Namie Amuro – Checkmate!

May 31, 2011 at 8:04 PM | Posted in Namie Amuro | Leave a comment

Namie Amuro – Checkmate!

1. Wonder Woman feat. AI & Anna Tsuchiya
2. UNUSUAL feat. Tomohisa Yamashita
3. make it happen feat. AFTERSCHOOL
4. ROCK U feat. Namie Amuro / ravex
5. Do What U Gotta Do feat. AI, Namie Amuro & Mummy-D / ZEEBRA
6. Wet’N Wild feat. SUITE CHIC / Heartsdales
7. Do or Die feat. Namie Amuro / JHETT
8. FAKE feat. Namie Amuro / AI
9. #1 feat. Kaname Kawabata (CHEMISTRY)
10. BLACK OUT feat. Lil Wayne & Namie Amuro / VERBAL
11. BLACK DIAMOND / DOUBLE & Namie Amuro
12. Luvotomy / m-flo ♥ Namie Amuro
13. AFTER PARTY feat. Namie Amuro / ZEEBRA

♦ ♦ ♦

Checkmate! is the first collaboration best album by Japanese singer Namie Amuro, released on April 27, 2011 after being postponed due to the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The original release date was March 23. The album was released in two versions: a regular CD+DVD edition and a regular CD-only edition and sold 404,946 copies as of May 2011.

This album topped the charts for a long time, and now it’s up to me to see if the charts were right. Wonder Woman feat. AI & Anna Tsuchiya is a very funky and uptempo song and Namie takes on the first verse and she does it very well, her voice is still progressing. Anna’s second verse is also very strong, and the music is all about power. The song has some very catchy tunes and very solid vocals by the three singers. Great way to open the album, surely a real stayer.

UNUSUAL feat. Tomohisa Yamashita is a song that could’ve easily fit on Namie’s album ‘PAST < FUTURE’ with very strong and danceable bass beats. Both singers sound great together and they are accompanied by a nice musical arrangement. The agressive synths in this song are very dominant and give the song an edgy feel. Vocally, this was very strong.

This next song is a collaboration I thought would never happen: Namie joins forces with a Korean girl group on make it happen feat. AFTERSCHOOL. I’m not a huge fan of AFTERSCHOOL’s, but they make some very nice music and I can’t wait for their first Japanese release. This song has Namie written all over with AFTERSCHOOL only taking on the adlibbings and such, but the result is very nice. The music is very uptempo with fast paced synth riffs and a nice big chorus like BOOM.

ROCK U feat. Namie Amuro / ravex is taking this album to another dimension with some hard electropop; club ready beats and dominant synths. A bit repetitive, the music, but at least Namie’s vocodized vocals sound nice as always. It’s only a bit of a pity that I don’t know Namie like this, this song is very hardcore electropop and I can already tell it’s not gonna be one of my favorites if I’m not on a dancefloor. Otherwise, it’s very danceable and appealing.

Do What U Gotta Do feat. AI, Namie Amuro & Mummy-D / ZEEBRA features four different artists. ZEEBRA and Mummy-D do some nice opening raps in the first verse and while ZEEBRA has a very raw voice, Mummy-D’s is easier on the ears. Namie takes on the chorus and AI delivers a nice vocal performance in the second verse. Everyone gave it their best shot in this funky hip-pop hybrid, and the brassy elements give it a little extra spice.

I like Heartsdales, they’re two of the few rappers I actually like and they have a lot of swag in Wet’N Wild feat. SUITE CHIC / Heartsdales. SUITE CHIC is already a while ago for Namie, but she kicked it in the chorus with her softer vocals in contrast to the raw raps in the verses done by Jewels and Rum. Namie’s vocals are softer than nowadays, but she was a nice addition to this Heartsdales track. The music sounds very appealing with a nice handclap beat, random rap adlibbings by a male (from SUITE CHIC I guess) and a soothing guitar melody.

Do Or Die feat. Namie Amuro / JHETT opens in a very mysterious way, almost like we’re on a military base. The beats in this song are incredible, very deep and hard bass and finally Namie can be heard again. The chorus is the best part with the best vocals by Namie, she puts a lot of effort into her singing performance and I love the way she sings the title words.

The opening of FAKE feat. Namie Amuro / AI, and the rest of the song after that, is very in-your-face with a lot of attitude in both the music and the vocal performances by AI and Namie. The music is made up from percussion, sometimes a little tribal drum element here and there, synths, organs and brass instruments. This is one of my favorite songs on this album, it flows very well because of the constant attitude.

I have been waiting for something like #1 feat. Kaname Kawabata (CHEMISTRY), a midtempo song with a smooth and sexy feel to it. Kaname Kawabata’s vocals are surprisingly good and his and Namie’s blend together very well. The arrangements aren’t all that some of the time, but the song has a certain quality I do like.

BLACK OUT feat. Lil’ Wayne & Namie Amuro / VERBAL is the first song I heard of this album just a few weeks ago and it’s another very uptempo and agressive song. I wouldn’t have expected Namie to ever team up with Lil’ Wayne, but here it is folks. VERBAL’s rap is decent, he does a good job, but Lil’ Wayne is the real showstopper here, amazing as ever. Namie delivers the softer vocals for the song in the chorus, and the result is a great song with very nice synths and beats.

BLACK DIAMOND / DOUBLE & Namie Amuro is a song that takes the album back to the other side of agressive: heavy danceable beats and hot synths. DOUBLE is the weaker link here in my opinion, but the two of them sound better than expected. The musical arrangement is set to be very hot and I think this is Namie’s best known collaboration here. Not the best in my opinion, but I could get used to it.

Slowing down a bit with Luvotomy / m-floNamie Amuro which concentrates a lot on Namie’s vocals in the start, and she sounds very good. The relaxing ambience of the song suddenly disappears when beats and synths drop in and the song speeds up rapidly. VERBAL did a better job on his raps here than he did on BLACK OUT with them being very hot and filled with loads of attitude. The song is positively messy, and I seem to like it quite a bit.

Hmm… the first thing that pops in my mind with the intro to AFTER PARTY feat. Namie Amuro / ZEEBRA is ‘Lion King’, seriously. It’s the most relaxing song on the album and, how funny, the last one. The song has a tropical vibe to it with the xylophonish sounds throughout the song, but it doesn’t really have a highlight. It does get a little plus for being very original, unlike everything I ever heard.

I expected little from this album, but I was wrong. It’s actually a decent album with some nice collaborations on it and I agree with those who say this doesn’t really feel like a collaboration album at all. There are many musical styles on this album, varying from hip-pop to electropop and Namie worked with some very interesting and astounding people in the music business. I wouldn’t say this is the best album I ever heard, but it has its very strong points (as well as some minor lows). Some of Namie’s better songs appear to be collaborations, and she gave it her best shot here.

Favorite tracks: Wonder Woman | Do What U Gotta Do | Wet’N Wild | FAKE | #1 | BLACK OUT


4 stars

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