Sorry to Taylor Swift – there are plenty of shaking-and-crying reputation reviews out there anyway, and she’s Instagrammed each one of them – but there’s a legend in our midst with an album out who deserves the headline real estate just as much, if not more: her name is Namie Amuro.
Namie is one of Japan’s most enduring pop icons. In fact, plenty of people consider her to be the actual Queen of J-Pop – but you can call her the Queen of Hip-Pop.
After shocking the world on her 40th birthday with the announcement that she’d be retiring from the industry on September 26, 2018, Namie released a career-spanning hits collection on November 8 called Finally ahead of a farewell tour, commemorating 25 years in the music industry – from a member of the girl group Super Monkey’s back in 1992 all the way to today as a solo superstar.
The massive 52-track, 3-CD collection includes 39 singles (which is hardly all of them) – each one re-recorded with new vocals and arrangements. The final disc contains some of her most recent releases, as well as a handful of new tracks. It’s a beast of a send-off – and still doesn’t nearly encapsulate her career. Some stans would even argue it misses a ton of essentials, actually. (I would have to agree. “Come,” an all-time favorite, is nowhere to be found. And where’s “Wild”? Anyway.)
After one week, the record-breaking numbers are in: Namie’s Finally not only shifted a million copies in a matter of days, but became the first Japanese album to do so since fellow Queen Utada Hikaru released her Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol. 1 in 2004 – over 13 years ago.
Even bigger? With Finally, Namie becomes the only artist in history to sell a million copies of an album in her teens, twenties, thirties and forties. Icon much?
To be fair, any discerning pop enthusiast should know that sales and charts should never be confused with quality. As problematic fave Azealia Banks once said: “McDonalds sells a lot of burgers but no one is telling McDonald’s that they’re the pinnacle of cuisine and taste.”
In this case, however, the hype is warranted. Namie’s worked with everyone from Dallas Austin to David Guetta to SOPHIE over the years, dabbling in just about every genre possible. She’s an all-singing, all-dancing machine of a live performer. Basically, she really is a legend. (Her personal life is also one hell of a story.)
If you’re new to Namie, like Taylor, you’ll need to actually buy the album in order to hear it. Sorry: blame Japan and their continued success with physical CDs and iTunes sales.
For starters, below are just a few of my favorites, as well as a pretty comprehensive video collection made in honor of her 20th anniversary five years ago. Plus, an amazing new commercial (CM) for mobile phone carrier DOCOMO, which brilliantly showcases Namie’s memorable looks through the years as she dances her way through the iconic Shibuya crossing. (If you’re looking for album recommendations, Style was my gateway drug many moons ago – and Feel is electronic bliss.)
Oh, and one more nerd note: of the forty-plus songs she’s released as singles, Namie only has one track that didn’t go Top 10 on the Oricon charts. Fans are working to push it into the Top 10 this week to finish off her career with a perfect streak. So: #BuyAlarmOniTunes.
All hail the Queen.