Namie Amuro – break the rules

July 26, 2018 at 12:22 PM | Posted in Namie Amuro | Leave a comment

breaktherules1ALBUM REVIEW
Namie Amuro – break the rules

1. RULE 8AM
2. no more tears
3. better days
4. break the rules
5. LOOKING FOR YOU
6. PLEASE SMILE AGAIN (Album Mix)
7. never shoulda
8. CROSS OVER (Album Mix)
9. GIRLFRIEND
10. NEVER END (Album Mix)
11. think of me
12. RULE 8PM
13. HimAWArI
14. no more tears REMIX

♦ ♦ ♦

breaktherules2break the rules is the fourth album by Japanese singer Namie Amuro, released on December 20, 2000. The album reached #2 on the Oricon charts, making it Namie’s first album not to reach #1. Yet it sold 334,520 copies and was certified platinum.

RULE 8AM is basically recordings of Namie in an American supermarket. Kind of unnecessary.

no more tears is the first full length track and I’m actually glad this opens the album! Since I reviewed the single yesterday it remained stuck in my head, especially the chorus. This song also shows how much Namie’s vocals have improved. It could have been a bit shorter, but I still enjoyed every bit of it (the last 2 minutes are best).

I like the arrangement in better days, the plucked strings make it a lighthearted and the overall vibe is very laid back. This is probably why Namie herself sounds very much at ease, songs like this one complimented her voice best at the time. The more I listen to it, the more I like it.

The title track, break the rules, is quite interesting. The rap parts are like a throwback to the old Namie, only with better vocal control. It’s sassy and Namie knows how to handle it, but the one thing she can’t do is pronounce the title words right (‘break the lures‘?). The previous two songs were much better, but this isn’t a disaster so to speak.

LOOKING FOR YOU is Namie’s first song that is entirely in English, which makes it easier for me haha. It shows a different side of her and I must say I’m impressed with the way she handles it. It’s nice and catchy and I think this could really grow on me after a few listens.

After a couple of breezy R&B songs, PLEASE SMILE AGAIN (Album Mix) is more edgy with the electric guitars and loud percussion. I still don’t like the haunting strings that appear throughout the songs, but when I ignore them this is actually a good track. Doesn’t really have a highlight, but the placing on the album already does it more justice than the single.

never shoulda is one of the new tracks and it fits well after PLEASE SMILE AGAIN since it continues that edgier sound. But where the previous song is more pop/rock, this is more R&B. It’s decent, but to me there is a misfit between the verses and the chorus, a completely different sound.

breaktherules3CROSS OVER (Album Mix) was paired with PLEASE SMILE AGAIN on the latter song’s single release. I like the melodies in this one and Namie sounds very confident. The arrangement tends to be all over the place at times, but somehow it works and it makes this better than its A-side PLEASE SMILE AGAIN. Nice detail: an uncredited male rapper fills up the space around 3:30 minutes that was left empty in the single version.

Somehow in GIRLFRIEND someone thought it was a good idea for Namie to sing in a very high voice. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but in this case it’s borderline nagging. Which is a shame because it could have been a very nice song but the way Namie uses her voice kind of ruins it.

I was kind of disappointed to hear that NEVER END (Album Mix) is more like the single’s radio edit instead of the original mix, which had more Japanese elements in it, but it’s still by far one of the best tracks on the entire album. It’s incredibly catchy, the arrangement has a lot of body and Namie nailed the vocals on this one. Highlight of the album, if not her early career as a whole.

It makes sense that think of me would be placed behind NEVER END, it fits very well. I’m still a bit baffled that they didn’t polish her vocals on this one, but that put aside this is a beautiful ballad with a lot of potential. The arrangement is among the best on the album, but her vocals haven’t been this bad before. I actually feel a bit embarrassed for her.

RULE 8PM, again unnecessary, so what if the girl goes to a store.

There is a nice bounce to HimAWArI that I like, but that’s probably where the liking stops. Namie’s vocals are way too loud and it’s like she can’t control what she’s doing. To me it sounds like she’s at some bad karaoke club and she’s trying her best to sing well, but sometimes she’s almost off key.

I believe the no more tears REMIX is basically an extended version of the club dub that was featured on the single release, but that was already a long track and now it’s a whopping 9 minutes long. However, it does feature more vocals which was what was missing from the club dub! A little side note: this album was released before said single, so basically it’s the other way around and they shortened this remix and edited out some of the vocals, but I reviewed them in reverse order (on purpose) which explains my point of view. Anyway, I really enjoyed this remix and I’m glad they put it on the album.

I was anxious at first to pick up where I left off over 5 years ago when I was last reviewing Namie’s discography. Her first three albums weren’t that good; most of the songs sounded the same and Namie had to take some singing lessons. She lost a lot of fans to Ayumi Hamasaki and Utada Hikaru, but maybe that opened her eyes. She traded long time producer Tetsuya Komuro for American producer Dallas Austin and her singing improved, and the result is this album that is by far much better than her previous ones! But hey, it’s quite easy to top the disaster that ‘GENIUS 2000’ was.

Favorite songsno more tears | better days | PLEASE SMILE AGAIN (Album Mix) | CROSS OVER (Album Mix) | NEVER END (Album Mix)

OVERALL RATING
starstarstarhalfstarblankstar
3½ stars

breaktherules4

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