“In you and I there’s a new land Angels in flight wonk uoy naht noitceffa erom deen I My sanctuary my sanctuary yeah Where fears and lies melt away Music will tie wonk uoy naht noitceffa erom deen I What’s left of me”
Was painting with Spotify again and decided to just go to random desktop playlist and Utada Hikaru’s Sanctuary popped up and I felt inclined to do another environmental speedpaint. I really wanted to bring some of the older black and white pieces together and color them in some sorts, so this is pretty much a sum of all of them in one picture.
“Traveling” (2001) is one great example for an amazing music video of hers. The song is about creative energy and charting previously unknown territory. Directed by her then-husband Kazuaki Kiriya, it is one of many collaborations between the two that happened from 2001 to 2006 - basically the time of her most daring video creations. So colourful, aesthetic and energetic, the music becomes one with the visual experience in each song. “Sakura Drops” (2002), taken from the same album (”Deep River”) as “Traveling”, showcases a similarly breathtaking visual journey.
2. Her lyrics
myself, I see no dreams, like unpainted pictures how
many times must I fill this canvas? I’ll
abandon time as I hold a white flag overhead I
am your unknown color now -
Thinking too much, don’t fall into desperation A world that changes constantly feels like tricking a child
When people find themselves alone They realize the meaning of love -
the key is too high, it’s okay to lower it the
song has the strength not to change distress
is only one passing point like
a bracelet that’s too big, things will slide into place - WAIT & SEE (RISK)
Looking up the translations for the first time has been a revelation. She writes and composes her songs all by herself (and even produces nearly all of them), making them even more heartfelt. They are about real, complex emotions, far more challenging than the usual “girl meets boy” pop song formula.
3. Her live shows
She is able to perform live like no other. Her vocals sound exactly as amazing as on the CD and she is able to constantly deliver with an amazing energy throughout a whole concert. And most of all, she can transform a song into a live bomb! While I already like the studio version of “Devil Inside” (from her English-language 2004 album “Exodus”), it is the live version that I definitely ADORE!
4. Her experimental mind
She is not afraid to venture into more experimental fields, producing songs like “Passion” (2005) (with another Kazuaki Kiriya music video) or “Kremlin Dusk” (2004). She is a hugely successful artist and somehow also manages to fit these experimental tunes in her repertoire..
Sounding like quite a happy song with playful melodies, “Goodbye Happiness” is actually about a saddening topic. And how she delivers this in one package makes it ultimately bittersweet in a way I could just cry with a smile on my face, singing along that catchy tune.
all of creation goes ‘round and will go 'round Oh
oh oh darling, darling No
one can ever take your place Only
6. Her Evangelion theme songs
When the reboot film series “Rebuild of Evangelion” began in 2007, Utada was asked to provide a theme song to the first installment “Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone”. Being a huge fan of the original Neon Genesis Evangelion anime series from the 90′s, she agreed and wrote the song “Beautiful World” especially for this occasion. Lyrically very fitting to the franchise, it can be seen as another way of looking into the feelings of protagonist Shinji Hikari. Not being brave enough, yet still trying his best. The beautiful melody and atmosphere, the top-notch production, as well as the association with the anime made this my second favourite song of hers.
After a remix of “Beautiful World” served as the theme song to the second installment “Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance” (2009), she was asked again to make a song for the third film “Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo”, released in 2012. “Sakura nagashi” breaks my heart each time I listen to it. The sorrow, the pain that the death of a beloved one that come through in this song hurts like nothing else in this world. Yet, she can present all these emotions in such a grace and beauty. I cannot find many words that would do this masterpiece of a song justice, other than that it is one of a kind and one with the world and themes of Evangelion. My very favourite song of hers.
7. Her ability to evolve
Just a few days ago, Hikki (how her fans affectionately call her) dropped a new song, along with a music video featuring herself dancing a contemporary choreography by acclaimed dancer and choreographer Fukiko Takase. What blows me away the most is how she manages to make her melodies even more interesting the older she gets. She explores so many different harmonies, especially on her latest album “Fantôme”. While she may not be among the avant-garde in terms of arrangement and production, she is definitely able to keep her music interesting. This is very much apparent in her newest song “Forevermore”, which is carried by a string arrangement (something she has perfectioned recently) and her vocals, which together give us a mesmerizingly dreamy mix.
Still, there are many more reasons why…
…like her hauntingly beautiful smash-hit “Flavor Of Life”, her iconic debut single “Automatic”, the bittersweet “Final Distance” or her ability to create an actually quite original Christmas song. The aforementioned seven at least give a good overview over why I love Utada Hikaru.