Music Playlist| Utada Hikaru

Hello, hello again~ I’m back with something a bit different. If you couldn’t tell from the BAYOG Covers post, I absolutely love music and it’s such a big part of who I am. I like listening to music, singing, and writing lyrics (Shameless Plug: piecesofminty @ YouTube | piecesofmintymusic @ WordPress | piecesofminty @ Facebook). Before I was really into Asian dramas and movies, I was more into the different music scenes. I’ve always been a big fan of different genres for Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and Thai music. Since I’m in charge of Real People Stuffs, I thought I’d start a new post series in which I’m just going to call “Music Playlist”. Basically I’ll be highlighting the different songs and artists that we recognize from animes, games, dramas, and movies. I’ll also be highlighting other songs by those artists (That’s the playlist part…because “Music Playlist” sounds catchier than “Music Highlight”…). As I’ve mentioned in some of my previous posts (Goblin still has one of the best drama OSTs of all time), I find music to play an important role in a movie or series; Live action or animated. You should know that good OSTs have always been a part of my criteria to a good movie or drama series. After all, it builds the mood and setting. It also expands a character and their emotions and personality. So let’s get on with it~ You can get to know a bit about me, learn something new about these songs and artists, and maybe you’ll like these songs/artists and give them a try~ Maybe you’ll be like me and find a new series through it~

For the first Music Playlist post is on the legendary Japanese Pop Queen Utada Hikaru! She’s my favorite Japanese artist (other than ONE OK ROCK)~ I love her and I’ve been a fan of her music since basically around 2000-2001? Many will recognize her for her song contributions to the Kingdom Hearts game series. 「光」 (Hikari, or “Light”) and “Simple and Clean” from Kingdom Hearts, “Passion” and “Sanctury” from Kingdom Hearts II, and lastly 「誓い」 (Chikai, or “Oath”) and “Don’t Think Twice” from the (incredibly long-awaited) upcoming Kingdom Hearts III. 「光」 will always be my favorite, and you can bet it’s on my list of karaoke songs~

「光」Hikari, which means “Light”, was originally released in 2002 when Utada was 19. This is probably her most successful song in terms of international attention. I think everyone knows this song (And if you can’t jam to this song we can’t be friends). The music video is a simple video of Utada washing the dishes as she happily sings. Apparently it’s because she enjoyed doing dishes then. Seriously. The video isn’t interesting, but I still love this song. It’s probably in my top 3-5 songs by her. The music video, like many of her other music videos, were directed by Kazuaki Kiriya. He was her husband at the time (They divorced in 2007 after 5 years of marriage). He was supposed to be in the music video with her. Originally they had more complex plans for the video, but ended up with this and without Kiriya in it due to complexity and schedule issues. Fun fact: The English version, 「Simple and Clean」, was written and recorded after 「光」.

[Background Info ]

I’m just sad that alot of people only know the Kingdom Hearts songs. Don’t get me wrong, I love the songs from Kingdom Hearts. However, she is literally one of the popular and successful artists in modern Japanese music. She has so many more incredible songs, and she’s also contributed to different dramas and animes too! Before I share those songs and some of my personal favorites, let’s talk some background info! Some people are amazed that First let’s get this right: Her name is pronounced “OO-Ta-Da Hee-Ka-Roo”. It’s not “Yoo-Ta-Da”. Her nickname is Hikki. People are surprised at Utada Hikaru’s fluency in English, but the thing is she’s Japanese-American. She was born, and for a time also raised, in New York. She basically grew up back and forth in Tokyo and Manhattan. Music basically runs in her blood too. Her mother was the famous enka singer Abe Junko, while her father is record producer Utada Teruzane (Random fact: They married and divorced each other 7 times!). When Hikki was younger, she released some stuff with her parents under the band name U3. She also released some solo stuff under the name Cubic U. When she was 15, she signed a recording contract with Toshiba-EMI. She moved to Tokyo and attended an international and an American high school. She wanted to be a singer-songer, not an idol. In 1998 she released her debut album First Love at the age of 16. She’s very involved with her music, writing, composing, and producing just about everything. In terms of her music, she’s very well known for melancholic songs. Despite dominating and being categorized as J-Pop, I wouldn’t say her style of music is typical J-Pop. She stands out because her music was different from what was trending, and it just had a unique and experimental sound to it. She has more of a mature sounding voice and used R&B, dance, and folk influences. She was known to be quite mature and and smart too. She even attended Columbia University. Over her 20 year career, Utada has broken many records. She started gaining attention overseas due to her song contributions to the Kingdom Hearts games. Thanks to that she had a contribution to the Rush Hour 2 soundtrack with “Blow My Whistle (Feat. Foxy Brown“. Around 2004, she moved back to New York and signed a recording contract with Island Def Jam Music Group. That year she released her debut English album “Exodus”. This was a more experimental album, and the sounds were different from her usual work. In 2007, she was featured in a duet remix of Ne-Yo’s “Do You” that was released in Japan. She also released a second English album in 2009 called “This Is the One” (Side note: Your girl here was blessed to see her in person and get an autograph when this came out~). This album sounded a bit more mainstream with more R&B sounds. Both were released under her American artist name, Utada. Although, you can say her career into the western market wasn’t very successful. As of now she’s just releasing everything under Utada Hikaru, whether it’s releases for the Japanese or International market. In terms of her personal life, she married director Kazuaki Kiriya when she was 19. He was 15 years older than her, and had directed many of her music videos. They divorced 5 years later. In 2011, she went on indefinite hiatus. She basically felt fatigued and wanted to live a normal life for a bit. Remember when everyone was all “WHY KH NO COME OUT WITH NEW GAME?!” Her hiatus was one of the reasons. In 2016 she came out of her hiatus and released a new song. And in 2017 she finally released a new album. In February 2013, she announced she was getting married an Italian bartender (non-celebrity). They got married in Italy shortly after. In 2015 she gave birth to a son. And as of April 6, 2018, she announced that she has divorced her Italian husband.

