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This Is The One
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About the Artist
Hikaru Utada is one of the biggest pop stars in the universe. Over the last ten years, her accomplishments in Japan are simply staggering. Her 1999 debut First Love is the country's biggest-selling album of all time, and three of her albums rank among the Top Ten best-sellers. She has had 12 Number One hits, including four songs in Japan's all-time Top 100. 2001's Distance had the largest first-week sales for any album in Japanese music history, selling an astonishing three million copies. In total, the young singer has sold more than 52 million albums.
But unlike most pop starlets around the world, Utada is also a songwriter and producer; indeed, she says that she thinks of herself as a composer more than as a performer. And on This Is The One, her new Island Def Jam album [featuring ten self-penned songs produced by the powerhouse producers Stargate (Ne-Yo, Rihanna, Beyonce) and Tricky (Britney Spears, Madonna, Mariah Carey)] 26-year-old Utada reveals the unique sense of songcraft that is poised to make her a force in the US and European music communities.
"I wanted to make something that's accessible but not cheap--not low-class or stupid, but still appealing to a wide audience," says Utada. "I like to make music that's multi-layered. You might like a song and want to dance, but not really dive into the lyrics and analyze them. And then if you're more bookish and you like words, you might notice the references I make, to Captain Picard or Freddie Mercury or Winona Ryder.
"Both things are just as important to me--to be catchy, so when you hear a song on the radio it sticks out, and also to have that depth."
In conversation, Utada is endlessly surprising, instantly shattering any expectations or stereotypes. The list of heroes and influences that she cites--from the Cocteau Twins to Conan O'Brien, from author Roald Dahl to the Notorious B.I.G.--is unpredictable but extremely telling. "I like smart people," she says. "Not whether you're educated or not, just whether you have that spark, that light in your attic."
Born and raised in Manhattan and educated at Columbia University, Hikaru Utada grew up surrounded by music. Her father, Teruzane Utada, was an accomplished musician and producer, and her mother, Keiko Fuji, was a successful Japanese enka (ballad) singer. Utada spent her youth shuttling between New York City and Tokyo, but her most consistent home was the recording studio. By age 11, she had written and recorded her first song, and by the time she graduated from junior high school, she had been signed by EMI Records; her first album, Precious, was recorded in English, but didn't come out in the US because of business problems at the label; it was subsequently released in Japan.
After moving to Tokyo full-time, she began recording in Japanese, and her debut album in that language, First Love, was an explosive, historic success. Since then, she has had five Number One albums in Japan--most recently, Heart Station in 2008, which was the year's best-selling non-compilation album.
With that level of popularity, it's easy to wonder why Utada is taking the difficult step of starting over as a new artist for a new audience. "It's true that I could have stuck to my throne and taken the easy way," she says, "but I felt that my creativity, my humanity would be endangered by staying in that position. I don't want to just be this crazy artist who lives in la-la land, I want to be in touch with the real world and stay humble. And I like it when something feels scary--I see fear as a guiding light."
Utada did make one earlier foray into the English-language marketplace with the Exodus album n 2004. But even though the singles "Easy Breezy" and "Devil Inside" were hits on the club charts, she views the new album as her true debut. "On that album, I was so insecure," she says. "I was trying too hard, it wasn't natural. But on This Is The One, there's a maturity, a more free-flowing and natural confidence."
In approaching the new album, Utada was very careful about choosing her collaborators and setting their expectations. "With both teams, I wanted them to lay out the basic tracks," she says, "but I told them that I have to write my own songs, with complete control over melody and lyrics."
The producers also turned out to have very different processes. "With Stargate, it was all data transfer," she says. "I recorded most of the vocals in Tokyo and sent them to Norway or New York. They loved it--they were like `This is the future!" But with Tricky, we actually spent time in the studio together, and that was nice and warm. I'm not much of an extrovert, so it was a good experience to have to communicate and get to know a new person."
Utada singles out the track "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence - FYI" (which includes samples from experimental pianist Ryuichi Sakamoto and references to the film Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence) as a central moment in determining her final vision of the album. "I recorded the demo in December of 2007," she says, "but it was a difficult song, and I wasn't satisfied with it--I had to try to get to the bottom of it. And then just a few months ago, I suddenly came up with the right lyrics, changed the melody in places, and it made sense.
"When that song crystallized," she continues, "the message of it was very strong and confident, and I felt like it was a good introduction to me, that it fits in with my current story."
In contrast, the breezy "Apple and Cinnamon" came "almost too easily" to Utada. The vocals on the final version are mostly what she recorded as the demo. "I almost don't even feel like I made it," she says. "I didn't get to savor the experience of it." But her own favorite song on the album is the flirty, sophisticated "Me Muero"--"no other song makes me feel the way that one does."
It's been a long journey, full of many miles and many melodies, for Utada to get to this album. But the lessons she's learned ultimately gave her a clear sense of what she was looking for. "I wanted to get back to basics," she says. "Nothing gimmicky, just very straightforward and confident, with a sense of humor. I was so sure of what I was doing, and I just became more of an adult--finally."
Top Customer Reviews
1. She was born and lived in New York for twelve years before moving to Japan. She did an English language album when she was thirteen I believe, under the name Cubic U. It was R&B/Pop flavoured, rather mainstream. It never was truly released though and she shortly then went to Japan, where she became a sensation.
