An extra decade of age can do wonders.
Having seen the above picture, having seen the title… perhaps the first question that comes to your mind is “Why?” Why am I reviewing Amuro Namie‘s 60s 70s 80s now, a full month after its release? Why, after everyone and their mother (who probably loved this sort of music because it was in her heyday) have said all they’ve had to say about it? And why, when I specifically said I was going to focus on groups this year?
1) Patrick (who you may know over at Who’s Afraid of Music?), the Namie fan that he is, asked for it. Also, I’ve never been a timely person. Just ask my history professor.
2) I have a slightly different opinion from everyone else on a certain song, apparently. *shockgasphorror* And it really just isn’t because I like to be anti-mainstream. (If you’re even thinking that, have you read this blog at all?)
3) I’m a liar.
I admire Namie, really I do. She’s done a variety of musical genres and done them all better than “well”, she’s a sharp singer and dancer, and while she’s not drop-dead gorgeous by general standards, she adapts to her various looks (be it cutesy pop girl or sex vixen or fantastically elegant) with an ease that probably made her producers cry when she originally announced her retirement.
Thankfully for us all, she didn’t stay in that state for long. But this single feels like it should’ve been done before that withdrawal from the music scene. 60s 70s 80s is aptly named, with three different tracks each sampling a portion from classic American pop songs of the titular eras. And hey, it makes it amazingly easy for me to identify the musical age too.
The first track, NEW LOOK, is representative of the 60s and steals a bit from The Supremes’ Baby Love, though it mostly works in an ambience capacity, echoing along as part of the music. The show-stealer is clearly Namie’s voice bouncing along with the cutesy beat that belongs in a drive-in diner somewhere. (Though not for anyone who’d give up ice cream or chocolate [Oh no!] to get a new look.) To be frank, I don’t like this sort of music. Raid mentioned liking the assembly line atmosphere it invoked in one of our growing-less-frequent MSN conversations – it’s that same atmosphere that adds what becomes, for me, an appalling charm to this song. What it’s clearly meant to bring to mind is probably classic Barbie-looking girls in a row powdering their cheeks and crossing/uncrossing their legs in time to the beat. That makes me shudder – just made me shudder typing it out. (By the way, I’m allergic to most cosmetics, so that only adds to my reaction.) Even the live performance of this on Music Fair, with its cutesy dance didn’t win me over. I really sat through the two minutes waiting for the next performance.
Which, of course, pays tribute to the 70s. ROCK STEADY samples the eponymous line from Aretha Franklin’s song of the same name. It’s pretty close to Namie’s style of this decade (00s, if you really needed to confirm it), mixing a fast and brassy urban piece with bass beats and vocals that ooze with a sultry attitude. But despite this and my color bias towards the black-and-blue music video, this song took a while to grow on me. Perhaps the part that really hooked me onto this song was Namie’s spoken bits during the chorus (“Are you ready? Ready. Are you? Ready.”) that segues into her powerful call of “ROCK STEADY BABY”. East Asians in general lack the power required to belt out a line, usually substituting volume for vocal strength. Namie, clearly, has no such handicaps, and delivers the song with bursts of power that emphasize her capabilities all the more.
WHAT A FEELING, our 80s homage, was the final track to have its music video released (and to tell truth, I still haven’t seen it) but has gotten the most promotional performances. Clearly nipping from Irene Cara’s Flashdance… What a Feeling, I fell in love with this the first time I heard it. There’s so much I could blame it on: the electronic music, the otherworldly atmosphere created by the layered and echoing vocals, the addictive hook, the way the synth beats play as a perfect prop, the variety in the vocal melody… of course, it could just be the fact that I’m an 80s baby. Born after the movie, of course, but still an 80s baby. Excuses aside, this track still made it onto my Favorites playlist the instant it hopped onto my MP3 player.
Namie really does deserve congratulations for this – first chart-topper single in a while, and some pretty high sales numbers. I can’t deny that the variety was great too, especially as I’ve been wanting some more electronika from Namie since come. But I still can’t shake the feeling that this was meant to sneak out at the beginning of the decade and was shuffled away because top brass decided it needed to age (whether Namie or the music market, doesn’t matter). In which case… got any more good vintages in that cellar, avex?