Translated by CLAUDIA
People with talent are often suprisingly nonchalant about their talent. Until now, although her dance has caused a sensation, she spoke of it only very rarely. This issue we close in on ‘Big Artist Amuro Namie’s undeniable talent as a dancer.
For my singles I release the songs where I can imagine myself singing and dancing the moment I hear the demo tape.
Q. Lately there’s been a much stronger R&B flavor to your songs. Was it your work last year as SUITE CHIC that influenced this?
A. It was a big influence, yes. But to tell the truth, I’d wanted to do R&B or hip-hop since awhile before that. Those feelings grew stronger and stronger from about the time I released ‘Say the Word’, the year before last. Then, just when I was talking about that with the staff, I was brought the issue of the Charity Concert Komuro-san was working on. So, I became involved with that, and when I thought about who I’d like to work with….People that do R&B or Hip-hop tend to have a stronger message in their work, and it’s easier to accept it, and also I’d wanted to work together anyway, so I collaborated with VERBAL-san. And that continued in SUITE CHIC, where I asked many artists to work with me. And then when I returned to my solo work as Amuro Namie, I decided that I wanted to keep the same kind of flow in my solo work, to really make use of the experiences I’d had in SUITE CHIC to do what I wanted to in such a variety of forms.
Q. You said that in SUITE CHIC the people you worked with made you aware of sides of yourself that you hadn’t known about before.
A. After all other people’s image of Amuro Namie is different than the image I have of myself. So a lot of different people brought me a lot of different types of songs which they thought would be interesting if I sung them. And then when I tried doing them, I realized, “Oh, this kind of thing is interesting too.” That kind of thing. Before, I had a pretty soft image, but it might become hard, or flirty. In terms of the flavour of the song, or lyrics as well.
Q. Is that why recently your lyrics have become so fast?
A. Ahaha…They definately are fast lately.
Q. Not just the speed of the lyrics, but the sound of the music as well has changed to R&B style; Did it excite you, like you’ve lept into a different world?
A. It did, quite a bit. It’s fun to tell people what you want to do, and do those things. However, with things that others have brought to you, at first there’s a bit of hesitation, but you can end up discovering parts of yourself you never knew about, so that was a lot of fun as well.
Q. Did you search for those members?
A. We decided the producers in talks with the staff, and the artists, such as ZEEBRA-san, AI-chan, and VERBAL-san were all people that I said I wanted to work with.
Q. What did you think when you heard the first demo-tape?
A. There were so many different types of songs, even I myself wondered how it would all work out.
Q. Well the, what did you think the first time you heard your newest solo single, ‘SO CRAZY’?
A. I got an image of how it would be right away. I could imagine myself on stage, made up and in costume, singing and dancing to it. I’ve been doing this for awhile, but I usually make into singles the songs that the first time I hear them, I get an idea like ‘I want dance like this!’.
Q. So you have songs that didn’t get used?
A. Quite a few. For example, songs that I just couldn’t see myself dancing to.
Q. Is that something you know as soon as you hear a song once?
A. For the most part.
Q. Do you ever have songs that you thought wouldn’t work at first, but then got better?
A. Well….there have been times when the staff would say to me, ‘This would definately be great! Try and give it another listen!’, and as I listened to it again I thought, “Well, maybe it would work if I sung it wearing this kind of outfit….”
Q. But you decided this one right off the bat?
A. That’s right.
Q. Speaking of which, what was the image you had the first time you listened to ‘SO CRAZY’?
A. Um….I can’t really explain. It’s something I imagine inside my head, so I can’t really put it into words well. I’m sorry. (laughter)
Q. But your PVs and performances reflect those images, right?
A. Yes. For example, with ‘Put ’em up’, the lyrics were pretty saucy, so the dance had some moves where I kicked the male dancer, etc. And this time again, I did request some moves where I’m dancing together with a male dancer.
