August 31, 2009
July 29, 2010
Neo Soul, Pop, R&B
EMI, Universal, Island
Total Songs Added:
Hikaru Utada was born in New York City to Japanese parents with roots in the Japanese music industry. Her father, Teruzane Utada, was a record producer while her mother, Junko Utada, was an enka singer, performing under the stage name "Keiko Fuji." Junko Utada’s mother, and Hikaru’s grandmother, was a blind shamisen player ( , or goze). Utada made her first professional recording at the age of twelve. She did her recordings with her mother, releasing songs under a band named “U3” (also known as Utada 3) until 1996 when she started her first solo project, "I'll be Stronger." The "Cookin' With Moses Vocal" from this project was called the "Cookin' With Gas Vocal" on the promotional release.
"I’ll Be Stronger" was the first song Utada wrote. It was released under the artist name "Cubic U," a mathematical reference to her being the third Utada 'power,' which was Hikaru's pseudonym before becoming a superstar in Japan. The song was not released in the United States, and in 1997, she started her next project, though at first she was hesitant. Cubic U released her debut single "Close to You," which was a cover of The Carpenters' song. She then released her debut album Precious, which was not released in the United States due to restructuring issues with Capitol Records.
She released Precious in Japan on January 28, 1998, and then later re-released it on March 31, 1999 to much better success. It has sold 702,060 copies to date in Japan
Utada moved to Tokyo in late 1998 and attended Seisen International School, and later the American School in Japan, while continuing to record on a new contract with Toshiba-EMI. Her movement originally came from Japanese FM radio. Unlike other pop-stars at the time, she was more focused on becoming a singer and songwriter while other Japanese female singers were targeting towards becoming idols. Leading up to the release of her first album First Love, Utada 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 her singles, her supposedly-debut album 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-two spot. By the end of the year, Utada was rank #5 on a Japanese radio station Tokio Hot 100 Airplay's Top 100 Artists of the 20th Century by the station and its listeners.
After a two years' break, Utada released her follow up album Distance, garnering a first-week sales of 3 million units sold. Backed by her singles — "Addicted to You," "Wait & See: Risk," "For You/Time Limit" and "Can You Keep a Secret?" — Distance became the best-selling album of the year, with 4.469 million copies sold in Japan alone. Additionally, "Addicted To You" became Utada's best-selling single, selling one-million in its first week and staying on top of the chart for two consecutive weeks. "Wait & See: Risk" and "Can You Keep A Secret" also were later ranked at #6 and #10 respectively on Oricon's list of 10 Best-Selling Singles from January 1, 1999 to April 24, 2006. Utada also went on to release a single that was dedicated to the female victim of a murder case in Ikeda, Osaka titled "Final Distance."
Leading to her third album, Utada released "Traveling," "Hikari," and "Sakura Drops/Letters": all the songs reached the top of the charts. Before the release of Utada's third album, Deep River, the artist underwent surgery after being diagnosed with an ovarian tumor, causing Utada to put her promotional activities on hold. After recovering, she released Deep River and immediately went on promotional tours. While there were no TV appearances, she promoted her album in magazine and radio interviews.
Deep River garnered 2.35 million copies on its first-week sale: Oricon reported that sales eventually surpassed 3.60 million, making Utada the only singer or group in Japanese music history to have three consecutive albums surpass the three million mark, by RIAJ standards. It was her third consecutive time to hold the #1 position on Oricon's Yearly Albums chart and became the eighth best selling album of all time in Japan.
In 2003, Utada's promotional and personal life schedules got more active due to her marriage and an imposing agreement with Island Records in the United states to release a "proper" full-English debut album. Though she released "Colors", it was her only single release for 2003. The song featured heavy ethereal and experimental tones for the first time in Utada's discography. It became her longest charting single ever with a 45 week trajectory on the Oricon Singles chart, selling 881,000 copies, and was #3 on the Yearly Singles chart.
Her 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 #1 four times on the yearly charts. It was the first compilation album to reach #1 in six years on the yearly charts, and the first compilation album to reach #1 in twenty six years by a female artist. Despite its success, the album received very little promotion and contained no new material or photos; moreover, it charted longer on the Oricon Albums chart longer than any other Utada release to date (over 2 years). The album would go on to sell over 2.575 million units in Japan, making it the 34th best-selling album ever in the country. A month later, on April 21, she released her only Japanese single in 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 and was also the main theme song for Casshern, her now ex-husband's directorial debut.
In mid-2004, Utada moved back to New York, and began work on a new recording contract with Island Def Jam Music Group. On October 5, 2004, she released her North American English-language debut album, Exodus, under the name "Utada," which was her new American-given artist title at the Universal Convention. It was released nearly a month earlier, on September 9 in Japan, with a special booklet and housed in a cardboard slipcase. In an MTV interview, Utada said: "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." Exodus became Utada's fourth consecutive release to debut at #1 and boast 500,000 copies in its first-week sales. In spite of enlisting the help of Timbaland to produce and co-write some songs, her American debut as an Island Records artist was met with indifference by the American market, selling 55,000 units – although there was virtually no promotion on her record label's part. "Easy Breezy" was released as the lead single in early August 2004, peaking at #9 Billboard Hot Dance/Club Airplay chart, followed up by "Devil Inside" a month and two weeks later. And Utada became the cover of the Interview magazine June, 2005 issue.
"Exodus '04" was released at the end of June 2005 and featured remixes from The Scumfrog, Richard Vission, JJ Flores and Peter Bailey. In the UK, Mercury added another 2 remixes for "You make me want to be a man" in the original album Exodus 04, titled "You Make Me Want To Be A Man [Bloodshy & Avant Mix]" and "You Make Me Want To Be A Man [Junior Jack Mix]." By the end of the year Utada was voted "#1 Favorite Artist of 2004" by Oricon's annual readers poll.
