PAST<FUTURE is Amuro Namie’s 8th album and it was released on December 16th, 2009. It reached #1 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and has sold 417,952 copies.
When first stepping into Namie’s latest album, I was pretty sure what I was going to expect. The only single prior to this release, WILD / Dr. was actually a very accurate sample of what sound she was going with this time around and that is a very synth driven, futuristic sounding album with an overuse of the manipulation her voice went through for WILD, and even then brought to the next level.
The album kicks off with a bang with FAST CAR, a poppy upbeat tune with a repeating brass line that just sounds so slick and fancy but is non-the-less the only song of that sound of the album, properly portraying the “PAST” part of the album, with everything else except maybe COPY THAT(due to its retro instrumental and almost surfer music inspiration, though it suffers from repetitiveness and a disastrous ending) sounding “futuristic”.
A lot of the songs on the album are very good but I had a very big problem when first listening to the album. Many of the ten new tracks just sounded painfully messy. There was really only one thing to blame for this and it was Namie’s voice. The way her voice is manipulated and layered is something the listener would have to cope with if they plan to listen to any of this album(and possibly her future releases) but they aren’t that tough to grow accustomed with, no matter how monotone she sounds. The real problem though it the way her voice is layered in like 500 levels. My biggest complaint would go to FIRST TIME in which she featured with DOBERMAN INC. I recall just absolutely hating the chorus due to how many layers of Namie’s voice you would hear in the same three seconds. I’ve grown to accept it now however as the song is very catchy, though would have been a lot better without the extensive rapping bit.
Though the album as a whole is very similar, it doesn’t suffer from sounding all exactly the same. Though all similar in styles, it’s the smaller things that set each track apart. For example, The Meaning Of Us is a gentle piano ballad which presents to use Namie’s naked and untouched voice while songs like Shut Up and MY LOVE represent what a Namie-style rock song would sound like(former) and the latter her signature “Hip-Pop” style reminiscent of her PLAY era music.
Bad Habit also does a good job of standing out with its darker mood, although it’s pretty standard when compared to the other songs. Another song I’ve seen receiving a lot of hate is Steal my Night, which I actually really enjoy due to Namie’s faster singing and Arabian-style instrumental. We also can’t forget about the highly anticipated Defend Love, which while an enjoyable song in its own way, it disappointed me overall, although that slower, piano part before the final part of the song is definitely the highlight and climax of the song.
Compared to her prior album release PLAY, I think that Namie definitely delivered to her fans, although she took a slightly higher risk this time by providing more variety than the other more Hip-Pop album which absolutely lacked ballads(though this album only has one). With that risk also came come criticism to the album. To me, her vocals, repetitiveness, and messy arranging were the only true downfall of the album but I must praise Namie for releasing such a high quality, neatly packed album with nice variety and memorable hooks.