mercredi 28 février 2018

Amuro Namie (安室奈美恵) - Eng

By the end of 2017, while she was celebrating in live her 40th anniversary, including 25 years of career, the J-Pop singer Amuro Namie announced suddenly her retirement for the following year from show-biz, to take care of her family. An announcement followed in January 2018 by the one of the famous producer Komuro Tetsuya who had launched her, which obliges to come back without delay on this princess of J-Pop.

Amuro Namie (安室奈美恵)

From Super Monkey's to Queen of Hip-Pop

Version française ici.
1st publication : 2018/02/28
Last updated: 2018/08/29


In the memento interview Kokuhaku, 2017.
Amuro Namie (安室奈美恵) was born on the 20/09/1977 in Naha, the main city of the Okinawa archipelago at the far South of Japan, between Taiwan and the Ryukyu islands administrated by Kyushu.
Her parents divorce when she is 3 and she spends a modest living with her mother and brothers and sisters. Wishing to be a singer, she enters at 10 the  prestigious Okinawa Actors School (SPEED, la chanteuse de Kiroro, Daichi Miura...) where she goes everyday by a 2h walk ! As soon as 12, she gets noticed in dance too and joins the band that the School created that year with the Major EMI !! This is how the "Super Monkey's" (スーパーモンキーズ) release their 1st single in September 1992 : Koi no Cute beat.

The band, centered around the idol Anna Makino, older by 6 years, doesn't encounter much success and changes quite a lot when moving to Tokyo. Anna goes back to the School to become teacher and her substitute, a young student, doesn't even stay enough to participate to a single. The band goes on at 4 members during a moment and Namie takes progressively the place of "center" thanks to her vocal qualities, leaving her team mates to the simple role of back-dancers. She also appears in some ads and dramas.
The band is finally renamed Amuro Namie with Super Monkey's and gets some fame with Try Me ~ Watashi wo shinjite, an Eurodance cover, in January 1995, which ranks 8th in the weekly Oricon. This even grants them an invitation to the NHK's Kouhaku 1995. The Super Monkey's are then composed of Nanako Takushi, Minako Ameku, Reina Miyauchi, Ritsuko Matsuda.
This is moment when appears the successful producer and musician of Avex, Tetsuya Komuro (TM NETWORK, Globe...): he convinces Namie to sign with her Majorfor a solo career, offering in the same time the possibility to the Super Monkey's of accompanying her and then to try their own way under the name MAX (for Musical Active Xperience).

Pursuing in the dance style, Amuro Namie, at 18-19, meets then an astonishing success: the single Chase the Chance is her 1st to exceed the million of units and to rank 1st in the weekly Top Oricon, then in 1996 the album Sweet 19 blues exceeds the 3.5 millions, breaking the records of that time ! She becomes a superstar among young ladies, nicknamed Amurer (アムラー pronounced "Amuraa"), who copy her look yet not so extravagant for an Occidental like me (long brown-colored hair, lightly depilated eyebrows, halation, high-heel boots and mini-skirt). She makes more and more TV appearances (ads, dramas, variety shows...) and becomes the youngest artist to win a Japan Record Association (JRA) prize.
In 1997, her album Concentration 20, in addition to a wider musical diversity, includes her greatest hit: Can you celebrate, 2 millions sales, another solo woman record, which however is an omen to her loss of momentum... Indeed she takes everyone by surprise when announcing her wedding at just 20 with the dancer of the famous band TRF, Sam, as well as her break to get a baby after the  Kouhaku 1997, where she performs precisely her "wedding song" Can you celebrate ... She is introduced quite benevolently and people wish she can come back quickly.

