Rachel Gluck 
Website: Rachel as Artist
Blog: One Bold Step
Date: 12-04-2005
Subject: World News

Utada Hikaru is a name not all Americans are familiar with, but we should be. She is one of the smartest music producers in the game, not to mention a terrific singer with one intelligent husband, Kaz Kiriya, directing her latest video. At http://music.msn.com/music/topvideos, you’ll find Utada’s current enterprise, the catchy, mind-blowing “You Make Me Want To Be A Man.” This is one video I recommend searching for if it moves from this page.

“YMMWTBAM,” as it is known by many in Utada’s fan world at http://www.utada-online.net, is filled with science fiction special effects, clips from America’s proud scientific history, which is very timely given Kansas’ recent repeat of the Scopes-Monkey trial, and, frankly, an unconventional way of addressing a relationship in a song that is as quirky and clever as its video.

Utada’s background is not simple, but it’s not scary, either. Far from it. Courtesy the English version of “Hikki’s Website,” http://www.toshiba-emi.co.jp/hikki/, and http://www.wikipedia.org/, I will give you some straight facts on Hikki. Born in New York City on January 19, 1983, she shares her birthday with, “Many singer/songwriters… [and] writer/poet Edgar Allan Poe, whom I fell in love with in high school.” Her mother is famous Japanese Enka singer Utada Junko (stage name: Fuji Keiko), and her father is producer Utada Teruzane. Her life was unstable, as her parents would sell their family car to keep recording. As a result, she almost didn’t become a musician, but fate had other plans in store for her.

At the age of twelve, Utada recorded her first album Precious under the pseudonym Cubic U. While it was never released in the U.S., a Japanese music executive at Toshiba/EMI Japan heard it and said to her, “Oh, can't you write in Japanese? You speak Japanese.” Utada moved to Japan, attended The American School in Japan and worked on her first Japanese-language single “Automatic,” which intruduced the album First Love. First Love sold over five million copies in Japan between March and April of 1999, alone, and made Utada Hikaru one of the 100 wealthiest people in Japan that year.

It has been non-stop since then. Now, after three more Japanese albums, Utada has been compared to Madonna and Bjork, dubbed as, “The Japanese Britney Spears,” a comparison she dislikes, and has released Exodus in the United States and the United Kingdom. Her album and singles have received excellent reviews for a debut album, but while her singles, “YMMWTBAM” and “Devil Inside,” have been dance club hits, Island Def Jam’s promotion team has struggled to define her and roll Hikki’s dance hits into pop sensations in the English markets.

This may be partly due to the fact that Utada wants to do things her own way and not be characterized by genres, as she sings in the “Introduction” of Exodus. However, Utada has been praised by at least one music legend " Elton John. On Exodus, Utada had the honor of working with mega-hit maker Timbaland (Missy Elliott is his main notable in a list of stars who have worked with him) on three of her songs, all of which she wrote herself. The rest of them were self-produced. She may be best known here for her song with Foxy Brown, “Blow My Whistle,” from the Rush Hour 2 movie soundtrack.

While the J-pop market has not been known for producing many American stars, Utada Hikaru is, perhaps, the ultimate exception. Innovative, classy, fun, and a native of America’s biggest metropolis, Utada is sure to find her way to the top. Purchase her music at msn.com, iTunes, her web sites, including http://www.utada.com/, or a store near you. This is one star worth the investment.