She returned to music in 1998 with the number-one single, "I Have Never Seen", but faced slowly declining sales. After unofficially severing ties with Tetsuya Komuro in 2001, Amuro joined Suite Chic, which would transform her from a pop idol to a R&B artist. Since reinventing herself, Amuro has achieved newfound interest. Her seventh studio album, "Play" (2007) debuted at the top of the charts and was followed by "60s 70s 80s" (2008), her first number-one single in 10 years.
Over a decade since her musical debut, Amuro has remained one of the longest surviving popular female acts in Japan. She is the only Japanese female artist to have achieved a Top 10 single each year for 14 consecutive years. She also continues to successfully combat social stigma as a divorced, working, single mother. On July 30, 2008, Amuro released her first greatest hits album, Best Fiction, since transitioning to R&B music. It spent six consecutive weeks at the number-one position on Japan's Oricon weekly charts, and was elected as "the best album of the year" at the 50th Japan Record Awards. From 2008 to 2009, she toured Japan to promote the album. It was estimated that she played to an audience as high as 400,000, potentially the largest audience of her career.
Early Life and Career
Namie Amuro was born in Naha, Okinawa, raised solely by her mother, Emiko Taira, as she had divorced when Amuro was 4 years old. Taira worked as a nursery school employee and bar hostess to support her four children. Through her mother's side, Amuro is one quarter Italian. While she did not have ambitions to become a performer early in life—dreaming instead of becoming a flight attendant—she was discovered at age 12, while visiting a friend, by Masayuki Makino, the owner of Okinawa Actors School, a performing arts school. Amuro eventually joined the school; after only two years of study, Makino placed her in an idol group called Super Monkey's with five other girls. A year after its September 1992 debut on Toshiba-EMI, the group relocated to Tokyo despite Emiko Taira's disapproval.
The Super Monkey's were largely unsuccessful and constantly changed members. They changed their group name to "Namie Amuro with Super Monkeys" in 1994 to reflect Amuro's individual rising popularity. Aside from group activities, she had bit parts in television dramas and small films. "Try Me: Watashi o Shinjite", produced by Italian eurobeat producer Dave Rodgers and Max Matsuura, was released on January 25, 1995, peaking at the number-eight position and charting for 25 weeks on the Oricon chart. The other four members of the Super Monkey's formed their own group, MAX, under the Avex Trax label. Amuro released two more solo singles under Toshiba-EMI before moving to Avex Trax herself.
1995-1997: Commercial Success
Amuro's debut single under Avex, "Body Feels Exit", was released in October 1995 after she switched record labels. The single was the first produced from her working relationship with producer Tetsuya Komuro. A second Komuro-produced single, "Chase the Chance" was released two months later. It became her first number-one, million-selling single. She won the Golden Arrow Award 1995.
In the first half of 1996, Amuro accumulated million-selling singles - "Don't Wanna Cry" and "You're My Sunshine". Her studio album Sweet 19 Blues, released on July 22, 1996, was a commercial success, selling over three million units. Amuro's popularity increased as well: she became a fashion icon, starting a trend called Amuraa characterized by tanned skin, dyed hair, miniskirts and boots. On November 27, 1996, she released the single "A Walk in the Park", which also sold over a million copies. At the end of 1996, Amuro won the Grand Prix Award, the highest honor at the Japan Record Awards, for her song "Don't Wanna Cry", making her the youngest artist to have won the award. She made Okinawa more popular in Japan and many people from Okinawa such as Speed followed her. The members of Speed said that the Okinawa Actors School was changed by her influence.
Amuro's first single of 1997, "Can You Celebrate?", eventually sold 2.29 million copies, making it the best-selling single by a solo female artist in Japan. That year, after the release of another single, "How to Be a Girl", and a second album, Concentration 20, Amuro toured Japan's four domes in the summer. On August 3 of that year, the sales of Amuro's records reached 20 million.
In the fall, Amuro announced at a press conference that she had married Masaharu Maruyama (also known as Sam of the band TRF), and was three months pregnant. At the end of the year, she won the Grand Prix Award at the Japan Record Awards again for "Can You Celebrate?" and made her final appearance on Kouhaku Uta Gassen before beginning her one-year hiatus from the music industry.
