I got the urge to marathon my favorite J Pop artist, Utada Hikaru’s discography. From her young beginnings, shots at the American market and 2016 come back, this is my own ranking of all Utada’s release to date!
#8. Heart Station
- Sonically, Heart Station is the next step from Ultra Blue. Spacious, simple and airy compositions with great melodies and tones. Utada always sounded mature, but her voice is noticeably different from before. Perhaps a richer tone. Heart Station is straight forward but contains many great almost dreamy pop tunes. Some songs don’t feel fully realized but it’s an altogether solid listen with no real bumps in the road.
- Favorite Tune : Take 5
- On her first English album Utada takes many bold moves and seeks to do something very different from her Japanese music. Exploring some more spicy and interesting lyrical themes, Utada takes on a lot of sounds. The result is a slightly uneven but very interesting release. From the slow burning might of the rocking “Kremlin Dusk”, one of Utada’s masterpieces, to the strange yet irresistible dance jams like “The Workout” and “Exodus 04′”, Utada really made something great with Exodus. It shows her creativity at it’s peak, and while not every song measures up to the next, it was a neat move to take at the peak of her success. I just get a kick out of “Let Me Give You My Love”. She’s like hey, let’s mix gene pools. That’s a better innuendo line then anything from KISS’ discography atleast.
- Favorite Tune : Kremlin Dusk
#6. This Is The One
- It might be because English is my only language but I kind of love the majority of this record. It’s a bit shallow and simplistic but really this is just a fun time. The songs are very catchy, I find myself muttering “Come Back To Me” sometimes. I enjoy the poppy spirit, songs like “Apple And Cinnamon” and “This One (Crying Like A Child)” have minimalist parts that are very effective in setting a tone, nice melodies. If there is an Utada record to just toss on and enjoy yourself, this is the one.
- Favorite Tune : Apple And Cinnamon
- For the record the title track is possibly my favorite J Pop song ever. There is something in the sonics and Utada’s tone that just gets to me. Distance is front loaded with a pure assault of amazing tunes. The jamming and badass “Wait And See ~Risk” with the sudden falsetto plot twist. The slow groove of “Sunglasses”, catchiness of “Can You Keep A Secret”, this record is loaded with winners. However it drags a bit for me, not to say the songs are bad but things don’t quite keep it goin’ ba-by throughout. “Kettobase!” is awesome with deadly verses and the line “I want your baaabbbyyy”. I get a kick out of Utada saying “dark child” and “Parody” has a nice swing. Distance isn’t quite as good song for song as First Love but it’s highlights are absolutely powerful. “OH BA-BY WAIT AND SEEEE”.
- Favorite Tune : DISTANCE
#4. Ultra Blue
- There is a certain tone to this album, something that gets right to me. With keyboard heavy jams, Utada continues from Deep River, the album spanning few years worth of material. Ultra Blue feels like an artist really coming into her own sound. The old R&B is mostly gone, instead we have these wonderful, airy songs. Utada’s voice is very warm and comforting, her performance on “Blue” is absolutely beautiful. It gets a bit ballad heavy for me by the end, but the compositions are overall very strong and it’s really quite a great album.
- Favorite Tune : Keep Tryin
- Coming back after her hiatus, Utada returns very strong. With a somber but ultimately uplifting album of finding happiness in a dark hour. The guest spots are great, Shiina Ringo nearly steals the show with her awesome voice on “Niijkan Dake no Vacance” and though it was off putting at first, KOHH powers the album’s darkest moment “Bokyaku”. As an album Fantome flows with great purpose, it’s her most cohesive release. Some of the songs are not as powerful outside of the album, but altogether it’s a powerful listen. “Sakura Nagashi” closes things on such an emotional high note. Everybody finds love…in the end.
- Favorite Tune : Sakura Nagashi or Niijkan Dake no Vacance
#2. First Love
- Mature beyond her years, Utada’s first album is a wonderful R&B shakedown. Beginning to end it jams, with a great variety from house to trip hop. Many sounds are taken to power the album’s great grooves and funk! I was blown away from the first second of “Automatic”. It was the first Utada song I heard and I loved it before it hit the first verse. The songs are tight, “First Love” is a powerful ballad showcasing Utada’s beautiful, raw and vulnerable voice. Every song on First Love is great.
- Favorite Song : Automatic
#1. Deep River
- Every artist has their masterpiece. For me, Utada’s is her third record, Deep River. An album as black and white as the cover, coated in thick melancholy. Even in the moments of joy and energy there is a cloud hanging over this album. “Sakura Drops” opens things in a rainy fashion, an instantly grabbing vocal line and dreamy keyboards. “Traveling” is R&B taken to levels of sheer perfection and “Deep River” crushes me. “That’s why, that’s why I choose you”. “Letters” is powerful and there are still elements of First Love & Distance, seen on the melodies of “Shiawase ni Naro” and “Play Ball”. The true beef of the album is the soul destroying ballad “FINAL DISTANCE”. For my money the most touching and profound ballad Utada has ever done. “DISTANCE” is a fun bright song, but with a ballad arrangement suddenly “I want to be with you” takes another twist. Deep River is a magnificent album.
- Favorite Song : Deep River