Once a teen queen, now a veteran of the Japanese music industry, Namie Amuro is the seemingly ever-youthful, ever-energetic pop star ready to hit the airwaves once again with her latest release. Her eleventh solo album, ‘ _genic’, was released on June 10th, and boasts fourteen tracks making full use of her explorations over the years- there’s some ultra-fluffy teen pop, flashes of her R’n’B phase, and plenty of popular dance elements.
Exploring the themes of achievement, self belief, fashion and beauty, Amuro offers a range of experiences to the listener, all dominated by her mature and rich voice- which is always refreshing amidst the omnipresent squeals of idol groups. Most of the lyrics on the album are in English, and a Western vibe runs through the album from the opening track, the somewhat narcissistic but catchy ‘Photogenic’. ‘Fashionista’ follows the same line of thinking, with some subtle dubstep elements sneaking in (see also ‘Stranger’). On the other hand, ‘Birthday’, with its very, very pink and very, very happy video is a mixture of punchy rap sections and fluffy Katy Perry style choruses.
However, there is a decent diversity to the tracks that keep Amuro’s core style from getting too repetitive- ‘Time has come’ features 8bit fills and a strong beat in the chorus with close harmonies, single ‘Golden Touch’ has an old school R’n’B beat, and ‘Scream’ has a club dance music vibe. The album also features a cover of international DJ David Guetta’s song ‘What I Did For Love’, originally sung by Emeli Sande. There’s even an appearance from Miku Hatsune in ‘B Who I Want 2 Be’, which ties in with the self-assured lyrics of ‘Anything’ later in the album, although neither approach the theme of self-confidence particularly originally, and the Hatsune Miku collaboration feels empty and irritatingly samey. The album therefore brandishes a clear message- love, and love yourself, an important message that often seems underplayed in Japanese culture.
Amuro does appear to be a self-assured character, at least in terms of the persona she shows us, and having come through a long and often tumultuous twenty years in the industry, there’s evidence of her experiences everywhere in her music. She is a chameleon-like force in the industry, able to reinvent herself whenever the trends change, and her fans follow her onwards as she continues to hit the charts. Amuro defied my expectations by incorporating a mixture of genres into her release, and fans can already see a broad selection of music videos from the album (which is heavily comprised of previous singles) on her official Youtube. Any listeners of J-pop looking for something a little more mature should give it a go, but for some, Amuro may still prove a bit too much fluff and glitter. However, I’ll offer a final warning- I have already found myself singing Fashionista while making sandwiches. You can’t hide from the an album this contagious.
Words by Lauren du Plessis