Utada – EXODUS

November 3, 2010 at 5:46 pm | Posted in Utada | Leave a comment
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  1. Opening
  2. Devil Inside
  3. Exodus ’04
  4. THE WORKOUT
  5. Easy Breezy
  6. Tippy Toe
  7. Hotel Lobby
  8. Animato
  9. Crossover Interlude
  10. Kremlin Dusk
  11. You Make Me Want To Be A Man
  12. Wonder ‘Bout
  13. Let Me Give You My Love
  14. About Me

EXODUS is Utada’s first English album under her name. The album had the highest sales for a foreign album in its first week, debuting at number one. She had full creative control over the album. She produced and wrote each track, two were co-produced with Timbaland. EXODUS is a huge departure from her Japanese material and is her most experimental and daring album to date and it’s also her darkest work. This was my first Utada album and the first album I fell in love with. I wasn’t that crazy about music before but this album really made me appreciate music on a completely different level. I wouldn’t be listening to what I listen to today if it wasn’t for this album. It’s very special to me and will always be one of my top favourite albums.

Opening is a very effective introduction with Utada singing “I don’t wanna cross over/between this genre, that genre.” It showcases what her intentions are with the album and works as a transition from her Japanese material to her English material. It has an ethereal sound to it that’s gorgeous and atmospheric. Utada’s vocals in English have such an irresistible and deep quality to them, one of the reasons why I love hearing her sing in English. She stops singing halfway through and you’re left with awesome synths finishing off the song. It sounds as if it’s an intro to a journey which is exactly what this album is. Devil Inside is crazy, dark, and twisted. It’s nothing like what she’s done before and it starts with thumping drums and foreboding synths. Utada sings about how she’s not the woman people think she is and that there’s a darker side to her. It’s been done countless times but I can’t recall them ever being this good. She sings with a deep voice that really aids the dark theme of the song. She gets playful during the second verse, “you’re missing all the action underneath my table,” and it’s so refreshing to see this side of her. The guitar during the pre-chorus, “they don’t know I burn,” will make you insane. It’s absolutely addicting and gives the track a dark rock edge. Her vocals in the pre-chorus are a bit higher than the verses and they flow with the guitar perfectly. The chorus consists of her singing “maybe there’s a devil (or something like it) inside of me,” and I love how she switches up the final line of the chorus to, “jealous angel deep inside me.” There’s a very oriental instrument that is added to the chorus making it so much catchier and the bridge features some delicious and distorted “oohs.”

The oriental sound is continued in Exodus ’04 which is an R&B tune co-produced with Timbaland. The lyrics are phenomenal, “with you these streets are heaven/now home feels so foreign/they told me I was mistaken, infatuated,” and her vocals are a bit higher than they were in the previous song. For the pre-chorus Utada addresses her father and mother, “daddy don’t be mad that I’m leaving” and “mama don’t you worry about me.” The chorus is amazing, featuring a lovely piano, and I love when her voice rises when she sings “desert, snow” and “radio.” Some of the reasons why this track is amazing are the references to the bible, “the waves have parted,” and her play on words with “history” which can also be interpreted as “his-story.” The oriental sound is absent in the bridge which is just synth and her backing vocals during this part are amazing. The song closes off with pure instrumentation and you get to hear the lovely piano much better and part of the chorus is repeated but with effects on her vocals. I used to think THE WORKOUT was a bizarre song, it still is, but I love it to death now. It’s an upbeat, high energy and sexual club banger. The song is a blast of hard-hitting and heavy synths and Utada’s vocals are playful and high as she demonstrates “how people in the far east get down.” The chorus is infectious with its repetition and I love how her voice rises as she sings “pull it up.” It’s suggestive and you can interpret it as either dancing or as something more sexual. The countdown is the catchiest part of the song and it’s just a whole lot of fun. During the second verse the synth melody is crazy addicting and the lyrics are so clever, “I was talking with a born-again Christian/“so what’s it like to start life all over?”/he said “amen”/I feel like I’ve been rediscovering the tomb of Tutankhamen.” The countdown after the second chorus changes, “can you hold on someone’s calling on the other line,” and when she says “I’m back” she sounds so cool, it’s a great little addition to the track.

