Oh Kuma-chan is quickly becoming a celeb! Utada Hikaru’s beloved Kuma (teddybear) is the titular character in Utada Hikaru’s latest project. “Kuma Power Hour” is a completely home made radio programme on InterFM which will showcase songs she specifically wants to play, artists she wants to promote and push forward and a talk segment too. Hikki has always had a fun sense of humour but always looked cutely uncomfortable when talking on stage so we’re really interested to hear how the show (sadly in Japanese) will come out. It will air from 16th April and be on each third Tuesday of the month.
Sometimes live performances just all come together and work perfectly. They aren’t the most technically impressive you’ve seen, the most in tune nor have the biggest effects. Utada United 2006 works because throughout it all Utada Hikaru rides an emotional rollercoaster and takes you with her through the highs and lows of what I consider to be her best DVD release so far.
Opening with an extended version of “Passion” we are they treated to a mega medley of stomping J-Pop of “This Is Love”, “Travelling” and “Movin’ On Without You”. Each has new tricks and seamlessly blend perfectly into each other. There’s also some great stage effects as the entire stage is lit up from behind on a video wall. After the danceathon we get a slower trio with an emotive stripped back “Sakura Drops”, a voice breaking “Final Distance” and the crowd favourite “First Love” which improves with age for me. The the concert elevates into its own level.
The middle section of this concert is where the more daring side comes out, firstly by bringing three English songs to the table and Utada absolutely rocks out. “Devil Inside” is ten times the song it is on the record, “Kremlin Dusk” is the sole non-single track performed and its very dramatic before “You Make Me Want To Be A Man” brings you to a euphoric climax. It’s here where the culmination of everyone’s efforts its best shown. The effects, the band, the voice and the emotion let rip. The artsy passage reading prior to this section is well done too. We then get alternative versions of songs too.”Be My Last” is haunting with its cello/vocal arrangement and “When Somebody Elses Wish Comes True” is haunting for the visuals placed behind the music. Utada’s voice sounds like its about to croak its last but actually it makes it far more emotional to listen to. “Colours” too gets a complete ballad reworking and is simply gorgeous.
As the set returns to earlier tracks a normality is restored for the final third although “Letters” and set closer “Hikari” are beautifully done and the visuals throughout makes everything feel alive.
Of the three DVD concerts I have to date, this is my favourite for its diversity, its visual appeal and its great balance between technically hitting most of the marks and still sounding slightly like things are about to go Indie Pop. That’s why Utada Hikaru will possibly always be my favourite J-Pop artist of all time.
Utada Hikaru, queen of the vocal tracks due to the general success of Hikari / Simple & Clean returned to the Kingdom Hearts and VGM fray with a brand new song to tantalize us for the upcoming Kingdom Hearts II soundtrack. The offering is a 2 track single entitled “Passion” which is available with just the tracks or with an additional DVD containing the music video.
“Passion” is frankly one of the most captivating vocal songs I have heard in an extremely long time. Starting with soft backing vocals and electronic pulses the song rip roars into a mass drum fest – almost verging on pop tribal and it beats out a stomping stadium anthem chorus to Utada’s sublime vocals which are in both Japanese, and if you reverse it, you’ll catch many lines of English too. The verses are equally rocky and edgy and the whole sound is a much more mature and darker mood which seems to suit the overall look and feel of the Kingdom Hearts game too. The song then finally reaches up a notch for a climax of guitars, drums, electronics and bleeding vocals to return to its very soft beginnings. Amazing. While I must admit I am a huge follower of Utada Hikaru’s previous works since hearing Hikari and going onto hearing Colors – I must state that I have rarely had my breath taken away by a song so easily.
That’s the single version which also appears on the album Ultra Blue. Also on the single we have “Passion ~after the Battle~” which takes away every element of the single version except the vocals and then adds a soft and simplistic piano backing. Beautiful, although the warped vocals can distract at times, it really takes the same song and adds a completely different spin. Once the song has gone through its paces it then strikes up the guitar and carefully goes through a karaoke version of half the song again to finish off which I believe is quite unique – almost like the tune you’d get after you hear the victory fanfare in a game and you’re adding up your exp. points! Clever stuff if you look at the title me thinks!
Now if you have bought the CD+DVD version (as I did) you’ll also get a separate DVD with the music video on which involves anime Utada, lots of drum banging, even more horses and even more dancing kachinas! A visual spectacular but those of you after Kingdom Hearts footage will be left disappointed.
I’d recommend this single to absolutely anyone without hesitation, a masterpiece!
Utada Hikaru’s swansong concert before her hiatus is somewhat of a moving occasion and the DVD is a delight to watch and enjoy. Utada’s vocals have never been 100% perfect but its that emotional indie effect that draws you in further and with some complete rearrangements of songs, it really feels a different experience to United and Bokudan.
