

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  19. "To me her previous albums have their own unique charm that separates them from her peers works".

    I hear ya. I think this is the element which many feel is what lets this album down. But for me, 'Feel' is the one her first albums where Namie has stood out above the production and come correct with her delivery. 'Past < Future' was great, but the production outshone her and smothered her to the point where on some songs she didn't even matter. I've listened to the Instrumental of "Wild" more than the version with vocals. And on "First timer" Michico's backing vocals take over the entire chorus and Doberman Inc. get more air time than Namie does.

    'Past < Future' was solid, but it took Namie 3 albums and a triple A-side to lock that sound down and get it THAT tight. Where-as with 'Feel' Namie managed to deliver a solid Dance / Pop album following on from 'Uncontrolled' - which despite being a messy album, did feature some great songs.

    As you said, it will be great to see where Namie goes from here. After chasing the R&B bandwagon and now taking the reigns of Pop / Dance - Namie is now at that stage where she can dictate her own sound and veer it away from trends for the first time in her career. That's if she chooses to.

    I would have loved for Namie to have shot videos for more of the songs though. Giving me that "Heaven" swag for "Supernatural love" and slow grinding on a beach to "La la la".

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  20. BoA has been behind her peers musically for years. This is what has always made me dislike her for so long. Every album she does, she delivers ONE killer song which is a step in the right direction and then she drops an outdated, shitty album of material which sounds no better or worse than what she'd released before.


    She needs to sort it out.

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  21. I'm with you on the growth aspect. I dig this album because it signifies a big change for her and the sky really is the limit in terms of what she does with her next album. I do hope that she doesn't go completely Engrish on us though. I love that she feels more confident and comfortable singing in English. But I think part of her musical evolution needs to be finding the balance between the two.

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  22. I was listening to "Let me let you go" quite a few times today. It's a bit of a grower! *lol* But I have no time for "Big boys cry". Dsign music fell right the way off with that song, and they usually never put a foot wrong.

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  23. Listen. You know I love me some Hikaru Utada. But her vocals on 'Exodus' were a MESS. If you went into that album having never heard her Japanese releases, you would think the girl can't sing at all. I have love for 'Exodus', but let's not front like she sounded amazing on that album.

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  24. All that shade was put on hold, and then cast over that piece of shit Alive video. She dropped the ball big time with that one, although I honestly wasn't surprised. Namie seems incapable of delivering more then two hot Pvs per era. Also, It's not even a matter of being a hypocrite. The material that she released leading up to "Feel" was weak at first. Big Boys Cly was underwhelming and Beautiful was some cliched played out bullshit, so of course fans were going to be skeptical.

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  25. "Let Me Let You Go" has been elevated to background music now. It's not something that I will ever play voluntarily though.

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  26. Yeah, even when she sung some of her "This Is The One" songs live she didn't sound like herself. I wonder what it is about English that changes her sound so much.

    She did sound amazing on some of Exodus though. It wasn't all bad. Moreso the back end of the Album. Although "About Me" has finally started to grow on me this Summer.

    And she sounded amazing singing her Exodus songs on her "Utada United" 2006 Tour.

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  27. And didn't i said that the Alive PV was in fact what the CMs were promoting? You guys had your hopes too high, even thought you already knew how the PV was going to look like at the end, that's your fault.


    And 'fans' have been 'shading' her since Naked/Fight Together/Tempest, so it was no supplies that the 'fans' were hating on everything she did, even if it was actually decent. My point is that: YES, those 'fans' or 'listeners' are hypocrite. Same goes for all the Ayu/Kuu fans, since they are "on top", of course its natural that people will have high expectactions and if they don't do whatever the listener or 'fan' likes, they will 'shade' it.

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  29. So it's OUR fault the Music Video sucked? FOH

    And darn right we hated on her for those songs. They sucked.

    I'm not a hypocrite because those songs STILL suck.

    And?

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  30. They music video doesn't suck as much as you believe, and i was telling this dude that they had their hopes way too high when they already knew this was going to happen, if they go so disappointed and shit as they say is because they wanted to. We all have standards, but sometimes you gotta receive a bitch slap and a reality check, instead of just "shading" everything that you don't like because it wasn't what you were expecting.

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  31. The first thing that came to mind after reading this is remembering Namie's new sub-label that was created for her. I think FEEL is certainly a turning point career-wise and honestly I wouldn't be surprised if her next album is entirely in English and available in the US (or at least other markets). A lot of singers in other languages sing in English (I'm looking at you France); why can't Namie?

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  32. It's the exception, not the rule. More often than not, when songs are translated they just don't sound the same or have the same flow.

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  33. I don't think it was singing English necessarily. I mean, did you listen to Flavor of Life? When she hit the high note in the chorus her voice always cracked. I think she was going through something in the years 2004-2008 (hello, divorce).

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  34. big boys cry is a rubbish. i live in English speaking country and i can listen to la la la in my car with windows down, but "let me let you go", can't even tolerate it myself.


    she has so much potential to succeed internationally, not sure if it's something she's interested herself tho.

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