Thursday, March 26, 2009

This is the One

So, I have been waiting for Utada's new album This is the One to come out for years.

Who is Utada, you might ask?

Well, she has to be one of the most famous musicians in all of Japanese music history. She was born in New York to a record producer and a well-known enka singer (Keiko Fuji). At the age of thirteen she recorded her first English R&B album, but that never came out in the United States due to label change issues. At the age of fifteen, she recorded a Japanese language album (it went ten times platinum) that turned out to be the top selling album in Japanese history. Altogether she's sold over 50 million units and counting! She also holds the number two position for most digitally sold song ("Flavor of Life") right behind Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend". In 2004, she came out with another English album called "Exodus" but that failed miserably in the states selling only about 55,000 units. But I blame Island Def Jam for not promoting her. This time around the promotion has been a thousand times better!

Betcha didn't know all that! Well, unfortunately, she's virtually unknown to the U.S. masses. But there's always an underground fanbase for her, you'd be suprised at how many Hikki fans there are around.

But I digress.

This is the One came out in the United States digitally on iTunes on March 24th and physical CDs will be coming out some time in May to allow for more promotion. Of course, I had the CD way before it came out on iTunes and way before it was released in Japan (which was in early March). Pirating. Woo hoo! But hey, I kinda have permission to download it illegally since Hikki said in an interview that she didn't mind it. LULZ. It's basically a whole 180 degree change from her Exodus album which was mad-scientist experimental. This time around it's very poppish/R&B. It's drops hints of inspirations from good old 90's music, like what you would hear from Ace of Base and TLC. Overall, I think it's a better album for mainstream play in America, but I do miss the experimental tones of Exodus. Well, don't get me wrong, there is some experimentation in This is the One but it's very subtle. Anyways for this album, Hikki teams up with Tricky and Stargate (two VERY popular producers) to create a pretty awesome tracks.

Anyways, my album review (going from the Japanese track list):

The album opens up with On and On which is an uptempo track. I love the line: "Honeys if you're gay burn it up like a gay parade". It's a fun track and great way to open the album. The beat is good and the harmonies are catchy. My only gripe is the guy screaming constantly in the background.

The next song is one of my favorites on the album even though I'm not too pleased about the synthesized violin (possibly it's an electric violin) but I think a warmer acoustic sound would have sufficed. Utada samples the song "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence" by pianist Ryuichi Sakamoto for the track. Considering the original song had such a different feel, Utada does a pretty good job incorporating it into a more poppish sound.

The album transitions into "Apples and Cinnamon". This was one of the first songs produced for this album and the final product uses vocals from the demo version. This song was produced by Stargate--a duo that has created hits such as "Unfaithful" and "With You". Some of the lyrics can get a little repetitive here.

"Taking Money Back" is a laid back europop-ish track. I love how the synth and electric guitar melody goes. The beat in the back reminds me of some old school 90's R&B.

Up next is "This One (Crying Like a Child)". She manages to drop references to Freddie Mercury and Simon and Garfunkel in this song which amazes me that she manages to get THAT to work. There's a nice mixture of acoustic guitar and piano going on in the instrumentals too.

"Automatic Part II" is supposed to be a parody on her Japanese hit single "Automatic". Well, for her long time fans (such as I) it's pretty obvious, but for her newer fans, I shall explain. "Automatic" was the single the pretty much launched Hikki's career in Japan. And now the lyrics here in "Automatic Part II" quite blatantly introduce who Utada is. Well, it's something like that.

Well, "Dirty Desire" is a throwback into good 90's pop. The lyrics are quite sexual for Hikki and it suprised me at first. There's a line that's repeated throughout the song "Doing my nine to five/Thinking of six to nine" that always cracks me up. Way to go Hikki! You've grown up from your First Love Days!

Oops, did I turn you on? Catchy huh? Well, "Poppin" is a really fun track that exudes this Austin Powers type of vibe. Really, I love this song because it's a rather experimental track for this type of album. I'm sure if a video came out for this song, it would be totally awesome. There'd be lots of stillettos and slutty clothing. Har har har.

Now we come to "Come Back to Me" which is the first, and as of now, the only single released for This is the One. It starts off with an ear catching piano run, very reminiscent of some classical piece. It sound very epic, and then a cool beat starts playing. This is probably the most mainstream track out of the whole album. I'm not complaining but sometimes I wonder if this track can stand out in the American music market. It's a good track, nonetheless. The piano playing in the background has a good melody too.

The last track has a bossa nova/Spanish feel to it. It's called "Me Muero" whic is Spanish for "I'm dying". It sound rather depressing, but the melody sounds upbeat and the lyrics are rather humorous. It's a great song to end the album and one of my favorites because I can totally see myself chilling out to this song often.


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