Namie Amuro – Checkmate!

May 4, 2011 at 10:06 pm | Posted in Namie Amuro | 6 Comments
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  1. Wonder Woman feat. AI & Anna Tsuchiya
  2. UNUSUAL feat. Yamashita Tomohisa
  3. make it happen feat. AFTERSCHOOL
  4. ROCK U feat. Namie Amuro / ravex
  5. Do What U Gotta Do feat. AI, Namie Amuro & Mummy-D / ZEEBRA
  6. Wet’N Wild feat. SUITE CHIC / Heartsdales
  7. Do or Die feat. Namie Amuro / JHETT
  8. FAKE feat. Namie Amuro / AI
  9. #1 feat. Kawabata Kaname (CHEMISTRY)
  10. BLACK OUT feat. Lil Wayne & Namie Amuro / VERBAL
  11. BLACK DIAMOND / DOUBLE & Namie Amuro
  12. Luvotomy / m-flo ♥ Namie Amuro
  13. AFTER PARTY feat. Namie Amuro / ZEEBRA
  14. WANT ME, WANT ME feat. VERBAL (m-flo)

When it was announced that Namie was going to release Checkmate!, a collaboration best album, I was ecstatic. The majority of her collaborations are fantastic and to finally have an album of them was wonderful news. She has worked with many artists over her career for a variety of styles and genres. These collaborations demonstrate her versatility as an artist and some of the artists she’s joined forces with are unexpected which make the collaborations even better.

Wonder Woman feat. AI & Anna Tsuchiya is one of the unexpected collaborations and one that I didn’t think would ever happen. It’s not surprising for her to work with AI because they’ve collaborated before but Anna is a complete surprise. This is the first time two artists I like have collaborated together and that in itself is amazing. The song is all about girl power and they sound fantastic together. Namie handles the first verse and she sounds incredible. She sounds so different that I didn’t recognize her voice the first time I heard it. Her vocals are fierce and her fast-paced singing is beyond addicting with the groovy synths and guitar. Anna takes over for the second verse and she nails it with her aggressive fast-paced singing. AI does her thing in the pre-chorus and I really like her vocals. It’s a great transition into the chorus which is absolutely infectious with loud guitars, drums and synths. All of them sing with strong vocals and the backing vocals are insane, “I’ll be your wonder woman.” AI’s “wonder, wonder, wonder, wonder, wo-wo-woman” part after the chorus is enjoyable as well. In the bridge, the music slows down for Namie before going back into the hectic arrangement for the chorus. This is a wonderful collaboration and a great way to open the album. Namie joins forces with Tomohisa Yamashita from NEWS for UNUSUAL feat. Yamashita Tomohisa. It opens up with Namie singingdo you wanna feel maybe something unusual baby?” which immediately leads to her verse. The beat for the verses is quite interesting with all the synths and for the pre-chorus the arrangement is somewhat messy but in a good way. Yamashita does the lead vocals for the first pre-chorus while Namie does the backing vocals. The chorus has a good beat and they sound great together. The parts where they sing to each other are wicked cool and my favourite part of the song, “hey boy do you have a big plan? (yes!)/respect me as a woman? (yes!)/can you be my superman? (yes!)/this is so unusual.” The breakdown in the bridge shows off the instrumentation nicely and it has a good dance vibe.

make it happen feat. AFTERSCHOOL marks Namie’s first time collaborating with a Korean group and the result is an incredible up-tempo. The first verse starts with AFTERSCHOOL and they sing in pairs until Namie takes over. Namie easily outshines the other girls with her confident and cool vocals which are backed up by dramatic strings, “I found a man who has his dreams and desires.” The strings are replaced by delicious synths in the pre-chorus and Namie sings with drawn out vocals while AFTERSCHOOL sings “turn the lights on, turn the lights off,” which is very catchy. The song only gets better in the chorus where the arrangement becomes a barrage of synths. AFTERSCHOOL does the backing vocals while Namie performs in strong and loud vocals. The girl group isn’t used much as they only have half a verse to themselves but their ad-libs and backing vocals throughout the song, especially in the final chorus, are wonderful. ROCK U feat. Namie Amuro / ravex is electropop heaven with blaring and heavy synths. The verses are filled with groovy synths and Namie sings with vocoded vocals which sound awesome, “party’s poppin’ on Friday night.” The English lyrics are super catchy, especially in the pre-chorus, “so shut up and get up, cuz that’s what we do.” In the chorus, the synths become intense with scratching sounds and Namie repeats the title of the track a few times. For the second half of the chorus, her vocals are very girly and energetic. The synths in the bridge are crazy and I love how they pick up speed before the final chorus. All in all, this is a purely hardcore electronic track from start to finish.

