[Album] Hamasaki Ayumi – Duty

Duty is the third album released by Hamasaki Ayumi. It continued to her growing success and proved to be her biggest album to date, peaking at #1 for four weeks and selling over 2.9 million copies. The singles were successful with all five of them scoring in the top three and two being number one hits. The album’s biggest single was Seasons, which sold over 1.3 million copies.

Released: September 27, 2000
1. starting over
2. Duty
3. vogue
4. End of the World
6. Far away
10. teddy bear
11. Key ~eternal tie ver.~
12. girlish

starting over is a funky intro as it continues that dance sound found in her last album. I think it would have been cool to see this as a full song. Oddly, we transition into the title track, Duty. This one is more dramatic and utilizes a more intense arrangement with its almost gothic like quality and focus on strings. My favourite part of the song is the chorus as there is an interesting build-up that really helps to intensify everything and make the melody more emotional. I do wish the music pushed a little more in this part as it sounds the same throughout the whole song. It’s a strong song though. vogue was released as the album’s first single and was the first part of the 2000 singles trilogy. I didn’t really like this song a lot at first, but it has an interesting latin pop quality to it that has grown on me tremendously. It has a really odd structure with large instrumental gaps between different sections of the song. The chorus is really catchy though and I find it one of the strongest melodies on the album. End of the World sort of continues with the same vibe that the last two songs, but really pushes things further into the rock category. I really like the power this song has, but I do find it to be a bit messy as the guitars just come blaring in and the melody bounces around them and doesn’t feel particularly focused on anything. I actually prefer the verses here. It’s not a bad song, just not my cup of tea. Luckily, SCAR comes in and is a much stronger album track. This song has a dramatic quality to it as well, but is more of a ballad and has a bit of a folk feel due to its sample. I wasn’t impressed by this song at first, but it has also grown on me a lot. The chorus is a bit slow, but the dragged out feel of the melody really helps to build tension. Far away was the album’s second single and the second of the trilogy. I feel like the music to this song is the type of sound I love to hear from Hamasaki and with its dramatic pop focus and sprinkles of other genres. There are a few odd transitions between the different parts of the song, but each section is quite strong anyways. The chorus is especially gorgeous, although I do find the music is get a bit overpowering at times. Still a solid song. Fourth single, SURREAL, is my favourite song on the album. It starts off with a beautiful piano line and some striking synths and a crazy beat and slowly gains more tension as it progresses. I love the contrast with Hamasaki’s vocals as well. The break in the middle of the song helps to create a lot of power for that final explosion of energy and sound in the second half of the song. I love how intense everything sounds and that despite all that, the melody is still really memorable. AUDIENCE was the album’s final single and was released after the album’s release. It’s my least favourite of all the singles because it brings a bright pop/dance sound that has a melody that just doesn’t fit in this more intense album. I find the contrast of the melody and music to be a bit odd as the music feels like it fits perfectly here. The verses are also really great and would have excelled with a stronger chorus. It’s not a bad song though. SEASONS is one of Hamasaki’s most well-known songs and was the most successful on the album as it was the final part to the trilogy. This is more of a full-on ballad and I feel like it’s one of the songs that is totally “Hamasaki Ayumi” with its pop/rock arrangement and dramatic and dragged out melody. It’s not my favourite ballad from her, but I do think it’s a sweet song and has a nice calmer sound when compared to the first seven songs. teddy bear is another ballad, but it focuses on the piano. This is a really beautiful tune as it focuses more on the feeling and lyrics. It’s one of her more emotional tunes and focuses on a lover that left her. The melody isn’t the strongest, but there is a sincerity with Hamasaki’s vocals that helps keep the song memorable. Key ~eternal tie ver.~ is one of the more forgettable songs on the album. It returns us to the pop/rock sound, but I feel like it is missing something. The melody is actually really nice and I feel it would have benefited more from something a bit more streamlined pop than the rock sound. This is especially evident when the strings come in and help to heighten the songs energy. It has its charms, but sort of falls flat at times. girlish finishes the album up on a pop/rock note, but is the album’s weakest song. First, Hamasaki’s vocals are more on the “cuter” side of things and it just does not work in this genre. Also, the chorus is just difficult to get through. She sings at a really high pitch and it comes off really piercing and the chorus is sort of just blaring a long. It’s just not for me.

