Utada Hikaru… becoming indie?

I am no expert on Asian pop music, but I do know of Utada Hikaru‘s worldwide fame and respect. Many of these modern pop stars get some aging bald guy to write their songs while they flaunt their fake sex appeal with their faces covered in make-up that weighs more than them. While Utada does have naturally good looks, she would have reached this point even if she was hideous. First off, she writes many of the songs by herself. She is responsible for most of the writing and production in her new album, ULTRA BLUE. Utada is one of the most successful Japanese artists of all time and her material tops the charts all over Asia whenever the slightest thing from her is released. She was born in a musical family, and has been followed by record label executives ever since she was 10. She made her American debut with Exodus in 2004, featuring production by Timbaland and drumming by Jon Theodore (The Mars Volta). The majority of the album was in English, and it did very well considering that she is an artist with a different style than traditional American pop music, which is horrible most of the time though MTV attempts to make us think otherwise.

Her new album ULTRA BLUE returns to her Japanese roots, as most of the album is in Japanese. She is destined to attract Western Indie fans though, as her sound is significantly darker with more technological effects. It even reminds me of artists such as Imogen Heap a bit. The single ‘COLORS’ is one of the most successful songs of all time in Japan already, and listening to it, it is easy to see why. This song is one of the catchiest of the year, and it takes a lot for me to post a song in this genre. I truly cannot stop listening to it. ‘BLUE’ has an aggressively tight chorus after a beautifully sung verse, over nicely arranged pads and keys. ‘Keep Tryin” is a cool single as well. It is reliant on the general beauty and atmosphere plus a killer chorus, which would describe her new album best. This is a step in the right direction, and the move to try something new in the genre of conventional pop music is daring and will eventually be rewarding.


Utada Hikaru – COLORS



Utada Hikaru – BLUE



Utada Hikaru – Keep Tryin’



Official Web Site


Mike Mineo

I'm the founder/editor of Obscure Sound, which was formed in 2006. Previously, I wrote for PopMatters and Stylus Magazine.

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  1. Excellent post. It’s a shame that Hikki doesn’t get the recognition in the States that she deserves. She’s actually American born, and splits time between New York and Japan, though obviously her she’s more identified with J-pop than as a pan-international star (a la Bjork, say, with whom I most closely compare Utada). Anyway, for any other readers interested, her latest album, from which this post is culled, is actually available on Itunes (which will save you a mint, if you would’ve been buying it on import). I only wish she’d tour the US on her latest jag, but it looks like she’s sticking to Japan, at least for 2006.

  2. Thanks for the post, I’ve been gone on vacation so I couldn’t thank you earlier. I appreciate you reading my email suggesting this album!

  3. I love Utada Hikaru. This is the first time I’ve heard “Blue”, and I must say it’s one of my favorite’s from her! I can relate to this song very well. (after reading an english translation) Great post!

    And commenting on Jake’s comment, I think if Utada came to the states in the late 90’s she’d be very popular in the US. Since her kind of music has that pop-like feel but more…and she would still hold a large amount of popularity w/o changing to a rap or punk artist, which seem to be the big things in America at the moment.

  4. Great article there. She’s having her tour around Japan this year and tickets are already all sold out month before her scheduled concerts..BTW I really love this album! Go Hikki!!

  5. Yeah, I love her songs. I’ve heard Santury and Passion Futurre mix songs on YouTube, but I want to find the MP3’s for them. Can someone help me? If you can, just E-mail me at [email protected]. Thankx…

  6. Hikki = Brilliance.

    I have pretty much every single thing she has ever released. Well worth the time and money.

  7. Hikki is definately one of my fav artists, compared to other ‘artists’ in the music industry. WINGS is a great song in the new album Ultra Blue. Recently she also released a single called ‘Flavor of Life’, another chart-topper.

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