[DRAMA OST CONTRIBUTIONS]

Utada has several contributions to Japanese drama soundtracks. The most famous one being “Flavor of Life (Ballad Version)” for the second season of the 花より男子/Hana Yori Dango (Boys Over Flowers) drama. She’s also set to contribute a song called 「初恋」(Hatsukoi, “First Love”) for the 花のち晴れ/Hana Nochi Hare (Sunshine After Flowers) drama series, basically the new season for the Hana Yori Dango series. Personally I find that’s going to be a bit confusing when searching for her songs since she also has a song called 「First Love」Here are some of her song contributions to dramas.
「Flavor of LIfe ~Ballad Version~」| Hana Yori Dango Returns (2007)
I like this version over the regular one.

「Prisoner of Love」| Last Friends (2008)

There are two versions of this song. The regular version and the 「Prisoner of Love ~Quiet Version~」. You may have guessed that the quiet version is a much softer version. It has just piano and strings accompanying Hikki’s vocals. I personally like the original version that has more of an R&B feel.

「Eternally」| Innocent Love (2008)
This song was originally released on her 2001 album, Distance. For the drama they released a version called 「Eternally~Drama Mix~」.

[ANIME OST CONTRIBUTIONS]

Other than contributions to dramas and the Kingdom Hearts games, she’s also has some anime related contributions (particularly with the Evangelion series) as well!

「Beautiful World」(2007)| Neon Genesis Evangelion / Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone (2007)
I admit that I wasn’t really into this song when it first came out, but it grew on me. I like the [acoustica remix] alot though.

「Fly Me to the Moon (In Other Words)」(2000)| Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone (2007)

「桜流し」(Sakura Nagashi, “Flowing Cherry Blossoms”) (2012)| Neon Genesis Evangelion / Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Rebuild (2012)
I admit that I wasn’t really into this song when it first came out, but it grew on me. I like the [acoustica remix] alot though.

[MINTY’S PLAYLIST| Recommendations from Minty]

These are just some of my favorites, although I have waaaaay more favorites. Honestly, it was kind of hard to choose. I’ve also made a Spotify playlist if you just want to listen to all my favorites, because they finally have almost all of Utada’s Japanese stuff on Spotify! WOOHOO!!!~ I also have to say that Deep River is my favorite album~ Distance is my second favorite. I also included some stuff from her English albums. Although, I have to admit they’re not my favorite songs or albums from her. But they still managed to get stuck in my head. I definitely prefer her Japanese work.

Also some little tidbits:
-「嘘みたいな I Love You」(Uso Mitai na I Love You, “The Dubious I Love You”) samples part of the melody from 「Simple and Clean」.
-「Kiss & Cry」samples a part of the melody from「Hotel Lobby」, a track from her debut English album Exodus.
-「光 (Ray of Hope Mix)」and「Simple and Clean (Ray of Hope Mix」samples bits of 「traveling」.

