Review by David Cirone
FEEL is a strategically-engineered album, slickly produced and aimed squarely at the dance floor. But there’s a generic quality to most of these tracks, as if they were pulled off the rack at the dance-mix clearing house. The simplistic English lyrics don’t help either. “Alive” opens the heavy-dub chorus “I need your love in me,” and that’s pretty much all you get. Followed by forgettable “Can You Feel This Love” and “Big Boys Cry,” the first half of this album is disappointing and a bit puzzling.
Amuro’s appeal comes largely from her identity as a capital “W” woman, but there are a lot of childish lyrics on FEEL that belong more with Taylor Swift than a performer of Amuro’s status and strength. It’s just not convincing to hear Amuro talk about throwing her boyfriend’s T-shirts out (on “Rainbow”), or to hear her sheepishly admit “I like you, I reckon I really like you” on “La La La”. (Yes, she says “reckon”.)
It’s not until “Hands on Me” that we start to get a glimpse of the self-admitted Dancing Queen. “Hands on Me” has a strong kick bass line and the sexy, assured tone that brings back the Amuro style that was all over Uncontrolled.
“Poison” and “Supernatural Love” are the “WOW” numbers on FEEL. Fierce and high-energy, they both explode with confidence and devilish fun. You’ll blast these in your car or during your gym workout, and these are the songs you’ll skip to when a friend asks you about the album.
FEEL is performed almost entirely in English, and that approach yields mixed results. Amuro’s sometimes at the mercy of heavy-handed, obvious lyrics, and pronunciation occasionally gets the better of her, softening the sharp intelligence she displays in “Contrail” when she sings in her native Japanese. Her bravest step is the vulnerable performance of “Let Me Let You Go” to simple piano accompaniment, and it’s amazingly effective and moving. The fact that she pulls off such clear emotional delivery in English is astounding, and a real testament to her dedication to communicating in a second language.
Recommended tracks: “Hands on Me,” “Supernatural Love,” “Poison,” “Let Me Let You Go”