Heart Station is the 5th Japanese studio album (7th in total) by Utada Hikaru, released in 2008. This album features all of her Japanese singles from after the release of Ultra Blue up to 2008, in addition to new material. This was her last Japanese studio album released before her 5-year hiatus from the music industry starting in 2011.
Sonically, the album continues the style of Ultra Blue before it, with a mix of electronic and acoustic pop songs with orchestral elements, but with a calmer atmosphere and fewer uptempo songs. Lyrically, the albums tracks revolve around love and relationships, as well as overcoming difficulties in life. Some of the tracks can be interpreting as relating to her 2007 divorce from her former husband and collaborator, director Kiriya Kazuaki. Utada has stated that her intent with this album was to create something more "simple" lyrically and melodically, that is easier to enjoy for all listeners. She has also described the album as having a more "masculine" feeling than her previous work.
As with most of her work, Utada wrote all the tracks on Heart Station station herself, and was the primary composer, arranger and producer, with additional production and arrangement work coming from Miyake Akira and Utada's own father Teruzane Utada.
A total of eight singles were released for the album: "Boku wa Kuma" (ぼくはくま, "I'm a Bear"), "Flavor of Life", "Beautiful World", "Kiss and Cry", "Heart Station", "Stay Gold", "Fight the Blues", and "Prisoner of Love".
Heart Station was a major success in Japan, becoming Utada's seventh consecutive #1 album on the Japanese charts and selling over 1 million physical copies. It ranked as the #5 best-selling physical album in Japan for 2008, and the top-selling digital album of the year. Additionally, the single "Flavor of Live" became the best-selling digital single in Japanese history, with over 8 million paid downloads.
- "Fight The Blues" (4:10)
- "Heart Station" (4:36)
- "Beautiful World" (5:17)
- "Flavor of Life (Ballad Version)" (5:25)
- "Stay Gold" (5:14)
- "Kiss and Cry" (5:06)
- "Gentle Beast Interlude" (1:13)
- "Celebrate" (4:26)
- "Prisoner of Love" (4:46)
- "Take 5" (テイク５) (3:42)
- "Boku wa Kuma" (ぼくはくま) (2:23) note
- "Nijiiro Bus" (虹色バス) (5:50) note
- "Flavor of Life (Original Version)" (4:46) (Bonus Track)
I'm a Prisoner of Tropes...
- And Now For Something Completely Different: The ethereal, melancholic "Take 5" is followed by "Boku wa Kuma", a nursery rhyme-esque song about Utada's toy bear Kuma. It's completely different from the rest of her music both in sound and lyrics. The former song ends abruptly making the transition more jarring.
- Face on the Cover: A close-up, as with almost all of her studio albums.
- Lyrical Cold Open: "Flavor of Life" (both versions), "Prisoner of Love".
- Mood Whiplash:
- "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.
- No Ending: The aforementioned "Take 5" ends abruptly, which highlights the morbid lyrics.
- Performance Video: "Flavor of Life" and "Prisoner of Love" both consist of her simply performing the song in a recording studio, with a full orchestra in the former. In "Prisoner of Love" this is also intercut with scenes of her writing the song and experiencing writer's block.
- Self-Backing Vocalist: Prominently seen throughout the album, especially "Flavor of Life", "Stay Gold", and "Take 5".
- Siamese Twin Songs: The "Gentle Beast Interlude" leads directly into "Celebrate" with no gap.
- Softer and Slower Cover: "Flavor of Life (Ballad Version)"; curiously, this appears to be the official version of the song in her discography, as it appears in the main tracklisting of the album and was the only version to receive a music video, while the "original" uptempo version is a bonus track.
- Spoken Word in Music: In "Heart Station":Baby, can you hear me? Just tell me one thing...if you can hear me, say something.
- Title Track: "Heart Station".