Utada Hikaru

biography - 13.06.2010 06:00

Utada Hikaru

Born in New York City on January 19, 1983, Utada Hikaru began her life in a musical family. Her mother Utada Junko was a famous enka singer who went under the name Fuji Keiko. Though she was initially turned off by the stress and pressure involved in the music business, Utada Hikaru found herself enchanted with the idea of composing music and writing lyrics by the time she was only eleven years old.

While in junior high school, she released her first album titled Precious in the USA under the name Cubic U in 1998. Unfortunately, the album was met with little success. But every cloud has its silver lining as the album gained the attention of Toshiba/EMI record executives in Japan. Fluent in speaking English and Japanese, Utada Hikaru was able to easily make her transfer overseas.

In October 1998, two weekly radio programs were launched: "Hikki's Sweet & Sour" and "Warning Hikki Attack!!!" Both shows continued through March the following year. Utada Hikaru made her single debut on December 9th with Automatic/time will tell. She ended the year with her first campaign in Osaka.

The year 1999 was very active for Utada. In February, her second single titled Movin' on without you, which was used for the Nissan Terrano commercial, was released. The single was such a huge success it even reached No. 1 on the Oricon charts. Her first album, First Love, blew away the competition once it was released in March. With over ten million copies sold worldwide, the album became the highest grossing Japanese record to date.

Throughout the year, Utada held several concerts throughout Japan. However, she held her first Nippon Budokan concert in August, which is a feat for any artist, let alone a sixteen-year-old.

Utada Hikaru's third single, First Love was used as the theme song for "Majo no Joken." October launched another weekly radio program titled "Tres Bien Bohemian." That same month, she participated in a joint performance with Ringo Sheena at Toshiba's EMI's Music Talks ‘99 convention. In November, her fourth single, Addicted To You, was used for a "Sony Media & Battery RED HOT campaign '99" commercial.

The new millennium brought several more major hits with Distance and Deep River. Both albums received astounding success on the charts, firmly establishing Utada's success in Japan. In 2000, she won "Best-Selling Japanese Artist" at the World Music Awards.

Despite returning to New York for a brief period to attend Columbia University in 2001, Utada Hikaru showed no signs of slowing down. She gained exposure in the USA when she collaborated with American artist Foxy Brown to record Blow My Whistle for the soundtrack of the 2001 feature film "Rush Hour 2."

In February 2002, Utada Hikaru signed with Island Def Jam Recordings in the USA. She continued to branch out to other entertainment outlets with her March 2002 single Hikari, which was called Simple and Clean for the English version. The song was used as the theme for the popular PlayStation 2 game "Kingdom Hearts." In September, at the age of nineteen, she married Kiriya Kazuaki who directed several of her promotional videos.

The following year, Utada Hikaru's COLORS single was used for the Toyota WISH commercial. Also, something unique that she accomplished was translating Emily the Strange into Japanese, which was published by Media Factory. In March, her 13th single, Dareka no negai ga kanau koro, ranked top on the Oricon's single and album charts for two consecutive weeks.

Her landmark attempt to reach musical success in the USA came with her 2004 album EXODUS released under Island Records. The album name itself suggests a departure from her roots in popular Japanese music. Recorded entirely in English, the release was her first album since Precious. However, just like its predecessor in 1998, EXODUS failed to make a mark in the USA charts. The Japanese audience, on the other hand, loved it, gaining Utada Hikaru another hit domestically. Even if her album releases in the USA have come with little success, her single DEVIL INSIDE off of EXODUS made a splash on the USA Billboard Hot Dance/Club Airplay Chart.

Even though Utada Hikaru exerted a lot of effort to receive recognition in the USA, she also did the same for Europe in 2005 with her EXODUS album and You Make Me Want to Be a Man single releases. Her September Japanese single was used as the theme song for the Japanese movie "Haru no yuki." Passion, Utada Hikaru's end of the year single, was used as the theme song for the PlayStation 2 game "Kingdom Hearts II." On December 23rd, she made a guest appearance at Yosui Inoue's live performance.

The year 2006 continued in the same fashion as her Japanese music career: successfully. Utada Hikaru's fourth album ULTRA BLUE top ranked in the Oricon charts. She also held her second Japanese tour, which expanded throughout 11 cities and 22 venues. The following year, in 2007, her song titled Flavor of Life -Ballad Version- was used as the image song for the television series "Hana yori dango 2." In August two more of her songs were used as themes; Beautiful World for the anime "Evangelion shin gekijoban: jo" and Kiss & Cry for a television commercial.

In 2008, Utada Hikaru continued releasing singles which were used as theme songs. Her fifth album, HEART STATION, even reached No. 1 on the Oricon charts.

In 2009, Utada Hikaru made guest appearances in a few places in the USA to promote the US album This Is The One. A couple months later, she was to have several signing sessions, but due to an acute case of left relapsing peritonsillitis, she was advised by a doctor not to travel or use her voice for two weeks. Thankfully, she recovered fully. In May, under a special name U3, Utada Hikaru released a single titled 9 sai no omoide. What makes this single unique is that it's a collaboration with her mother, aforementioned Fuji Keiko, and father, Utada Teruzane, a record producer who has overseen his wife's and daughter's careers.

At the beginning of the following year, Utada Hikaru finally toured the USA and UK. The USA tour consisted of eleven stops in eleven different cities and the UK tour consisted of two shows in one city. The second date in London, UK was not only due to tickets selling out, but the venue actually over selling.

There is no doubt in anyone's mind that Utada Hikaru is an extremely popular Japanese pop musician with a rich voice and keen sense of rhythm who has left a lasting impression on the Japanese music scene. With such success and resilience, hopefully, she can eventually break through the USA music industry, which is difficult for any musician.
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