Namie Amuro (安室奈美恵) was born at Naha, Okinawa prefecture, on 20th of September 1977. Her parents divorced while she was only a toddler, leaving her mother responsible for bringing up Namie and her 3 siblings all alone. The low funds of the family didn’t prevent Namie from chasing her dreams to be a star. She was attending Okinawa Actors School successfully, despite her having to walk everyday for 2 hours to go and return from the school – her family couldn’t afford public transportation.
At her fifteen, she formed a girl group with some classmates of hers, called “SUPER MONKEY’S”, under TOSHIBA EMI label. At first, their sales were pretty decent but after the 5th single “TRY ME ~私を信じて~” (01/25/1995), the group started having proper recognition at the charts, getting into the top 10 and being invited at 紅白歌合戦 (Kouhaku Uta Gassen), a big annual music show. During that period, the group had already moved in Tokyo and changed its name to “Namie Amuro with SUPER MONKEY’S” with Namie taking the upper hand and the lead role of the group. The two following singles made big success as well, resulting to Avex, through the superstars’ producer Tetsuya Komuro, noticing the band, offering a solo career contract for Namie. The rest of the members regrouped with the name Musical Active eXperience or, simply, MAX.
Her first single “BODY feels EXIT” (10/25/1995) was a huge success debuting at #3. Soon Namie could claim her stardom with her trendsetting style and an organized base of thousands fans, notably known as “amura” (media contraction of Amuro and admirer). The following singles – “Chase the Chance” (12/04/1995), “Don’t wanna cry” (3/13/1996) and “You’re my sunshine” (06/05/1996) – were all a huge success, each of them selling many thousands of copies, foretelling the massive success of the upcoming album. Indeed, Namie’s first Avex Trax solo album “SWEET 19 BLUES” (07/22/1996) sold over 3.4 millions copies, becoming the best selling album in Japan at that time. She released another single called also “SWEET 19 BLUES” (08/21/1996) as a soundtrack to the movie “That’s CHEATING” where she was starring. The next release was “a walk in the park” that debuted at #1.
Her upcoming single was the best selling of her career; “CAN YOU CELEBRATE?” (02/19/1997) sold over 2,600,000 copies and even now its #14 at the best selling singles in Japan. In 1996-1997 Namie did 2 tours where she was the first female solo artist to perform at Chiba Marine Stadium and at Four Domes (respectively to each tour). In the meanwhile she released the single “How to be a Girl” (05/21/1997) and her almost 2 millions seller album “Concentration 20”(07/24/1997).
|However, Namie caught in surprise the media and her fans appearing in a press conference with cut short hair announcing that she was about to marry Masaharu Maruyama a.k.a. SAM from TRF and she was carrying his baby; the most important though, she announced a pause at her career for a whole year. She released the next single “Dreaming I was dreaming” (11/27/1997) and officially took her break performing as the special last artist at the Kouhaku Uta Gassen show.
On May 18th her son Haruto was born. Her next single “I HAVE NEVER SEEN” (12/23/1998) was released on 23rd December 1998 and debuted at #1, though her comeback wasn’t intense before her touching tearful performance of “CAN YOU CELEBRATE?” again at the Kouhaku show on New Year’s Eve; crying, she barely could finish her lines at the end.
The mini-skirts, platform high boots and the brown hair used to be her fashion trademark that many wannabe fans were imitating. She has changed her style though to a more casual and, now, R&B look. However, her style is always rather flexible.
Unfortunately in 1999 a very sad event happened. On March, her mother Emiko was brutally murdered by her mentally unstable new brother-in-low Kenji Taira who committed suicide afterwards. Namie had to face the loss of her most important support in her life and her career came almost in an end. It was the hundreds of supportive fan letters that gave her the strength to continue. She even started directly thanking them by approaching the fan sites and their forums, posting with them or quietly leaving her messages to the webmasters. However, her single “RESPECT the POWER OF LOVE” (03/17/1999) debuted at #2 breaking the row of #1 debuts. Apparently “toi et moi” (07/07/1999) and “SOMETHING ‘BOUT THE KISS” (09/01/1999) continued like that.
