It takes two…right? DOUBLE & Namie Amuro


There are fewer things as both wonderful and tragic as a mediocre artist rocketed into outstanding after a collaboration with one of Japan’s most successful veterans of pop. “BLACK DIAMOND,” a collaboration between DOUBLE, the Japanese “Queen of R&B” and Namie Amuro, the Japanese “Queen of Hip-Pop” is essentially a song that doesn’t even come alive until the chorus charges in and the number is accompanied by a fancy setting, both glamorous and impossible, fashionistas draped in couture and of course, a snappy little dance number to promote THE BEST COLLABORATIONS, a collection of DOUBLE’s most successful duets with the likes of Lupe Fiasco, AI and of course, ZEEBRA, the jack of all Japanese collabs.

Beside the questionable dynamic of incestuous collaborations between artists, what strikes me as most interesting is the recent influx of collabs to begin with and the level in which artists seem to grasp at them when in dire need of resuscitation. It’s nothing new, certainly, but with longtime artists like Madonna and Timbaland, Anna Tsuchiya and AI, and Ami Suzuki and Yasutaka Nakata, even artists who have built their entire careers on being one woman-shows are bringing in artists from different genre pools in a hope to reach a wider, and sometimes newer, audience. What we end up with is the “4 Minutes” effect, where an artist becomes the guest to his or her own party, another “featuring” in everything but print.

DOUBLE, too, is veritably superfluous on her own track to the point where, assuming no prior knowledge, the music video is less equal parts anything than a promotional spot for Amuro’s newest single. Not to discredit DOUBLE’s enthusiastic thrusting where Amuro nonchalantly phones in dance moves, but providing breathy sounds and echoes is hardly headlining business. The song rests on the smooth harmonics of the chorus, a brilliant move where each solo give and take seems more a competitive sing-off than a healthy vocal blend (and it’s never a dance-off, not when the two can’t even find it within themselves to sync). Espousing the merits of the thrashing synths and bubbling bass is moot when both are now synonymous with both artists anyway: it’s all there and it’s all timed to make sure the song is more everything than whatever its counterpart plans to be on May 28 when it comes out (I’m guessing MISIA).

But if collabs are only meant to provide an extra boost for 4 minutes, where does that leave fans of the song and not the singer? Is it fair to take the Suzuki route and push your luck a second time, hoping a Part II will keep interest piqued? At which point does it stop being interest in the artist and start being interest in the collaborator…and should it even matter?