Kôhaku 1998 (capture d'écran)
And that's what she does as soon as mid-1998 with a new n°1 of the charts, I have never seen. For her media comeback, she is invited again at Kouhaku where, launched on stage with an  "okaeri" (welcome home), she bursts into tears when moving to the front of the stage in the middle of her self-cover of Can you celebrate, touched by the warm and kind welcome of the public. But the following year 1999 strikes her with a personal misfortune: in March, her mother, meanwhile remarried, is murdered by, it seems, the brother of her 1st husband, who commits suicide shortly after. She cancels the promotion of her single Respect the power of love released that very day, and of her song for a Pokémon movie, entitled in French Toi et moi.
She comes back in September with Something 'bout the kiss, a 1st single produced by the American Dallas Austin, followed by the album Genius 2000 in January. These ones show a turn to a more RnB style. She also announces her separation, which will end in divorce in 2002 for  pour "irreconcilable differences".
Disturbed by her personal troubles and concurrenced by new stars who occupied the media during her break, including some Hamasaki Ayumi launched by the same Major, her singles don't reach anymore the 1st place of the Oricon. Never End, track written by Komuro on dmand of the Japanese Prime Minister for the reception of the G8 on the Okinawan birthplace of Namie, is even the last one to exceed the 200 000 sales for a long time... It is interesting to note that it is a rare single featuring some sanshin, traditional instrument of the island. Profits were given to the UNICEF.
She then try to reinvent herself and takes the offer to write her own lyrics, but she suffers under the pressure of sales objectives. She multiplicates the collaborations Hip-Hop / RnB (AI, Zeebra...) and conquers the foreign stages (Hawaii, Korea, Taiwan...) who grant her several prizes at the MTV Music Awards. In Japan where that style is once less popular, she lets "Ayu" (Hamasaki) and "Hikki" (Utada Hikaru) fight for the title of "Queen of J-Pop", and aims the one of Queen of Hip-Pop, as reveals the name of an album of her...

Finally she meets again a great success with Baby don't cry in January 2007, with more than 140 000 physical units, and even 1 million when adding the digital breakout (phone rings in particular). The album Play which includes this song reaches the 1st place of Oricon, for the 1st time since Genius 2000 ! She also decides to concentrate on the stage rather than TV, refusing several invitations at Kouhaku.
In 2008, her Best of Best Fiction exceeds the million and spends 6 weeks on 1st place, something never seen since Magic by Dreams Come True. Her following albums and singles get then back a far better public reception, however not up to her initial level. In 2010, she wins a World Music Award of the best female Asian artist. Fight together becomes her 1st song for the successful shonen One Piece.
During her 20th year of career in 2012, underlined by a Dome tour and a cancelled concert on Okinawa because of  a typhoon, she already thinks about retiring to take care of her son in particular, but doesn't find the good timing to announce it and delays to her 25th year. In 2016, she makes a noticed comeback in the media: firstly she is chosen by the NHK to sing the theme song of there show on the Rio Olympic Games; it will be Hero, which is heard then everywhere in Japan. Dear Diary and Fighter appear in a movie inspired from the famous manga Death Note.
She multiplies the tours in order to meet and make a max of fans enjoy until the official announcement of her retirement during the live of her 25th year of career in Okinawa. She will end by a last Dome tour in 2018.
Her last Best of during her career, Finally, released in November, sold over 1 million (including preorders) during the 1st week already, and had already reached the 2 millions before the end of 2017. On the 2017-11-23, she was confiding her feelings on the NHK (Kokuhaku) before participating to her ultimate Kouhaku on the 31st of December 2017; while the audience is one of the lowest ever recorded for the show, at the time of her song it reached 48% ! That same winter, the single Finally is used in ending of a News TV show (News Zero), while Hope, from the same album is launched in opening of One Piece.

Visual for the last tour 2017-2018


If Amuro Namie should have shortcomings, it would probably what make her artistic genius: her precocity and strong mind ! We may find traces of it back to her childhood when she seriously followed these dance and singing lessons despite the far distance where other children would have simply be contented by karaoke... Launched with the Super Monkey's in the middle of the post-"Bubble" economical crisis, she prefigures without knowing the future Idols bands of the 2000s ! Indeed at that time, bands with more than 4 members, and so young, were very rare.
In the same time her determination, her independence in addition to her solo and media success announce the modern J-Pop singers who will soon take her place in the new media ! This determination can be seen in her make-up which differs from the Idols or ordinar songstresses like ZARD as well as from the flashy rebel style of the "yankee", or in her precocious marriage followed by a quick comeback where many other female singers would have stayed home ! But all of this with a touching natural mind.

