Utada Hikaru will be transferring to Sony Music Japan on March 1, ending nearly 2 decades with EMI Records. During this time, Hikaru has been one of the most renowned artist of all time. Her discography is one of the strongest collection of songs ever assembled.
To celebrate Hikaru's transition into a new phase of her career, JpopAsia is looking back upon the singer's music and answering a simple question: what are Utada Hikaru's best songs? The question itself is simple, but it has been pretty difficult to find the answer. Tough choices had to be made. Great songs didn't make the cut. People are undoubtedly going to disagree (one staff member has already complained that their personal favorite didn't make the top 10).
Without further ado, take a look at what we chose as Utada Hikaru's top 10 songs:
10. Hanataba wo Kimi ni
"Hanataba wo Kimi ni" is a beautiful ode to those who have passed away. Although the subject matter is somber, the melody is full of spirit, as though Hikaru were celebrating the deceased's life rather than grieving. Not everyone can turn death and loss into something beautiful. Utada Hikaru is skilled enough to do just that.
"Automatic" was Japan's first introduction to Utada Hikaru. It was a revelation. It was a breath of fresh air. It was the start of a revolution. The song's R&B flair definitely dates the song, but the strength of its production, vocals, and lyrics keeps it just as pleasant to listen to as it was when it was first released.
8. Flavor of Life
"Flavor of Life" was a juggernaut when it was released. Propelled by a tie-in with the hugely popular drama "Hana Yori Dango 2", the song remains one of the most downloaded songs of all time. And that should come as no surprise to anyone who has heard it. It is a ballad that has a grandeur unmatched by anything she's ever released.
7. Prisoner of Love
While "Flavor of Life" was more commercially successful, "Prisoner of Life" was the best ballad from the "HEART STATION" era. The unique premise of the song allowed Hikaru to explore uncharted territory: feeling intensely in love, while also feeling trapped by this emotion. The intensity of her voice perfectly conveys the strong emotions she is feeling.
6. SAKURA Drops
"SAKURA Drops" is an important part of Utada Hikaru's history. This song can be seen as the beginning of the singer's transition away from the R&B heavy sounds of her earlier work, and the start of the more typical pop sounds that characterize her later work. Aside from contextualizing her eras, the song is also important for its ability to seem both simple and elaborate, a delicate balance that the singer has mastered throughout her career.
5. Dareka no Negai ga Kanau Koro
No other song on this list is as hauntingly beautiful as "Dareka no Negai ga Kanau Koro". You'll want to cry while listening. Even though it will stir up a sadness deep inside, you'll feel as though you're experiencing something beautiful, and the tears will be worth it. This is achieved even if you can't understand the lyrics: the melody and vocals alone evoke such a strong response that it's hard to do anything else besides close your eyes and let the music wash over you.
4. First Love
"First Love" is a staple of any "Top Utada Hikaru" list, and with good reason. Its an universal experience to look back fondly upon that person who taught you what it meant to be in love. Its the same fondness we feel when we listen to this song all these years later. There's just something so pure and good about this song. Its longevity as a truly iconic song is well deserved.
3. Passion / Sanctuary
Utada Hikaru's tie-ins with the "Kingdom Hearts" video game series are the singer's most iconic songs internationally. "Passion" and its English counterpart "Sanctuary" are the better of the 2 theme songs. There is something ethereal about the way the song starts. This leads into a strong tempo that compels you through the listening experience. The delicate balance of the riveting instrumentals paired with vocals that make you feel like you're floating in the clouds creates a perfect song.
The vivid imagery evoked by "COLORS" is a testament to the mastery Utada Hikaru has as a songwriter. Rarely has an artist taken a motif and used it so fully. The high-art of Hikaru's poetry is matched by the song's production.
1. HEART STATION
If someone asks you for an example of pop perfection, tell them to listen to "HEART STATION". No other song in Utada Hikaru's discography embodies the ideals of pop bliss better. From the universal message of feeling connected to the one you love, to the soothing, uplifting melody, there are no flaws with this track. The rhythm is perfect, aided by a rhyming scheme that allows the lyrics to flow out with grace. The tone is perfect, with every element working together in harmony to create pure bliss. This is literally a perfect song.
Boukyaku feat. KOHH
With only 10 spots available on this list, some difficult decisions had to be made. In order to feature Utada Hikaru more heavily, "Boukyaku" was taken out of consideration due to how heavily the song relied on KOHH's verses. However, if it were to be on this list, it would definitely be a top 5 contender. Listening to this song is a spiritual experience that takes you on a journey through life and death. It is intensely intimate, yet the sentiments are universal. There is a grandeur to the song that makes it feel important. If a wise elder were revealing the meaning of life, this would be the song form of his message. No discussion of Utada Hikaru's best work is complete unless you talk about "Boukyaku feat. KOHH".
If you're reading this article, chances are you have your own opinions about Utada Hikaru's music. Maybe you think this list is great. Maybe you think we robbed a song of a place in the top 10. Why don't you let us know below, or send the author a tweet @Aysohmay to let him know your opinion.