Opening with “Goodbye Happiness” after a cute Kuma video intro, the circular stage takes full effect as Utada stays central and everythings revealed around her. “Traveling” has a different ending and ”Take 5″ is great to finally hear live although its a little understated before we get a great “Prisoner of Love” rendition.
Then two of the best surprises follow with a string version of “Colors” which is simply devine. Each iteration of this song is fantastic which shows just how strong the song is. Followed in a string version of “Letters” with some minimal keyboard samples thrown in under the very end when drums kick in. It’s really interesting to hear it in this light. A piano/vocal version of “Hymne a L’amour” follows which continues the arranged theme of the concert before Utada herself plays piano for a gorgeous rendition of “Sakura Drops”.
“Eclipse” is extended for a costume and set change and then the second half features more of a plugged set. “Passion” complete with the battlefield insert sounds fantastic in a full band effort as does “Blue” which really seems to come alive with real drums. “Show Me Loive (Not a Dream)” is my favourite of the new songs and Utada’s vocals really shine on this rock out number. In contrast we get the fun “Boku Wa Kuma” with a piano where the words appear on the tv screens overheard for the crowd to sing along and “Stay Gold” which is achingly beautiful. A quick hark back to older songs “Automatic” and “First Love” are sure fire crowd pleasers, especially with Utada showing her piano chops on the later before we round off with a emotional trio of “Beautiful World”, “Hikari” and “Niji-Iro Basu” by which Utada is visably emotional, wandering round the stage as if she’s waving goodbye.
A surprise in the encore with a minimalistic cover on the guitar of “Across the Universe” follows with “Can’t Wait til Christmas” and “Time Will Tell”. With that Utada says her thank you’s, places her mic on the stage and walks down a long path into a black curtain. Clearly made as a statement, we simply can’t wait for the day she reveals herself again. Emotional, great new arrangements and fun allround, Utada may not be pitch perfect, but she can wing your emotions dry in an instant.
Utada Hikaru’s “Wild Life” concert will be released on DVD on 6th April. The DVD will contain the best from both performances and feature music from across Hikki’s career. Also included is a bonus 40 minute behind the scenes programme. Since we won’t have any new stuff coming around for a bit, I’ll be relishing this release!
Utada Hikaru’s parting arrow before her rest from the music business comes in the form of Single Collection Vol 2. Whilst I’m sure you all know the singles well if you’re a Hikki fan, the 5 track second disc of new songs meant I had to grab the album when it was released digitally in Europe!
Firstly a quick shout out to Beautiful Worlds Acoustica PLANitb Mix which is absolutely fantastic at the end of disc 1, a previously download only track which is now available on CD – an equal to the original. Think rock-dance.
“Arashi no Megami” opens disc 2 with a power rock ballad. Starting off with piano and vocals, slowly the bass and guitars creep in and before you know it, you have a Utada Aerosmith song! It doesn’t quite go into massive rock chorus’ but it’s about as rocked out Hikaru has been for a while. “Show Me Love (Not A Dream)” opens to a beautiful ambient keyboard pulsing with heavily processed drum rolls in the distance which soon burst into a real rock track. This track really caught my attention as Hikki roars “it’s all in my head” to pounding drums and grungey guitars. It’s such a fabulous removal from another she’s done recently – I could quite happily take a grunge Utada next album!
“Goodbye Happiness” is very much of the last two albums. Completely digital j-pop but with a tinge of sadness and spoonful of chirp. Utada has always been able to write fantastically catchy songs that never grate on you and just stay with you and this is a great example of this. You’ll like it on first listen but love it by the fifth.
Then time for something completely different, “Hymne a L’amour -Ai no Anthem-” is a lounge song. With the electric piano, flutes and hi-hats bashing away, it’s a complete transformation. Utada’s voice suits the type of song and it’s really surprising at how versatile and cameleon like all these different styles in five songs have allowed Utada to be. The final track “Can’t Wait Til Christmas” is a beautiful ballad to end the mini CD.
I have to say that the complete variation on this mini CD took me by surprise. It’s whet my pallette for Grunge Hikki! However, as long as we get to hear more music from her in the future, I’m sure whichever style she goes for will be magic. This see’s her staying gold.
Utada Hikaru returns with the music video for “Goodbye Happiness” which is going to be her signing off for now single from the upcoming Singles Collection Vol2 before she takes a career break. Hurry back soon Hikki!
It’s been a bitter-sweet couple of days for Hikki fans as the announcement of a Vol2 of her singles collection coming 24th November 2010 will feature 2 digital tracks and possibly up to 5 new tracks was followed by Utada stating she’ll be taking a career break from music starting 2011. Although she say’s it not a retirement, she doesn’t know when she’ll return as of yet. I remember her being quoted as saying she didn’t want to do music forever so maybe she’ll persue other things for the time being. Until then get Traveling Hikki!
