[ALBUM] Utada Hikaru - Single Co
Born in the United States to Japanese parents, record producer Teruzane Utada and enka singer Keiko Fuji, Utada began to write music and lyrics at an early age and often traveled to Tokyo as a result of her father's job. Eventually, a recording contract with Toshiba-EMI was signed. Under the stage name Cubic U, she released an English-language debut album Precious in early 1998, but it was a commercial failure. In the following year, heavily influenced by R&B and dance-pop, a Japanese-language debut First Love was released and became an immediate success. Backed by the success of singles "Automatic", "Time Will Tell", and "Movin' On Without You", the album sold two million copies in its first week in Japan, topped the Oricon charts for six non-consecutive weeks and went on to sell six million more throughout the rest of 1999. First Love eventually became the country's best-selling album of all time. In 2021, Utada announced her non-binary gender identity, becoming one of the first public figures in Japan to self-identify in this way.
[ALBUM] Utada Hikaru - Single Co
By the end of the 2000s, Utada was deemed "the most influential artist of the decade" in the Japanese music landscape by The Japan Times. Commercial success has made her one of Japan's top-selling recording artists of all time with over 50 million records sold since launching her career in the late 1990s. Twelve of her singles have reached number one on the Oricon Singles Chart, while ten albums have become chart-toppers. Six of her full-length releases are among the country's highest-selling albums of all time, including First Love, Distance and Deep River, which are among the top ten best-selling records of Japan's music history. She is best known by international audiences for writing and producing four theme-song contributions to Square Enix and Disney's collaborative video game series Kingdom Hearts: "Simple and Clean", "Sanctuary", "Don't Think Twice", and "Face My Fears".
The first Cubic U single, "I'll Be Stronger", was released as a limited pressing in Japan in 1996. The next year, Utada started another project, releasing "Close to You", a cover of the Carpenters' song. She included it on her debut album Precious the following year. Both the album and single failed to chart on Oricon in Japan.
Utada moved to Tokyo in the summer of 1998 and attended Seisen International School, and later the American School in Japan, while continuing to record on a contract with Toshiba-EMI. Early success came from Japanese FM radio. She was at the forefront of a new wave of singer-songwriters in Japan, branching out from the previously dominant idol singers. Leading up to the release of her Japanese debut album First Love, at the age of 15, she released two successful million-selling singles: "Automatic/Time Will Tell" and "Movin' On Without You". "Automatic/Time Will Tell" sold over two million copies. Backed by these singles, First Love went on to sell over 7 million units in Japan alone (with an additional 3 million overseas, bringing it to a sum of at least 10 million units), becoming the highest selling album in Japan's recent history. The album yielded the single "First Love", which peaked at the number 2 spot. By the end of the year, Utada was ranked 5th on Japanese radio station Tokio Hot 100 Airplay's Top 100 Artists of the 20th Century by the station and its listeners.
In 2003, Utada's promotional and personal life schedules became more active due to her marriage and an agreement with Island Records in the United States to release a "proper" full-English debut album. "Colors" was her only single release for 2003.
Utada's first singles compilation album Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol. 1 was released on March 31, 2004. It became the best-selling album of 2004 in Japan, making her the only solo or group artist to reach number 1 four times on the yearly charts. It was the first compilation album to reach number 1 in six years on the yearly charts, and the first compilation album to reach number 1 in twenty-six years by a female artist. Despite its success, the album received little promotion and no new material; moreover, it charted longer on the Oricon Albums chart than any other Utada release to date (over two years). The album sold 2.58 million units in Japan, making it the 34th best-selling album ever in the country. A month later, on April 21, she released a lone Japanese single for 2004, "Dareka no Negai ga Kanau Koro", which topped the singles chart for two consecutive weeks and sold 365,000 units by the year's end. It was also the main theme song for Casshern, directed by her husband at the time, Kazuaki Kiriya.