Q. What do you think of your choreographer, WARNER’s choreography?
A. I like it a lot.
Q. Do you have a certain type of dance you like, and a certain type you hate?
A. Yes, I do. Because I can only do jazz dance.
Q. I don’t think that’s true.
A. Thank you. But because of that, I have a hard type putting types of dance with a certain quirk, like house, into my body. I’ll be able to put some dances into my body in a day, whereas some will take 2 or 3 days. There can be a quite a difference the time it takes.
Q. Doesn’t what we call ‘Jazz’ dance include hip-hop, and other genres now?
A. Yes, it does.
Q. So, even if you can only do Jazz, you can do many different kinds of things.
A. Ahaha….really? WARNER-san is very sharp in terms of what kind of dance is popular now, or what kind of moves look good for a girl.
Q. Does he choreograph the dances with you in mind?
A. Who knows? I’m not sure. But for some reason he always thinks of just the choreography that I’d been wanting to do, so we don’t change much at all.
During lessons, I thought dancing was more fun than signing.
Q. By the way how did you come across dance?
A. When I went to a talent school in Okinawa. I took singing, dance and acting at first, but after awhile, I just did singing and dance. They showed us videos of Janet Jackson, Paula Abdul, and En Vogue , and I fell in love with them. And then I began to think that it would be so cool to be able to sing and dance like that. It was like that.
Q. As your a singer, I’m sure you found the singing lessons interesting, but what about the dance lessons? Did you have any painful experiences?
A. Umm…if I had to choose, the dance lessons were more fun than the singing lessons.
Q. Huh? Is that so?
A. Yes. I had more fun dancing.
Q. What kind of thing did you do in the beginning?
A. I think just the same as at any other dance school. Learning to find the rhythm…that kind of thing.
Q. Could you do that right off the bat?
A. Good question. I think I couldn’t, but I’m not sure.
Q. If you couldn’t do it at all, it wouldn’t have been fun, so you probably could, don’t you think?
A. Maybe. (laughter) I don’t remember.
Q. And I’m assuming you did routines and choreographed steps after that, but could you remember the steps right away?
A. Umm, just the same as everyone else. Because, I liked it a lot, so I used to spend all my time at home practicing the dances we’d learned in class that day.
Q. In that kind of place, there are a lot kids of the same age, right?
A. Since it was a talent school, it was very competative. So maybe that’s why I remembered the steps so quickly.
Q. Did you have any rivals?
A. I did! I’d think, ‘Oh, she’s memorizing the steps really quickly!’, and do my best not to lose to her.
Q. You said you watched Janet Jackson’s PVs; her dance is different from the traditional Jazz dance, isn’t it. Did you have a teacher that would explain things like that to you?
A. Her style is different, isn’t it. I guess it’s that kind of Jazz. But the school I went to didn’t have proper teachers, and students taught each other. Upperclassmen would teach lower classmen.
Q. It’s like a club. (laughter)
A. Pretty much. (laughter) But it was very strict, for some reason. I’d be told, ‘Not like that!!’ The first time I learned dance from a real teacher was when I moved to Tokyo.
Q. How was the dance school in Tokyo?
A. It was fun, but because unlike in Okinawa, there was a proper teacher, it was very different in a lot of ways, and a lot of things were very hard.
Q. And you could be frank about your rivalry there too….
A. No, no, I didn’t have that in Tokyo. In Okinawa, it was ok if the people who wanted to become singing talents could just do a little bit of dance while they sang, but in Tokyo, everyone else in the school was going there to become dancers. The level was so much higher.
Q. But it’s quite something that you could enjoy it even in those circumstances.
A. It was fun, but it was also embaressing. There were a lot of times when I thought, ‘I can’t dance at all!’
Q. Like when?
A. When I couldn’t move the way I wanted to. The speed was amazing. We’d do from 2 eights to 4 eights in 5 or 10 minutes, and then 10 people would dance at the same time, but I couldn’t keep up with the speed, so I couldn’t make it look the way I wanted to. So I’d frantically be watching the other groups, trying to remember it, thinking, ‘This is so hard!’
