By Paris365 on June 27, 2012

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For years, Namie Amuro was always ahead of the curve. She was mixing pop and hip hop long before any of her peers and she truly was the Queen Of Hip Pop, as one of her albums was called. More importantly, her songs always sounded like they were ahead of their time production-wise. They were always fresh and sometimes even futuristic. And she was never afraid to experiment. Sure, her brand of pop was always more mainstream than artsy -- nobody's saying she was Bjork or Tori Amos -- but she tried new things and constantly reinvented herself, not unlike Madonna.

I've been a fan of Namie since the beginning. Even today, I can still listen to her older albums like Sweet 19 Blues and Genius 2000 and be impressed. So I really hate to have to deliver this news, but Uncontrolled is truly awful. It's the sort of horrifically bad album that can kill a career.

I should have seen this coming when she released her last few singles, which all appear here, and they weren't very impressive. But, still, I thought the album would frame those songs in a new light and I'd somehow find myself able to appreciate them. Or, at the very least, I figured that the new songs would be amazing and make up for the lackluster singles. Unfortunately, the singles are even more frustrating as compiled here and the new songs aren't terribly impressive either.

One of the problems I'm having with Uncontrolled is that at least half of the lyrics are in English. Maybe Namie's lyrics have always been generic like this, but, not knowing Japanese, that was never an issue for me. Now that she's singing so much in English it's become painstakingly obvious just how generic her lyrics are. Take "GO ROUND ('N ROUND'ROUND)," for example. "By the way I can't help it, by the way I don't care," she sings. Then she asks her lover, "how many times you gonna let me love you?" In "NAKED," she sings, "naked, naked, take it off." Love and sex make the world go around, sure, but these lyrics are just so bland. J-Lo has better lyrics. And the beats aren't any more impressive. These songs sound like any random dance pop songs. The sort of beats any producer du jour could whip up in fifteen minutes without even giving it much thought. Namie deserves better than this. Her fans deserve better than this.

Another thing about the lyrics here -- they make Namie seem conceited. In "Sit! Stay! Wait! Down!" she takes on something of a dominatrix persona and talks to a boy as if he's her dog. I suppose that much is original, but it's quite ridiculous. Besides, if a guy sang this song, talking to a girl like she was a dog, people would be outraged. It would probably kill his career and turn all of his female fans against him. But since Namie is a female we're supposed to take it as some brilliant role reversal or otherwise be turned on by it? Sorry, I just found it slightly disturbing and extremely boring. "Hot Girls" makes Namie's ego seem over-inflated, too. "Hot girls make the world, the world go round - hey just admit it," she sings. That might be true in some respects but it's an elitist thing to brag about. Here's Namie, one of the most beautiful women in the world, saying that hot girls make the world turn. Talk about putting oneself on a pedestal. And it's kind of insulting to women who aren't hot.

Even the couple of half-decent songs on Uncontrolled seem like they could have been a lot better in another producer's hands, or if their producers had fleshed them out more. Take "In The Spotlight (TOKYO)," for example. This one is entirely in English but the lyrics aren't terrible. "I feel alive and tonight's my night, I've got nothing to hide, I'll dance in the spotlight," she sings. Maybe it's a little generic but it's inspiring and it fits the feel good beat, which is half hip hop and half pop. Unfortunately, the beat isn't loud enough to qualify it as a banger. If the beat was a little heavier, and higher in the mix, it could have been quite the propulsive tune. Also, there are little flourishes of synth but they're pretty drowned out in the mix. If there was more synth, and if it was louder in the mix, it would have made the song jump out at you that much more, giving your ears more candy to munch on. "Break It" is another song that could have been better if there was more to it. It's got a punchy beat, but it's pretty low in the mix and it could use a bit more bass. And it could have really soared with some strings or horns. As it is, it just feels very run-of-the-mill, like any random dance pop song, certainly not one by the Queen Of Hip Pop. "Let's Go" is even worse because it doesn't even sound like any random dance pop song released today -- it sounds like a random dance pop song from the 90s. Also, the bridge is catchy enough but the chorus just falls flat.

Ultimately, there's only one song on Uncontrolled that I found to be flawless and that's the final song, an epic ballad called "Tempest." It starts off with Namie simply singing softly over piano but then it builds into something magnificent, taking on a bit of an anthemic vibe that calls to mind Whitney Houston's "The Greatest Love Of All." -Michael McCarthy

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