Overall: To be honest, I was expecting to not like this album that much and feeling that it may be weaker than LOVEppears, which I really enjoyed. However, besides the last two songs, this is a pretty solid album. I feel like there is an intensity to it that just was only found a few times in her previous albums but is really present here. It also feels like a good transition into her next few albums. A lot of the songs feel like predecessors to some of her later ones. I was pleasantly surprised and a gem that gets a bit forgotten among her fans.



[Album] Nakashima Mika – LØVE

LØVE is the second album released by Nakashima Mika. While her first solidified her status as a rising star, this album’s success was on an even bigger scale. It positioned her as one of the top artists of the early 00’s as it peaked at number one and sold well over 1.4 million copies. The singles were also very successful with all five scoring in the top five and one becoming her signature song.  The album also includes all the new songs from her first mini-album, RESISTANCE.

Released: November 6, 2003
1. Venus in the Dark
2. Love Addict
3. aroma
4. Yuki no Hana (雪の華; Snow Flower)
5. RESISTANCE (album version)
7. marionette
8. Seppun (接吻; Kiss)
9. You send me love
10. Be in silence
12. Aishiteru (愛してる; I Love You)

What a great way to blast off the album. Unlike her debut which opened with a cover of Amazing Grace, this one really showcases Nakashima’s subtle change in style with the jazz-infused pop tune, Venus in the Dark. This is one of my favourite songs from her because it has so many interesting sounds that pop up. I love how it has so much energy and really goes all out in its music with the funky bass and blaring brass. Her husky vocals also work gorgeously here. Love Addict is a great follow-up to because it continues that jazz-infused pop sound. Released as the album’s second single, this song is over seven minutes in length, but the whole song is such a trip and it never feels like it drags on too long. It really feels like something heard in a jazz club with it mix of strings, trumpets and light percussion. The best part of the song is that fast-paced chorus where things take a powerful turn. aroma was originally put on her first mini album and it is a great calmer jazz tune. I love how it really ties with the other songs, but brings a different style that includes a bit of blues as well. The chorus isn’t as catchy, but I do like the use of falsetto to bring an airier quality to the song. It’s a solid listen. Yuki no Hana is the juggernaut in Nakashima’s discography. The song has been covered numerous times throughout Asia and it is easily her most recognizable track. Instead of something jazzy, we are given the first ballad and its fifth single. Its focus is mostly on the piano, strings and her voice and it is absolutely gorgeous song. Although the lyrics are rather sweet, there is a sense of sadness that the music brings and Nakashima brings the right emotion into it especially with that final stretch from the bridge to the end. It’s one of her best. RESISTANCE was my favourite song from her first mini and I love how it is one of the more “pop” songs on the album with its sparkly synths. Although I’m not a big fan of songs that open with the chorus, it is really catchy and easy to get sucked into it again. That and the music has some great touches to it that help keep the energy up and interesting. It has grown on me a lot and I think it’s a stellar tune. FIND THE WAY was released as the album’s fourth single and used as an ending theme to the anime show, Gundam Seed. It’s a stunning ballad that focuses more on the slower and sweeter quality it brings. Musically, the song’s use of strings is quite heavy and really helps bring a sweeping quality into the song. There are times where the song comes off a bit dull or slow, but I do love the feeling it tries to build on. It’s a sweet ballad and fits Nakashima’s vocals wonderfully. marionette was actually released on the first single as a B-side. It’s one of the more “pop” songs on the album and features some R&B elements as well. I don’t find the verses to be that interesting  especially as Nakashima’s vocals seem rather monotone. However, I love the chorus as the music really pushes the song forward. The funky synths work really nicely with the easy-going melody. A decent tune. The third single, Seppun is actually a cover of an ORIGINAL LOVE song from 1993 of the same name. It’s actually my favourite song on the album and it has been the song that has grown on me the most. I use to skip this song a lot, but the relaxing reggae sound really got to me and I love how the music is still infused with some other elements to keep it cohesive with the rest of the album. It’s not the most powerful song, but the melody just slowly seeps into you and I love the vibe it gives. You send me love is the first new song since Venus in the dark and is one of the weaker songs on the album. It’s not bad, just forgettable as the melody isn’t as impactful and the music has been done better in other songs. I do like the funky vibe that the song has with the underlying bass though. Be in silence was released as the B-side from the album’s second single. It’s a bit different because it has a heavier guitar influence and a sultry beat that really gives some neo-soul vibes. I really love the music as it works great with the inclusion of strings. The chorus really brings everything together in a nice way while having a pretty catchy melody. I don’t think it’s A-side material, but it is definitely a great filler. LOVE NO CRY is a new song and is the first upbeat tune in a while. I love the blast of energy it has right from the start and the song has a great pop sound with some oldschool R&B elements. The song isn’t the catchiest for me, but it is nice to hear some more fun, uplifting tunes on here. Aishiteru was the album’s first single and it is a pretty pop ballad. I love how sweet the melody is and Nakashima’s voice sounds especially beautiful here. The album version changes things up a bit bringing some more musical elements into the arrangement. It has a bit more brass and a bass that gives the song a bit more energy. I like the changes as it works well on the album, but it misses that simple sweetness the original had. LAST WALTZ finishes things off on a slower note. Originally released on her first mini, this was probably my least favourite of the new songs. However, I do still like this song. It has a great vibe to it and I enjoy the airiness of the chorus. It’s not the type to bring a lot of impact, but I love how the melody melds into the music. It’s a nice way to end things off.

