[Album] Amuro Namie – Concentration 20

Concentration 20 is the second album released by Amuro Namie. The album includes three singles, one of which became her biggest hit and is still the biggest selling female pop single of all time in Japan. The album was also a big hit, peaking at #1 and selling over 1.9 million copies.

Released: July 24, 1997
1. Concentration 20 (make you alright)
2. B w/z you
3. Close your eyes, Close to you
4. Me love peace!!
5. No Communication
6. a walk in the park (album mix)
7. To-day
8. Storm
9. Whisper
10. CAN YOU CELEBRATE? (album mix)
11. I know…
12. How to be a Girl

The album opens with the title track. Concentration 20 (make you alright) already shows such a big difference from her first album’s more new jack swing vibe as it brings in some industrial rock sounds. The music is pretty cool, but the whole song isn’t my type of style. It’s not particularly catchy and Amuro sounds particularly bored. Just not my kind of song, although I do like elements in the music. B w/z you keeps up the rock sound with the music, but the vocal arrangement is definitely something more in line with her first album. It is a pretty laid back ballad and while it isn’t that memorable, it does have a charm to it. I do like how everything comes together and the subtle guitar in the background helps to bring some edge. Close your eyes, Close to you opens in such a strange and frightening way that it really surprised me when the song transitioned into a pulsating dance tune. It’s a weird combination of dance and rock. When the singing starts, it sounds pretty cool and Amuro’s monotonous vocals surprisingly work nicely here. The chorus is a bit strange as it mostly comprises of some speaking parts. It’s certainly different. Me love peace!! plays up on sounds again by bringing a bit of reggae into it. The verses are laid back, but that chorus is quite intense and not particularly catchy. I feel like Amuro is just yelling her way through the chorus and her tone doesn’t quite lend itself well to this song. The music is pretty nice sounding though. No Communication has a lighthearted pop/rock vibe to it. This song is a bit of a mess though as the song transitions into different parts constantly and each part isn’t that memorable. I don’t quite know where the chorus is. Just sounds like a very 90’s pop/rock album filler. a walk in the park is the album’s first single and it is by far the strongest song up to this point. It keeps the dance sound of her older singles and brings a bit of rock edge to things. I actually find the verses to be more entertaining than the chorus because they are cooler and Amuro sounds great. The chorus is nice and catchy, but it is a bit too bright and brings an odd transition. To-day starts off in an eerie way and I quite like it. It slows things down a bit and brings a bit of funk to the album with its deep bass and electronic touches. I quite enjoy the gentleness of this song and it brings a nice contrast to the more experimental rock sound of the album. It’s not the catchiest, but it is definitely a needed addition. Storm is a really interesting tune and I don’t quite know how to describe it. It definitely has a heavier R&B/hip-hop edge to it with its heavy beat and rapping. With that said, I don’t quite think the vocal arrangement really fits the rest of the song. Amuro’s voice is too bright for this song. There are some cool musical moments though like the piano solo and touches of synths. Whisper is definitely the album’s pulsating dance tune and I’m happy for it to come in. It’s definitely experimental, but it reminds me of material from her first album. I quite like the music as it has some 90’s house elements tied in with a bit of rock. I wish the chorus was more memorable as it isn’t really catchy and becomes overshadowed by the vocally edited portions of the song that come up right after. Still a decent tune. CAN YOU CELEBRATE? is the monster hit of the album. The second single and Amuro’s biggest hit, this tune slows things down and we are given a pretty emotional pop/gospel ballad. It starts off in a gentle way, but I love how the music becomes fuller as it progresses and Amuro’s vocals get stronger and stronger. The melody is definitely one of the best on album and it’s really memorable and the type that is easy to sing along to. This is definitely the album’s strongest song. I know… is an interlude that clocks in at over three minutes long. I think this would have been better right at the start of the album instead of the beginning as it really summarizes the type of songs on here as it is also very experimental. The album ends with the final single, How to be a Girl. It’s definitely the one of the most “rock” of the songs on here, but it still does a cool job of bringing in some dance elements. I like the verses because Amuro’s voice is run through a vocoder and it really fits the song nicely. The chorus is pretty catchy though, but I don’t think it makes as strong of an entrance as I would like. This is probably the weakest of the singles, but it’s still a solid tune. I think it would have worked better earlier in album though.

Overall: The thing with this album is that it is really experimental compared to her debut and it is pretty cool to listen to at some parts. I quite like that it tried to do so many different things, however, the problem was that sometimes it didn’t really hit the mark. There were few songs that really caught my attention immediately and I felt like the melodies could have been stronger on the whole (except CAN YOU CELEBRATE?). It’s still a pretty cool album though.



[Album] Amuro Namie – SWEET 19 BLUES

Amuro Namie debuted well over 20 years ago and she still has a strong influence on Japanese music today. Her music was initially geared towards dance music, although there were also some different genres thrown about and her image was that of a rebellious teen. SWEET 19 BLUES was her debut album and was (and still is), one of the highest selling albums in Japan with over 3,300,000 copies sold. There were five singles released from the album.