Now we get to the controversial Easy Breezy. This is most pop and mainstream song on the album and it contains the dreaded line “you’re easy breezy and I’m japaneesy.” I don’t understand the hate because it’s supposed to be humourous and not meant to be taken seriously. The opening synth is bubbly and cute and leads into the chorus where Utada sings in a breezy high voice. The verses are spectacular, very pop, and her vocals are incredible and despite the subject matter the music gives off a feel-good vibe. After the second chorus Utada sings “do you whistle to hide that you’re feeling lonely/how do I breathe with all this pressure on me,” and her vocals sound so good during this part. She adds some Japanese in the second verse, “konnichiwa, sayonara/‘twas nice of you to stop by,” and I love how it plays off the first verse “hello, goodbye/you left a note saying “‘twas nice stopping by.” There’s a ton of ad-libbing at the end of the track and her metaphor, “she’s got a new metaphor/she doesn’t need you anymore,” is brilliant. It’s actually about a new microphone but can easily be understood as having a new man. This is a fun and summery song which instantly hooks you in with its brightness. Utada tackles a subject that is rarely explored by female pop singers with Tippy Toe. She takes on the role of a female who is having an affair with a married man. Groovy and funky synths open the song up and head right into the fast-paced and energetic chorus which is sung with high vocals. The man is referred to throughout the entire song and the lyrics are fabulous, “what a perfect life they think you’ve got, right?” The pre-chorus is scandalous and she sounds incredibly sexy, “nobody has to know (synchronize it)/when we tippy toe, tippy toe (just imagine)/my body under your body.” The backing vocals after each line are irresistible and make everything stand out more. My favourite part of the song is the second verse because of the clever lyrics, “when the thrill subsides, will you still be mine?/worry infiltrates my head till I kill it/I fill it instead with improper visions of you,” and there’s a pause where the synths become very menacing. The final chorus features a delicious piano riff and the song finishes with instrumentation and Utada’s strange ad-libbing.

Hotel Lobby is another song with a subject that is hardly mentioned and this time it’s prostitution. This is one of the best songs on the album and it begins with a long introduction of light and breezy synths that are absolutely brilliant. The arrangement is seriously breathtaking and captivates you immediately. If you weren’t already captivated by the music you will be when Utada begins to sing in a deep and luscious voice. The verses are in the 3rd person perspective while the chorus is in the 1st person. The verses are super catchy and the constant repetition of money is pure genius, “her hopes, they stretch and they bend/wrinkle like paper money, paper money.” It makes the song interesting and plays off the subject of prostitution perfectly. Her “ahs” between the verses are beautiful and she sounds so serene. The best part of the song though is the chorus, its gorgeous. Her vocals become very airy and light and harmonize with the backing vocals in such a fantastic way. The “ahs” in the foreground and the one’s in the background mix heavenly together. For the bridge Utada repeats “she’s unprotected” before going back into the chorus. I love how the lyrics change in the final chorus, “catch me because I think I’m falling/I’ll be waiting in the mirrors of the hotel lobby,” and the echo of “lobby” is a nice added effect. Even though it’s upbeat, this is a pretty depressing song. “Nobody’s like you,” Utada sings in the opening of Animato, which is the most personal song on the album focusing on her career as a singer, “somebody out there better get this/not many people can do it like this.” The song is quirky and her vocals in the verses bounce along with the synths. Before the song enters the chorus, there is an instrumental section that leads into it. The chorus is super catchy with Utada referencing Cinderella, “I take my diamond shoes/someone who tries to be on time,” and the synth melody is stunning. I love the lyrics in the second verse and how they relate to her trying to break into the American music market, “all that I need’s a bit o’practice/my mind is set on bigger business/this is not a time for reminiscing/this is something new and interesting.” The second chorus is slowed down and then heads back to the original tempo. After the final chorus, the music takes on the sound of radio frequencies and she lists some of her favourite musicians, “DVD’s of Elvis Presley/BBC Sessions of Led Zeppelin/singing along to F. Mercury/wishing he was still performing.”

Crossover Interlude has the exact same lyrics as Opening but it is set to different music. It’s a lot livelier and upbeat with its clapping and thumping beats. The song still keeps a slight ethereal feel and remains atmospheric with the upbeat arrangement. Kremlin Dusk is considered one of her best English songs and I definitely agree. This song is truly a masterpiece and one of the most creative songs I’ve ever heard. It starts as a ballad with dark and mesmerizing synths and Utada references her favourite poet, Edgar Allan Poe, “all along I was searching for my Lenore/in the words of Mr. Edgar Allan Poe.” There are so many interesting elements in the arrangement, there’s a beat that sounds like a beating heart, haunting synths and a piano that is absolutely delicious. When she sings “calling you home,” she sounds so good and she shows great control of her voice. Halfway through the song the tempo increases and the piano becomes urgent and a drum is included into the arrangement. The song increases tempo again and takes on rock elements and Utada sings in a stronger voice “I run a secret propaganda/aren’t we all hiding pieces of broken anger.” Then the song becomes an aggressive up-tempo with Utada belting “born in a world of opposite attraction/it isn’t, or is it a natural conception/torn by the arms in opposite direction/it isn’t or is it a Modernist reaction.” This becomes layered with other vocals “is it like this/is it always the same/when a heartache begins, is it like this” and when the rock elements fade it turns back into a ballad. The piano closes off the song with Utada’s sorrowful vocals, “If you like this/will you remember my name/will you play it again, if you like this.” One of the greatest things about this song is that it doesn’t have a typical structure. There isn’t a set verse, chorus, or bridge and the tempo changes many times. Her vocals throughout the song are flawless and she evokes so many different emotions. This song is one of a kind.