Overall: This is a stellar album and one of J-Pop’s finest. I love that there is a clear sound that the album wants to show off and that even though there is a variety of genres, they are all tied in through the similar elements in the instruments and atmosphere. I do believe the first half is much stronger, but the second half does have a few strong songs as well. This is a long album and it could have been cut down a few songs, but its overall delivery is fantastic. One of my favourite J-Pop albums.


[Album] Sowelu – 24 -twenty four-

24 -twenty four- is the third album released by Sowelu. The album became her highest charting, peaking at #3, however, it also saw lower sales than her past two albums as it only sold 84,000 copies. The singles were more successful as a whole as three of the four were top 20 hits. Surprisingly, one of the singles was not featured on the here.

Released: July 12, 2006
1. Dear friend
2. Crazy for you
3. Mamoru Beki Mono (守るべきもの; Shall Be Protected)
4. tomorrow
5. smile again
7. Flyer
8. cry
9. Let’s go faraway
10. Kimi no Kehai (君の気配; Your Sign)
11. without you
12. Pride
13. to YOU

The album opens with its last and most popular single, Dear friend. This is a bit different from her other A-sides as it doesn’t have any R&B influences and is an upbeat pop song with rock elements. To me, it’s not my cup of tea. I do like the energy that it gives, but the fact that Sowelu has done some stronger pop tunes that were much catchier, this just comes off a bit lackluster. It doesn’t really take me into the album like her ‘Do You Remember That?’ did. Crazy for you is definitely cooler as it has a really funky guitar going on. The pop/rock sound is still present here, which I’m not too happy about as I think Sowelu works best with R&B. The verses are decent, but nothing particularly interesting, while the chorus isn’t much better. It’s just a lackluster pop/rock tune that comes off really generic but average. Mamoru Beki Mono was used as a theme to a Pokemon movie and it is the album’s first ballad. It’s a full-fledged piano ballad and I really like how it starts off. It has a really sentimental feel to it. The chorus isn’t as strong as I feel like the English parts sort of ruin things a bit. It is better than the other two songs, but it does drag on a bit by the end. tomorrow brings things back to the pop/rock sound but this one comes off like an album filler from Avril Lavigne’s first album. I do like qualities of it, but it just lacks a punch. The songs keeps a consistent feeling throughout and I feel like it really needs something to elevate it. Sowelu does sound nice here though and it is one of the stronger pop/rock songs. smile again has some folk qualities to it and I do like that it stands out. The pop/rock influences are there, but it isn’t as strong as there is a nice violin to help offset the guitars. I feel like this song wouldn’t be bad for someone like YUI, but it needs to elevated. The chorus just doesn’t push things hard enough and plays too much on soft and sweet. When I saw the title for DANCE, I was expecting something more…well…dance. Unfortunately, this is yet another lackluster pop/rock song. I think Sowelu’s vocals can actually fit this style really well and the melodies are decent, but the songs just don’t push it far enough. The music doesn’t have any impact and this song just comes off as forgettable. Flyer is more