Can You Celebrate the Success of the Queen of Hip-Pop Amuro Namie 20 Years Later?

namieamuro-bodyfeelsexit

Body feels exit

Body feels excite

Koko made donna michi wo aruite

Anata to yatto tadoritsuita ka wo

Nanika miezu ni dakedo nanika wo

Mitsuketakatta yo heya ni hitorikiri

Hiza wo kakaete ugokenakutatte body feels!

– “Body Feels Exit” (1995) by Namie Amuro [1]

If you ever came across a Japanese poImage and video hosting by TinyPicp song, more than likely it was by Namie Amuro. For the past twenty-three years, Namie Amuro has become a household name as she is everywhere in Japan: CDs, magazine covers, commercials, billboards, pamphlets, and even in stores. Whether it is because of her youthful, beautiful looks or her superb vocal skills, Namie Amuro is a pop icon that will be around for a long time.

You are probably asking, “Didn’t Amuro make her musical debut in 1992? Why are you writing an article about her and her 20th anniversary now?”

It is true that Amuro did make her musical debut in 1992 when she was apart of the teenage girl group Super Monkey’s. However, it was twenty years ago today, October 25, that Amuro peeled herself away from the idol group and made a name of herself by starting her solo career off with the single “Body Feels Exit”. I am not ignoring the fact that many, including at one point her official site, have said that the singles “Taiyou no Season” and “Stop the Music” is part of Amuro’s solo discography. However, if you look at the backs of “Taiyou no Season” and “Stop the Music”, the singles are credited under the name “Amuro Namie with Super Monkey’s” as she was still part of the group until the summer of 1995. I consider “Body Feels Exit” as her true solo debut single as it features none of the remaining Super Monkey’s members as dancers (at least in the music video) or backing vocals unlike the “Amuro Namie with Super Monkey’s” ones.

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On the mist of her solo debut, Amuro Namie was already a household name in 1995 as her last two singles with Super Monkey’s became top ten singles. She also appeared in various commercials, magazines, movies, and television shows, including the extremely cute kids show “Ponkikkids“. Whenever she wasn’t donning a pink rabbit suit, Amuro would be found on music programs, attracting various viewers with her sexy, fast-paced dance moves and good sense of style. In fact, it was that sense of style that helped to boost Amuro into the top spot of Japanese pop culture by the end of 1995. Even the fashion featured on her debut single spawn a cult following as the  term “Amura” described anyone who had the combination of dyed brown hair, tan skin, and white boots.

Over the years, Amuro adapted her sound and style to keep up with the ever-changing pop culture. Slowly, Amuro shed the eurodance-sound found in her earlier works and went for a more R&B/hip-hop one, starting in 1999 with “toi et toi”. As the Japanese music industry was shifting from dance pop to R&B, mainly thanks to Utada Hikaru, Amuro struggled with the shift as “toi et toi” was branded as a failure and other singles failed to crack the top ten. Actually, the 2002 single “Wishing on the Same Star” was supposed to be her last before a hiatus that would have her go to the US for artist development.[2] However, the single was a success and Amuro was allowed to continue her career.
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It wasn’t until 2004 with the release of “Queen of Hip-Pop” that Amuro fully cement her as a R&B/hip-hop artist. As much as I hate “Want Me, Want Me“, it is a perfect example of Amuro’s hip-hop sound as it presents a backbeat (sitar) and Amuro singing the verses in a style that is similar to rapping. Other perfect examples would be the R&B-flavored dance tune “Can’t Sleep, Can’t Eat, I’m Sick” (2006) and her triple A-side single “60s 70s 80s” (2008). ‘Can’t Sleep, Can’t Eat, I’m Sick” is one of favorite Amuro songs in the past ten years as it features a slick saxophone, a hip interlude, and a catchy chorus. Amuro’s vocals are perfect for this song as they are smooth yet sassy.

Recently, Amuro has gotten back into dance music with the release of “genic” this year. However, she hasn’t forgotten her R&B roots as she fuses that sound with EDM throughout the album. A good example of this fusion would be “Fashionista“. The sultry opening is mostly R&B-flavored with a baritone saxophone and an electric organ mixed in with programmed clapping. It isn’t until the chorus that the song transforms into a EDM tune.

Whether your like the idol pop AImage and video hosting by TinyPicmuro, dance-pop Amuro, or the sultry R&B Amuro, many would agree that over the years, Amuro has had a huge impact on the Japanese pop culture thanks to her music and style. Many artists today and in the past have influenced by Amuro’s style. Even some have tried to copy her, in the case of the 90s’ ASAYAN group FBI. Whatever the case may be, Amuro has overcome many transformations over the years. And because of that, she will always shine brightly as a Japanese pop culture legend.

(As you can or cannot tell, Amuro Namie is one of my favorite singers. I first got into her when avex trax has an online streaming channel for music videos back in the early 2000s. I remember the first video of hers that I watched, it was “You’re my sunshine” (1996). She later became my role model in junior high and high school as she was a great singer, always looked so beautiful, and had a great sense of style. I was lucky enough to see her live in 2012 with her Domes tour. I was also verrrrrrrrry lucky to see her up-close as I had second row tickets. That was a dream came true!)

Check out a live performance on some TV show of “Body Feel Exit”:

And the original music video:


References

[1] “Amuro Namie – Body Feels Exit.” Kiwii Musume 26 Oct. 2005. Web. 25 Oct. 2015. {http://www.kiwi-musume.com/lyrics/amunami/sweet19blues/bodyfeelsexit.htm}

[2] “Wikipedia: Wishing on the Same Star.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 9 Apr. 2006. Web. 25 Oct. 2015. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wishing_on_the_Same_Star)

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