Live in Osaka 2017: the "Amuraa" style (Facebook)
Why could this be shortcomings ? Well, it has a bit lowered the glory she could have known (already great yet ^^') by driving her at first in an unhappy marriage which slowed her down at the moment when other J-popstars appeared on her track. Her comeback at the top of the charts was then a bit hidden by the new influence of downloads and 2.0 media. To finish, she firmly decided to retire from showbiz at her 40, while her albums were running 1st in a row ! From an artistic point of view, she has been the 1st to gain a real success in Hip-hop / RnB, but that choice took her lot of time and it took her lot of courage during her low period at the beginning of the 2000s despite the defeatism around her to make it through !

To conclude, she is just unavoidable in the Japanese culture regarding the break in style that she initiated, be in society, bringing a real mode, or in music succeeding even where the great Dreams Come True failed: digest and integrate the RnB-Dance to the J-Music landscape, beaking numerous records of her time !!

Similar Artists

Japan: worked with AI, m-flo, Hirai Ken... In the genre Rnb / Pop-music one can mention too Katô Miliyah, May J, Kôda Kumi... ; in the style J-Pop / Dance: E-Girls and Exile Tribe, Hamasaki Ayumi...

World: she was inspired a lot by the American RnB and pop-music, Janet Jackson, Beyonce, Madonna... but also made more clubbing collaborations with David Guetta...

Great Standards:

First performer:

- Chase the Chance
- Can you celebrate
- Say the word
- Baby don't cry
- Hero

Discography (selection) :

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SWEET 19 BLUES / Namie Amuro
Namie Amuro
1996-07: 1st album, 1st solo success for Amuro Namie ; includes Chase the Chance, Don't wanna cry, You are my sunshine, Sweet 19 blues...

Concentration 20 / Namie Amuro
Namie Amuro
1997-07: 2nd album, also n°1 just before her wedding and baby break; includes the originale version of the hit Can you celebrate, How to be a girl...

GENIUS 2000 / Namie Amuro
Namie Amuro
2000-01: 3rd album, n°1 of the charts, in collaboration with the American producer Dallas Austin, draws a turn to the hip-hop/RnB after her short marriage; includes I have never seen, Respect the power of love, Something 'bout the kiss...

Queen of Hip-Pop / Namie Amuro
Namie Amuro
2005-07: 7th album, the one of the acknowledgement of her new favorite style Hip-Hop / RnB; includes Queen of Hip-Pop, Want me Want me with Bollywood influence, Girl talk...

2007-06: 8th album, 1st n°1 since Genious 2000 ; includes the big hit Baby don't cry, Can't sleep can't eat I'm sick...

2008/07: Best of n°1 in charts and million seller, interesting for the Music Video (DVD zone 2) ; includes the main songs from her hip-hop period (since 2002).

2009/12: 9th album, n°1 in charts; includes Wild, Dr., Copy that...

Ballada / Namie Amuro
Namie Amuro
2014-06: This Best of ballads is worth a purchase for its video-clips, and in particular the self-cover of Can you celebrate featuring the famous violonist Hakase Tarô (葉加瀬太郎). It is nowadays the most performed version in karaoke.

_genic / Namie Amuro
Namie Amuro
2015-06: With her announcement of 2017 followed by a Best of, _genic became her last original album; sung in a large extent in English, it features various styles, from party J-Pop "Birthday" to the electro duos with the Vocaloid Hatsune Miku (B WHO I WANT 2 B) or with David Guetta (What I did for Love) including the RnB of Photogenic, Fashionista... She hadn't released any single from this album.

Finally / Namie Amuro
Namie Amuro
2017-11: The "ultimate" Best of Amuro Namie ; includes most of the previously cited hits, as well as the new songs Hope (One Piece), Finally (News 0), Hero (NHK JO 2016)...

The collector editions of the Blu-Ray of the Finally tour out on the 29/08/2018 !


Christmas 2017: soon she will have more time in family... (Facebook)
Other sources: wikipedia JP, TV reports...

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