Utada Hikaru – Distance

September 4, 2010 at 5:50 pm | Posted in Utada Hikaru | 2 Comments
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  1. Wait & See ~Risk~
  2. Can You Keep A Secret?
  3. DISTANCE
  4. Sunglasses
  5. Drama
  6. Eternally
  7. Addicted To You [UP-IN-HEAVEN MIX]
  8. For You
  9. Kettobase!
  10. Parody
  11. Time Limit
  12. Kotoba ni Naranai Kimochi
  13. HAYATOCHI-REMIX

For her sophomore album, Distance, Utada continues with the R&B style from her first album but with more of a pop twist. Distance, like First Love, was extremely successful and is the 4th best-selling Japanese album of all time. Utada not only wrote all the songs on the album but this time she also participated in the arrangement for some of the songs and even worked with some American R&B/hip-hop producers.

The album starts with Wait & See ~Risk~, produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, which is a slick R&B tune that’s high in energy and it begins with some English lyrics followed by Utada shouting. Her vocals have improved since First Love, she sounds stronger and more mature. The verses are fast-paced and the chorus is an explosion of energy and the hook is extremely addicting, “oh baby wait and see.” For the bridge the music slows down and I love the high piercing note that she hits. Her backing vocals during the outro are phenomenal and I love how mysterious she sounds when she sings “wait and see/until you see all there is to see.” At first, Can You Keep A Secret? starts with a slow version of the chorus but it quickly changes tempo with Utada singing “hit it off like this.” The verses are slow but as they progress the music crescendos before the chorus. I love the chorus because it’s catchy and her vocals are great especially during the repetition of “can you keep a secret?” The guitar during the bridge is fantastic and the way she whispers the lyrics is pretty sexy. Utada’s “lalalas” at the end add a nice breezy feel to the song, a great way to close off a terrific song.  This is one of the first few tracks that I listened to when I first discovered her music and I’ve loved it since then. DISTANCE, the title track, is an innocent song with a wonderful xylophone melody. It’s bubbly and has such a cute and carefree vibe that makes it easy to love. I love the lyrics in the chorus, “I wanna be with you now,” and “we can start over.” The backing vocals are done exceptionally well and the ad-libbing at the end, “keep it going don’t stop/don’t you ever let me go,” is the highlight of the song. Its innocent vibe makes it stand out on the album. It’s a very sweet mid-tempo and a must-listen. Sunglasses is simply delicious and I love its ambient opening. The chimes are so magical and exude such a peaceful feeling. It’s a smooth R&B tune and is very laid-back. Utada’s vocals for the chorus are deep and breathy which sound lovely, this tone suits her extremely well. This song is definitely a grower because I didn’t care for it before but now I just love everything about it. It’s very similar to the R&B style from First Love but it’s executed much better and despite being a very chill song it’s undeniably addicting.

Drama has to be one of my all time favourite Utada songs. It’s one of the few rock influenced songs she has and it’s incredible. It’s very dark and gritty, opening up with aggressive guitars and hard drums which lead into Utada’s stunning vocals. Her vocals are raw and desperate which really suits the intense arrangement. The chorus is powerful and the lyrics, “baby let me touch you/ai dake no ai de ii/let me be the one to leave you,” are just as intense and she sings with a ton of attitude. For me the best part of the song is the bridge which is entirely in English, “tumbling, tumbling/can’t you see that I can be your remedy/but if you go another way/then I might be your enemy.” It’s absolutely amazing and it’s also used to close the song accompanied by some phenomenal ad-libbing. Eternally is the only ballad on the album and it’s very elegant. A piano, lovely strings and soft drums along with Utada’s sweet vocals make this a lovely tune. She sings the verses in a soft and deep voice which compliments the music wonderfully and for the chorus she sings in a slightly higher tone. Her vocals sound somewhat strained during the chorus but that’s not a big deal because she still sounds great. The lyrics in the chorus are beautiful, “I can feel you close to me,” and are sung with so much emotion.

