Namie Amuro – Uncontrolled

July 13, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Posted in Namie Amuro | 4 Comments
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  1. In The Spotlight (TOKYO)
  2. NAKED
  4. Sit! Stay! Wait! Down!
  5. Hot Girls
  6. Break It (AL Ver.)
  7. Get Myself Back
  8. Love Story
  9. Let’s Go
  11. Fight Together
  12. ONLY YOU
  13. Tempest

After a handful of double A-sides and one triple A-side, Namie announced her tenth album, Uncontrolled, to celebrate her 20th anniversary. Since the album is filled with so many A-sides, she decided to touch a few of them up and even turned two of them into full English tracks. This is the first album that I’ve heard from her that has so many songs performed in English. I wasn’t sure how I would like them because I have never been a fan of her English but I was impressed by the risk she was taking. It’s always a good thing to see an artist try something different and succeed doing it.

Namie begins with In The Spotlight (TOKYO), the first English song on the album. “I feel alive/and tonight’s my night/I’ve got nothing to hide/I’m dancing in the spotlight,” she professes to a simple synth line but once it hits the verse it becomes a dance floor anthem. She takes on a very commanding presence in them and the beat is amazing. The synths take a backseat for the drums which are so crazy and infectious. It slows down again in the chorus but in the second half the synths crescendo into a raving dance beat. It sounds much more exciting with the upbeat melody. In the bridge, Namie goes wild to marching drums and it’s so much fun. The melody has a European sound to it so it plays on current trends but it’s really good. I’m surprised by how much I like the song and her English is fantastic. She’s improved tremendously over the years and there isn’t anything that is hard to understand. This is a great track to open the album because it’s fun, addicting and shows growth. NAKED has the most interesting composition on the entire record. It is an electronic paradise. The synth line is a psychedelic trip of epic proportions and it’s very heavy. Her light voice holds it’s own against the barrage of beats which become more intricate and advanced as the verses progress. Sighing background vocals add a sexy flair to the song and the spiraling synths that lead into the chorus are delicious. The chorus packs a massive punch and she delivers an energetically-charged performance. Her vocals are perfect, filled with excitement and power. I was hooked the first time I heard it and it’s still fresh. It’s just hardcore electro and every second of it is gold. The breakdown before the second verse and in the bridge is awesome. They’re filled with a variety of beats and beeps that get crazier as they go on. Namie ends this masterpiece by repeating “make up your mind now” to the heavy synth line. This is such an immensely wicked track and it’s my favourite song.

GO ROUND (‘N ROUND ‘N ROUND) is the first song to receive a makeover and it’s now sung entirely in English. Also, the intro is cut a few seconds short compared to the original but it’s not that big of a deal. I loved Go Round and I was a bit worried with how the English version would turn out even if there was already a lot of English in it. While some parts are a step down, the overall charm remains intact. Melody-wise, it has a catchy synth beat with mechanical mishaps and I love the flow of her voice. There’s a cute tinge to it despite the subject matter and I really like the lyrics, “still like the way that you stay on my mind when you leave (my mind when you leave)/still like the sound of your voice on my answer machine (on my answer machine).” The flow just gets more addicting in the pre-chorus and it shifts into an adorable delicacy for the chorus. The heavy synth beats wrap around her sweet vocals and the way she raises her register as she sings “go round (‘n round, ‘n round, ‘n round)” is so good. There’s only one thing about the new version that disappoints me and it’s the outro. Since the words “days” and “tears” are no longer used in the chorus, she only repeats “how many times” instead of “how many times/how many days/how many tears” which causes it to lose some of its emotion. Sit! Stay! Wait! Down! is relatively new for me because I didn’t become familiar with it as I did with the other singles. It’s humorous because she relates her lover to a dog and it’s a whole lot of fun. She uses deeper vocals this time and the arrangement is made of bouncing percussion and synths. It’s very contagious and I love its quirkiness. The song slows down a bit in its pre-chorus and she throws in some nice backing vocals. The transition to the chorus is amazing because the vocals and synths become wacky. With her fast-paced singing and hilarious dog references, the chorus is the highlight. It’s not an all-out dance track but it has a fantastic groove and it’s too cute when she sings the title. She’s so playful and the icing on the cake is the bridge when she repeats “good boy.” I love the soft dance feel and it’s great to see her be a bit silly.

Round and round they go/where they stop no one knows,” she whispers at the start of Hot Girls before the dominant drum melody comes in for the repetitive but catchy hook. She takes an in-your-face approach for the chorus and the line “hot girls make the world go round” easily gets stuck in your head from all the times she repeats it. The synths imitate the pounding of the percussion and her voice gets a slight dose of vocoder in the verses. The melody is simple and very western but its heaviness is quite nice. The pre-chorus is much more enticing because the synths kick in and her voice rises, flowing wonderfully to the beat. The bridge features some heavy panting which is pretty sexy and she sings the chorus to a different beat. I’m not crazy about this song because it’s very generic but it’s catchy so it’s not that bad. Break It (AL ver.) came as a surprise to me because I didn’t know it was getting a makeover. Sadly, this new arrangement doesn’t live up to the original which was perfect to begin with. The funky guitar riff is replaced with a hard synth line that isn’t as infectious. In addition, her vocals have a bizarre muffling effect so she doesn’t sound as clear as she did before. However, I still really like the song. The new arrangement isn’t all that bad because the gritty sound of the synths does give it a slightly stronger feel. The chorus is explosive and it’s still immensely catchy. The post-chorus is just as great and she repeats “break it, break it, break it all/shout it, shout it, shout your soul” over a kick-ass beat. The outro was my favourite part and the raging guitars are still included, although muffled, so I’m happy they didn’t change that too much. It’s a shame that they messed with the melody but this is still one of the best tracks.