relaxed and focuses on the acoustic guitar. It’s more on the midtempo side, which is a nice change, but it is another tune that doesn’t particularly impress me. The music doesn’t really go anywhere and Sowelu’s vocals don’t give me any kind of emotion. cry is another acoustically focused track, but this one actually has something going for it with its gentle vibe and R&B beat. It might not be the best song, but at least it brings something different. Sowelu’s sweet vocals really work nicely here. Finally, we come to Let’s go faraway, the album’s first single. This is literally the album’s saving grace because we get a sparkling summer pop tune that is insanely catchy and has a lot of fun energy to it. It’s one of my favourite Sowelu songs and it is easy to get sucked into it. It has such a positive feel to it that the hooks really work wonderfully here. The music is bright and explosive and help to push this feeling. Kimi no Kehai is a pop ballad that finally brings something different as well. The verses aren’t bad as they featured a variety of instruments that come flying in. The chorus is a bit generic and doesn’t quite hit the spot. I really wish the music had some punch to it as the music stays so quiet that I wonder what its doing. Not her strongest ballad. without you is another slow song, but this time we have a nice return of R&B Sowelu. This song sounds like something that would have been featured on her last album and I’m quite happy because it is a decent song. I just wish the chorus had a stronger hook as I don’t think I’ll come back to this song that much, but it is nice to hear something that has a bit of punch in its music. Not quite sure what to think of Pride. It definitely has that pop/rock sound, but it has a more aggressive side to it that isn’t present in the other pop/rock songs on this album. It definitely reminds me of something from Avril Lavigne, which I’m happy about. That is, until the chorus hits, where things turn a bit more pop. I wish it kept being aggressive and darker because it helped it stand out. It’s not bad though. to YOU was the album’s second single (as Get Over was not included) and is a full-fledged pop ballad. I didn’t like this song that much at first because I thought it was boring, but it has grown on me a lot. The melody is something that would have been heard on her second album and the hooks are much stronger here than on any other ballad on this album. The chorus also has a lot of punch thanks to the music, which is what I was looking for.

Overall: This is so weird because I do not know what happened. Sowelu’s last album was very strong and had some amazing tracks. This has maybe two. Instead of going her usual pop/R&B route, she switched to pop/rock, which was an odd change. I think it is great when a singer experiments with their sound, but this just didn’t sound like a Sowelu album and the songs were just much weaker. They weren’t terrible, just average and didn’t have anything particular interesting about them. I can’t remember what most of the songs sounded like.



THE GLORY DAY is the first mini-album released by MISIA. The mini did decently in its first week, peaking at six, but longevity really played in its favour. It eventually sold around 750,000 copies.

Released: November 21, 1998
1. key of love ~Ai no Yukue~ (key of love ~愛の行方~; Love’s Whereabouts)
7. key of love ~Ai no Yukue~ (ACOUSTIC CRAB SOUL MIX)

