Album review: Namie Amuro - Finally

Album review: Namie Amuro - Finally | Random J Pop

Namie Amuro's 3 disc resignation manages to redefine how to fuck up a Best / Greatest hits album. Queen Les Namiserable's career spans 25 years, yet this album omits huge sections of it. A greatest hits album should be a collection of the songs that fans loved, as they remembered them, yet this album features newly recorded versions of each of these songs and has them sound a type of worse.

Let us be clear on one thing going into this review. Finally is not for the fans. It's Namie's declaration of how done she is with everything and that Avex can go and fuck themselves. It was clear from the title that Namie was completely done with all this shit. But the way she approached this album speaks volumes. She's so done.

When the press release for Finally went out, it had stated that Namie had re-recorded vocals for near enough every song on it. I thought this was a lie or a mis-translation, because...who on Earth does that!?  But she really did, which is pretty unprecedented. If a bitch could be bothered to re-record vocals for 38 songs, then she may as well have recorded a new album. It would have required less time and effort.

Word is that Namie had to re-record most of the songs on this thing due to rights of the original recordings preventing her being able to re-release them. So Finally is basically Namie being forced to do Karaoke to her own songs. Can you imagine retiring because you're so done with your job and then being told by your boss to go back and redo every piece of work you've done during your time there? I'd be pressed. I'd be bitter. I would give the absolute least. This partially explains why Namie was not here for two thirds of the re-recordings. I bet homegirl was chain smoking like fuck and cussing out every single person at Avex and threatening to fuck up the legal team for not securing the rights to her shit.

Rights aside, Namie re-recording her songs from the 90s makes sense anyway, because it provides fans with studio recorded of songs with a voice that they've become accustomed to over the past 10 years.

Whilst some fans have been dragging Namie across a pebble beach for re-recording her earlier songs from waaaaaay back and sounding bad, they really don't sound THAT bad. Namie's pre 'urban' songs required a fair amount from her vocally due to the way in which they were composed. Namie didn't have the best vocal control in her late teens / early 20s, but that didn't stop her reaching for notes and attempting to give us some form of range; things that she gave up on from 2003. Now I'mma be real. Not all of the re-recorded songs on the first disc sound hot. Namie doesn't sound bad, by any means. But there was a charm and an electricity to Namie's vocals in the original versions, despite her shortcomings, that I quite liked. It gave the songs character that the newer versions lack. "Taiyou no season" is the only instance where the re-record rivals and even betters the original in some aspects. Maybe Namie was having a good day. Maybe she genuinely likes the song and wanted to do it the most justice. But she sounds pretty amazing on it. Almost to the point that I feel pissed that Namie didn't give me these types of vocals on a regular basis. It's a nice reminder that Namie can actually sing.

Now,  the second disc where the re-records are the most problematic.

Every song on the second disc sounds like a demo version of the original. Namie's main line vocals are even more lifeless than they originally were. The mixing of her vocals are a mess. The backing vocals are either muted, muddy, scaled back or completely non-existent. "Want me, want me" and "Can't sleep, can't eat, I'm sick" in particular sound like shit. It's also strange how Namie makes no effort to better the English in the songs across this dsic, given that since she originally recorded them she's put out 3 albums which featured songs sung completely in English. So we still get 'Danshin quin' on "What a feeling" and 'Chojan' on "Want me, want me". None of the re-records sound better than the originals. "Baby don't cry" is the only potential anomaly, because the arrangements during the middle-8 are much cleaner than the over reverbed and messily composed original. But as a whole, it sounds bad. So, yeah. I guess it's no anomaly after all.

I would never take any of these new versions of songs on the second disc over the originals. The only thing I can deduce from this is that Namie thought 'Fuck ya'll at Avex' and decided to butcher the meat of the songs on purpose. It's an easier pill to swallow than accepting that Namie put her heart into this shit and gave us...this.