1998–2001: Personal joy and professional struggles
In May 1998, Amuro gave birth to her son, Haruto. She returned to the music industry with the release of "I Have Never Seen" (December 1998). She made her first televised appearance on Kouhaku Uta Gassen days later, performing a tearful rendition of her hit "Can You Celebrate?". On the Oricon Weekly Chart, the new single debuted at the top position. However, at that time new singer-songwriter Hikaru Utada was revolutionizing the Japanese music industry, and Amuro began to re-focus her career.
Amuro's following single, "Respect the Power of Love", was released on March 17, 1999; on the same day, news broke out that her mother had been murdered in Okinawa. Upon hearing the news, Amuro canceled her promotional schedule and flew back to Okinawa in order to identify her mother's body. A week later, the single debuted at the number-two position, being beaten out by "Dango 3 Kyodai". A third comeback single, "Toi et Moi", was used for the Japanese animation movie Pokémon: The Movie 2000.
The following single "Something 'bout the Kiss" featured production by American Hip-hop/R&B producer Dallas Austin. Austin, along with longtime producer Tetsuya Komuro, produced her first album since her hiatus, Genius 2000, released in January 2000. The album still debuted at the number-one position on the Oricon weekly chart. She spent the first half of 2000 touring in support of the Genius 2000 album. After the tour, she released a single, "Never End", in July. The single was used as part of the G8 summit taking place in Okinawa, Japan that year. It was commissioned by late Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, who asked Tetsuya Komuro to write a song conveying "a vision of harmony and interaction in the world in the 21st century". Obuchi later asked Amuro to perform the single at the summit.
Amuro's next studio album Break the Rules, released on December 20, 2000, was not able to top the Oricon weekly charts, peaking at the number-two position. Starting in March, 2001, Amuro toured Japan in support of Break the Rules; the tour ended in May. In August, Amuro released the single "Say the Word". For the first time, she wrote the lyrics herself. The single also unofficially marked an end to the working relationship between her and longtime producer Tetsuya Komuro. However, in December she worked with Komuro for the last time on a "Lovin' It", a single released as part of Avex's Song+Nation charity project. The single featured hip-hop artist VERBAL of the group M-Flo.
2002–2006: Decline in sales and popularity
On March 13, 2002, she released her new greatest hits album Love Enhanced Single Collection, but the songs were re-arranged from those original versions. In July 2002, Amuro was divorced from Maruyama. On September 11, 2002, "Wishing on the Same Star", written by Diane Warren, was released, peaking at the number-two position on the oricon weekly chart. The song was originally sung by Keedy in 1991.
From December 2002, fully immersed into the Japanese R&B scene releasing music in the musical project Suite Chic, she collaborated with several of Japan's popular hip hop and R&B artists such as Verbal, Zeebra, Dabo and DJ Muro. They released two singles, an original album and one remix album before ending the project in 2003. She later said that after the project she had begun to do what she had wanted to do.
Amuro returned to solo activities on her own with the single "Shine More", released on March 6, 2003. The subsequent single "Put 'Em Up", released on July 16, 2003, was produced by Dallas Austin. On October 16, 2003, the double a-side single "So Crazy / Come" was released. "So Crazy" was written by American R&B producers Full Force. "Come", used for the Japanese anime InuYasha, was a re-arranged song from Sophie Monk. At the end of the year, she released her first original studio album in three years, Style.
From November 29, 2003 to April 11, 2004, she performed on the Namie Amuro So Crazy Tour Featuring Best Singles 2003-2004. In May, she also toured Taipei, Taiwan and Seoul, South Korea. Shortly after the tour, she released the ballad "All for You"; this was followed by the double A-side single "Girl Talk / The Speed Star", released on October 14, 2004. The single debuted at the top position on the Oricon daily chart and reached the number-two position for the week, making it her first Top 3 single in two years.
