Namie Amuro

Sweet 19 Blues

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Sweet 19 Blues Review

by Ted Mills

Amuro's debut album came almost presold; four of its songs had already been number one hits in Japan's Oricon charts, all before the teen idol had hit her 19th birthday. (The melancholic passing of another sweet year of youth -- a particularly Japanese obsession -- was the subject of the album title and accompanying song.) But instead of packaging the existing songs with filler, producer/svengali Tetsuya Komuro turned in a brilliantly produced pop album, adding some slinky dance numbers that could have been singles in their own right, and revamping the singles "Body Feels Exit," "Chase the Chance," "Don't Wanna Cry," and "You Are My Sunshine" with remixes, new arrangements, or extended jams. For those used to the Euro-techno of the singles, the relative sophistication of the Steely Dan-isms and late-'70s jazz-soul of "I'll Jump" and "I Was a Fool" came as a shock. The maturity shown here had a close correlation to Janet Jackson, who similarly shed her young image overnight. Amuro's voice is limited, but she never goes beyond her reach or sounds like a little girl lost in an adult's arrangement. Listenable -- and danceable -- from beginning to end, any 19-year-old pop wunderkind couldn't ask for anything more. The album went on to sell 3.6 million copies in its first week, unprecedented for a Japanese act, and secured a place in Jpop history.

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