「First Love」| Album: First Love (1998)
First Love is a classic and probably her most iconic song. It’s her debut song from 1998. It’s about the bittersweetness of a first love. Definitely one of my favorite karaoke songs too. I wanted to post the original music video, but it seems to have been scrubbed from YouTube (boo). This was probably the first song I heard from her. I remember first seeing the music video while in Thailand. This song was also the theme song for a 1999 J-Drama called, 魔女の条件/Majo no Jouken (Terms of a Witch). Fun fact: Boyz II Men actually did an English cover of this in a 2010 Japan only album called Cover: Winter. It was basically an album that covered famous Japanese songs in English.

「Automatic」| Album: First Love (1998)
This one is another iconic classic. Outside of the songs for the Kingdom Hearts games, I’d say that 「First Love」 and 「Automatic」are her two most famous songs. This is also another song I always karaoke~ The music video is kind of funny though and there was a funny parody (that has since be scrubbed from YouTube). Basically everyone always finds it funny how it looks she’s singing and dancing as if the ceiling is closing in on her haha.

「SAKURAドロップス」(Sakura Drops)| Album: Deep River (2002)
I also remember watching the music video in Thailand. This was the song that made me really fall in love with her music. It’s another sad and melancholic song. This is also another MV that her first husband directed.

「DEEP RIVER」(Sakura Drops)| Album: Deep River (2002)
The Deep River album is my all time favorite album by Utada. I really like listening to this song because it sounds so pretty and calming.

「誰かの願いが叶うころ」(Dareka no Negai ga Kanau Koro, “When Someone’s Wish Comes True”)| Single: 誰かの願いが叶うころ (2004)
This song was the theme song for the live action movie adaptation of Casshern. Both the music video and film were directed by Utada’s then-husband, Kazuaki Kiriya.

「FINAL DISTANCE」| Single: Final Distance (2001)
This was a re-arranged version of the song “Distance”. “Distance” was originally a more bright and warm sounding song. However, it was re-arranged and re-sung in memory of a young fan who died in the Osaka school massacre. The six year old victim had written an essay where she said she wanted to be an actress and that she was inspired by Utada. The re-arranged version was a low-tempo ballad that channeled emotions of sorrow, anger, and pain. Yet, it also had the message and feeling of trying to hold on until the very end. For a more upbeat version, I highly recommend the M-flo remix of “Distance” (because I love M-flo too).

「traveling」| Album: Deep River (2002)
Probably my most favorite by her that’s not melancholic and is very upbeat.

「Can You Keep a Secret」| Album: Distance (2001)
This was the theme song for the 2001 drama Hero. This is another more upbeat song, though not as upbeat and happy as 「traveling」. It’s more like R&B and dance pop.

「Wait & See ~ Risk~」| Album: Distance (2001)
This was also another more upbeat, dance pop song with some rock elements to it.

「道」(Michi, “Road”)| Album: Fantôme (2017)
This is probably my favorite track from her last album. I first heard it in her Suntory commercial, which I’ve linked because full version of the song is scrubbed from YouTube. It sounds pretty upbeat and uplifting. The song is basically talking about despite having to take this road alone, you’re going to do your absolute best. Do what you gotta do, and although it feels lonely, the person you loved is still kind of with you. I was really impressed with this one since. I’m quite certain this song was written with her mother in mind. Sadly, Utada’s mother died in 2013 after jumping off her apartment building from an apparent suicide. I assume that this was also the other reason why her hiatus was stretched out. However, I’m sure Utada has gotten the strength to go forward and I feel like this song was the result of turning that pain into something positive.

「二時間だけのバカンス (Nijiikan Dake no Vacance, Two Hour Only Vacation)| Album: Fantôme (2017)
This song features another famous old school J-Pop singer, Sheena Ringo. This was the first single from her first album since her hiatus. I remember it came out and it was immediately stuck in my head. It just felt relaxing to listen to.

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3 thoughts on “Music Playlist| Utada Hikaru

  1. The Caffeinated Kat says:

    Utada Hikaru is a Jpop legend and queen. I loved her back in the day when I first got into Jpop and Kpop, and now that I’m back into it, I’ve been revisiting my old faves, including Utada Hikaru. Can’t wait to see more of your posts like this!

    • piecesofminty says:

      I’m glad that you enjoyed this post! ^~^ Utada is definitely my all time favorite female Japanese artist! While I am looking forward to her new stuff, I gotta say that the classics are my favorite~

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