key of love ~Ai no Yukue~ is such an interesting start with its uplifting music and high falsetto. MISIA sounds great in the verses and I do like that they give a bit of unpredictability with the melody. However, it’s the pre-chorus that is the highlight with its slow buildup and dramatic attitude. The chorus is fun, although I’m not as engrossed with it as I was hoping. It’s still a good listen though and I like how everything intertwines within each other. The title track, THE GLORY DAY, is a powerful and dramatic ballad. It is a very long song, topping in at over eight minutes and thirty seconds. I’m not quite sure what to make of it because I do like it, but it just feels too long for me to handle the whole length. I do love the chorus though with its touches of brass and gospel influences. It’s a really beautiful song and really takes it up a step in the second half of the song. MELODY is a long song as well (everything on this mini is over five minutes). This is the album’s funky disco-inspired tune and I absolutely love the music to this one as it sounds so fleshed out and full. The chorus is especially great with the brass instruments to give it that punch. It’s not particularly catchy, but I still find myself immersed in everything the song offers. INTO THE LIGHT was not what I was expecting with its house and disco influences. I do like that the song has some brass to tie it in with the rest of the mini, but it is still able to shine on its own with that powerful beat. The song is just really exhilarating and MISIA pulls it off. That chorus is explosive and exciting and not many vocalists could pull off those bigger notes. It’s easily the strongest song on the mini. The mini also includes three remixes of the three promoted tunes. INTO THE LIGHT (GOMI’S BEAUTY & BEAST MIX) clocks in at over ten minutes, which I just cannot sit through. I do actually love the beat and it really makes me think of dance music from the late 90’s. I really want to love this, but I can’t sit through the entirety of it without diverting my focus. Still a fun remix. THE GLORY DAY (THE SPECIAL DAY MIX) changes things up by making the song into an R&B tune. I still feel like this fits with the song nicely and helps to simplify the music a bit to really highlight MISIA’s vocals. It is also a whole two minutes shorter, which helps it not drag on. key of love ~Ai no Yukue~ (ACOUSTIC CRAB SOUL MIX) really brings that acoustic vibe and I love it. I dare say that I actually enjoy this version more than the original as the vocals sound much clearer and the emphasis on the melody really makes me get into the song more. It’s great!

Overall: This mini is so solid and I was not expecting such a strong offering after her stellar debut album. I think the only thing keeping this mini from taking it to the next level is the fact that these songs are all so long. With that said, since a lot of these songs are great, it isn’t too difficult to get through them (except for the two very long ones). I love that the four original songs had that classic MISIA style while the remixes still kept the original structures in place while bringing some fun changes.


[Special] Top 30 Amuro Namie Songs 10~1

10. No [Queen of Hip-Pop] 2005
Easily one of Namie’s best tunes, No was used as the closer to her studio album, Queen of Hip-Pop and it definitely embodies that hip-pop essence with its stomping beat. The verses are sexy, while the chorus is a blast of power with Namie persuading listeners to get their body moving. It is one track I still consistently listen to even today.

09. What A Feeling [BEST FICTION] 2008
When 60s 70s 80s came out, What A Feeling was definitely the track I most connected with. The 80’s portion of the single, this tune takes a sample from the classic song, “Flashdance…. What a Feeling”, updating its sound into a more contemporary one while still paying homage to its brilliance. It’s energizing and one of Namie’s most intoxicating dance tunes.

08. I Will [LOVE ENHANCED♥single collection2002

I adore many of Namie’s ballads and I Will is one of her most beautiful. While it gets a bit forgotten as it was during the “lower” point of her career, it’s just such a stunning tune with its focus on strings. The slow build-up into the chorus and that eventual sparkling of synths gets me every time. It’s definitely a predecessor to her later full-fledged pop ballads.

07. Chase the Chance [SWEET 19 BLUES] 1995
Easily her best song from the 90’s, Chase the Chance is one of her biggest hits and it shows. It’s an exhilarating display of dance with new jack swing elements. It might not have the catchiest melody, but there is a charm in its energy that just really takes me in. That and it’s so fun to hear young Namie rap.

06. Dr. [PAST<FUTURE] 2009
The thing with Dr. is that it stands out from the rest of Namie’s usual style of music. I didn’t get the appeal of this song until much later on as its unorthodox structure didn’t latch me on until I paid more attention to it. With its futuristic style tied in with some chanting and dance elements, Dr. is a worthwhile journey to explore.

05. Love Story [Uncontrolled] 2011
Love Story comes off as a bit of a cheesy pop/R&B song and while it is essentially one on first listen, its charms slowly and surely begin to unfold with each listen. That emotionally driven chorus brings one of Namie’s most charming melodies, easy to get down while also truly genuine.

04. Come [Style] 2003
Come is what I find the predecessor to Dr., a sultry, euphoric electropop song with some touches of R&B. While not as animated as that tune, Come retains its elegance in a darker and more sensual way. The music doesn’t really change that much throughout the song, but it’s Namie’s delivery that really elevates it to its eventual final push in the end.

