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Music / First Love

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"You are always gonna be the one..."

First Love is the debut Japanese studio album by Utada Hikaru, released in 1999. It is notable for the being the best-selling album of all time in Japan, with 8 million copies sold in the country and a total of 11 million sold worldwide. Utada wrote and recorded the album when they were only 15 years old, and was 16 when it was released.

Though it is typically regarded as their debut album, this is actually the second album they recorded. The year before, they released the album Precious, recorded when she was 13, under the Stage Name "Cubic U", with the intention of debuting as a Western artist. This album was entirely in English and was not a commercial success. Following this, their record label asked them to write and record in Japanese for this album, though Utada also incorporates English lyrics into the songs. The album is primarily R&B and pop music, with some dance and funk influences, and is credited for introducing R&B music to a wider audience in Japan.


The album's lead single "Automatic" / "Time Will Tell" became an overnight success, selling over 2 million copies and making Utada Hikaru a household name while they were still in high school. Follow-up singles "Movin' on Without You" and "First Love" were also major successes with the former topping the Japanese singles chart. The album itself sold 2.1 million copies in its first week and by the end of the year was the top-selling album of all time in Japan, a record it still holds today.

Not to be confused with the trope of the same name, though unsurprisingly, many songs on the album deal with love and relationships, presumably Utada's first.



  1. "Automatic" (5:28)
  2. "Movin' on without you" (4:38)
  3. "In My Room" (4:19)
  4. "First Love" (4:17)
  5. "Amai Wana ~ Paint It, Black" (5:02)note 
  6. "time will tell" (5:27)
  7. "Never Let Go" (3:57)
  8. "B&C" (4:20)
  9. "Another Chance" (5:22)
  10. "Interlude" (0:17)
  11. "Give Me A Reason" (6:27)
  12. "Automatic -Johnny Vicious Remix-" (Bonus Track) (4:37)

It's Trope-omatic...

  • Break-Up Song: "Movin' on without you" is about breaking up with a partner who plays games and doesn't make time for you.
    If it's bothersome for you to care about me, let me know right awaynote 
    Because even I don't have that much time to sparenote 
    I'm moving on without you
  • Epic Rocking: "Give Me A Reason" is 6 and half minutes long.
  • Face on the Cover: The cover features a perhaps uncomfortably close close-up of Utada's face.
  • First Love: Well, "First Love", and most likely the rest of the songs as well. Interestingly, first love is never directly mentioned on the album, but most of the album's songs are about love, and given the album's title and their young age when recording it they probably fit this.
  • Foreign Language Title: The album title and all the song titles except "Amai Wana". Justified as Utada has stated that (at least early in their career) she would write her songs in English first before translating them to Japanese.
  • Melismatic Vocals: Utada gets her R&B on noticeably more often than on her later albums. "First Love", "Never Let Go" and "Give Me a Reason" are good examples.
  • Miniscule Rocking: The aptly titled "Interlude", which at 17 seconds is the shortest song in her discography. Would be upgraded to the full song "Kotoba ni Naranai Kimochi" on her next album.
  • New Jack Swing: Appears most prominently on "Automatic."
  • Non-Appearing Title: The words "first love" actually never appear on the album.
  • Obsession Song: The third chorus of "Automatic" has shades of this (Passive type):
    It's not that I feel in love just by being close to younote 
    It's just that I need you, it's not because I'm lonely note 
    I just need you
  • Outlaw Couple: Subverted on "B&C". The title stands for "Bonnie and Clyde" and she mentions the couple by name in the chorus, but there's no allusions to any criminal activity.
  • 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".
    • "Automatic" samples the intro of "Hey Young World" by Slick Rick.
  • Poirot Speak: Happens fairly frequently - Utada gets a lot of mileage out of their bilingualism on this album.
    • Just about every track has English lyrics in it, and she switches languages mid-sentence frequently. Granted, these lyrics are all completely grammatically correct and make perfect sense if you speak both languages, but nonetheless many people saw this as a way of emphasizing Utada's Western upbringing. Examples:
      • "Kimi ni aenai my rainy days / Koe wo kikeba jidouteki ni sun will shine"note  from "Automatic".
      • "Dakara always with you / Yume ni esukeepu in my room"note  from "In My Room".
      • "Kono nagai runway kara aozora e take off!"note  from "time will tell".
    • They also pronounces loanwords with their English rather than Japanese pronunciation, or mixes the pronunciations together mid-word.
      • For example, in the line "Kimi to paradaisu ni iru mitai"note  from "Automatic", the "r" is pronounced as in English but she adds an "u" to the end of the word as in Japanese). "In My Room" does this similarly with "color kontakuto" note 
  • Self-Backing Vocalist: Done on all the songs, though unlike her later albums, some songs ("In My Room", "time will tell") also feature (uncredited) male background vocals. Most noticeable on songs like "Automatic", "Movin' on Without You" and "Give Me a Reason".
  • Shout-Out:
    • To Bonnie and Clyde on "B&C". Utada mentions them by name in the chorus:
      We can go anywhere, we can go anywherenote 
      Always, just like Bonnie and Clydenote 
    • To The Rolling Stones on "Amai Wana ~ Paint it, Black". The title references their song "Paint it Black" and she interpolates the song's famous line "I see a red door and I want to paint it black" in the outro.
  • Silly Love Songs: Most of the songs qualify. "Automatic" is the most upbeat and straightforward example.
  • Surprisingly Good English: To be expected, since Utada is fluent in both English and Japanese. This album also features considerably more English lyrics than their later work.
  • Textless Album Cover: Not even their name, which was a fairly bold choice given this was their debut.
  • Title Track: "First Love".
  • 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.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behaviour: "First Love" mentions a kiss having the flavor of cigarettes, which attracted some controversy as Utada was only 15 when they wrote the song, and the legal smoking age in Japan is 20. Word of God says that it's just a song and people shouldn't take their all her lyrics so literally.
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change: Does this in the last chorus of "First Love", with big, dramatic strings and drums to complete the effect.
  • Updated Re-release: Received one on the album's 15th anniversary in 2014, with remastered songs, karaoke versions, remixed versions, demo versions, a tour DVD, and a demo for one previously unreleased song titled "Calling You".

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