Addicted To You [UP-IN-HEAVEN MIX], also produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, is 100% pure R&B goodness. The piano melody, drum beats, chimes and synths all come together flawlessly to make an irresistible tune. Utada’s vocals are incredible, deep in the verses and pre-chorus and high in the chorus. I love the second verse because of the line “I’m in love with you/I know you want me too,” she sounds great singing it. The chorus is insanely catchy and is sung with so much energy and it sounds even better after the bridge. This is one of the most memorable songs on the album, a perfect hardcore R&B tune. The next track, For You, is my least favourite song on Distance. It’s another R&B inspired track and like Sunglasses it’s very laid-back. I do like her vocals which are strong and the backing vocals are great. The bridge is my favourite part because of the way she plays around with the lyrics, “I want to make you cry,” “you always give me a brighter sky,” “you want to make me cry,” “you always give me a darker sky.” It’s a good song but it doesn’t compare to the other amazing songs on the album. Kettobase! happens to be one of those amazing songs and it’s the most experimental one on the album. Blaring guitars dominate it giving it an edgy feel and Utada’s bouncy vocals flow with the crazy arrangement. The song opens up with the weird yet awesome line “I want your baby.” It was pretty shocking the first time I heard it but it’s what captures your attention. Utada’s performance is remarkable. The high notes that she hits in the bridge are stunning and I just love listening to them. This is such a fun song that never gets boring, it’s a standout for sure.

Parody is much lighter than the previous song and it’s just as amazing. It has an acoustic arrangement but it’s fresh and the beat is so groovy. Utada’s vocals are playful and compliment the fun feel of the arrangement. I love the backing vocals because they’re so catchy and carefree. The breakdown in the bridge adds a whole other dimension to the song with the instruments changing melodies and there’s even disc scratching. Another aspect of the song that I enjoyed was the ad-libbing at the end. I love how she gives a shout out to her band “John give me that beat/Tony won’t you hit that drum/let me listen to you live now.” It gives the song the feel of a live performance. Time Limit, produced by Rodney Jerkins (Darkchild), marks the second time Utada  worked with an American producer. This song has a light R&B flare to it and it’s a great up-tempo. It’s reminiscent of the R&B style that was present in First Love but it has a fresher feel. Utada’s tone throughout the song is great and the parts when she sings in a higher tone sound lovely and she hits the notes perfectly. With a bouncy beat along with a great hook, “I know what you’re going through/but I ain’t the one to comfort you/but I do ‘cause I need it too,” it’s hard not to get into the feel of this song.

The interlude from First Love makes an appearance but this time in the form of a full song, Kotoba ni Naranai Kimochi. There’s lots of synth in this song but it still has an R&B sound. The song is very mellow but it does pick up during the chorus. Utada sings in a deep and breathy voice and along with the relaxing music makes for a good combination. Her ad-libbing at the end is somewhat whiny but I do like it and her whispering backing vocals were great. However, along with For You this is another one of my least favourite tracks. HAYATOCHI-REMIX is an excellent track to end the album. It begins with some synths followed by a melodic piano with Utada singing “you, you, you said.” I love how the music in the verses crescendos right into the chorus. Her backing vocals in the chorus, “oh my god,” sound amazing and make it so much better. I love the  backing vocals near the end, “you said my love don’t mean a thing/how much I love you/that’s ‘cause you don’t know how much I love you.” Compared to the original version the remix is superior because all the elements that make it great are not in the original. The piano and the backing vocals in the chorus were added to the remix and they really do make a difference.

Conclusion: Distance was an overall improvement over First Love. It refined the R&B sound she used before and made it much more interesting. The album also has a few experimental tracks, Drama and Kettobase!, which showcase a different side to Utada. Distance demonstrates how versatile she is through the different musical genres used on the album. There’s pop, rock and R&B and she nails all of them. This is an amazing sophomore effort and I highly recommend it.

Recommended Tracks: Drama, Kettobase!, Parody, Addicted To You [UP-IN-HEAVEN MIX], Can You Keep A Secret?, Sunglasses and DISTANCE

Rating

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2 Comments »

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  1. Weird, For You is actually my favorite song from this album, Sunglasses being a close second. 😛

    This album is amazing. ❤

    • I know a lot of people love For You but it just doesn’t click with me. I’ve always wondered why it’s so popular lol. Reviewing the album made me appreciate it a lot more. There are so many great songs <3.


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