But the travesty of the second disc doesn't end with the dreaded re-recorded vocals, because the selection of songs is equally as messy. The first disc is pretty standard and features all of the songs that you would expect it to. There are one or two songs that you could argue should have been included. But as a whole, the selection of songs on the first disc is pretty solid in covering off the earlier period of Namie's career. Disc two on the other hand? Lawd Jesus. No fucks were given. The focus is placed too heavily on the physical singles, which means that there is no "WoWa", "Tokyo (In the spotlight)", "Hands on me" or "Heaven" and nothing whatsoever from _genic. And to add insult to injury, even songs which were physically released get no love. There is no "Shine more", "Put 'em up", "White light", "Wild" and no "Yeah-oh". B-sides!? Songs which were heavily promo'd but not released as singles such as "Hello", "Copy that" and "My love"? Bitch please.

The third disc is where all of the post _genic singles reside, alongside some brand new songs. This disc is basically the recycle bin of the album. The only post _genic single worth a damn was "Mint". Everything else wasn't worth a yen. "Showtime" is the only song which sounds like a contender for a decent single or studio album consideration. Everything else sounds like Uncontrolled and Feel left overs which won't be remembered years from now. The new material feature elements that work, but don't ever work as a whole. The verses on "In two"is hot, but the chorus is awful. The chorus on "How do you feel now?" and "Do it for love" are hot, but hate the verses are awful.

By the time you get a third of the way through the third disc, you realise that Namie is truly done with it all. She couldn't care less about trying to leave a legacy with this album, because she knows that she's already left it and that this shit won't further it nor contribute to it in any way.

Finally is a real shame. What should have been a great compilation of songs is literally a fuckery, where the one disc which features the meat of the songs has not only the worst tracklist, but inferior versions of the songs.

The Namie Amuro which is presented on this album isn't the Namie Amuro that I personally fell for. It reminds me of the Namie that I did fall in love with, but for all of the wrong reasons. There is so much more of Namie to celebrate than what is presented on this album. To skim and pretty much not acknowledge three albums is huge. And to omit so much of Past < Future is massive, given how monumental it was in putting Namie's career on a whole new level that many thought she was past reaching.

Nothing about Finally feels like it was thought out to deliver the best possible package to fans. Namie legally having to re-record the songs is a pain in the ass. More so for her than any of us. I can't imagine anybody being chuffed about having to endure such a thing. But it could have been spun into something amazing and really transformed older songs into something new. But it didn't. Not even a little bit. Namie barely managed to maintain the quality of the originals, let alone supersede them, save for a couple of exceptions.

A better way to have approached this album would have been to have had the second and third discs cover the period of Namie's career from Queen of hip-pop right up until _genic and then have had Namie release a final studio album separately. Or to have just made the damn thing four discs, which would have been far from extra and not the slightest bit unreasonable given that Namie has been releasing music for 25 years and has more than enough material to fill 4 discs and STILL have people pressed at songs being left off. Although, could you imagine the vocal quality decline if Namie had to re-record another 45 minutes worth of music?

Damn.

It's a shame that Namie's final best album is such a mess, because her fans deserve better and it wouldn't have been a great deal of effort to have delivered something good and worthy of £25 / $35. But Namie's true gift to fans is the legacy that she has already left and her farewell tour, which she most certainly will not phone in as she did this album.

If your shady ass is here for a 3 disc album to revel in how done Namie is, then cop this. Otherwise, leave it be and build your playlists from the collection of Namie albums and singles that you already have. Given what we ended up with here, it's pretty much what Namie is asking for you to do.

RATING: 3 / 10

Album highlights:
■ Mister U.S.A.
■ Taiyou no season
■ Mint

Update: 28.11 @ 9:56am
So word is that legally Namie had to re-record many of the songs due to not having the rights to re-release the original versions. So at least that explains why she went to the trouble. But it still stands that Namie phoned in the shit out of that second disc. "Want me, want me". I just can't.

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