Namie Amuro

Past < Future

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Following a relatively lean period for her popularity throughout the early 2000s, Namie Amuro continues her recent revival with Past < Future. Like all her recent material, the album remains firmly in the R&B groove that she has appropriated as her own over the past few years. Despite expanding her stable of songwriters and producers compared to her previous album, Play, there is nevertheless an air of sameness to Past < Future. On the plus side, however, that means that it eschews the slew of dreary ballads that tend to infect Japanese R&B albums, with only "My Love" and "The Meaning of Us" really allowing the tempo to dip noticeably below the tedium threshold, and even then only toward the end, as the album eases to a close. Elsewhere, opening track "Fast Car," produced by Swedish team Dsign Music, gets things off to a promising start, and "Steal My Night" is another highlight. Overall, Past < Future is a hard album to fault, and fans of the more mainstream end of Japanese R&B pop will find few more effective practitioners than Namie Amuro right now.