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J-pop star crosses over to the states with a new major label release.
[Island Records, 2004]
After selling millions of CDs in Japan, J-pop star Utada Hikaru is finally crossing the Pacific Ocean over to the mainstream American audience. With her latest album Exodus, released on Island Def Jam--currently the same label as Mariah Carey, and other top selling mainstream artists--Utada is trying to expand outside the niche of J-pop fandom. Utada is no stranger to the States; she was born here, and frequently jet-setted between Tokyo and New York. Her father is a musician/producer, and her mother is a traditional Japanese style singer. Naturally, the 21-year-old took up the family business when coming of age, releasing several albums, though taking some time off to attend school.
Currently putting her Columbia University education on hold, Hikaru is putting all other priorities aside to work on her music. Musically, Utada is all over the place. While she is first and foremost a J-pop star, she also incorporates other styles of music into her album. Some songs are reminiscent of artists like Dido, yet Utada also draws distinctly from U.S. R&B styles. Other songs are straight-up pop. Diversifying even further--such as the song “Tippy Toe"--she uses synthesizer sounds that Moog fans everywhere can be proud of. Lyrically, Utada is like an onion with many layers. On the surface of all her songs, there is a distinct love-theme running throughout the CD. However, upon closer inspection, the lyrics delve into other issues, such as the ability to live up to expectations, disdain for categorization, and racial blending. On “Devil Inside,” she goes into the high expectations everybody has of her: “Everybody wants me to be their angel/Everybody wants something they can cradle/They don’t know I burn….Maybe there’s a devil inside of me.”
On both the opener and track nine, “Crossover Interlude,” she uses the song as a transition, and talks about how she “doesn’t want to crossover.” (Interesting lyrical content, considering the diverse genres covered in her music). Finally, she uses love to incorporate race politics into her songs. On track 13, “Let Me Give You My Love,” she sings, “Let me give you my love/Hurry up, let’s turn this room into a melting pot,” a clear reference to U.S. interracial relations. Utada is an artist that can transcend genres and cleverly incorporate a wide variety of themes into her lyrics. With her new release, Utada begins her exodus from J-pop princessdom by assaulting the U.S. pop charts.
Date Posted: 10/29/2004