Hikaru Utada (宇多田 ヒカル Utada Hikaru, born January 19, 1983), known by her stage name Utada (/uːˈtɑːdə/) in America and Europe, and sometimes referred to as Hikki (ヒッキー, Hikkī?) in Japan, is a Japanese-American singer, song writer, and producer.
Since the release of her debut album First Love, which went on to become the best-selling album in Oricon history, Utada has had three of her Japanese studio albums in the list of Top 10 best-selling albums ever in Japan (#1, #4, #8) and six of her albums (including two English-language and one compilation) charting within the 275 Best-Selling Japanese albums list. Utada has had fourteen number-one singles on the Oricon Singles chart, with two notable record achievements for a female solo or group artist: five million-sellers and four in the Top 100 All-Time Best-selling Singles. Utada Hikaru has an estimated 50 million albums sold worldwide.
She was described by Time Magazine as a "Diva On Campus," a reference to her having attended Columbia University for a brief, career-break semester in 2000. In 2009, she was considered “the most influential artist of the decade,” in the Japanese landscape, by The Japan Times. In 2003, Utada was ranked #24 in the survey of Top 100 Japanese Pop Artists of All Time by HMV,, #10 in HMV's Top 30 Best Japanese Singers of All Time in 2006..
Additionally, Utada made two theme song contributions to Square Enix and Disney's collaborative video game series Kingdom Hearts: "Simple and Clean" for Kingdom Hearts and "Passion" for Kingdom Hearts II (later re-recorded with new English lyrics as "Sanctuary" for the North American and European releases of the game). In 2007, her single "Flavor of Life" reached #2 in worldwide digital download yearly single chart with over 7.2 million downloads, and contributes to 12 million digital sales for her over the same year.In the United States, the song Come Back to Me has peaked at number 5 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play in 2009.
Early life and beginnings
Utada Hikaru was born in New York City as the only child of Teruzane Utada, a Japanese record producer, and his wife Junko Utada, an enka singer, performing under the stage name "Keiko Fuji". Her mother and grandmother were blind shamisen players (瞽女, or goze). Utada made her first professional recording at the age of twelve. She did her recordings with her mother, releasing songs under a band named “U3” (also known as Utada 3) until 1996 when she started her first solo project, "I'll be Stronger." The "Cookin' With Moses Vocal" from this project was called the "Cookin' With Gas Vocal" on the promotional release.
"I’ll Be Stronger" was the first song Utada wrote. It was released under the artist name "Cubic U," a mathematical reference to her being the third Utada 'power,' which was Hikaru's pseudonym before becoming a superstar in Japan. The song was not released in the United States, and in 1997, she started her next project, though at first she was hesitant. Cubic U released her debut single "Close to You", which was a cover of The Carpenters' song. She then released her debut album Precious, which was not released in the United States due to restructuring issues with Capitol Records.
She released Precious in Japan on January 28, 1998, and then later re-released it on March 31, 1999 to much better success. It has sold 702,060 copies to date in Japan.
On September 7, 2002 Utada married Kazuaki Kiriya, a photographer and film director who was fifteen years her senior and who had directed several of her music videos. After four and a half years of marriage, the couple announced their divorce (which became official on March 2, 2007), citing personal changes, different viewpoints on the future of their marriage, and lack of communication due to the nature of their jobs.