UTADA HIKARU, the J-pop artist that got more than just a few of us into the genre to start with is returning to the scene after a near 6 year hiatus (sans the one single “Sakura Nagashi” made for the Evangelion 3.0 film). This alone is quite a big deal for almost everyone who listens to the genre- and she’s created two new songs for us all to listen to.
Usually when describing Utada Hikaru’s sound, the words that come to mind are warm, organic, comforting, beautiful. These new songs aren’t that- to me they’re cold, digital… manufactured. I don’t feel that instant draw that earlier releases had- whether it’s to do with the way the tracks have been mastered (inappropriately loud, rather tinny and compressed) or that they’re just not strong songs to begin with- is something I can’t fully decide on. Perhaps it’s a combination of both.
One song is a little fun tune with some nice instrumentation (Hanataba wo Kimi ni) and the other (Manatsu no Tooriame) is a pretty standard ballad that doesn’t quite hit the emotional heights that it’s seemingly going for, at least, not with this listener. Both feel a little underdeveloped in the writing stage, and overproduced in the production stage. This all adds to an odd and strangely alienating final result.
And while I certainly do not hate these two tracks (both are pretty equal to me- generic with some good vocals on Hikki’s part), I have to agree with the people wondering “is that it?” when it comes to these songs. Utada Hikaru returning should have been fireworks, this is a sparkler at best.
Time Will Tell whether Hikki’s return is the event that it should be- but for now I’m left in limbo with the rest of us. Still, it’s going to be nice to see her performing these songs on whatever shows she gets cast on- even if they are somewhat duds.