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23 January 2008 @ 07:16 am
[The Adoration Series] Utada Hikaru - Deep River  
I feel guilty for forgetting one of my favorite artists birthday. To make up for that and to show my appreciation, I'll be reviewing one of her albums.

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Deep River is Utada Hikaru's third original Japanese album. Released on June 19, 2002 it shot straight to the top of the Oricon charts and managed to sell over 3 million copies.

The album opens with SAKURAドロップス (SAKURA Drops). A fitting introduction to the album. It starts with the sound of raindrops falling and Utada's voice began to fill the song. It slows down and picks up the tempo again when the chorus hits. The music is layered with Hikki's sighs and the keyboard's sweet melody. Coupled with a very lovely PV and lyrics expressing heartbreak, Hikki managed to get the listener to sit back and visualized a cherryblossom waiting to bloom.

The second track is one of her best known songs and a concert favorite: traveling. A fun and lively track, this will instantly make you groove along to the fast beats and sing-along to the playful lyrics. The PV also managed to grab a slew of awards for it's modern and quirky style.

The third track pays homage to Hikki's old style. 幸せになろう(Shiawase no Narou; Let's be Happy) starts out somewhat like a lullaby. The piano is accompanied by Hikki's soft vocals and then it bursts into a full on pop/rnb song. I like to call this the "Keep Tryin" prototype.

The album slows down with title track and one of my favorites in this album. Deep River sets the whole mood of what kind of album this is going to be. Utada said that this was the last song she did for the album. You can get the feel of that through the music. It's a very laid back ballad with thoughtful lyrics.

The song Letters is one of the Utada songs I can listen over and over again without getting bored. The music is tinged with a bit of Spanish influence due to amount of guitars and maracas/bonggo drums used. Nevertheless, it still has that Utada magic. The music and lyrics brings to mind the message of "yearning for someone". It's honest and heartbreaking especially if one gets to read the lyrics.

The album picks up the pace again with プレイ・ボール (Play Ball). An experimental track. With bold beats and an excellent placing of the guitar solo, it's upbeat but unlike traveling it's more aggressive. Utada cleverly uses baseball here as a metaphor.

The experimental tracks continues with 東京NIGHTS (Tokyo NIGHTS). One of my favorite songs from Utada, it's a refreshing song that hits you over and over with it's infectious and catchy beats. It has the Tokyo feel to it with the use of lyrics and music. Layers of synths and strings is abundant throughout the whole song. This has the Utada sound stamp all over it.

Still with the experimental tracks, A.S.A.P. is a very dark sounding song from start to finish. It has elements of pop and hip-hop. But the melody playing in the background as Utada sings and the lyrics also helps maintain the haunting mood of the song.

The next track in the album has Utada testing a new genre. 嘘みたいなI Love You (A False I Love You) is her rockiest song to date. Accompanied by guitars and synths, Utada helps establish the raw feeling of the song. Up to this day, there are still fans who confuse this as the Japanese version of "Simple and Clean". To clear it up: This is NOT the Japanese version of the Kingdom Hearts theme song. Utada only incorporated the chorus of this into "Simple and Clean".

One of the most saddest songs you'll ever hear, FINAL DISTANCE was song that Utada made as a tribute to one her young fans who was killed during a shooting rampage. The piano, strings, lyrics and Utada's excellent vocals worked together to make this as one of her most touching songs. It is originally entitled "Distance" and is found in the album with the same name. It has been reworked as a ballad and some of the lyrics also changed to better reflect the feeling of the song.

After FINAL DISTANCE, a short interlude entitled Bridge is played to break the mood. It is basically just a violin solo without any vocals.

The last song in the album and the Japanese equivalent of Simple and Clean, (Hikari; Light)is by far my favorite Utada song ever! There are no words to express how much I love this song. Everything about it is simply beautiful. A great way to end the album. I'll just leave it to Hikki to explain the song herself:

"When I finished making it, I felt, 'If I keep making songs all my life, perhaps this is the best one.' I was satisfied that way with this song. As I gave my name clearly, this is the most important one in my life."

and another one:

The title is actually my own name...a kanji character. I guess it just shows how much love I have for the song, to the point where I would give my own name to it; like a 'Hikaru junior' or something. I think the big thing about this song is that it's really, really me, just straight out - but a lot of that lies in the lyrics. The lyrics are really special and I wish that if you don't understand Japanese that there's some way that you could get a translation of it or hear about what it says. It's kind of cute; it's got lines like, 'Let's go eat something good tonight for dinner and just forget about this stuff in the future', and you know. 'Thank you from my family and everything will be fine', little sunny things like that. So, hopefully, even without that, I hope you can enjoy the music and the song and the melody and everything 'cause I have love for all that too, of course. Once again, thank you for your support wherever you are and wherever I am right now."
--Utada Hikaru

I consider Deep River as Hikki's best album to date. Listening to this album will give you an idea on where her music is heading: vibrant, playful and experimental. Unlike some of her albums, this one sounds more melancholic and the entire booklet is even in black and white!

This is also her most complete work. From the songs (there is not a song I hate in this album. Each one of them is great in their own way), PVs (this is something not to be miss! During this era is where Utada first worked with her now ex-husband to create the Kiriya Trilogy) and lyrics (one of her best) they all tie-in together to create the images and feelings Utada wanted to express.

I highly recommend that you purchase this album when you get the chance.
 
 
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