03. Baby Don’t Cry [Play] 2007
Simple and sweet is what I think of Baby Don’t Cry. This mid-tempo pop tune was one of Namie’s biggest hits in the 2000’s and it’s no wonder why. Its simple clap beats, swirling synths and catchy hooks keeps the song bouncing along while also providing Namie with those perfect moments to inject that stay-by-your-side emotion.

02. Fight Together [Uncontrolled] 2011
This was the favourite of mine for a long time and only recently lost its throne. With that said, Fight Together is no slouch. Used as a theme to One Piece, what I love most about this song is just its positive energy. Its melody is constantly jumping, which works perfectly with the quirky music. My favourite part is the bridge where things slow down a bit before blasting off again.

01. Finally [Finally] 2017
I was actually surprised that I placed this at first, but I think it is a fitting spot. Finally is one of the last new songs we will get from Namie and its a touching finish to her 25 year career. This piano ballad is an emotional roller coaster that has Namie singing about getting to a point where she can start a new chapter of her life and the hope that it brings. That final line of “Finally, I can stop dreaming…” is just so bittersweet because she has achieved everything she has wanted in this stage of her life. Absolutely stunning.

[Special] Top 30 Amuro Namie Songs 20~11

20. Contrail [FEEL] 2013
There is something about this song that I just absolutely love. Most of my favourite Namie songs are when she pulls away from the uptempo material and does something powerful and uplifting. Contrail is just such a beautiful tune and that chorus just blasts off in a way that makes it too difficult to ignore and not get sucked into.

Bringing back the class of the 60’s, NEW LOOK is a great tune that really embodies the essence of that time. It’s simple and is executed in a way that just not goes in-your-face, but is still effortlessly catchy. The references to people and things from that time associated with fashion helps keep the song fun.

18. ALL FOR YOU [Queen of Hip-Pop] 2004

Namie is one of the few artists who I think can not only pull off uptempo tunes, but also stunning ballads. ALL FOR YOU was one of the first songs I had heard from her and it remains one of my favourites. That stunning chorus melody really brings up the emotions and Namie’s delivery is made for it.

17. Body Feels EXIT [SWEET 19 BLUES] 1995
Considered her debut solo single despite releasing a few songs under her name with the SUPER MONKEYS, Body Feels EXIT is a monster of a tune. In classic Komuro style, the song has an intensity to it that just builds and lets go at the right time. Namie’s vocals are definitely screechy, but she still works the song to the maximum.

16. WANT ME, WANT ME [Queen of Hip-Pop] 2005
Easily one of Namie’s more sexual tunes, WANT ME, WANT ME is a cool departure from her usual material as it has a heavier reggaeton sound with an interesting touch of sitar. Every part of this song is strong and it really lacks very little. It feels like the song constantly keeps me on my feet and never lets up.

15. Heaven [FEEL] 2013
One of the few album tracks on my list, Heaven is the highlight from her 2013 album, FEEL. Working with Emyli and Zedd, this is one of her strongest dance-focused tunes with its pulsating beat and soaring vocals. It just brings a more joyous sound and is the type of song that would really get people jumping. It also has that international touch being fully in English.

14. Hero [Finally] 2016
Namie’s biggest hit in recent years comes from the opening theme to NHK’s broadcast of the 2016 Summer Olympics. Hero starts off slow, but really gets that energy going once the chorus comes stomping in. While it is a pop song at its core, dance music elements begin to flourish by the second verse. It’s an uplifting and empowering tune that brings that feeling of being courageous.

13. Hide & Seek [Play] 2007
When someone opens Play, Hide & Seek begins the album. What makes it so awesome is that attitude. The dance, R&B and hip-hop elements all tied into one is a fun combination and the editing of the vocals for the verses is a clever and interesting touch that works perfectly in this marching-band inspired tune.

12. I HAVE NEVER SEEN [GENIUS 2000] 1998
It seems a lot of fans give this song some flack for not being as strong as some of her other earlier material. The thing that draws me to I HAVE NEVER SEEN is just how emotional sounding it is to me. It has a sense of sadness to it that just wasn’t seen in the singles released before this one. It can be a bit messy at times, but it has a strength to it.