2. She is not your average "pop" queen that doesn't interact with the public. She blogs A LOT on her Japanese website, and is often rather revealing, sharing her small quirks, desires, etc. She's actually really a big geek in some ways, having this giant teddy bear that's taken a personality on it's own. She's really funny, quirky and odd and doesn't try to push really any perceived image, she just is herself.
3. She's been in the spotlight since I believe, age fifteen, at twenty-six she's not a newcomer by any means. Her mother was a singer too. It's her life. Don't dismiss everything at face value.
4. She's got a very distinct voice. It is weird, some hate it, others love it. However, once you hear it, it's pretty distinct, you'll never not recognize it.
Okay, as far as this album, yes it's short, and yes, it's mainstream. People who don't like it, you're warranted to not like it, your choice.
Utada tried to break out into the US back in 2004 with "Exodus" a very scattered, experimental album, and while it had good tracks it was somewhat not marketable, as it seemed Island Def Jam didn't know what to do with her. Was it dance? Pop? Electro-rock? It didn't make much of an impact outside of clubs.Read more ›
This is a great Pop album. This time around she worked with producers "Stargate" and "Tricky" Stewart (She wrote all the songs, though). "This is the one" has a wide variety of music (Few ballads, R&B, latin-feel song, funky song, etc). You can really enjoy the album and you want to listen to it many times.
It reminds you of the good days in 80's and 90's in a good way with a modern twist (not like cheap and mass-produced dance music nowadays and you don't listen to it a few months later). My favorite song is "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence-FYI" which is sampled from the same titled movie theme song.
If you're new to her music, Utada is one of, if not the most successful singer of all time in Japan. Her Japanese music and lyrics have a great appeal to them... so how about the English side?
Exodus, her previous English album, is along the same lines as this one in terms of it's pop appeal, but the maturity levels have gone way up. She's not just playing cute anymore and dancing around the themes, she takes them to the levels where they belong.
Each song on this album is very distinct - you can clearly imagine the scenarios in her songs, or in the cases of her more club/dance focused songs the beat is invigorating and sticks with you even after they're done playing.
As a long time fan of her Japanese music, the songs on their first listen will probably seem like more of a turn off. But the amazing thing about her music is that it only takes one listen before you realize you've got the songs repeating in your head.
All I had to do was see Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence - FYI live on the CBS early show and I was hooked and bought it on iTunes in addition to buying a CD copy here on Amazon. Leaving the playlist running, Apple and Cinnamon came on next, followed by Taking My Money Back, and I would go back and play them over and over. Come Back to Me and This One (Crying Like a Child) are more like her J-Pop, so those were easy to listen to. Dirty Desire is surprisingly explicit for her, but it's very catchy, as is Poppin', and On And On is just a fun song. Me Muero and Automatic are probably my least favorites, but they actually do grow on me the more I listen to them.Read more ›
I don't have a favorite track/song; choosing one would be like picking your favorite child. The music is really fine. I like the lyrics, they're really fine as well. Attention prudes: they're "mature". I'm a DOM, so maybe that's a reason I enjoy hearing this mature young woman speak her thoughts and feelings so openly.
Ms. Utada's voice displays it's full range from golden lows to sparkling silver in the higher range. You can hear her heart in her voice which is one of the things I've enjoyed most in her Japanese releases.
I love this album. I think I said that already.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I'm a huge Kingdom Hearts junkie, and I only bought this for the songs "Simple and Clean" and "Sanctuary" The iTunes version of this CD doesn't have those songs on... Read morePublished 5 months ago by jrid
Definitely one of my favorite JPOP artists! Support her! you won't regret it!Published 6 months ago by John W. Wegehaupt
Nice collection to get if you are into a J-Pop singer who can sing in English. I got the mp3 soundtrack free from buying the physical soundtrack. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Matthew Castillo
I'm not really into Utada, i only really got this for the Kingdom Heart songs. But other that the rest of the album is good. Its not ment for my sex but i think its still good.Published 6 months ago by Kolrick
Easily a great album. I purchased this because it had the English versions of Simple and Clean and Sanctuary but good gracious it was a phenomenal album through and through. Read morePublished 7 months ago by corny
One of my favorite CDs. Maybe her best CD in my opinion. I love Grads Hilary to death. Worth every penny. Shipped in great time, too.Published 9 months ago by Ruquayya
|Topic||From this Discussion|
|Utada's New English Album||
Any idea if the US version comes with the remixes? Not sure I can justify paying more for the Japanese edition just because of the remixes, but I was curious...
Mar 26, 2009 by J. Cornell | See all 10 posts
|Exodus or This is the One: Which do you like better?||
I've only listened to the new cd once so far, but I have to say that I liked Exodus more. The different styles on Exodus were more interesting. The new cd isn't bad, with some interesting new songs plus the excellent "Simple & Clean" and "Sanctuary" (in fact, I really wish... Read More
May 29, 2009 by Adam Richter | See all 5 posts
|Album Art for 'This Is The One'||
I have to agree, I thought it was a fan cover until I saw it on here and in the zune marketplace. It's just too "too simple" for my taste. I don't know what could make it better, but I think it says something when fan covers look nicer and more official than the real thing!
I also... Read More
May 5, 2009 by LG knows It | See all 15 posts