You Make Me Want To Be A Man not only has a bizarre title but it also has the craziest use of synths on the album, they’re very chaotic. The crazy synth is removed from the verses and Utada’s vocals are delicious and deep. Amazing “ahs” are used to transition into the chorus and they’re my favourite part of the song. The chorus is full of emotion, “arguments that have no meaning/this is just the way I am,” especially when she sings the title of the song in a higher voice. There are haunting backing vocals added to the second chorus and her vocals are stronger and more aggressive, “every word you say finds a home in me/nothing that anyone could ever say/could hurt me like this.” This song is somewhat repetitive but it’s absolutely amazing and another one of my favourite tracks. The album returns to an R&B sound with Wonder ‘Bout and it begins with Utada singing “every day.” The beat is strong and her vocals take on a choppy quality in the verses but it flows wonderfully with the melody. I love the hook of the song, it’s simply irresistible, “how many nights did I wander in the dark/counting secrets of my heart/now and then I wonder ’bout/who’s eating, sleeping with you now,” and it’s amusing when she ends the chorus with “but I don’t give a damn about you.” Her vocals are nice and light and it’s one of the reasons the song is so good. She repeats “every day” for the bridge and then immediately jumps right back into the chorus. I didn’t really like this track before but its good humour and fun beat easily won me over.

Let Me Give You My Love is a sultry and sexual song. This song oozes sexuality with its smooth melody and clever and sexual lyrics, “can you and I start mixing gene pools/eastern, western people/get naughty multilingual.” She performs in a sexy and light voice which compliments the atmosphere of the song. The pre-chorus is fire, “I was sort of like soul searching/but your body’s so jaw-dropping,” and works as a great transition into the hot chorus. The repetition in the chorus of “hurry up” and “giddy up” make it catchy and the lyrics are fun and naughty, “let me give you my love/buckle up, boy I know you gonna like what I got.” During the bridge Utada sings in a deep voice while the backing vocals are sung in a high voice and her detached vocals in the repetition of “hot hot hot” sound incredibly sexy. This has a great American mainstream sound to it and still manages to sound fresh. The final track, About Me, is devoid of any electronic influence. It’s the only ballad on the album and the arrangement is composed of acoustic instruments. The organic feel of the song is refreshing and her vocals are beautiful and raw. The lyrics are easy to relate to, “whenever you need me/I’m gonna try to make it through to you/but I’m not always ready to,” and they’re very personal. Utada sings the verses only backed up by an acoustic guitar and the transition from the verses to the chorus is fantastic. A piano is included to the addicting chorus and she sings about herself, “I gotta tell you, I wanna tell you/I can be lazy but I’ll try not to.” She sounds lovely and the chorus finishes with her singing “up and down and down down down down we go” and the music fades away and then starts again for the next verse. I love how she switches perspectives for the final chorus, “you can be shady/whatcha goin’ through?” it was a nice little twist. The music begins to fade away at the end while she sings the final part of the song in a vulnerable voice, “right now you’re sure that you love me/but are you really ready to know more about me/up and down and down, ’round and ’round and ’round/where do we go.” What a perfect way to end a perfect album.

Conclusion: EXODUS is a musical journey and it is one of the best English albums I’ve ever heard. This isn’t an album that is easily digested on the first listen. I was completely confused with the album on my first listen but the more I listened to it the more it made sense. The lyrics are incredible and their quirkiness is what makes them so lovable. To this day I’m still finding new things about the songs and that’s why it’s such a fantastic album. Utada was ahead of her time with the album and even though it’s six years old it still sounds new and fresh. This album opened me up to all types of music and allowed me to discover just how beautiful music could be. There’s always a lot of debate about whether her English material is as good as her Japanese material. In my opinion it’s just as amazing if not better. EXODUS is truly a musical masterpiece.

Recommended Tracks: Kremlin Dusk, Hotel Lobby, You Make Me Want To B A Man, THE WORKOUT, Tippy Toe, Animato, Exodus ’04 and Devil Inside

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