Q. And you were also taking singing lessons right? That must have been tough!
A. It was. So I skipped classes a lot. (laugh). I’d be like, ‘I don’t feel well….’ (laugh)
Q. During lessons, which tired you out more, singing or dance?
A. Umm…singing was more tiring. With dance, I was frantic to try to memorize it all, so even an hour would go by really quickly. Compared to that, an hour of singing lessons felt really long. So, more than tiring…it was…boring. (laughter)
Q. Singing lessons were boring?! Should I cut that last comment?
A. Ahaha, maybe. (laughter)
It’s hard to psych myself up, but it’s also hard to bring myself down again.
Q. What do you pay most attention to when you’re on a long tour?
A. I wonder. I don’t really have anything special that I do. I eat pasta about 2 hours before the concert’s going to start, I do the concert, and then I eat something delicious…
Q. Has it become old hat to you?
A. Nope. I’m always nervous before performances.
Q. And don’t you get tired, singing and dancing?
A. I do! (laughter) So I have to pace myself. If I go at full blast in the beginning, I start to wear out during the end.
Q. Has you ever worn yourself out?
A. Many times. It’s really hard. No matter how much I rehearse, my mood and feelings are completely different when the audiance is there. So I get really hyper, and have to restrain myself. If I don’t, I’m pooped out by the second half. It’s hard to pysch myself up, but it’s hard to restrain myself too.
Q. Even if you poop out in the end, the audiance doesn’t notice, right?
A. I’ve been able to do it so that they didn’t know, but there have been times when after it’s over the staff has said to me, ‘You looked tired.’ (laughter)
Q. Is there any artist you’re into right now?
A. Ashanti, I guess. She completely different now than she was when she debuted. From cute to sexy.
Q. You yourself have also changed a lot at different periods.
A. I guess when the type of music I listened to changed, I wanted to do that kind myself, and that kind of thing. But the one thing that doesn’t change is that I want to do songs I can dance to. That hasn’t changed since I debuted.
Q. Do you consciously want to dance more, now?
A. That’s true. Last year both my singles were ballads, and I didn’t dance, so I want to release dance songs this year.
Q. When you were releasing all those ballads, did you get messages from the fans saying, ‘We want you to dance!’?
A. Oh, I did, yeah.
Q. I think that in PV’s and that kind of thing, there are very few people who are just as good as their back up dancers, but I think that you are one of those few. When you’re filming that kind of thing, do you move into a dancer mindset?
A. Good question. Well, certainly when I’m filming a PV, I’m not singing live, so I can concentrate just on dancing. I do want to dance really well in times like that.
Q. How long does it take you to remember a dance like that?
A. About 2 or 3 days, I think.
Q. What? That quickly?
A. Is that quick? I’m don’t really know if it is or not. Sometimes with PVs I remember it right there.
Q. Is there any trick to remembering the dance steps quickly?
A. No, I don’t think there is. (laughter) I think it also depends on the choreographer. With WARNER-san’s dances, I think they’re really cool, so they stick in my head right away, but sometimes the dance doesn’t stick in my head at all. And I don’t know the count, for example. There have been times when I just couldn’t rememeber a dance at all. That time I worked on it for an entire day, but I couldn’t get it at all.
Q. So is it about whether you think a dance is cool or not?
A. Yes, that’s the first thing.
Q. So, have you ever had the experience where you think a dance is cool, but you still can’t do it?
A. Yes. And when that happens, I don’t dance. (laughter)
Q. Do you have them change the dance?
A. I keep the dance the way it is, and have the dancers do it while I just sing, or some other trick like that. (laughter)
Q. I see! So, do you think of any of the dances yourself?
A. No, I don’t.
Q. So when you reject a dance, the choreographer has to make a new one over again.
A. Right. (laughter) Sometimes people tell me ‘It’d be faster if you did it yourself!’
Q. But you still don’t make a dance yourself.
A. No, I don’t. (laughter)
Q. Do you feel like, ‘That’s your job!’
A. Ahaha. That’s not it.
Q. Well now, you’re going to be releasing a new album, and your tour will begin; what part of you do you want the fans to look at?
