Hot off the back of Heart Station, her fifth solo Japanese album comes “This Is the One”, Utada’s second English album. This time around its a completely new sound from Utada – urban pop. For the first time in her career she has gone sexy crazy hot and has completely Americanised her sound. In some ways I’m really surprised at the complete jump however there’s enough random and original Hikki in there to still make each song unique as only she can and if there’s one thing still left, its Utada’s sense of humour.
The album opens with “On and On” which is possibly the most out dated sounding song. There’s a good beat but its bass-less and so the early 90’s sounding keyboards really come to the foreground for a retro throwback track that’s fun, bouncy and with a screaming male vocal going all the way throughout the background that kind of acts as the metronome. The lyrics are fun and the chorus is very catchy.
“Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence – FYI” reminds me in a small portion of Exodus 04. The main riff is taken from an old film which really translates well into an organic oriental pop track that gives it credibility and intoxicating catchiness. There is a personal favourite along with the following track because they fit nicely into the crossover from the Exodus/Ultra Blue era to This is the One’s really heavy pop beat sound.
“Apple and Cinnamon” is possibly my favourite and the most immediately satisfying. The heavy drum beat and echoing piano overtures really create a desolate empty sound and combined with Utada’s soaring and emotional vocals – its easily one of the best pop tracks I’ve heard in the last ten years. Words cannot simply do this song justice.
“Taking My Money Back” really signals the real sound change for Utada on this album. From now on its mostly a gritty drum and bass driven pop that’s full of angst, sex and femininity. This song has a great tripping beat and a great uplifting chorus. Her vocal scatting is one of the key’s to the success of this track. Very RnB.
“This One (Crying Like A Child)” is the power ballad of the album. It kind of sounds similar to Rihanna’s Umbrella in the chorus but more tender and sweet. Some of the lyrics on this track are quite unique (“I’ve Still got your ringtone on my blackberry”) but they are very of the time.
“Automatic Part II” probably had the most anticipation prior to release however its really only the lyrics that bare resemblance to the original. This song has a certain swing to it with the hopping drums and the constantly circling brass stabs that come every four beats. It’s a simple but fun track made with urban pop production.
“Dirty Desire” brings the sexy Hikki on. With doubled up vocals and lots of moaning vocals and lyrics like “I love you long time” and “When doing 9 to 5’s, I think of 6 and 9”, it marks a real departure. If Japanese people were up in arms at her in a skimpy top for Easy Breezy, who knows what this song will cause! This is very much a chart topping single material. It’s straight up dirty pop that wouldn’t be out of place for Christina or especially Britney or even a Madonna track. Very accessible.
“Poppin'” is the most quirky and slinky track of the album. With organ backgrounds like some kind of secret operation from a cartoon, Utada jokes “Girls, you know we have better than the boys”. This is Utada letting go and really having fun with femininity and the joys of being a sexy lady! I can see this being a favourite or a least favourite song for some people but if you take it for the fun track it is, you’ll enjoy it all the more.
Single “Come Back to Me” is the penultimate track. With a sweet ballad, it misrepresents the album a little but its got such a catchy chorus and shows off Utada’s song writing skills so well I can see why it was chosen. The album closes with Mexican influenced “Me Muero (I Die)” which has a good shimmy beat to it. It’s middle road tempo, weird backing vocals and latin guitar make it stand out from the rest of the tracks which are almost all completely keyboard and computerised.
“This Is the One” should do well. Very well. It’s perfectly pitched to be a completely self respecting pop album that holds credibility in one hand and great anthem riffs in the other. With Utada’s off kilter lyrics and unique vocal talents in the middle it is a great addition for all fans to have and should earn her a new selection of fans too. Fantastic album.