“Hikari”, the theme song for Kingdom Hearts (A PlayStation 2 Game) is a delightful song sung by young Japanese sensation Utada Hikaru. Refreshingly for a main theme, it’s not a ballad; it’s a pop song. With a real beat and a catchy chorus, Hikari can easily be ranked up there with the great vocal theme tracks for anything.
For the single, the Japanese version is used, and while the actual song only differs by a few vocal notes in the chorus to the English version, it still comes across as as fresh and delightful as this is actually the original cut! It’s electronic drums are fresh, it’s acoustic guitar chords bouncey and its vocals are restrained passion.
Also onboard to make this a very worth purchase are 3 other versions of the song. First up is the PLANITb remix, which turns the pop song into a light techno song. The song speeds up the lyrics a little which can make for some funny chipmunk moments, but on the whole the remix, which is also used in the games opening sequence (albeit in only half its entirety), is a great success and is great to dance too. The “Godson Mix” is a previously unreleased one, which turns it in a summer’s day pop song. While it still sounds ok, the cutesy child-like version is more of an alternative, rather than an improvement. The final version is the Karaoke version, which is great for those who want to sing it in English instead!
If you have the Kingdom Hearts OST, your wanting for this single will be diminished by the lack of any other songs, but getting the full PLANITb version and a karaoke version to sing along to should sway you into spending your hard earned cash. “Simple and Clean” the English version is on the “Colors” single from Utada Hikaru.
I wonder what Hikki is up to. Utada Hikaru is releasing a new Japanese single entitled Sai no Omoide () but its coming from U3 which consists also over her parents Teruzane and Keiko! Could this be Japan’s answer to Jackson 5? Watch this space! It’s currently to be released in August, so we’ve a while yet…
Utada Hikaru is to release two books of completely different content on the same date. The books are entitled “Ten” and “Sen” and are released on the 12th of March.
“Sen” is a book that will chart all of her web diary and various other messages over the last ten years. This will have a specific new photo shoot. “Ten” will have summaries of official interviews taken over the last ten years and appears to be retailing at a few yen more in price.
What with that and an English album, Hikki is busy this year!
Well in the previous post we told you what we’d bought, now its time for our top 10 countdown. There were some excellent releases this year although we’ve bought less compared to 2007, however there wasn’t one release we did not like so everyone’s a winner (except the bank account). So without further ado:
10) Ayumi Hamasaki – GUILTY
Ayu went all rock for this years album and we head banged with her. With guitar riffs popping out your years and cute verses inbetween, who couldn’t love GUILTY. Standouts are Talkin 2 Myself, GUILTY, Marionette, Together When & Mirror.
09) Son Lux – At War with Walls and Mazes
Our first of two new artists we found this year in the top 10, we were hooked by the unique nature and cold music that made us emotional inside. We look foward to more and more from Son Lux. Highlights are Break, Weapon, Wither, Tell & War.
08) Yasunori Mitsuda – Soma Bringer OST
We must confess that the reason this is 8th and maybe not higher is due to the fact we’ve not spent enough time with it but Mitsuda always produces stunning etheral and mystical albums and we love them and the soundtrack is that good we couldn’t decide our top 5. A review will be coming early next year.
07) Sarah Slean – The Baroness
Possibly the highest charting disappointment for 2008, we felt the production and song’s were a little bland but bland for Sarah is still fantastic and in time we grew to love the album. Definitely a grower. Stand outs are Euphoria, Notes From the Underground, So Many Miles, Sound of Water/Change Your Mind & Get Home.
06) Wataru Hokoyama – Afrika OST
We only reviewed it last week but it’s that good it rockets in at No.6. The lush soundscapes and beautiful melodies earn it a place as one of best orchestral VGM soundtracks in recent memory. Stand outs are Savanna, Afrika, Safari, Big Five & Base Camp
05) Akira Yamaoka – Silent Hill Zero OST
While the games may get a bit of bashing for sticking with the same formula, Akira Yamaoka delivers another serving of empty, sorrowful, eerie ambience that makes you shiver, squirm and tap your feet all at the same time. Not as immediate as some of the other soundtracks he’s done, the songs gradually fester. Stand outs are Hole in the Sky, Theme of Sabre Dance, Drowning, This Wicked End & Wrong is Right
04) Julia Marcell – It Might Like You
A complete new artist for us to discover, we loved her debut album in all its demo-esque glory and look forward to enjoying her work in the years to come. Stand outs are Carousel, Outer Space, Fear of Flying, Dancer & The Story.