Halfway through the album and the first ballad, Get Myself Back, finally makes an appearance. Sweet licks of a piano start this incredible R&B ballad but it then soars into a grand melody. The piano becomes livelier and the added percussion compliments its elegance. She sings with soft, lighthearted vocals for the verses which are dominated by the percussion. The arrangement opens up to include a variety of different beats and as it nears the chorus the strings, piano and backing vocals flood in, elevating the serene atmosphere exponentially. This song oozes summery goodness and the chorus is heavenly. The melody is so vibrant and feel-good. The organic instruments are beautiful and the added touch of synths is wonderful. I love the sequence of strings after the chorus because her “ohs” are so catchy. The summer vibe makes this a fresh ballad and a standout in her discography. It’s compelling and performed beautifully. Her voice is warm, welcoming and with the lush instrumental is stunning. Love Story makes for back-to-back ballads and it’s just as great. While the previous one was happy and full of positive energy, this one relies on a more emotional performance. Fragile and vulnerable, her deep voice flows in with a breathless composition of piano, strings and snapping beats. The chimes that flutter in are magical and her tone is gentle and loving. In the chorus, the melody crescendos beautifully as her passionate vocals soar through it. It’s powerful and her emotional vocals make it a gem. It’s a very simple ballad but it’s anything but boring. It’s crafted smartly with a melody that pulls you in immediately and her voice is amazing.

After that little break, the album shoots right back into another banger, Let’s Go. The synths go hard in this rocking track and the drums that join them provide an even stronger punch. Namie takes a confrontational style of delivery and she gets more aggressive as the song progresses, especially in the chorus when the song hits its climax. The verses rely on a gritty sound but as soon as it reaches the pre-chorus the synths shift into dance/trance where she sings the catchiest part, “it’s the idea, the idea, idea of you/it gets me going, going/it gets me going, going.” The chorus continues with the heavy trance and the energy from the vocals and instrumental is incredible. It’s super addicting and she lets out her playful side during the bridge where she chants and shouts. This track borrows from the sound and attitude of her rock tracks but does it in a fun, electronic way. The mysterious and sexy SINGING “YEAH-OH” is next and it’s a delicious dance hit. The synth line is absolute fire and her voice snakes its way around it, making for one of the hottest verses on the record, “somebody stop me ‘cause I think I can’t keep in control (no, no).” It ends up with a very infectious and seductive flair. In addition, her English on this track is good and it’s on par with the original. The switch in melody for the pre-chorus gives it a positive dance vibe and her tone is more enthusiastic than sexual. The chorus is catchy but nowhere as amazing as the verses. It’s very dance-centered but the sensuality of the verses should have been incorporated. However, the bridge is fantastic and it starts with a fun breakdown before it darkens with her low, distorted vocals. This is sleek, sexy and cool, another great track from Namie.

Fight Together oozes vibrancy with its overly cheerful synths. The composition’s feel-good air is contagious and exhilarating. The synths drown in the verses as the percussion takes over and her cute vocals bounce happily to bopping beat. I really like her backing vocals after each stanza in the verse and the sudden change to jazz for the pre-chorus caught me off guard. It definitely makes the song interesting and works as a great lead up to the chorus. The hook is a blast of grand synths and she gets to show off her vocal strength. When she shouts “we fight together,” it gives off such a strong feeling of camaraderie that is quite epic. In the bridge, there are even more surprises because all the electronic instruments die for a small taste of gorgeous live instruments. I totally love the outro where she repeats “life goes on.” It’s such a simple closing but it has such a massive impact and the a capella at the end is a nice touch. Namie performs in English one last time for ONLY YOU, a sentimental mid-tempo and another favourite. Despite the pronunciation issues, this is a sweet track with an uplifting melody. Eventually, the percussion kicks in making it more upbeat and catchier. Her voice is very pleasant, especially during the chorus when her voice rises with emotion and passion. Her “the only thing that can touch me is you” lines are cheesy but they’re addicting and it’s the part of the song that doesn’t leave your head. After the second chorus, her voice shines with the vocal runs she does and the little segment of piano is a sweet surprise. It adds a serene and more sentimental feel as well as making for a great lead back into the chorus. Uncontrolled ends in a beautiful way with the power ballad Tempest. This is the album’s major ballad and it’s easily the best I’ve heard from her. Beginning with a gentle, magical piano and her extraordinary, soft vocals, this is a masterpiece from the start. She’s never sounded so good and her voice is simply stunning. The song transcends to another level in the majestic chorus because the soaring strings crescendos the melody into a heavenly state and her belting is fabulous. The dreamy atmosphere that envelops the chorus is beautiful and really gives it that grandiose sound. I’m so amazed by her voice because it’s so powerful here. I’ve never heard her sing like this and it’s mind-blowing.

Conclusion: Uncontrolled didn’t wow me the first time I listened to it and the changes to some of the songs left me bitter because none of them needed to be tweaked. After getting used to the new English versions, they’re not that bad at all and her English has improved incredibly. It’s actually cool to see her take such a bold move and the songs still have the charm that the Japanese versions had. The ballads are all incredible and I love each and every one of them. Even though there aren’t many new songs, I don’t have any issue with that because all the singles have been great and together they make a strong unit. I wasn’t planning on giving this album a perfect rating but the more I listen to it the more I love it. She never fails to deliver and this is the first Japanese release of the year to blow me away.

Recommended Tracks: NAKED, Tempest, Get Myself Back, GO ROUND (‘N ROUND ‘N ROUND), SINGING “YEAH-OH”, ONLY YOU, Sit! Stay! Wait! Down! and Break It (AL ver.)



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