Released: July 22, 1996
1. watch your step!!
2. motion
5. Interlude ~ Ocean way
6. Don’t wanna cry (Eighteen’s Summer Mix)
7. Rainy DANCE
8. Chase the Chance (CC Mix)
9. Interlude ~ Joy
11. Interlude ~ Scratch Voices
12. i was a fool
13. present
14. Interlude ~ Don’t wanna cry Symphonic Style
15. You’re My Sunshine (Hollywood Mix)
16. Body Feels EXIT (Latin House Mix)
17. ’77~
19. …soon nineteen

So this is a long album, but a large portion of the songs are just interludes. watch your step!! is basically Amuro saying the song title. Done. motion is a bit longer of an intro and features some haunting organ playing and footsteps. It’s pretty cool, especially once the background vocals come in. LET’S DO THE MOTION is the first full song. It follows the interlude with its dark sound. The song is very early 90’s with its New Jack Swing sound. I love this style and it reminds me of early Janet Jackson with its powerful beats and background vocals. I never appreciated this song before, but I really enjoy it now and I love the more chant-like delivery of the verses and the gospel-like chorus. It’s fun. I don’t think I like PRIVATE as much, but I do like aspects to it. I really enjoy the cool synth refrain in the background tied with the blending of vocals. I don’t think the melody is as strong and Amuro’s vocals are definitely much more nasally in this one than the last song. There is a part where Amuro raps and I really think she does a good job with it. The whole early 90’s vibe of the song works with this part really well. It’s funky. Interlude ~ Ocean’s way is a grand interlude with its orchestral sound. It’s quite beautiful. However, the transition into Don’t wanna cry (Eighteen’s Summer Mix) is just a little bit odd since we are brought to an upbeat dance/pop tune. Out of her earlier singles, this one is one of my favourites, although I do prefer the original mix a bit more. The thing I can appreciate a lot is that the music has some awesome twists and quirks that really give it some energy and the different transitions in the song are pretty abrupt, but keep the song exciting. The melody is also quite enjoyable. Rainy DANCE is the first slower tune, although its more of a midtempo R&B tune. I really like the beat to the song, but I do find the melody a little hard to take in. It takes a little while to get to the chorus, which is quite nice, but the verses are quite unpredictable and a bit too complicated. There are some really cool parts of the song though. Certainly the strongest song on the album is Chase the Chance (CC Mix). The original was already fire and this mix is also great. This song is probably the most aggressive with its powerful music and intense vocal delivery. I do find Amuro’s voice to be a bit grating at times, but I really love how she raps in this song as well. It really builds up the energy in the verses before we get to more melodic parts. The chorus is also very catchy and I always find myself singing along. Interlude ~ Joy is bit more hip-hop than the last one. It features Amuro spelling out her name before we get into this really weird high-pitched singing and some rapping. Not a favourite. I’LL JUMP first reminds me a bit of PRIVATE, but with a much stronger dance sound to it. We are volleyed into some repetitive background vocal chanting before this weird yodeling comes in. The song is totally New Jack Swing though and I love it. The verses are a bit forgettable, but I really enjoy the energetic chorus. It’s a bit more repetitive than most of the other songs on the album, but it was well-crafted. I just wish we could Amuro sing more in the chorus. It’s still fun. Interlude ~ Scratch Voices is really short and just has Amuro speaking. i was a fool slows things down with something a bit more jazzy than the other songs. It still has that signature 90’s style, but I love the added brass instruments and sexy beat. Like some of the other songs, this one has a bit of rapping in it by Amuro during the verses. The choruses are a bit more empty and feature mainly background vocals. I like the music here, but I feel the melody could be a bit better. It’s not bad. present continues this slower sound of the last song and even includes a wicked saxophone solo. However, this is probably my least favourite song on the album. The melody is really dragged out and Amuro sounds quite whiny while singing. I don’t think it’s very memorable and actually feels a lot messier in its delivery. It sometimes feels the music doesn’t match the voice arrangement. Interlude ~ Don’t wanna cry Symphonic Style is a really cool idea with its more orchestral sound. However, I feel it sounds like it is coming out a bit distorted, so it’s a little weird. You’re my sunshine (Hollywood Mix) was one of the singles released prior to the album and the Hollywood Mix plays on the more positive vibe of the song by bringing in some strong brass elements as well as dance. My main gripe with this mix is that it takes over a minute to actually get to any singing. This has always been my least favourite of the singles because I do find the chorus a little bothersome to get through with the high-pitched vocals and repetition. With that said, I really like how the music works here and it gives it a more summery sound. It’s fun, but just a bit too long for its own good. Probably the most disappointing thing from the album is the Body Feels EXIT (Latin House Mix). I love the fact that they turned the song into a Latin-styled tune, but this is just too damn long. It’s over 8 minutes long. The original is actually one of my favourite Amuro songs, but they killed this song with the repetition. It sounds more like some extensive remix which just kills the momentum of the album. How unfortunate. ’77~ has a really nice relaxing beat and some cool strings to go along with it. I feel like if this was a full song, it would be gorgeous. SWEET 19 BLUES is probably the highlight of the album as it is the gorgeous gospel title track. There are still the New Jack Swing elements, but we are definitely slowing things down and I love things build up into the chorus. Amuro sounds really nice in this song, although she does screech it up a bit around the ending. I love the gospel inclusion that pops in around the second half of the song. It’s just an overall charming tune and fits perfectly with the album. …soon nineteen is a bit weird with its strange organ sound and Amuro singing SWEET 19 BLUES in an odd way. I think it’s an interesting closer though.

Overall: If this album included the original of Body Feels EXIT, it would have a higher score. I was pleasantly surprised with this album though. I remember when I first listened to it years ago, I actively disliked it because it sounded incredibly outdated. It still is, but I’ve grown to appreciate the sound and my love of New Jack Swing has definitely allowed me to enjoy more of these songs. It’s a fun album and there were some cool ideas. I really wish the singles were the original mixes, but for the most part, they were still decent and there were some strong album tracks.