Do What U Gotta Do feat. AI, Namie Amuro & Mummy-D / ZEEBRA is one of the first songs from Namie that I listened to when I started getting into her music. It’s a sick hip hop track and ZEEBRA opens it by introducing the other singers. The first verse is split between ZEEBRA and Mummy-D and their raps are very entertaining. ZEEBRA has a deep voice while Mummy-D has a lighter tone to his voice and they sound good. The drums and brass instruments are infectious and produce an irresistible melody. The chorus is sung by Namie and it’s the best part. Her singing flows better with the melody than the rapping and she sounds hot. AI shares the third verse with the guys and her rap is just as strong as theirs. Namie’s ad-libs at the end are so amazing and they’re so catchy. I’ve actually never heard Wet ‘N Wild feat. SUITE CHIC / Heartsdales before as it’s from her SUITE CHIC days but I like it a lot. It also opens with a rapper introducing the singers while Namie continuously sings “nasty nasty” which sounds incredible. Jewels and Rum rap in the verses and they alternate back and forth. I haven’t listened to them before but I dig their style. Their voices are deep and their rapping is so good. The chorus is a mix of relaxing vocals from Namie and aggressive vocals from Heartsdales which works very well with the lovely guitar melody. The part after the chorus is more upbeat because of the synths and Heartsdales sings it entirely in English, “gonna getchuu wet wet all wet’n wild/so make some noise.” Even though Namie doesn’t play a big role, it’s still a great addition to the album.

I’m familiar with Do or Die feat. Namie Amuro / JHETT but I’ve never listened to it all the way through. It’s an aggressive song and Namie puts a lot of attitude into her voice. The arrangement consists of hard beats and synths which are very in-your-face and they don’t change very much. I like her sped up vocals in the pre-chorus and the repetition in the chorus of “do or die” is so addicting. The bridge is the only part of the song where Namie uses soft vocals, “my life…/gambling, tumbling, then hustling,” and it doesn’t sound out of place. Overall, this is a really cool track. FAKE feat. Namie Amuro / AI lacks a little compared to the other songs but it’s still fun and I love their vocals. The first verse is sung by AI and she performs with funky vocals against the drums, synths and brass instruments. In the pre-chorus, AI and Namie sing in a high tone that sounds a bit whiny but I love it. They don’t usually sing in this tone so it’s a nice change for the both of them. In the chorus, they continue with the high tone but it’s a bit more breathy and the repetition of “fake” is somewhat catchy. Namie’s verse is better because I like her vocals more and you get to hear her high voice more in the second pre-chorus. The bridge starts out with some sick synths but then it chills out into a calmer arrangement with a few piano notes.

#1 feat. Kawabata Kaname (CHEMISTRY) is a slick and sexy mid-tempo. Namie hasn’t done this style in a while and she sounds fierce and hot. The verses alternate between her and Kaname Kawabata, who sounds just as great. When they sing together they sound so amazing and seductive. The chorus is also split between them with Namie singing the first half and Kaname singing the second half but for the second chorus their positions are switched. The chorus is quite catchy, “you need to be my #1 yup,” and the whispering backing vocals are simply delicious. The bridge is just as hot and the repetition of “# 1” is infectious. For the final chorus, both of them sing together which makes it even better. BLACK OUT feat. Lil Wayne & Namie Amuro / VERBAL is a surprising collaboration because it features a popular American rapper, Lil Wayne and it has a dark vibe to it. The synths in the verses are crazy while they’re tamer in the chorus. VERBAL does his thing in the first verse and for some reason he’s one of the few rappers that I seem to enjoy most of the time. Lil Wayne raps for the second verse and I’m not really a fan of his voice. He has a raspy tone that doesn’t sound good at all and the song would have benefited more without his inclusion, “and I wear them skinny jeans so you see my fat wallet.” The dark elements are very prominent in the chorus and Namie kills it. It’s the best part of the song and her vocals work perfectly with the melody. I especially love her repetition of “black out” near the end.

