Born January 19, 1983, (yes, she's that young), Utada "Hikki" Hikaru has in recent times become a pop diva, the Britney Spears, if you will, of Asia, although the musical comparison is hardly fair.

Utada began writing her own music from age 10, but was first propelled to stardom after signing with EMI when her debut single, "Automatic" was released December 9, 1998. Her debut album, First Love, was released early the next year. She writes almost all of her own songs.


Interestingly, she records separate music as two different entities--Utada Hikaru in Japan, and Cubic U in the USA.

From her website:

Jesus Christ. Utada Hikaru got hitched, and we didn't even get ample warning. There go all my longings of early puberty, stolen by some dickhead photographer named Taniwa Akira, who, let the record show, is 34 years old. Okay, I don't know if he's a dickhead or not... wait a minute, he IS a dickhead! He's a dickhead for stealing my Hikki!

(sekicho calms down for a second, snorts from his inhaler)


Okay, here's the skinny on Utada Hikaru. She's a Japanese girl who was partially raised in America, but it's not exactly right to call her a Japanese American: she just happened to be in the right place at the right time. According to her publicists, she's fully bilingual: I haven't met her, but I suspect from some of her lyrics (e.g. "I want your baaaaabyyyyyyy") that this might be a slight exaggeration.

She started recording while she was living in New York City, releasing a good but completely unknown album called "Precious" under the name Cubic U, but she didn't became a pop star until she was in high school. "First Love" was the song that truly propelled her onto the charts in 1999: not a single virile male in Japan at the time could resist collapsing in awe when she sang the chorus lyric "You are always gonna be my love..." And yes, I thought, somewhere in the back of that troubled gaijin brain of mine, that she was singing to me.

First Love (the album) was picked up by Sony for its commercials, specifically the Red Hot line of MD's. It made her insanely, disgustingly, Michael Jackson wealthy. In 1999, she was the 80th highest-grossing person in Japan. Keep in mind that this is the country where all your VCR's, rice boy cars, and anime series are made.

Anyway, she began to make a concerted effort to break out in the States around the time her second album, Distance, was released in 2001. (At this point, she was attending Columbia University, and had appeared on the cover of a special "music of the world" issue of Time alongside Dave Matthews.) IMO, she's a good enough singer to break out Stateside, but she seriously needs to hire a talented English lyricist or two.

She made her only major American recording on the soundtrack of Rush Hour 2, opposite Foxy Brown, with the song "Blow My Whistle." Judging from the reviews I saw on, many people who bought the CD thought they would be blown away by Ludacris and his hoes in different area codes, but instead found themselves blown away by this Japanese girl belting restrained yet sexy lyrics at them. It apparently impressed American record execs as well: in mid-2002, she inked a deal with the Def Jam label to record an album for America.

Then, two things happened: first, she contracted an ovarian tumor, and had to go into surgery to have it removed. This delayed the completion of her third album, Deep River, and may have caused her to rethink her career choices. Now, in September of 2002, she's suddenly married, and has apparently decided to put her career on hold until she can get her life in order.

Her second, and perhaps last, release for the American market is "Simple and Clean," the theme song to Squaresoft and Disney's game "Kingdom Hearts." The song is actually an English cover of the Japanese Kingdom Hearts theme, "Hikari," which was also written and sung by Utada and featured prominently on Deep River.

I really hope her career's not over: she's a damn fine songstress. If you don't believe me, find an mp3 of "First Love" and see for yourself.

(*) NOTE - In other Asian countries, you may find her name written as 宇多田光.

Here is Hikki's complete discography:

8/20/96 album Precious, as "Cubic U"
12/9/98 single 1 Automatic/Time Will Tell
2/17/99 single 2 Movin' On Without You/B&C
3/10/99 album 1 First Love
4/28/99 single 3 First Love
11/10/99 single 4 Addicted to You
12/22/99 DVD 1 Utada Hikaru Single Clip Collection Volume 1
4/19/00 single 5 Wait and See/Hayatochiri/Fly Me To The Moon
6/30/00 single 6 For You/Time Limit
6/30/00 DVD 2 Wait and See
12/9/00 DVD 3 Bohemian Summer 2000
2/16/01 single 7 Can You Keep A Secret/Kettobase
3/28/01 album 2 Distance
7/25/01 single 8 Final Distance/Distance
9/27/01 DVD 4 Utada Hikaru Single Clip Collection Volume 2
11/28/01 single 9 Traveling
11/28/01 DVD 5 Utada Hikaru Unplugged
1/30/02 DVD 6 Traveling
3/20/02 single 10 Hikari
5/9/02 single 11 Sakura Drops/Letters
6/19/02 album 3 Deep River
9/30/02 DVD 7 Utada Hikaru Single Clip Collection Volume 3
1/29/03 single 12 Colors
3/12/03 DVD 8 Colors
3/29/03 DVD 9 UH Live Streaming 20-Dai wa Ike Ike!

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