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Jan 15

[review] Namie Amuro: Past < Future

past<futureHere’s the good news about Past < Future: It’s much better than Queen of Hip-Pop and Play.

While the former was mumbly and dull, and the latter tended toward loud and cluttered, Namie Amuro’s ninth album sounds refreshingly clean and energetic. “Love Game” delivers a hard urban groove without any distracting frills. The hamony in “The Meaning of Us” emphasizes the pretty tune subtly. Even the most layered track, “Copy That,” doesn’t sound overdone.

The bad news is that the album doesn’t live up to the promise of the single that preceded it. The shifting song structure and Bolero samples in “Dr.” push the boundaries of the brief pop song, while the succinct, irresistibly punchy rhythms of “Wild” embrace them. Both songs are among Amuro’s best.

But most of the album tracks on Past < Future are filler. Of the new songs, only “The Meaning of Us,” the aggressive “Defend Love” and the swing-inspired “Fast Car” seem like lasting additions to the Namie canon.

Now that Amuro’s helmed three albums (2003’s Style is debatable because she’s largely ignored it in concert), both the strengths of her ambition and the limitations of her tastes have become more apparent. Her reinvention and creative direction are precisely what make her a superior and durable pop star, and it’s admirable that she’s expanded her range to include the rock gestures of “Shut Up” and retro stylings of “Fast Car” alongside more familiar-sounding R&B songs like “My Love.” But she has an obvious preference for songs with high-speed chanting and repetitive choruses. Past < Future sometimes sounds monotonous despite the genre variety across its tracks.

“The Meaning of Us” is a highlight in part because it’s the only new song with a fully realized melody and actual singing. Namie sounds quite nice, so it’s puzzling why she avoids singing so much these days. A few more melodies would have made Past < Future a more interesting album. As is, it’s merely satisfactory. But its production and genre variety are steps in the right direction. At least it’s better than Queen of Hip-Pop.

2 comments

  1. Kytrax

    I was really digging her single, so it’s disappointing to hear her new album is just more of the same old-same old.

    I am really digging the album cover art, though I wish they’d stop airbrushing the heck out of her.

    1. Victoria Goldenberg

      I wouldn’t say it’s exactly the same old same old, but the quality’s definitely not up to the Wild/Dr. single.

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