Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wopping Wednesday: Utada Hikaru

Let's go over to Japan now for a singer who's been one of my favorites since I was five.

Yes, like a lot of Western fans, I was introduced to her through Kingdom Hearts, but I was five - how else was I supposed to hear of her? :P

Anyway, she's had a big impact on me since then. The high (-ish) notes she sings near the end of "Simple and Clean" / "Hikari" (depending on which language the version is) are part of why I taught myself to sing in a higher register, and is therefore a contribution to my role as a Soprano I in the choirs I've been in at school. She was also one of the first Asian media figures introduced to me as a kid, the others being Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and other children's cartoons. Without my love of her, it probably would have been more difficult for me to transition to K-pop and Kdrama from J-pop. (Since I was already used to listening to anime and music in Japanese as opposed to English, it didn't bother me that I couldn't understand any of the Korean language at the time.)

Hrm...I'm kind of thinking of omitting the biographical parts in "Wopping Wednesday" due to the length that some of them take up... Especially with Utada Hikaru, since she's been around for a while.

I'll try to sum her up as concisely as possible. :)

The Japanese-American singer was born in New York City on January 19, 1983 to record producer Utada Teruzane and singer Utada Junko (under the pseudonym Fuji Keiko). Utada Hikaru recorded some songs with her mother, as U3, for some time before embarking on her first solo project as Cubic U.

As a fourteen-year-old, she moved to Tokyo, where she joined the record company Toshiba EMI (now EMI Music Japan) as a singer-songwriter. Her debut album, First Love, was released in 1999. In solely Japan, sales of the album have since risen above 7 million copies, and 10 million copies overall.

Well, she's not an idol... Cool.

With her albums, she continued to find immense success throughout her career. Granted, her two English-language albums didn't sell as well as her Japanese-language ones, but her popularity has been undeniable. The release of her third album in 2002, Deep River, made Utada the first singer or group in Japan to have sold over three million units for three consecutive albums.

That same year, Square Enix released the Kingdom Hearts video game. The Japanese version of the theme song was decided to be one of Deep River's hit singles, "Hikari;" she recorded an English version of the song for the international copies of the game. (And I am very, very pleased about this! :)) For the third game in the series, Kingdom Hearts II, she recorded "Sanctuary" - and it's Japanese counterpart, "Passion" - as its theme song.

Utada's career continued to be successful in general. However, since 2011, she has been on a hiatus, although she did release a single in 2012 ("Sakura Nagashi") and began hosting her own radio show, Kuma Power Hour, in April of this year.

If I had learned Japanese by now, I'd be listening to that...

I won't say much about her romantic relationships, but I found out recently that her mother committed suicide on April 22. That's...there's not much I can really comment on with this topic, but I hope that she has been able to effectively grieve. (My personal belief that my comforting skills are in need of improvement still stand.)

Well, uh...on to the music now. (See, this is why I kind of want to stop writing this part - there's so much that I want to say about her, but there's also too much. Plus, I haven't even been able to write it very well. I'm sorry...)

(I'm going to choose to not pay attention to the picture because this is the only unedited audio I could find that wasn't removed by Youtube. I was also never aware that this song is the theme song for the first Rebuild of Evangelion movie, as the Neon Genisis Evangelion anime is one that I haven't watched yet.)

"Beautiful World" is one of my favorite songs by Utada. Its melody, combined with her voice, is pretty. The repeating piano riff also compliments the sound nicely. But I've just always thought that the song is...well..."Beautiful."

(Pamela, I thought you were done with the puns.) Nope.

I was going to put a different song from her 2010 English-language album, This Is The One - a song that had a music video - but this song is one that I've recently realized connects with the fangirls out there. *points to self*

From her second single-compilation album, "Goodbye Happiness" has a...cute video. It also is a really pretty song, for the same melodic reason as with "Beautiful World."

Honestly, in general, most of her Japanese - and some of her English - song's melodies sound nice to my ears, so such a sentence is true for whatever song I put in this post. Granted, I've been listening to her for eleven years, so that may be partially due to my bias.

I'm trying to refrain from mentioning the improper breathing technique she's implementing in this music video, but I can't ignore it. I usually enjoy listening to "Flavor of Life," but...I prefer listening to the song as opposed to watching the beginning of the music video.

By the way, this is the ballad version, but there is also a more upbeat version, which the original. There isn't a video with the audio of it as far as I've searched on Youtube, but iTunes has it.

(For whatever reason, I can't find this through the "upload video" option on Blogger, so here's the link...)

"This is Love" is a fun, dance-y song, and it also somewhat showcases the ability of Utada Hikaru's vocal technique. By the way, if you do choose to click on the link, this is a live performance of the song. 

Okay, let's go nostalgic for a moment...

(Ah, well, the Japanese audio keeps being removed from the Youtube videos, and I prefer the fast English version over the slow English version, so...)

"Simple and Clean" (fast English version)

This was my first introduction to her...thanks, bro! *bounces around and sings along* By the way, this is the song that convinced me to teach myself to sing high notes. So...this song is part of why I'm a soprano... :P Oh, I love this song... well as this next one. (Aish, I love a lot of her songs; this is nothing new... :P)

"Sanctuary" (English version)
(And for this one, I cannot find any Japanese/English audio from this "insert a video" option that hasn't been removed. So...I just used a walkthrough video...because I'm sneaky - and desperate - like that. Skip 30 seconds in for the opening sequence, about ten-ish seconds extra if you don't want to hear Haley Joel Osment's voice...)

This song...I love it so much...I just love Kingdom Hearts...and Utada Hikaru...

Well, her voice is nice to listen to. Sure, her occasionally shaky-sounding vibrato can be a little noticeable at times, but she's not the only one with it. Plus, the skills she brings to each song she writes and performs is just amazing, in my opinion. I'm afraid to ramble on about her melodies, her songs, her career, and her voice for much longer because I know that I just have too much bias left over from my childhood to effectively discuss her without seeming like a narrow-minded idiot.


No comments:

Post a Comment