My iTunes library is overwhelmingly large and full of music that, quite frankly, I don’t want to listen to. It’s been that way since I was young, a time when my family of 5 shared a single desktop computer, with everyone’s music all in the same place. I always maintained a single playlist of all the music I actually wanted to listen to, a combination of new music I was jamming to, and old music that had made its way back into my regular listening rotation. As the music on the playlist changed throughout the years, one thing always remained constant: You could always find a Namie Amuro song to play.
My journey with Namie Amuro began with my discovery of anime. Like many people my age, “Inuyasha” was one of my original go-to series. If my parents would let me stay up late, I watched it. If I had to go to bed, I recorded it on a VCR to view the next day. If I missed an episode, I’d ask a friend to borrow their recording. I was obsessed. One of my first friends in high school was a guy who rode the bus with me. He loved “Inuyasha” too, and we bonded by discussing the series, who we wanted to see together, a new fan fiction that had us hooked, etc.
I am a gay man from a relatively small town who grow up in a time when it was significantly more difficult to be an LGBTQ individual. I had a lot of complex emotions that I didn’t understand, and I had no people I could talk to or resources to help make sense of the way I felt. Looking back now, I know I had a crush on that guy, but at the time, the idea that I could “like like” someone of the same sex… In my head it just didn’t compute, even though subconsciously I knew that was how I felt. I yearned for an emotional connection with another man. And that’s when “Inuyasha” introduced me to Namie Amuro’s “Come”.
“Come” is the 7th ending theme song for “Inuyasha” and was released as Amuro’s 24th single in 2003; however, I wasn’t introduced to the song until 2006 when the English dubbed episodes premiered in the United States. I was instantly hooked. The tinge of melancholy that peppered the song’s beautiful melody and Amuro’s vocal performance. Crying out for someone to “come my way” and “come close to me”. Letting someone know “I’ll be with you” when they’re in need. It all struck a chord and awakened a truth within me: I want to have a connection with a man. Much like the tone of the song however, I was filled with sadness as this desire was left unfulfilled.
Thankfully, being gay became easier as I learned and accepted more about myself. I grew to embrace the gay side of my personality and got comfortable in my own skin, but I still needed a spark to jump start my full potential. Then “NEW LOOK” came out. It was exactly what I needed during that time in my life to make me realize that I could have fun with who I am. It was freeing and liberating to witness Amuro strut around like the queen she is. It was inspirational to see Amuro being the fabulous, glamorous, fun girl I wanted to be. I strutted around my house emulating the way she moved and carried herself, wanting to be as fierce as she was. The glitz and the glamour on display was the breath of fresh air I didn’t even know I needed.
That music video changed me. I really can’t overstate how impactful the video was. It was like someone had given me permission to be myself. This was so vital to a young gay man who didn’t have anyone around to encourage him to blossom into a vivacious flower. I re-watched the video while writing this article, and it’s been a while since I’ve felt so excited to be alive and be me. I strutted around my office like I was Amuro herself. The empowerment I felt as a teen continues to flow through my veins.
Amuro was there as I grew to love myself. She was also there as I grew to love another man. In adulthood, I found that emotional connection I had been seeking since I was a teen. I first met the man I’d eventually call my partner during his last week in town before moving away. We met online, and despite our interest in each other, we thought it would be best not to meet. There was no chance it could go anywhere, and growing attached only to leave each other seemed like an invitation for heartache. We knew better than to put ourselves through that. But we ended up going on a couple dates anyway, and what do you know, we hit it off. When it was time for him to move, we said the goodbyes we didn’t want to say, and remembered each other fondly.
As luck would have it, about a year later, this guy moved back after finding a job. I had long moved past our brief flirtation, but the opportunity was there, and we reconnected. It was almost too good to be true. The man I had started falling for was back in my life. It was as though fate wanted to bring us together. We both threw caution to the wind and quickly fell in love. Being with him felt right. I was safe and secure in his arms. I was in bliss.
It was during this time that I felt a strong connection to Amuro again. Her song “Heaven” coincided with the development of my relationship and perfectly described the feelings I was experiencing. “Heaven is where you are”. Yes! Paradise, the perfect place to be, is wherever you are. Eternal happiness wouldn’t be possible without you with me. “I know you are the one, I know you are my love”. Yes! This is the real deal, this thing between my partner and I. He is my one and only. I will always associate this song with my partner, and I couldn’t think of a more fitting track to represent my feelings for him.
Amuro has been a part of my life through so many important moments. The power of music lies in its ability to evoke emotions and create connections to your past and to others. You can listen to a song and instantly be transported to a specific time and place in your life, with all associated feelings and emotions flooding back just as vividly as when you first experienced them. Amuro’s music is connected with profound, defining aspects of my life, making her someone that will always hold a special place in my heart.
Many people were devastated when Amuro announced that she will be retiring from the music industry in 2018. There is a deep, personal connection between Amuro and her fans. My story is just one of many that make up the fabric of why she’s so important. Her ability to develop such intense, intimate relationships is what elevated her to legendary status. She will be immortalized in the hearts of all of those that she’s touched.
What's your own experience with Namie Amuro? Let us know below, or send the author a tweet @Aysohmay to let him know your thoughts.