A. What part? Umm….
Q. So, everything, then.
A. Right, right. (laughter) Everything! But after all, this is my first tour in a long time, so I want a lot of people to come and see it.
In all of her PVs, it’s dance! Dance! Dance!
Sometimes she’s cool, sometimes sexy, and sometimes energetic. Many of Amuro Namie’s PVs feature dance as the prime focus. Of course her dancers are all professionals, but seeing her dance with a skill that is second to none, not even those dancers, one is suprised all over again. Here we introduce some of her latest PVs.
‘Say the word’
The contrast between the open location of an airfield and the bright red costumes is memorable. In a dance that perfectly fits pop flavour of the medium tempo song, Amuro dances in the center of 6 dancers (2 men and 4 women), and she looks very cool.
Beginning with a ride in a limousine, this PV is made with a story, like a scene from American Club life. The main feature of this PV is shots of her and ZEEBRA together, but the dance scene during the instumental interlude is characteristic of the ‘dancer Amuro Namie’.
The dance is full of hip-hop flavour just as the song suggests. It was probably intended to give her a hard image, but in her solo shots Amuro overflows with a coquettish charm. This must be the aura of an artist with that certan je ne sais quoi. AI, who appears as a rapper, also has a stunning presence.
‘shine more’ (Choreograpy: Warner)
This video is very stylish, with 5 female dancers, and the set and costumes in mono-tone. All over this video is very cool, but the dance, which includes moves like hip rolling, which only women could do, helps to give this video a sexiness as well.
‘Put ’em up’ (Choreogrpahy: Warner)
Adding Amuro to a set up of 3 men and 2 women, it becomes 3 on 3. It’s a set up to bring to life the ‘woman vs. man’ theme of the lyrics. In the set of a construction site, the dance makes good use of props such as tires and tools.
‘So crazy’ (Choreography: Warner)
In the audition, 3 men and 2 women were selected just like the set up of the last PV. The concept will be of men and women opposite each other like in the lyrics. The photograph above is from the first day of rehearsal. Warner stands in Amuro’s position, and the men’s and women’s dances progress simultaneously. We can’t wait to see the finished product.
She’s not in the top, she is the top! Choreographer Warner discusses Amuro Namie’s appeal.
Namie-san has a very quick memory for choreography. Not compared to other artists, I mean she’s faster than the dancers themselves. That’s how high a level she’s at. For the filming of a PV, the dancers rehearse for a week to 10 days, but Namie-san perfects something that’s the same level, or higher than the dancer’s in 2 days. She’s not in with the top people I’ve done choreography for, she is the top! The songs I work on for Namie-san are the type of songs that I myself like a lot, so I come up with the dances really quickly. The choreography for ‘So Crazy’ took me about a day to complete. If I’m feeling a song, I’m flooded with ideas. And the fact that she can dance also helps me finish quickly. Because I can do just what I want to. I don’t have to be thinking about her comfort, and I can make something that’s really high level, so it makes me happy as a choreographer. Even with her dancing while she sings, Namie-san is an amazing artist. Alot of the time, she’ll be able to sing perfectly even doing things that I had worried, ‘Maybe these moves would be tough to sing at the same time with.’ She tackles with it by doing a simulation of her singing while she does the dance rehearsals. Before I started to work with her, I’d heard rumours that she had good dance sense, so I was looking forward to working with her, but I realized when I did that it’s really true. Working with her, I realized that she soaks up everything. It amazed me. I always have an image of how I want things to come out beforehand, but rather than being just the way I had imagined, she takes it to the next level. There’s been a lot of parts that she’s convinced me of. So I look forward to each day I work with her, thinking, ‘I wonder what kind of way she’s show my work this time?’ I’ve just started the current dance, but I’m looking forward to seeing it take shape.