Single Review: Nami Tamaki – “Friends!”

namifriendsclrg Tracklist:
1. Friends!
2.  願い星 (Negai Hoshi; Wishing Star)
3. Happy Forever
4. またね (Mata Ne; See You Later)
5. Friends! (Instrumental)

Nami Tamaki’s 17th single was released on July 29, 2009, in three versions: Type A, Type B, and Type C. Each version had a different cover and slightly differing tracklists. This review will include the B-sides from each version.

First off, Friends! is nothing short of charming. It’s sugary, energetic pop to the Nth degree, with layers upon layers of electronic synths and drum machine beats. I must say that I was very impressed with Nami’s vocal performance – she really has learned to control her voice much more easily, especially in the high sections of the chorus. So she gets an A+ in that field. However, I can’t help feel that this song is a bit young-sounding for Nami at this point. It’s practically dripping cuteness and artificial sweetener, the audial equivalent of diabetes. It’s a lot to take in. I have a tendency to forget this, though, when I realize how catchy the hook is😄.

I find it ironic that 願い星, originally a digital single on its own, is now a B-side on a physical single, since when I first heard it I thought it sounded more like a B-side than a real single. I pretty much still feel this way, as there’s nothing terribly special about this track. It is, once again, an overpoweringly artificial and cutesy song and the only outstanding or praise-worthy thing about it is Nami’s voice. Other than that, I can’t bring myself to do anything more than label it as average.

The next B-side, Happy Forever, is exclusive to the Type-B version of this single. I was about to gripe about how omgwtfcutesy this song is when I heard the good qualities of it and changed my mind. The chorus includes some English phrases, including the title of the track, and although Nami needs to improve her pronunciation of the word forever, it definitely sounded nice in tandem with the music. I especially liked the inclusion of Christmas-style bells in the instrumental, a unique touch. Still another cute track, but easier on the ears than the previous one.

またね, a ballad, comes in and saves the day. I always love it when Nami does anything remotely R&B-sounding and that’s basically what this song is – a sentimental love song with smooth beats, piano and acoustic guitar. Simply lovely. Another thing I was relieved to hear was how perfectly Nami’s vocal performance fit with the music, not sounding too loud or too quiet, using vibrato at only the appropriate moments. This is, without question, the best B-side on this single, if not the best song period.

Summary: Well, where to start? I’m not a big fan of the overlying “cute” theme in this single, to be honest. I think Nami is past the point in her career where cuteness can be considered fitting or appropriate. However, the sheer enthusiasm and quality of Nami’s performance manages to nullify some of the negative sentiments I have towards the title track, not to mention the brilliant B-side またね. I’ve been a fan of Nami’s music for a long time, and I want to be able to say that I still am, so I think she’s got to start stepping her game up a little.

Single Grade: B-

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