In Japan, there are very few female pop stars that has not only had a long lasting music career, continually pump out chart topping hits and have a significant role in Japanese pop culture than Amuro (last name) Namie (first name).
Born in Osaka and attending the Okinawa Actor’s School after being scouted, while she liked the school, her family could not afford the monthly fees. But seeing the talent in Namie, they gave her special student status.
And so difficult of a challenge, she would walk which would culminate into an hour and a half walking distance per week just to go to the school.
Not knowing if she was going to do well, she thought about quitting but she eventually won a karaoke competition for a local program titled “HOTNIGHT Okinawa Ai Land”. While Namie was more determined to become an actress, it was when she saw Janet Jackson’s music video “Rhythm Nation” that she knew she wanted to sing and dance.
By 1991, the Okinawa Actor’s School would form a dance group called “SUPER MONKEY’S” and Namie was part of the group. And by 1992, they were signed to a major label contract with Toshiba EMI and Namie became the center (the primary vocalist) of the group and they would appear on various music shows and commercials by 1993.
So, popular Namie became, the group would be renamed to Amuro Namie with SUPER MONKEY’S and producer and Avex Trax founder, Max Matsuura saw promise that they released their next single in 1995 titled “TRY ME ~Watashi wo Shinjite~” and using Euro Beat as inspiration, and the group sold 730,000 copies.
That year, the group released a collection of music titled “DANCE TRACKS VOL. 1” and Amuro Namie with SUPER MONKEY’S achieved their first #1 on the Oricon Charts and their first million-seller.
Later that year, she met super producer and musician, Komuro Tetsuya (TK) and they collaborated to release her first solo single titled “Body Feels EXIT” and Namie would move to the Avex label and TK to be her primary producer. The single debuted at #3 on the Oricon Charts but it was her next single “Chase the Chance” that would debut at #1 and would sell over a million copies. And received a nomination for “Best New Artist” at the “37th Japan Records Award” and won an award for her song “TRY ME ~Watashi wo Shinjite”.
Namie would then dominate 1996 with a string of million-sellers and chart topping hits that would last through 1998. She inspired a new fashion kown as the “Amura” which women wore knee high boots and would make her hair like her and she was not only a music icon, she became a fashion icon. So, popular that a video game was made featuring her for the Sega Saturn and her concerts would sell out.
Her album “SWEET 19 BLUES” broke records shipping 3.5 million copies and was the highest selling album of all time. Meanwhile, her fellow SUPER MONKEYS dancers would form their own music group known as MAX and would achieve success. And it would become the domination of the Okinawa Actors School performers as a younger female group known as SPEED, would top the charts as well.
And in 1996, for the 38th Japan Records Awards, Namie Amuro won the Grand Prize at the age of 19, the youngest winner ever for her single “Don’t wanna cry”.
Her single “CAN YOU CELEBRATE?” would become the theme song of the 1997 drama “Virgin Road” and would sell two million copies and was the best selling single of 1997. And would win the 11th Japan Gold Disc Awards and her tenth single “How to be a Girl” would be the first single to exceed 10 million (it took two years and 1 month).
By the end of 1997, Amuro would shock the world by announcing that she would be marrying TRF member/dancer, SAM and that she was three months pregnant (a marriage that would end in divorce in 2002). And that she would release one last single before going on hiatus titled “Dreaming I was dreaming”.
She would end the year winning the Grand Prize for the second consecutive year for “CAN YOU CELEBRATE?” at the 39th Japan Record Award.
In 1998, she would give birth to a baby boy and would release the single “I HAVE NEVER SEEN” in December of that year. And as many fans were excited to see Namie return back to the music scene after giving birth, tragedy would hit hard for Namie in March 1999.
On the day she was to release her single “RESPECT the POWER OF LOVE”, her mother was killed by her mother’s partner’s brother. The tragedy would lead to Namie to escape from the public eye while still returning to stage for a performance, her first in two years and releasing a new single produced by Dallas Austin titled “SOMETHING ‘BOUT THE KISS”.
And in January 2000, Amuro wrote on her website that she thought about retiring but was encouraged by her fans and decided to return and she would release her album “GENIUS 2000”.
And as Namie Amuro was a young girl who was inspired by Janet Jackson, in 2004, she would present Janet Jackson at the MTV Video Music Awards Japan 2004 with an award.
In July 2009, Namie Amuro’s best album “BEST FICTION” would achieve another milestone as she became the first person to have #1 hits in her teens, her ’20s and her ’30s.
In 2013, Amuro would release her album “FEEL” which would be another album that reached first place on the Oricon Album Charts but it was a major move for Namie as she would transition from avex trax to her private label from Avex Music Creative titled Dimension Point and also leaving Rising Production agency in 2015.
In 2016, her song “Hero” was the theme song for NHK’s “Rio de Janeiro Olympics” broadcast and would continue to entertain audiences throughout Japan.
Namie was also one of the well-known celebrities from Japan who donated to the 9/11 fund, donating 12 million yen. She would donate 10 million yen to victims of the 2004 Sumatra earthquake and 50 million yen through the Japanese Red Cross for the those affected in the March 2011 Tohoko Earthquake and Tsunami disaster.
In 2017, Namie would release her single “Just You and I” and as her websites started to promote her 25th Anniversary, Namie would shock her fans by announcing on September 20th that she would be retiring from music on September 16, 2018 following the 25th anniversary celebration. And she would be releasing an album titled “Finally” on November 8th.
Namie wrote on her site:
I, Namie Amuro, would like to take this opportunity to inform all of my fans of my decision to retire as of Sept. 16, 2018.
I could not have gone 25 years without your support, for which I am eternally grateful.
I plan to make the last year of my music career meaningful by focusing my full attention on creating a final album and performing at concerts.
To show how hard the announcement had on fans, singer Kinoshita Yuuki, who happens to be a huge Amuro fan, posted a video on Instagram of her reaction.
Namie’s announcement was a big surprise as I was a big fan. I bought her singles and albums when she was a SUPER MONKEY, bought her singles, concerts on video and for the most part, I have been listening to her music for ages.
During my college years, I would have an Amuro Namie fan on my kitchen wall, with a poster of her. I thought she was the most beautiful performer, someone who changed the Japanese music landscape, by bring cool choreography and style to the scene when solo Japanese female music pop stars showcased basic choreography moves, she took music and fashion to a new level.
And it’s part of the elements that made Amuro Namie so popular, so respected and loved.
And for Namie, I will always remember how much her music meant to me. Thank you and RESPECT!