In January of 2000, Namie released “LOVE 2000” (01/01) and her 3rd original album “GENIUS 2000″ (01/26), which debuted at #1, but failed to sell over a million copies (803,000 copies). She then released the single “NEVER END” (07/12/2000) which was the theme song of the G-8 summit being held at Okinawa. Namie performed the song in front of many world leaders including Bill Clinton, the USA president at then. Her next album (4th) “break the rules” (12/20/2000) was released but sold poorly around 335,000 copies debuting at #2. The singles of that period – “PLEASE SMILE AGAIN” (10/04/2000) and “think of me/no more tears” (01/24/2001) weren’t successful either; “think of me/no more tears” debuted at #7. At the next release “say the word” (08/08/2001) Namie was for the first time co-producer by writing the lyrics. In collaboration with VERBAL of m-flo she released the successful single “lovin’ it” (12/27/2001) as part of Avex’ Song Nation (non-profit charity project to raise money for the victims of 9/11). She wrote the lyrics for her new single “I WILL” (02/14/2002). Furthermore, by that time, her working relationship with Tetsuya Komuro ended.
In July of 2002 Namie and SAM announced their friendly divorce though SAM took full custody of Haruto but since Namie lives at the same apartment building she didn’t miss seeing her son. She then released “Wishing On The Same Star” (9/11/2002), a Japanese version of a popular American song; the single debuted at #2 and was a big turning point for Namie.
Her next music steps were totally in R&B. Since her debut one could see the R&B and Hip Hop elements gradually being more and more notable at her songs. She started a project called SUITE CHIC. Under the pseudonym SUITE CHIC she approached many popular Japanese R&B/Rap/Hip Hop artists (like AI, ZEEBRA, FIRSTKLAS) and released 2 singles, one original album and another one with remixes.
After moderate success but with the fans’ acceptance, the SUITE CHIC project ended and Namie got back in her solo career. Her main producer was now the famous American, Dallas Austin. She started releasing singles again – “shine more” (03/05/2003), “Put ‘Em Up” (07/16/2003) “So CRAZY/Come” (10/19/2003). The 5th album though, “STYLE” (12/10/2004), released almost 3 years after her previous one, wasn’t much of success for Namie as it sold the very low number of 222.000 copies. The next single “ALARM” (03/17/2004) mirrored this situation: it was the first single debuting out of the top 10. However, She soon released her new fresh ballad “ALL FOR YOU” (7/22/2004) which successfully sold more than 100,000 copies, somewhat balancing the financial disaster of the previous single.
Along with these releases, she was touring throughout Asia for nearly half a year and she became the first major Japanese artist to hold a concert in South Korea after the normalization of the cultural-political relations between teh two countries. Namie’s popularity now seemed to start returning and her next single “GIRL TALK/the SPEED STAR” (10/14/2004) surprisingly debuted at #2. In spite of that, she refused to attend the Kouhaku show, breaking the 9 years in a row performances. Six months later she released another successful single, “WANT ME, WANT ME” (06/04/2005), which debuted at #2 as well and became her highest selling single since “lovin’ it”. In May SAM friendly gave Namie Haruto’s custody (she officially got it by court on August). She also became the first person to win an award for 4th time in a row at MTV Video Music Awards. Her next album “Queen of Hip-Pop” was released on July 13th and at the first week it managed to peak at #2; so far it has sold 430.000 copies making it a very successful release after all the past ones with low popularity. For this album she also got licensed by MGM to use Pink Panther as a theme to the album booklet and the PV of WoWa (so far); a female panther was also made.
Namie’s career always had the ups and the downs, and rumors always accompanied her along the way. Supposed things like: a detestable rivalry with Ayumi Hamasaki, that keeps her out of every A-NATION (Avex artists’ concerts) in the past years, in fear of the presence of Ayumi in the same stage; the incapability of her to claim custody of her son right after the divorce due to her negative diva lifestyle; the “queen” syndrome of hers. All these attract the media (Asian, non-Japanese most of the times) attention trying to blemish her image. Nevertheless, Namie still is one of the crucial artists of the Japanese music scene having sold over 27,000,000 copies of her albums/singles. With her Mediterranean classiness (she’s 1/4 Italian), both at looks and vibes, she altered the mid 90s music standards and manifested with the best way the “female solo career” theme in Japan music industry. She donated 10,000,000 Yen to Unicef shortly after the tsunami disaster at south Asia.