Let’s hear it for our former boss, J-Pop singer Utada Hikaru! Unlike most J-Pop idols, Utada Hikaru is well-known for writing and producing all her music, a feat that has paid off with the 52 million albums she’s sold. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Jpop, you may recognize Utada Hikaru for her Kingdom Hearts songs “Simple and Clean” and “Sanctuary.”
Although she was considered one of the most influential Japanese artists of the 2000s, Utada Hikaru announced she was going on hiatus in 2010 for personal reasons. She added that the hiatus shouldn’t last more than five years.
Now it’s 2015. Although she stepped out of the limelight, rumblings from her personal life have made it’s way to the public. Some of the news, such as her marriage, were good. Other news, such as her mother’s death, were tragic. All the while, fans made it clear that they missed her. A tribute album was released in Japan featuring artists such as Sheena Ringo and Ayumi Hamasaki.
But recent news has hinted that the wait may finally be over. Utada Hikaru has announced via twitter that she is working on a new song with the working title “Sasshire Cappucino.” Is it the end of her hiatus? No one is sure yet. But new music from Utada Hikaru is welcome and we here at Audrey thought it would be great to reminisce on five of her greatest songs while waiting for “Sasshire Cappucino.” Ranked in no particular order, here they are:
1. First Love
Released as her third single in 1999, “First Love” was written and composed by Utada Hikaru at the tender age of sixteen. This is especially surprising considering the first lines of the song translate to “our last kiss, taste like a cigarette.” Despite this edgy opener, “First Love” is primarily a song of heartbreak, with a chorus that is both wistful and devastated. Who wouldn’t cry when she sings “I’ll remember to love, you taught me how.”
Primarily known as the Japanese version to the second Kingdom Hearts opening theme, “Passion” is a beast on it’s own. The closest English equivalent would be an Enya song, but that doesn’t even fully capture this ethereal rock-ballad with the soaring background vocals. There’s also quite a few english lyrics sung backwards in the chorus. Can you find them?
3. FINAL DISTANCE
A ballad re-arrangement of her song “Distance,” Utada Hikaru reworked the song after she heard that the 6-year-old victim of a school stabbing, Rena Yamashita, was a fan of hers. It’s hard to do a slow, mostly-piano driven ballad without boring the listener, but “FINAL DISTANCE” always seems to evoke tears.
4. Kiss & Cry
Speaking of working song titles, Utada Hikaru once revealed the working title of “Kiss & Cry” was called “Dancing Leah” after the Filipina American model Leah Dizon. While “Kiss & Cry” certainly has a danceable beat, it’s not exactly club material. But then again, as long as “Kiss & Cry” is playing, we are down for anything.
5. Flavor of Life (Ballad Version)
Lastly there is “Flavor of Life (Ballad Version),” which many know as the theme song to Hana Yori Dango 2 (Boys over Flowers 2). Equally heartbreaking and catchy, “Flavor of Life” is undeniably one of Utada Hikaru’s biggest hits. In Japan alone, it sold 700,000 physical copies and 7.7 digital downloads in the year of 2007. Yeah, it’s huge and we can understand why.
BONUS: Sakura Nagashi
We’re cheating with this one, but this song, which was released in 2011 (after the the hiatus) for the Neon Genesis Evangelion movie, is simply exquisite. Bring on your new material when you are ready, Hikki-chan!