Utada Hikaru is easily the most well-known musician we’ve written about in this column. After her 1st and 2nd albums (released in 1999 and 2003, respectively) broke all kinds of records in Japan, the artist unexpectedly announced an indefinite leave from music in 2010 to focus on herself. Since then, it’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride for her with her mother’s tragic death in 2013, her marriage in 2014 and then the birth of her son the following year. And now she’s back with a full-length album and we couldn’t be happier for her.
One of the more anticipated tracks (at least for us) is Nijikan Dake no Vacance, a collaboration between longtime friend and muse Ringo Shiina. In the space travel-inspired music video (embedded above), the two vocalists hold hands, exchange longing glances and embrace as they sing about a 2-hour escape from reality in a show of support for the LGBT community. It’s surprising how well Shiina’s sultry voice works together with Utada’s more traditional pop style.
The collaboration is also noteworthy because Shiina was put in charge of directing Japan’s portion of the closing ceremony at the Rio Olympics, and one could speculate that she’s also going to be involved in the performance segments of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. This puts Utada, a bilingual speaker of English and Japanese, and a position to participate in some capacity as well. We would also note that another track from the new album “Hanataba wo kimi ni” is the theme song for NHK’s current serialized TV program (asadora). And if past precedence is any indicator, this means Utada will likely perform the song for this year’s NHK year-end Kohaku music festival, a first for the singer. That’s quite a comeback!
A few of her new tracks are available for streaming on her website, and as short versions on Youtube, which we’ve embedded above. You can also find Hikaru Utada on Twitter and Instagram. And be sure to check out our other Music Monday picks.
(Full disclosure: author was high school classmates with artist.)