Checkmate! was Namie Amuro’s debut collaboration album. It was released on April 27, 2011 and debuted at no. 1 on the Oricon Weekly Charts with 252,889 copies sold. In all this album has sold over 442,876+ copies.
1. Wonder Woman (Amuro Namie feat. AI & Tsuchiya Anna)
2. UNUSUAL (Amuro Namie feat. Yamashita Tomohisa)
3. make it happen (Amuro Namie feat. AFTERSCHOOL)
4. ROCK U feat. Amuro Namie (ravex)
5. Do What U Gotta Do feat. AI, Amuro Namie & Mummy-D (ZEEBRA)
6. Wet’N Wild feat. SUITE CHIC (Heartsdales)
7. Do or Die feat. Amuro Namie (JHETT)
8. FAKE feat. Amuro Namie (AI)
9. #1 (Amuro Namie feat. Kawabata Kaname (CHEMISTRY))
10. BLACK OUT feat. Lil Wayne & Amuro Namie (VERBAL)
11. BLACK DIAMOND (DOUBLE & Amuro Namie)
12. Luvotomy (m-flo ♥ Amuro Namie)
13. AFTER PARTY feat. Amuro Namie (ZEEBRA)
14. WANT ME, WANT ME feat. VERBAL
This album was going to be released in late March, but due to the earthquake and tsunami disaster, it was pushed back to late April. It didn’t matter all that much since the majority of the tracks were already released, and the new ones leaked eventually. Some of these tracks are awesome, others I could care less about. The one thing I love about this album is that it shows just how popular Namie has become. I remember back in 2007 when she wasn’t all that popular, and I remember Play being released and her popularity started to skyrocket exponentially. I don’t really know of all that many collaboration albums that have reached no. 1 on the charts, the only collaboration album I remember is from Koda Kumi, and it didn’t sell nearly as many copies or do as well on the charts. The 4 new tracks didn’t hurt, and it is Namie after all, looks as though the queen has risen again, while an empress is slowly being dethroned.
Checkmate is an amazing album, if not for all the collaborations, then for the new tracks, most of which are just incredible.
The first new song is Wonder Woman, which features none other than the R&B songstress AI and the smoking hot Anna Tsuchiya. This song is one of Namie’s best songs in ages! It’s up-beat, backed mostly by percussion an electric guitar, and lovely vocals from all of the three lovely vixens. The vocals are just so impressive, the combination of the three is exhilarating, and there English isn’t bad either. Not only is the song catchy and memorable, but I really love the vocals, the layering is great.
Up next is UNUSUAL featuring Yamashita Tomohisa from NEWS. This is actually my favorite track from the album. It’s got a strong R&B vibe and it’s the perfect definition of a collaboration. The music is saturated with synth beats, powerful percussion, and some brass. The song has great flow, great transitions between vocals, and is just infectious overall. The chorus in particular was phenomenal, so energizing, and instantly memorable. The vocals of this song are just phenomenal, they go so well together, and their English is perfect. This song is sure to get you moving on the dance floor.
No matter what I do, whenever I think of make it happen, which featured AFTERSCHOOL, I can only help but think of a brothel or an escort service, listen to the lyrics. This song has a nice R&B feel, but isn’t nearly as dark as the previous track. The strings add a classical feel, while all of the synth adds a modern edge to it. This song is pretty catchy too, and hearing all of the different vocals was a nice, the change from Namie to one of the members of AFTERSCHOOL was refreshing. The song is up-beat and has a great beat, you can definitely dance to it. The English at some points could use some work, but everything else was fine. I loved the chorus, it was wonderful; it was catchy, sounded rather dirty, which is a plus, and I loved the harmony between them.
I was really looking forward to #1 because it features Kawabata Kaname. Sadly though, it was disappointing. There are some R&B influences, but I find it reminiscent of Hip-Hop at times, it sounds like they are rapping more than singing. I liked their vocals, they sounded great, but this song just sounded to bland to me. The beats are great, but there has to be more singing, and it has to be more memorable, I can’t even remember what I just heard, that’s how forgettable is is.
One of the other new tracks on the album is from VERBAL’s debut album. BLACKOUT is one hell of a song. This is Verbal’s song and features the queen Namie Amuro, and the American rapster Lil Wayne. As a college student, I can relate to this, which is both good and bad. Either way, this song is pretty good. It’s catchy, got some edgy beats, some R&B and Hip-Hop influences, and Weezy’s vocals are great, a bit evil sounding, but great. Kinda surprised that it was co-produced by Jermaine Dupri. Anyway, pretty sweet song, especially with Namie’s distorted vocals.
Everything else has already been featured in one place or another, so they get a quick review. ROCK U was one ravex’s debut album. This hot dance tune is characterized by choppy dance beats and an aggressive chorus that’s sure to get you moving. Do What U Gotta Do is more of an urban hip-hop track that oddly enough has a good amount of brass. Not too bad, it sounds classy somewhat. Wet’N Wild sounds more like some urban R&B American tracks than anything else. There’s some great English and fantastic beats and rockin’ guitar riffs; nothing special though. Do or Die sounds really epic, great jeavy beats and has a killer intro. The urban music mixed with her great vocals are a nice treat. At first, I couldn’t stand FAKE, but now I love it. All of the brass mixed with Namie and AI’s vocals are just amazing; it’s one of the most infectious collaborations, especially with all the R&B elements. BLACK DIAMOND was hot when it was released years ago and still is now. The FIERCEST collaboration ever IMO, sultry R&B beats mixed with electronic elements and distortions, pretty damn infectious. Featuring some lighter R&B elements, but still heavy on distortions is Luvotomy. The classic rapping from VERBAL and Namie’s vocals make for a nice combination. It’s kinda strange though to go from two different sounds and tempos, listen to the chorus and verse and you’ll see what I mean. Still catchy though, give it a shot. I wasn’t expecting AFTER PARTY to be so laid-back, but that’s exactly what it was. The beats were sleek and had almost a Caribbean quality to them. The vocals were nice, but the music never changed; quite boring IMO. So as it turns out, WANT ME, WANT ME is a hidden track on the album. It’s the same as the original, but it features a rap intro from VERBAL and some intertwining vocals. Still as sexy as it was back in 2005.
Although I was hoping for another new single or new album, this is just fine. This collaboration album is just what the doctor ordered. There are tons of hot collaborations on this album. You’re bound to like a few of the tracks, if not all. All of her more recent tracks are without a doubt the best songs on the album. I personally love this album because most of the tracks are catchy, R&B driven, and feature a variety of other elements that make each of the tracks stand out. There are some tracks that I don’t care for, but this is a concept album, and the album keeps to the concept. It has its ups and downs, but mostly ups. This will hold you over till her triple A-side in July.
UNUSUAL || Wonder Woman || make it happen || BLACK DIAMOND