Music / Utada Hikaru
aka: Utada
Influences: Aaliyah, Béla Bartók, Björk, Mary J. Blige, The Blue Nile, Jeff Buckley, Chick Corea, Cocteau Twins, Jimi Hendrix, Lenny Kravitz, Hibari Misora, Nine Inch Nails, Yutaka Ozaki, Édith Piaf, Prince, Queen
Utada Hikaru (or Hikaru Utada, if you're using the Western name order), born January 19 1983, is one of Japan's most prominent and successful music artists. Her debut album, First Love (1999), recorded when she was only 15 years old, is the best-selling album in Japan's history, selling at least 7.7 million copies in total (10.1 million copies worldwide), including over 2 million copies in its first week alone. Most of her following singles and albums went on to occupy the top ten spots on the same list.

She writes and produces almost all of her music, differentiating her from the numerous Idol Singers who don't hold much creative power over their work. Born and raised in New York, she is fluent in Japanese and English, and has released two English-language albums for the American market under the mononym, Utada.

In the west, she is perhaps most well-known for the theme songs of the first two Kingdom Hearts games — both Japanese and the English versions. Her songs "Beautiful World" and "Sakura Nagashi" are featured in the Rebuild of Evangelion series.

In 2010, she held her "goodbye" concert before going on hiatus that same year. The concert was streamed live on the web for the benefit of her foreign fans and others who wouldn't be able to see it in person.

Around early 2014, she announced her engagement on her official website and asked that fans respect the privacy of her fiance. In May that same year, they held their wedding in Italy, her fiance's home country.

Six years after her her hiatus, she released her 6th Japanese album (and ninth overall), Fantôme (2016).

Japanese discography

  • First Love (1999)
  • Distance (2001)
  • Deep River (2002)
  • Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol. 1 (2004) (compilation album)
  • Ultra Blue (2006)
  • Heart Station (2008)
  • Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol. 2 (2010) (compilation album)
  • Fantôme (2016)

English discography

  • Precious (1998) (under the pseudonym "Cubic U")
  • Exodus (2004) (Utada)
  • This is the One (2009)(Utada)
  • Utada the Best (2010)(compilation album) (Utada)

Provides examples of:

  • Adam and Eve Plot: In the video for You Make Me Want to be a Man has a modern, robotic twist, where Utada plays a feminine robot constructed around a masculine robot's rib. Also, there is a reference to the snake.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Downplayed in the music videos for Can You Keep a Secret and Wait and See (Risk)
  • Boastful Rap: Somehow manages a rare sung variant in "Animato".
    Somebody out there better get this
    Not many people can do it like this
    How about some speakers to amplify me?
    How about a rhyme to fortify me?
    Life's messy so I clarify it
    Simplifying things for everybody
  • Breakup Song: "Taking My Money Back", oh so very much. Also "Come Back to Me" and "This One (Crying Like a Child)" (all three from This Is The One).
  • Continuity Nod: This is present in two of her music videos from different eras in her career. The first is "Keep Tryin" which has references to her past MV's that were all directed by her then husband, Kazuaki Kiriya. Naturally, avid fans had fun pointing these out. The second, "Goodbye Happiness" also has references to some of her past videos.
  • Cover Version: Covered "Close to You" by the Carpenters in her Cubic U days. She's also done covers of a-ha, Frank Sinatra, and Placebo in various live concerts.
  • Echoing Acoustics: For Beautiful World's Planitb remix.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Her classmates in New York nicknamed her Hikki. She was a bit flustered when she found out what a hickey was a few years later.
  • Epic Fail: Toshiba-EMI (her record label) employed a company called Media Interactive Inc. to go through Youtube and delete all infringing videos. Seemingly, this included all the music videos (including the video debuted exclusively on Youtube "Goodbye Happiness") from Utada's Official YouTube Channel leaving many fans, her staff and the artist bewildered. [1]
  • Genre Savvy: Has invoked Retcon ("Come Back to Me").
  • Girls Love Stuffed Animals: She has a massive teddy bear named Kuma Chang who features heavily in her career ranging from promotional photos, tweets/blog entries involving conversations with him and to top it all, she's written a single song from his point of his view called "Boku wa Kuma".
  • Gratuitous French: In "Ore no Kanojo". It wouldn't be nearly so egregious if the pronunciation weren't so terrible, as what is sung makes grammatical sense.
  • Intercourse with You: "The Workout", "Let Me Give You My Love", "Dirty Desire"... There's a fair bit of this on her English-language albums. A Japanese song, "Traveling", might also count.
  • May–December Romance: Her first husband was 15 years older than her. Some have speculated that the reason for their divorce was because of the age gap as well as the fact that she married rather young at age 19 (at that age, 15 years is pretty big). A few years later, she dated a man 8 years her senior for about a year, then got on the other end of this trope by meeting her second husband and eventual father of her son Francesco Calianno, who is 8 years younger than her.
  • Mood Whiplash: On Heart Station, "Take 5", a rather haunting song about dying and being separated from one's body, cuts abruptly into "Boku wa Kuma" which is a cute, children's song about, uh, a bear.
    • Also, the whiplash from the lamentation of a neighbor's death to Intercourse with You in "Let Me Give You My Love".
  • The Oner: The aforementioned "Goodbye Happiness" music video, with a still faux-web cam in a bedroom.
  • Performance Video: "Dareka no Negai ga Kanau Koro" features a performance more heavily than her other videos, but also features an implied plot about a broken-up family.
  • Pop-Star Composer: Most famously, the theme songs to the Kingdom Hearts games, as mentioned above.
  • Robosexual: Subverted in the music video Can You Keep A Secret, where Utada is having a romantic relationship with a robot but by the last scene is revealed to be a Robot Girl herself.
  • Sampling: "Give Me a Reason" samples the famous drum break from James Brown's "Funky Drummer". Hearing it in a slow ballad is... weird.
    • "Never Let Go" interpolates the melody from Sting's "Shape of My Heart".
    • The violin-sounding instrument from "Exodus '04", produced by Timbaland, is lifted from the song "Meshkeltek" by an Arabian artist named Aitha al-Menhali.
  • Scenery Porn: Her video for Passion is just breath-takingly beautiful.
  • Sequel Song: "Automatic", her 1998 debut single, and "Automatic Pt.2" from 2009's This Is The One. Interesting in that part one is in Japanese and part two is in English.
  • Shout-Out: To Edgar Allan Poe in Kremlin Dusk. Utada even uses his full name in the lyrics. To Elvis Presley, Led Zeppelin, and Freddie Mercury in "Animato". Again, Utada mentions them directly in the lyrics.
  • Singer Namedrop: Did this as Cubic U in "Ticket 4 Two".
  • Softer And Slower Cover: "Final Distance" (Deep River) is one of "Distance" (Distance).
  • Surprisingly Good English: Japanese name, Japanese career, Japanese-language albums. To the casual observer, she looks about as J-poppy as you can get, but her first album was entirely in English. (The US never got it because Capitol Records was restructuring.) As noted above, she's actually Japanese-American, and speaks both Japanese and English fluently.
  • The Oner: Her "Hikari" music video is a continuous shot of her washing the dishes and at one point she even goes out of frame. The video could be considered having Minimalism in execution.
  • Translated Cover Version: The dub mix of "Time Will Tell" is a partial version of this. Not all of the lyrics are included (dub mixes tend to take out at least some of the lyrics or vocals of the original song), but the ones that are translated into English.
  • Waxing Lyrical: "Come Back To Me".
  • Your Cheating Heart: "Tippy Toe", which is sung from the point of view of the mistress.