At the end of 2004, Amuro chose not to appear on Kohaku Uta Gassen though she had been invited to perform at the event. She had previously attended the coveted event nine years in a row. Amuro explained that while she wished to regain popularity, she did not want to "force" herself on the public anymore.
Following the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake disaster in Southeast Asia, Amuro participated as the only Japanese representative at MTV Asia Aid in February 2005. She donated ¥10 million (approximately USD$90,000) to UNICEF for children who were affected by the disaster.
On April 6, 2005, she released the single "Want Me, Want Me". The song was a well-received hit at home debuting at the number-two position. In May 2005, following a three year split from her former husband Sam, it was reported that she would take back full custody of their child, Haruto. In August, it was reported that she officially did that.
On May 29 of that year, she performed at the MTV Video Music Awards Japan for the fourth consecutive year in a row. She received two awards, "Best R&B Video" and "Most Impressive Performing Asian Artist", making the first artist to receive awards four years in a row at the MTV Video Music Awards Japan. She took home the "Inspiration Award Japan" in 2002, "Best Collaboration" in 2003, "Best R&B Video" for 2004, and 2005 as well as "Most Impressive Performing Asian Artist" in 2005.
On July 13, 2005, she released her sixth original studio album, Queen of Hip-Pop. In collaboration with MGM Studios, Amuro used the Pink Panther character in the album; a female panther counterpart was created for the album as well. When the album was completed, Amuro said that she had not been able to sing the songs very well yet.
In September 2005, Amuro held her seventh national tour, Space of Hip-Pop. Shortly after the start of her tour, she announced that she would contribute to the Japanese theaterical release of Sin City. After viewing the movie, Amuro made an offer to the Japanese distribution company to sing its theme song; the company, feeling that her image fit the movie, accepted her offer. Director Robert Rodriguez was impressed by the song and asked to be a part of it; he can be heard saying "Welcome to Sin City" towards the end of the song. The theme song, "Violet Sauce", was later released as part of a double A-side single, "White Light/Violet Sauce", on November 16, 2005. Shortly after the single, she released Filmography 2001-2005 a compilation of twelve of her music videos from 2001 to 2005.
Amuro collaborated with Zeebra, AI, and Mummy-D on Zeebra's album The New Beginning, released on February 15, 2006, in a song called "Do What U Gotta Do". On May 17, she released the double A-side single "Can't Sleep, Can't Eat, I'm Sick/Ningyo", which debuted at the number-two position on the oricon weekly chart. In August 2006, she began her tour Namie Amuro Best Tour "Live Style 2006". On September 17, she performed to an audience of 12,000 at Yoyogi National Stadium in Tokyo, Japan. She stated that she would do the performance greater than ever before in 2007.
2007–present: Revived popularity
Amuro's next single, "Baby Don't Cry", released on January 24, 2007, was used as the theme song of a Japanese Drama Himitsu no Hanazono. On the oricon weekly chart, "Baby Don't Cry" debuted at the number-three position and she achieved a Top 10 single each year for 13 consecutive years, breaking the solo female artist's record in Japan by Kyōko Koizumi and Shizuka Kudō. It sold over a million ringtone digital downloads and was ranked at number seven on the RIAJ 2007 yearly ringtone sales charts. Amuro's 32nd single, "Funky Town", was released on April 4, 2007. She was also featured on M-Flo's album, Cosmicolor, in a song titled "Luvotomy".
Her seventh studio album, Play, was released on June 27, 2007. The album includes 12 songs, four of which are single tracks. The album was said to reflect Amuro's new style, and featured a rock number, and a chic slow song. One of her new songs, "Top Secret" was used as the theme song of the drama series Prison Break Season 2 in Japan. Play took the number-one spot on the Oricon Weekly Chart Rankings, becoming her first number-one album in more than 7 years, with her last number-one occurring in 2000 with her album, Genius 2000. It is also her fourth studio album to reach the number-one position. Play spent two consecutive weeks at the number-one position. From August 18, 2007, to February 27, 2008, she performed her concert tour in Japan Namie Amuro Play Tour 2007-2008 which consisted initially of 53 performances but was increased by 12 performances to 65 performances, making this her biggest tour in terms of number of performances by far.