BLACK DIAMOND / DOUBLE & Namie Amuro is one of the hottest tracks on the album and one of Namie’s most popular collaborations. With crazy synths and irresistible vocals from both ladies, the song oozes sex the second it begins. Namie owns the first verse with her sexy vocals and the backing vocals as well as the pre-chorus, which are sung by DOUBLE, are superb. The second verse isn’t as strong as the first one because Namie sounded fiercer and DOUBLE did the backing vocals, which were mostly in English, better. While the chorus is infectious, it’s slightly weaker than the verses and that’s mainly due to the lyrics, “when you meet a guy who’s fly/always call him black diamond.” I do like how Namie sings the final line in the first chorus while DOUBLE sings it in the second and in the final two choruses they sing it together, “we’ll be the winners/so we get the black diamond.” The bridge mainly consists of the title being repeated and in the second half they sing together but they’re voices don’t go well together because of the high tone that they use. Besides this little issue, this song is ridiculously hot. I immediately fell in love with Luvotomy / m-flo ♥ Namie Amuro when I heard it and it’s my favourite song that Namie’s taken part in. It starts off almost like a ballad with a repeating synth line and her vocals are flawless. The pre-chorus is out of this world and the English backing vocals make it even better. Namie closes the pre-chorus with strong vocals and the song switches to an up-tempo which leads into VERBAL’s amazing rap. This is probably one of the best raps I’ve ever heard and I love the back and forth singing he does with Namie, “you want it all… this… that…this… that… this… that…” The chorus is synth heaven and completely irresistible. The shouting backing vocals pump up the energy and the English lyrics are great, “I wanna walk away,” and “it’s a lie.” VERBAL’s second rap is even better and it’s crazy. As the song picks up in speed he raps just as fast and it’s just jaw-dropping. Namie returns for a slowed down version of the chorus and her distorted vocals sound really good. This is, without a doubt, the gem of the album.

AFTER PARTY feat. Namie Amuro / ZEEBRA is another song that I didn’t know existed and it really surprised me because it’s the most laid-back and relaxing song on the album. The arrangement is quite tropical and it gives off a summery feel. ZEEBRA’s vocals aren’t as exciting as they were in his other track and he sounds a bit lifeless. His relaxed vocals don’t really work well. In contrast, Namie does the soft and sexy vocals much better which is why the chorus stands out the most, “so, just love me/it’s after party.” However, the beat doesn’t change so it kind of drags on at the end. The hidden song, Want Me, Want Me feat. VERBAL (m-flo) closes the album and it’s a nice remix. The only difference of this song is that VERBAL’s rap replaces the first verse. This version isn’t anywhere near the level of the original but VERBAL’s rap fits the song really well and the “nananas” he sings to the beat of the song are so catchy. This is a nice little bonus to the album.

Conclusion: Checkmate! is the best compilation I’ve ever heard and one of the reasons why it’s so good is because it doesn’t feel like a compilation album at all. While there are many different styles on the album which range from hip hop to electropop, it actually flows well and the old tracks sound as fresh as the new ones. Namie’s played around with many styles over her career and these collaborations showcase that. This is a wonderful treat for the fans and it’s a release I’ve been wanting for a long time. If you aren’t familiar with her collaborations, this is your chance to get to listen to some incredible songs.

Recommended Tracks: Luvotomy / m-flo ♥ Namie Amuro, make it happen feat. AFTERSCHOOL, Wonder Woman feat. AI & Anna Tsuchiya, BLACK DIAMOND / DOUBLE & Namie Amuro and UNUSUAL feat. Yamashita Tomohisa

Rating


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6 Comments »

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  1. I liked this album,not so much loved since I passed on buying it since I have heard all the songs safe the newer ones but the past one were all really good safe Luvotomy,never grew on me. Though she has other collabs that didn’t make from her Suite Chic days.

    but for the newer songs, I like Wonder Woman, but I hate AI’s part on it, esp. when she repeats wonder woman over and over again only to lead nowhere. Make it Happen was good but After School seemed kinda useless in the song and video. Unusual for me, the beat was hot but Yamapi’s voice killed that song dead for me and 1 with Chemistry was just boring.

    This is compilation is great but I dunno just for me left me going meh.

    • I’m the complete opposite XD. I think the new songs are so amazing. I’m surprised you don’t like Luvotomy! That has to be one of my favourite Japanese songs ever :p.

  2. I have had this on heavy rotation! I am a late fan on the Namie train, but I think she has a really cool sound.

    • Thanks for commenting! Namie really does have a cool sound. I think she makes some of the best dance music in Japan. I can always count on her to deliver a sick club banger :p.

  3. I just discovered this album in December….I am a HUGE Namie Amuro fan and have been since she started with the Super Monkeys! But I fell out of the JPOP scene for a little bit and then I was jonesing for music in December and did some research and found this album. First listen, did not love it….2nd listen, all of a sudden LOVED IT! And could NOT stop playing it and learning the lyrics. And YES, LUVOTOMY is the BEST SONG! Very addicting. She keeps evolving and experimenting while still keeping true to what she is good at vocally. Love her, love her music, love her PVs! This is an AWESOME album, and I don;t tend to always care for collaborations!

    • I only started listening to her around the time she released Style. I tried getting into her older material but I didn’t enjoy it as much as her newer stuff. I’m glad someone else loves Luvotomy / m-flo ♥ Namie Amuro as much as I do! It’s such a sick track and it never gets old. I still love this release as much as I did when it came out. I’m so excited for her next album. Hopefully she releases one this year. I agree with what you said about her evolving and experimenting. She always sticks to her sound but does different things with it and that’s why I love her so much.


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