The fourth single from her English Exodus album, "You Make Me Want to Be a Man," was released in October 2005. "Devil Inside" became a club smash in the U.S. and topped the Billboard Hot Dance/Club Airplay charts. Both the Exodus album and "You Make Me Want to Be a Man" single were released in the U.K., with different artwork from the USA and Japanese versions.
A year after the international release and promotion of Exodus, Utada moved back to Tokyo and returned to the Japanese music scene. However, Japanese media and public criticized her poor overseas results. Leading up the release of her fourth album Ultra Blue, Utada released a string of successful hit singles: "Colors" (#1), "Dareka no Negai ga Kanau Koro" (#1), "Be My Last", (#1), "Passion" (#4), and "Keep Tryin'" (#2). The digital single "This Is Love" was also release to promote the album, netting in at least 1,000,000 digital downloads and ranking as the ninth most downloaded song of 2006 at iTunes Japan.
Ultra Blue sold 500,317 copies in the first week, lower than that of the previous album, although it still easily topped the Oricon Daily, Weekly, and Monthly charts. In addition, Ultra Blue also gave the artist her fifth consecutive chart-topping Japanese album (excluding her English album) to sell in excess of 500,000 copies for a first-week sales. On July 13, Toshiba EMI published a report stating that Ultra Blue had sold over one million copies worldwide and four million digital ringtones already making it one of EMI's 10th best-selling album of the past year. The album, which did not contain much pop music, was met with indifference from her fans and did not help boost sales, although the album was certified Million by RIAJ for one million shipments. Additionally, it was the highest-selling original studio album by a Japanese female artist in 2006.
Ultra Blue later became available on the iTunes Japan online music store, charting at #4 on the 2006 yearly download rankings. Two weeks after the release of Ultra Blue, Utada began a nationwide tour titled "Utada United 2006" on June 30, 2006 which ended on September 12, 2006. This was Utada's second concert tour after her debut tour "Bohemian Summer 2000" and five performances at the Nippon Budokan in 2004. Aside from her Japanese work, the tour's set list featured three tracks from her 2004 English-language album, Exodus.
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 #1 hit "Flavor of Life", which would later become the best selling digital single in Japan with over 7,500,000 copies download. Around the same time, Utada confirmed in her blog on September 25, 2007 that she had visited New York to talk with producers and executives at Island/Def Jam about recording a new 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 year 2007 ended with "Flavor of Life" single becoming the best seller of 2007 and with Utada being voted "#1 Favorite Artist of 2007" by Oricon's annual readers poll, three years after she was last voted #1 on the poll. She sold 12 million digital ringtones and songs in 2007, the highest of a Japanese artist in one year. Part of the success was the fact the single was featured as the main song in the high rated second season of TV drama Hana Yori Dango.
Utada's fifth studio album, Heart Station, was released on March 19, 2008, becoming her fifth consecutive number-one Japanese studio album. Although it had collected the lowest first week sales for Utada's career, with 480,081 copies sold, the sales of this album eventually reached a million on the Oricon charts in January 2009, making it her first Japanese album to do so since her 2004 compilation album. It was given a certification of one million for shipments by the RIAJ. Heart Station also became the best-selling digital-format album on the iTunes 2008 yearly album charts in Japan, and was also the highest-selling original studio album by a solo female artist on the Oricon Yearly Chart.
Her song "Prisoner of Love" was used as the theme-song for the highly successful TV drama Last Friends which was aired in the Spring TV season. Although it wasn't originally released as a single, after being used in the show, the song was released as a single and it reached #1 in iTunes and the Chako-Uta charts. It reached #2 at the Oricon Weekly charts, an extremely rare feat for a physical recruit single released after the CD. It also won Best Theme Song at the 57th Drama Academy Awards and has sold 2.9 million downloads. It marked the fourth extremely successful Utada drama tien (following 1999's Majo no Jouken and First Love, 2000's Hero and Can You Keep a Secret and 2007's Hana Yori Dango and Flavor of Life).
By the end of the year, Utada was also voted the "#1 Favorite Artist of 2008" by Oricon's annual readers poll, making it her second consecutive year, and third time overall, to win the vote; her previous years being 2004 and 2007.
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, according to credible American radio news sites FMQB and R&R. The song then was made available for streaming on Island's, All Access' website, and her MySpace Music Page for advanced promotion. Island Records also updated their webpage with information regarding Utada's new single, and included a link to her official Japanese website and MySpace page, both featuring a track preview. Additionally, a number was included that fans can text to join Utada's mobile list to receive future news updates. The new English album, titled This Is The One, was released on March 14, 2009 in Japan and on May 12, 2009 in the United States. On February 23, 2009, Utada announced that she was in studio recording her next Japanese-language single. This Is the One had a debut at number 1 in Japan on March 13, 2009, the day it was released in Japan,  but became Utada's first album not to top the weekly chart since Precious. On March 30, 2009 she appeared on New York City radio station Z-100 (100.3), 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 noteworthy breakthrough that would lead to a promotional schedule up and through the album's international physical release on May 12. Utada also sang the theme song for the latest Evangelion film, Evangelion 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance. The single was released on June 27, 2009, and is a remix of her previous single, Beautiful World. The new single is entititled "Beautiful World -PLANiTb Acoustica Mix-".
On September 7, 2002 Utada married Kazuaki Kiriya, a photographer and film director who was fifteen years her senior and who had directed several of her music videos. After four and a half years of marriage, the couple announced their divorce (which became official on March 2, 2007), citing personal changes, different viewpoints on the future of their marriage, and lack of communication due to the nature of their jobs.