Album review: Namie Amuro - Play

Album review: Namie Amuro - Play | Random J Pop

I present to you the mother of one, Okinawa born J-Pop star that is Namie Amuro. The most miserable looking, but seductively cute lady in J-Pop wants to play and by the looks of her she means business. Guess I best get right to it then.

Namie loves R&B. She loves it plenty. So her latest effort (as with her last few albums) is a fusion of R&B and Pop: done Nihon style. As with most other Japanese artists who dig the R&B scene, inspiration is drawn from what's hot in the U.S. Whilst this seems like a recipe for disaster with the end results being horrid cookie cutter variations of US R&B cuts, Namie actually does a good job for the most part.

"Can't sleep, can't eat, I'm sick" wreaks of Jennifer Lopez's "Get right", but it works well because: the beat is undeniably hot, the chorus is catchy and unlike Jennifer Lopez - Namie can actually sing. "Hide and seek" is like Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback girl" and "Wind it up" on acid. This is one of my favourite tracks on the album because it does everything right and is so bloody catchy. "Baby don't cry" is happy go lucky pop ditty which is very Janet Jackson-esque. A really nice song with a hot beat which is carried by a stellar vocal performance. Play is not all praise however, as Namie stumbles big time with "Top secret". This song is absolute garbage and sounds like a complete rip off of near enough every Rap and Hip-hop joint over the past 2 years which has featured hand claps and pitch wheeled strings. Aside from this one horrible track everything else is A-okay. The album strikes a nice balance between uptempo club tracks and 1980's tinged mid-tempo's.

Namie fans may be disappointed with the lack of new tracks though, seeing as half of Play had already been released as singles before the album itself dropped. Songs as far back as the 2005 release "Violet sauce" have made its way onto the album. I won't hate, because "Violet sauce" is a hot song and as a cool bonus it has been re-touched and given a new rocky edge. It would've been nice if a couple of the other singles were given subtle touches, just to give listeners another reason to play previously released tracks. But I won't hold this against Play, because releasing half an album as singles and then releasing the album itself is just how it goes down in Japan.

Play on the whole is a solid album. It doesn't feel like much of a departure from Queen of hip pop, but is a much more light hearted and playful record. Aside from the tight production, what really sells this album is Namie's vocal delivery. She gives vocal performances which exude sass and emotion and this wasn't something that was always evident in her past recordings. I'm not sure what has happened to Namie between her last album and this one, but she seems to have finally broken out of her shell and she sounds like she had fun recording the songs this time around which colours the songs nicely.

Namie fans will definitely dig this. A fun album which sits nicely alongside Queen of hip pop.

RATING: 7 / 10

Album highlights:
■ Hide & seek ★ J's fave
■ Full moon
■ Can't sleep, can't eat, I'm sick
■ It's all about you
■ Hello
■ Violet sauce (Spicy)
■ Baby don't cry
■ Pink key

Comments

  1. I aint never heard her music before, but she looks like a dominatrix...a very sexy dominatrix! :D

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  2. Interesting review~
    I think this is one of Namie's strongest efforts to date. She can't hide her influence from American hiphop/rnb but she brings her own certain diva style.
    You can feel her joy and pleasure while delivering the lyrics.

    For me this is a good step from Queen of Hip Pop. Shes keeping up with the evolving sound of her Influences while still delivering songs in her classic Jpop style. I know the best of Namie is yet to come.

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