PLAY was Namie Amuro’s 7th studio album. It was released on June 27, 2007 and reached no. 1 on the Oricon Charts with 250,619 copies sold. This was Namie’s first no. 1 album since Genius 2000, which was released 7 years ago. PLAY was a comeback album for Namie in so many ways. Not only was it her first number 1 album in nearly 7 long years but it remained number 1 the second week with over 90,000+ copies sold. In all PLAY has sold over 516,000+ copies, more than her last studio album Queen of Hip-Pop. This is also my favorite album from Namie Amuro to date. And another little piece of information: some of the A-Sides weren’t used like Ningyo and White Light, the same goes with the B-Sides like Nobody and Darling.
1. Hide & Seek
2. Full Moon
3. CAN’T SLEEP, CAN’T EAT, I’M SICK
4. It’s all about you
5. FUNKY TOWN
6. Step With It
8. Should I Love Him?
9. Top Secret
10. Violet Sauce (Spicy)
11. Baby Don’t Cry
12. Pink Key
Opening the album is the elusive Hide & Seek. At first the blaring marching band, the brass and percussion, is heard. Following though is some intense synth lines followed by some great R&B beats. Her vocals are distorted during the verses, which sounds absolutely incredible. However during the chorus her vocals are full of energy and power, pretty impressive in my opinion. And just about every part of this song was catchy and infectious. The beats kept the song interesting and the melody was just amazing. I was surprised just how much English was used in the song too, particularly during the chorus. And while it was good, it could have been a little better. But I honestly have to say that this is Namie’s best opener ever!
Following is the infectiously eerie Full Moon. The sound of a gong kicks off this song, followed by some ominous yet eerie music. Namie’s vocals were amazing as usual, although completely different from her previous song. The chorus was incredible and sounded great, but a little funny with “midnight cruise, before the typhoon, and somebody needs somebody.” The constant snaps sounded very R&B and were a great touch. You can even hear a wolf howling for a few seconds, it makes the song better. The song then ends with the final chorus along with that constant beat and eerie music. Creepy yet still awesome.
On the lighter side of things is CAN’T SLEEP, CAN’T EAT, I’M SICK. This song is known mostly for the addictive beats and thumping percussion section. This song is pretty up-beat and features an awesome array of brass instrumentals. Namie’s vocals were so amazing, especially during the verses when she sang in Japanese. As for the song itself, well I have to say that it was extremely catchy. I guess that’s what a good melody can do. This brass R&B perfection can be read here.
Breaking the up-beat trend is the rockin’ It’s all about you. This song is actually pretty rock oriented with the electric guitar and percussion.I can honestly say that I really didn’t enjoy this song all that much. Namie’s vocals weren’t all that excellent, a little too fast and too angry. I really couldn’t get into the song, especially with the distortions. The English really didn’t help all that much either. It’s the least memorable song on the album.
The energetic FUNKY TOWN is up next. It’s a nice R&B song with a bit of pop. The lyrics were a little humorous but it’s all good. The blaring brass and the whistles were pretty good, although a little annoying after a while. Namie’s vocals were good, but could have been better. What I loved the most was without a doubt the cartoon sound effects, really funny yet great at the same time. Click here for the review of FUNKY TOWN.
Another one of the R&B songs on the album is Step With It. It’s pretty R&B oriented but there are some nice synth riffs which really make it interesting. The beats are interesting but still nice. I have to admit that her vocals were actually pretty good, the English could have been better but the Japanese was great. I do like how this song sounded but I couldn’t get into it. I think I need a few more listens.
The second promotional song on the album is the dance oriented Hello. As mentioned, it’s more dance oriented than anything else. Most of the song involves the telephone in some way or another, whether it be ringing in the background or in the PV. There are some great synth beats and awesome synth music with the occasional R&B feel. The vocal distortions were nice and pretty great, one of the more interesting qualities of the song. The melody was great and very catchy. The chorus was catchy as well and pretty impressive. A great promotional track.
Should I Love Him? is in my opinion almost like a R&B ballad. And while I loved the piano and the beats I still found it to be a little bland. What I really enjoyed though were Namie’s vocals, which sounded genuine and beautiful, although a little on the deeper side. I can honestly say that it’s a nice song, it just doesn’t peak my interest.
Getting a little on the naughty side is Top Secret. The opening line is “I wanna taste you tonight, Hit me.” Yet despite that it’s an amazing song. Lots of English but still so good. The music is so fantastic and matched the lyrics and the melody so perfectly. The chorus is superb and so so addictive. The mixture of percussion and brass is an intense combination that’s perfect for any R&B song. This is one of her more adult songs consequently, but that really doesn’t matter. It was originally my favorite song on the album, until I played Hide & Seek. And it’s a little guilty pleasure of mine, and it could be yours too.
I honestly wasn’t expecting to see a Spicy version of Violet Sauce. There is an overwhelming difference in the song, mostly the more powerful guitar arrangement and better music. The chorus here was so amazingly catchy, long but catchy. This was also placed on the album instead of the other A-Side entitled White Light, a holiday song. The new rock instrumentals were greatly needed and incredible. Here is the review for Violet Sauce.
Still one of Namie’s best songs to date is Baby Don’t Cry. The R&B music is a bit on the light side but I really enjoy it still. The snaps were perfect in keeping with the melody and tune. The light synth lines were great and really crucial to the song. The chorus was phenomenal in terms of vocals and catchiness. The verses were so great too, surprisingly catchy too. Baby Don’t Cry has been reviewed here.
Closing the album is Pink Key. It’s another wonderful up-beat song from Namie that has such a lovely feeling with it. There was some tie-in with a magazine if I’m not mistaken, so that could be a reason why it’s so popular. There are some great R&B beats and the music is pretty fast paced. The song has some great pop elements too, making it pretty catchy. Namie’s vocals were great as always and especially in this song they were amazing, especially with the background vocals. I loved how there was even some English in this song. This is such an amazing closer for Namie’s 7th studio album.
Overall Review: PLAY is by far one of Namie’s best works in years. It has a little of her adult style music here along with her older, more sweeter style. I can see why it reached number 1 on the charts just after a few simple listens. Most of the songs were fantastic and some others, not so. Clearly the voice distortions are a nice touch to this album as they gave it a more modern feel. Some of the new songs on the album were great too. Such an amazing album!
Final Grade: 95A