11. GIRL TALK [Queen of Hip-Pop] 2004
One of the first songs that I had heard from Namie was this slinky and cute R&B tune. Even after thirteen years, I’ve continued to come back to this one. It’s the type of song that goes down so easily because it feels so airy and light. The rapid beat, sparkling synths and floating background vocals just works so well with that catchy melody. I also love Namie’s adlibs at the end.

[Special] Top 30 Amuro Namie Songs 30~21

In light of Amuro Namie’s recent retirement (officially on September 16, 2018), I wanted to pay homage to some of my favourite songs from her as she was one of my favourite artists.

30. CAN’T SLEEP, CAN’T EAT, I’M SICK [Play] 2006
Although I had already listened to Namie before this song, this was the one that really hooked me onto her music. There are definitely songs I’ve grown to love more than this one, but it’s still as much fun now as it was back when it was released. It’s totally mid-2000s with its blaring brass instruments, sensual background vocals and funky attitude.

29. Sexy Girl [BEST FICTION] 2008
Used as a promotional song for Namie’s third best compilation, Sexy Girl gets a bit overshadowed by a lot of other songs in her discography. With that said, I absolutely adore this song with its heavy beat and catchy melody. There is a certain punch that the music brings that always makes me want to come back to it.

28. RESPECT the POWER OF LOVE [GENIUS 2000] 1999

This single was released on the day that Namie’s mother was murdered, so it is also a bit of a haunting tune. Still, it is one of her most beautiful and inspiring songs. It has that signature Komuro Tetsuya sound, but Namie commands that chorus. It’s uplifting and has a great contrast of soft and strong to it that isn’t seen in many of her other songs.

27. Hello [Play] 2007
Although it was used as a promotional single, when Play was released I found Hello to be one of the weaker songs on a great album. However, it has stood the test of time as I go back to it every year. It isn’t an in-your-face R&B track, but has a sensuality to it that is just as intoxicating. That chorus is so fun.

26. Hope [Finally] 2017
Namie has had tie-ins with anime shows since the 90’s. However, Hope is certainly her last one with its connection to the mega-hit One Piece. Hope lives up to its name with its calmer verses, building confidence in the pre-chorus and eventually exploding with uplifting energy in the chorus. It’s one of her strongest songs in recent years.

25. WILD [PAST < FUTURE] 2009
WILD was the first single released after her best-selling compilation, BEST FICTION. It takes some of the R&B elements from that time period and fuses it with a slick dance beat. The melody isn’t particularly powerful, but its clever hooks really sink in after some time.

24. TRY ME ~Watashi wo Shinjite~ (TRY ME~私を信じて~) [My Voice] 1995
The oldest Namie song on my list. TRY ME ~Watashi wo Shinjite~ was actually released while she was in the group SUPER MONKEYS, although she was the lead singer at this time. It’s a big change from her later music with its 90’s Eurobeat sound and soaring energy. The youthfulness of her voice is also present here.

23. CAN YOU CELEBRATE? [Concentration 20] 1997
Namie’s biggest hit and the best-selling single by a female artist comes from this stunning pop/gospel ballad. It’s definitely not her best ballad, but there is a charm to it that still holds together. The different transitions, emotional delivery and powerful arrangement really helps it soar by its end.

22. BLACK DIAMOND (with DOUBLE) [Checkmate!] 2008
In 2008, Namie decided to work with the Queen of J-R&B, DOUBLE, for the latter’s best collaboration album. What was released was a funky R&B/pop song that remains one of my favourite collaborations between two artists. Each artist gets a verse that eventually flows right into the sleek chorus. The girls sound sexy and confident.

21. SWEET 19 BLUES [SWEET 19 BLUES] 1996
One of Namie’s earlier signature tracks. SWEET 19 BLUES is an emotional tune that brings a bit of gospel, new jack swing and pop into one. It’s not the type of song that will grab your attention on the first listen, but it has a great nostalgia to it that really captures the sound of the mid-90’s in Japan.