Music, Music Review

Namie Amuro: ‘Finally’ – Album Review

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Released: November 8, 2017 (Dimension Point)

While her retirement clock is continuing to tick, Japanese pop diva Namie Amuro has, yet again, decided to repackage her best singles into a massive greatest hits album. Trust me, it’s not a rare occasion when you witness prominent acts such as Amuro-chan hand-pick each chart-bop, and put it in a collection for all the fans to feast on. But for the first time in her career—and only time to be exact—she has not only re-recorded a few fan-favourites to keep us all on our toes, but her new retrospective Finally has a total of 39 re-recorded singles that span between a career-defining 25 years in the music business. Mhmmm, that’s right, you heard me…

Finally is the highly-anticipated album that Amuro-chan had announced months ago, corresponding to her retirement plans next year for September 2018. The album is actually split into two parts; a festivity of 39 re-recorded singles from her Super Monkey’s debut “Mister USA” in 1992, up until 2014’s “Tsuki”. Furthermore, it also hosts an additional 13 tracks that make up into a studio album. Yup, Namie just keeps hittin’ us with those tricks up her sleeve. As you can tell, 52 bloody songs would only make-up to three separate reviews on my website (and trust me, I’ve already done three long-ass pages of her absolutely stunning singles rating haha). So I’ve decided to be quite narrow with my review and give a pretty in-depth detailing in one article… so be patient, and enjoy the ride.

First of all, I must applaud Namie for her efforts because a package like this with three discs all consisting her hits is already summin’, and to top it off, she has spread her vocals all over each of the songs to make them work seamlessly. Her vocals sound very rich and mature, and has proven to be extremely suitable for any genre and style of music. Here, her earlier tunes “Try Me”, “Chase the Chance”, “Don’t Wanna Cry”, “You’re My Sunshine”, “Can You Celebrate?” and “Respect the Power of Love” are easily the best from the first disc, exposing a new synthpop sound with staggering vocal deliveries. But once we travel over to the other two discs, we get a somewhat cozy reformation of her singing, mostly notable on “Say the Word”, “Baby Don’t Cry” and “Love Story”.

Another noteworthy highlight is that every song—apart from the new songs—are re-arranged and revised, adding that extra oomph to the ones that originally missed the mark. Out of the best of the bunch, “Say the Word” blends a contemporary pop sound with it’s early-2000s dance beat; “Girl Talk” boasts a more pop-ish feel with a re-work of her vocals and original R&B vibe; “Baby Don’t Cry” sounds wholesomely mature with more lush instrumentation; “Dr.” (my personal favourite from all tracks on the album) hits hard with very groovy yet Westernized electronic dance chorus, and “Contrail” showcases a more electropop route than it’s original heavy-dance-ballad-esque composition. These tracks are definitely the stand out of the album, but nevertheless, majority of the re-arrangements offer a more tailored and slicker revision of her past hits, and works completely in favor of her vocals.

But I must admit, there were a few moments on Finally that made me kinda… well, eyeroll. It’s not to say any track is somehow bad, because that would be a complete lie on my end. It’s just that I didn’t expect some songs to be here. “Aishite Muscat” and “Taiyou no Season” seem a lil’ bit odd being here, considering they aren’t as big as her other hits, and my only track of her’s from the late 1990s I didn’t click with was “I Have Never Seen”, despite being a lot more commercially successful. Surely other songs could have replaced these. And while “Rock Steady”, “What a Feeling”, “Get Myself Together”, “Tempest”, “Damage” and “Big Boys Cry” were all singles, none of them really brought Amuro-chan’s personality or spark in their original form. I mean, there are PLENTY songs in her catalogue that I would have put in there place. “Put ‘Em Up”? “Alarm”? “Brighter Day”? “Go Round”? “Wild”? “Violet Sauce”? A more purposeful album track like maybe “Private”, “Alive” or “Hide & Seek”? Whatever the case maybe, they are definitely the more “wtf” moments that I don’t really want to dive into much more. A let down when it comes to inclusions.

Now… onto the ‘original album’ tracks. It opens with “Red Carpet”, which is one of my all-time Namie tracks, with it’s very radio-friendly pop sound and self-empowering lyrics. “Mint” is also another highlight, with it’s seductive surf-rock vibe and Namie’s husky vocals to compliment it. “Hero”, “Dear Diary” and “Just You and I” are the only two retrospective ballads here, all showcasing her powerful vocal range and intriguing arrangements, particularly in the latter two, whilst “Fighter” is the only dance cut here, serving some extreme EDM-realness.

The final six tracks are new recordings to the collection, all taken this year and promoted after the announcement of the album. “Hope” is another self-empowerment anthem that takes a more ethereal route with additional string sections, where as “How Do You Feel Now?” sees Amuro-chan’s old producer Tetsuya Komuro celebrate her triumph with a quirky yet old-skool sound. The two club cuts “In Two” and “Do It for Love” are just insane; the heavy synths? the solid choruses? the fierce music videos to go with them? Yup, all there. The album’s only weakest point is “Showtime”, a fluffy mess that kinda takes notes from her _genic album, in the most unflattering way. But Finally closes with the title track, a fragile ballad that discusses her achievements in her career, and finally leaving a mark by finishing with “Finally I can stop dreaming…”. A sublime ballad that registers a valuable and triumph end to her career.

Apart from a few missteps and inclusions that… well, should have not been included, what we get from Finally is not only just a visual and musical experience, but an emotional one too. This is from an artist that has paved a way for many superlatives to challenge, and others to be inspired by. Each individual track or, sections of tracks, show us her journey as an artist, dabbing into different genres and productions that have lead her to a very long and impressive career, an Finally captures these moments. Namie Amuro has come a long way for 25 years, and it will be sad to see her go so soon. But with Finally, her music and vision will always be captivating. All in all, Finally is a fun, creative, somewhat lumpy and fixated, and triumphant exit to the Queen of J-Pop.


Track list (Bold means best tracks)

  1. Mr. USA
  2. Aishite Muscat
  3. PARADISE TRAIN
  4. TRY ME ~Watashi wo Shinjite~
  5. Taiyou no SEASON
  6. Body Feels EXIT
  7. Chase the Chance *Liam’s favourite*
  8. Don’t Wanna Cry
  9. You’re My Sunshine
  10. SWEET 19 Blues
  11. A Walk in the Park
  12. Can You Celebrate?
  13. How to Be a Girl
  14. I HAVE NEVER SEEN
  15. RESPECT the POWER OF LOVE
  16. NEVER END
  1. Say the Word
  2. I WILL
  3. SO CRAZY
  4. GIRL TALK
  5. WANT ME, WANT ME
  6. CAN’T SLEEP, CAN’T EAT, I’M SICK
  7. Baby Don’t Cry
  8. FUNKY TOWN
  9. NEW LOOK
  10. ROCK STEADY
  11. WHAT A FEELING
  12. Dr. *Liam’s favourite*
  13. Break It
  14. Get Myself Back
  15. Fight Together
  16. Tempest
  17. Sit! Stay! Wait! Down!
  18. Love Story
  1. arigatou
  2. Damage
  3. Big Boys Cry
  4. Contrail
  5. TSUKI
  6. Red Carpet
  7. Mint
  8. Hero
  9. Dear Diary
  10. Fighter
  11. Christmas Wish
  12. Just You and I
  13. Hope
  14. In Two *Liam’s favourite*
  15. How Do You Feel Now?
  16. Showtime
  17. Do It For Love 
  18. Finally

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