In mid-2004, Utada moved back to New York, and began work on a recording contract with Island Def Jam Music Group. On October 5, 2004, she released a North American English-language debut album, Exodus, under the newly announced stage name "Utada". It was released on September 9 in Japan, with a special booklet and housed in a cardboard slipcase. In an MTV interview, she expressed skepticism about this American success: "I don't think it's the music that I'm concerned about. It's obviously that I look really different and there really aren't any completely Asian people [who are popular singers in the U.S.] right now." She also remarked on the album not being one that pandered to fans, but wanting to make it anyway. Exodus became her fourth consecutive release to debut at number 1 and boasted 500,000 copies in its first-week sales in Japan. American sales were not quite as successful: it reached number 160 in the US Billboard 200 chart; and peaked at number 5 in the Heatseekers chart. "Easy Breezy" was released as the lead single in early August 2004, followed up by "Devil Inside" six weeks later. Utada appeared on the cover of Interview magazine's June 2005 issue.
The fourth single from Exodus, "You Make Me Want to Be a Man", was released in October 2005 in the UK. "Devil Inside" became a club hit in the U.S. and topped the Billboard Hot Dance/Club Airplay charts. Both the Exodus album and the "You Make Me Want to Be a Man" single were released in the UK, with different artwork from the US and Japanese versions.
A year after the release of Exodus, Utada moved back to Tokyo and returned to the Japanese music scene. Leading up the release of a fourth album, Ultra Blue, she released a string of successful hit singles: "Colors" (number 1), "Dareka no Negai ga Kanau Koro" (number 1), "Be My Last" (number 1), "Passion" (number 4), and "Keep Tryin'" (number 2). The digital single "This Is Love" was released to promote the album, netting 1,000,000 downloads.
The singles that were released prior to Utada's fifth studio album, Heart Station, were able to reach the Top Five position on the chart, including the number 1 hit "Flavor of Life", which would become the best selling digital single in Japan with over 7,500,000 copies downloaded. Around the same time, she visited New York to talk with producers and executives at Island/Def Jam about recording a second English album. Later in the year a digital track by American R&B artist Ne-Yo, titled "Do You" from his 2007 album Because of You, featured Utada and was released in Japan on November 21 (the song was later featured on Ne-Yo's "best of" album, Ne-Yo: The Collection, released on September 2, 2009, in Japan and November 2009 in the US).
On December 16, 2008, information leaked onto the internet that Utada's next English-language single, titled "Come Back to Me", would be scheduled for airplay release through U.S. Rhythmic/Crossover and Mainstream formats on February 9 and 10, 2009 respectively via Island Records. Her second English album, titled This Is the One, was released on March 14, 2009, in Japan and on May 12, 2009, in the United States. This Is the One debuted at number 1 in Japan on March 13, 2009, the day it was released in Japan, but became her first album not to top the weekly chart since Precious. On March 30, 2009, Utada appeared on New York City radio station Z-100, the largest pop radio program in the U.S., and granted a live on-air interview on the station's Elvis Duran Morning Show, a breakthrough that would lead to a promotional schedule through the album's international physical release on May 12. She also sang the theme song for the second Evangelion film, Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance. The single was released on June 27, 2009, and is a remix of a previous single, "Beautiful World". The single is titled "Beautiful World -PLANiTb Acoustica Mix-".
However, she also wrote that before the hiatus began, some new music would be released. Soon after the post, a compilation album was announced: Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol. 2, with a release date of November 24, 2010. This album would include all of Utada's Japanese singles, from "Dareka no Negai ga Kanau Koro" to "Prisoner of Love", on disc one, as well as an extra EP featuring five new tracks. Later it was announced a DVD containing the promotional video for Goodbye Happiness would be included in all first-press edition pre-orders.
On September 27, 2010, Utada revealed a single, entitled "Hymne à l'amour (Ai no Anthem)", which became a commercial tie-in for Pepsi NEX. The song features both Japanese and French lyrics, written and translated by Utada herself. She performed a concert series titled Wild Life at Yokohama Arena to promote the album, her first Japanese concert since 2006's Utada United.
Utada later announced a single, "Goodbye Happiness", with its accompanying PV appearing publicly on November 9, 2010. The song was also chosen as the Recochoku Chaku-Uta TV commercial theme song. She also appeared on a track entitled "London City" with English rapper Devlin on his first studio album, Bud, Sweat and Beers, which was also released on November 1.