Amuro's first single of 2008, released on March 12, was an image song for the new Vidal Sassoon marketing campaign Fashion x Music x VS. The title of her new single was confirmed to be "60s 70s 80s", and contained three songs - "New Look", "Rock Steady", and "What A Feeling". These songs have a modern twist from the '60s, '70s, and '80s. The single debuted at the number-two position on the oricon weekly charts with over 114,000 copies sold. In the second week the single gained the number-one spot for that week, making it her first number-one single after 9 years and 3 months since "I Have Never Seen". According to Oricon, "60s 70s 80s" sold nearly 300,000 copies.
On March 25, 2008, Amuro has won the prize for "Best Female Video" for "Hide & Seek" at Space Shower TV music video awards 08. "Hide & Seek" also won the prize for "Best R&B Video" at the MTV Video Music Awards Japan 2008 which was conducted at the Saitama Super Arena on May 31. In May 2008, Amuro also recorded a collaboration with Double in a song called "Black Diamond". On the ringtone download sales chart, it earned double-platinum certification by the Recording Industry Association of Japan. On July 26, about 25,000 people attended the a-nation '08 and saw her performance. This was the first time she was invited to perform on it in seven years. On July 31, she took part in Double's concert.
Amuro released her third greatest hits album Best Fiction on July 30, 2008. It featured all her singles from 2002's "Wishing on the Same Star" to the recently released "60s 70s 80s". It also featured two new songs, "Sexy Girl" and "Do Me More". "Sexy Girl" was the theme song for NHK drama Otome no Punch that aired on June 19, and the other called "Do Me More" was the campaign song for Vidal Sassoon. Best Fiction sold 681,000 copies on the first week and debuted at the number-one position on the oricon weekly charts. Within its third week, Best Fiction outsold a million copies, and Amuro became the only artist who produced million-selling albums in the oricon chart for three decades of her teens, 20s, and 30s. Best Fiction eventually spent six consecutive weeks at the number-one position, becoming the first album to do so in more than 14 years since the Dreams Come True's 1993 album Magic.
Best Fiction became the second best-selling album behind Exile's Exile Love on the Oricon 2008 yearly album charts. In addition, it became the second best selling digital-format album by Japanese artists behind Hikaru Utada's Heart Station on the iTunes yearly album charts in Japan. Best Fiction won the award for "the best album of the year" at the 50th Japan Record Awards.
On October 25, 2008, Amuro also started a tour called Namie Amuro Best Fiction tour 2008-2009 at the Makuhari Messe. NHK invited her to the 59th NHK Kōhaku Uta Gassen, but Amuro declined.
On January 20, 2009, Sanspo officially announced a new Vidal Sassoon CM featuring Amuro, featuring a song from her entitled, "Dr." Her 34th solo single, "Wild/Dr." was announced on January 21, which was a double A-side single released March 18, 2009. Wild was used in a commercial starring Amuro for Coke Zero entitled "Wild Health". On release, it became her 11th #1 single and second consecutive after 60s 70s 80s. She also broke her own record of having all of her singles debut in the Top 10 (on the daily charts) for the last 15 years. Amuro collaborated with ravex on a song for their album trax. The song is called [ROCK U feat. 安室奈美恵] and was released as a radio single. As of June 2009, rumor has began about the releasing of a summer single with ties to McDonald's. A commercial has been shot for the Quarter Pounder with the tag line being "Big Mouth". On October 1, 2009, hairstyling company Vidal Sassoon released new commercials featuring Amuro and two tracks from her expected album, "My Love" and "Copy That."
Namie released her ninth studio album, Past
On May 18, 2010, Amuro attended the World Music Awards, receiving an award for "Best Selling Artist from Asia", and also performed "Hide & Seek". The show will be aired on June 06, 2010 on ABC.
On Tuseday, June 1st, 2010, Namie sent all her fans a relese date on her next single. Her next single will be "Break It/Get Myself Back" and it will be relesed on July 28, 2010.