03) Emiliana Torrini – Me & Armini
Completely genre hopping – being barking mad in places while utterly devastingly beautiful in others, no one can master everything all at once quite like Emiliana. Good to have you back! Stand Outs are Jungle Drum, Dead Duck, Beggar’s Prayer, Gun & Birds.
02) Alanis Morissette – Flavors of Entanglement
We had been just passers by for Alanis until this album came out. Infectious, technically excellent, emotionally charged and completely compelling, this has quickly become our English album for 2008. Stand outs: Straitjacket, Tapes, Not as We, Limbo No More and Orchid
01) Utada Hikaru – Heart Station
Utada has yet to make a duff record and this, her fifth Japanese album (sixth overall) continues to show her as a natural talent. Stand out tracks are Stay Gold, Heart Station, Beautiful World, Take 5 & the bitter sweet finale Niji-iro Bus.
Congrats to Utada Hikaru!
We here at HPM can’t hide our love for Utada Hikaru and here’s a one off live gem of hers – an orchestral performance of “Be My Last”. This is a simply beautiful version and shows that any version of this song is a hit. Enjoy it here.
Although it was a relatively quiet month for releases, it was the third biggest month in page views for HPM and with a review blow out of all the 2008 albums we’ve (well just I’ve) bought, December looks like being the biggest month for the website to date. Here’s the top 10 most read artists for December and congrats to Charlotte Martin who topped out with her excellent Orphans EP for being the most viewed post. In the brackets is their position relative to last month and the amount of months they’ve been on the chart.
01) Charlotte Martin (- / 1)
02) Sarah Slean (8 / 2)
03) Utada Hikaru (5 / 2)
04) Lou Cowell (- / 1)
05) Brendan Perry (- / 1)
06) Hiroki Kikuta (7 / 2)
07) Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra (- / 1)
08) Sarah McLachlan (- / 1)
09) Lisa Gerrard (9 / 2)
10) Akira Yamaoka (2 / 2)
~Last months most viewed artist Emiliana Torrini was just outside the top 10.
~More artists were viewed this month than last despite overall traffic being 120 page views lower.
A new stats fest at the start of each month begins as we give you the top 10 artists viewed at HPM. Of course it will change with their releases but its always very interesting:
01) Emiliana Torrini
02) Akira Yamaoka
03) Yasunori Mitsuda
04) Joe Hisaishi
05) Utada Hikaru
06) Pierre Esteve & Stephane Picq
07) Hiroki Kikuta
08) Sarah Slean
09) Lisa Gerrard
10) Hitoshi Sakimoto
So an interesting spread of artists this month!
A re-release of sorts, “Eternally”, a beautiful ballad taken from Utada’s second album Distance is getting a digital single release with slightly different vocals. Apparently the vocals are different takes of the same recording session and the sample that’s up on her website sounds identical to the original really. You can listen to it here. Maybe the differences are in the verses?
Utada Hikaru gets a lot of stick for singing live everywhere and maybe not being note perfect but I’d rather take an emotive live performance over dubbed performances anyday! Here’s a lovely version fo “Colours”
There’s some excellent acoustic versions of some of the songs of Ultra Blue laying around Sit back and enjoy!
Congrats to Utada Hikaru whom crossed the 1 million mark with her 5th album “Heart Station” which is quite a huge feat given today’s music industry state and the fact downloads are taking a larger part of the market now. She still needs to actually sell another 150,000 plus too pass the million sales but if she does it, it’ll be first album for over two years to do so. Also her blog states she’s in the recording studio again – is it for a Japanese or English audience we wonder?
It’s a first for me and of such a large proportion I had to post it! CD Japan, a fantastic website for buying Japanese CD’s from has e-mailed every single person that has purchased Utada Hikaru’s latest album “Heart Station” to clear up the hot topic – “Take 5″ and its sudden cut off ending.
Even in my review I thought the CD may have been faulty but as stated on Utada’s website and now in CD Japan’s e-mail, the track is supposed to end abruptly. Obviously many people must have complained of faulty discs for such a large company to have done this. The e-mail is below
“There have been numerous inquiries about the ending of “Take 5″ the 10th
The track is 3 minutes and 42 seconds long, and the track may appear to end
in the middle of the song, which was the reason for inquiries.
Since there has been some confusion about it, we decided to send this email
to provide our customers with official information.
As stated in the release dated March 19 on her official website, the song
has intentionally been arranged this way to end abruptly.”
Hikki is busy! Now there’s another single from the album “Heart Station”. The popular “Prisoner of Love” will come as a CD/DVD single only with a quiet version of the song as the b-side along with karaoke editions of both versions. Do we really need another single? That leaves just 4 songs full length songs from Heart Station that have not already been singles so if you’ve got all the singles you’ve got two thirds of the album already. Madness.