Destiny Line – Ai no Matador –

Utada Hikaru – Exodus [2nd English Studio Album]

Posted on: June 24, 2008

Utada Hikaru’s 2nd English studio album, entitled Exodus, was released on 09.08.04 (Japan) and 10.05.04 (United States) under the stage name, Utada. This album allowed Hikki to explore sounds and lyrical themes that she couldn’t in Japan. Nearly all the tracks were written solely and mixed by Hikki herself save Exodus ’04 and Let Me Give You My Love, which she co-wrote and co-composed with Timbaland. Exodus is a refreshing album that shows off a Hikki that is different from her earlier works and remains a strong album to this day.

Opening is the first song on the album and really does a perfect job of setting the tone for the album. The opening instrumentation is very peaceful and evokes a feeling of space. Once Hikki comes singing, her voice matches the music perfectly and the feeling of passing comets is made. She sings that she doesn’t wish to stick between genres and to cross over between her and another person. After she finishes singing, pure instrumentation is left to close the song and it does a wonderful job. The music picks up more of a beat over the space-like instrumentation to make this opening song a great way for the listener to enter Hikki’s world with this album.

Devil Inside is a synth-driven pop song with lyrics speaking about not being the person everyone thinks she is. The song begins with a cool instrumentation before the first verse starts. She uses a somewhat deep voice during the verses, which are rather short before the hook comes in. This is where the instrumentation begins coming to life and Hikki’s vocals begin to show a little more power as she sings “they don’t know I burn.” The chorus continues this atmosphere as her vocals are even more powerful, particularly on the lines on the words of the title and the music keeps the hot addictive element. Hikki’s dirty side appears slightly as she sings “you’re missing all the action underneath my table” during the verse, which also fits with the song’s theme. The pure instrumental section puts an emphasis on the guitar before she sings “time to make it burn; this is how I burn.” Pure instrumentation finishes the song, spotlighting the elements of traditional Japanese instruments, which sound great. Devil Inside is a perfect first full song on the album that is addictive and thematically strong.

R&B is explored with the sentimental Exodus ’04. Following a instrumenting instrumentation, Hikki uses a deeper voice to sing the verses. In contrast, the chorus features higher vocals during certain lines and phrases. The lyrics are powerful as she speaks about leaving her world with her loved one, leaving behind even her family and friends. Overall the song is somewhat bland but Hikki’s vocals are nice and the music is interesting at some points. There is also that personal touch that makes the listener travel on a voyage through the lyrics.

Hikki’s sexual energy is released on The Workout. The song opens up on a hot beat before the first verse comes in. Hikki’s vocals sound great and from the opening line “I was dancing with a dirty blonde Texan,” the magic of the song really presents itself. The hook sounds absolutely perfect although the lyrical content is simplistic “push it up, push it down” as well being filled with sexual metaphors. The chorus continues the song’s catchiness as Hikki’s says it’s good to be alive before she counts her way up “one life, two time, thee girls, four guys…” The second verse establishes a slightly different feel as the instrumentation is slightly varied and she sings about taking to a born-again Christian. The song ends strongly with the hot dance instrumentation that lasts for a good duration. The Workout is definitely unlike her Japanese works but it’s a great song that is absolutely worth the listen.

Hikki’s humor comes full force with the poppy song, Easy Breezy. The song begins with the chorus, which has some nice vocals and with some fun lyrics such as “you’re easy breezy and I’m Japanesey.” The verses start and Hikki uses more of a deep voice to really work with the music in capturing the song’s atmosphere. The hook is very interesting as she steps up a little vocally and the lyrics are delivered with a little more rapidity and it makes a smooth transition into the chorus. The song ends nicely with Hikki singing “she’s got a new microphone” repeatedly and the guitar comes more into the instrumentation. Her vocals during this section sound great and it brings the song to a perfect close as she does an adlib and it sounds like she is cut off just as she finishes. It somewhat ties the whole humorous aspect of the song together at the end. Easy Breezy is a light-hearted and fun pop song that let Hikki show off her humor and is a pretty catchy song as well.

Hikki takes the position of “the other woman” on the pop song, Tippy Toe. The song starts with instrumentation before the chorus comes in. Hikki’s vocals are strong here as she reaches a little higher and the line “every time I think about you heaven needs a prayer cause you’re married and you’ve even got a family too” shows off Hikki’s vocals as she holds the “too” very nicely. She then finishes off the chorus by using the metaphor of “dancing on your tippy toe” to describe having an affair. The verses show a very interesting touch lyric-wise as the listener really believes what she is singing. The hook continues the interest level of the song as she sings “synchronize it” very nicely after each line, making it really step out. During the second verse, there is a small instrumental break after she sings “worry infiltrates my head till I kill it, I fill it instead with” that really sounds great and connects back as she finishes the line “improper visions of you.” Nearing the end, the piano makes itself more noticeable in the instrumentation before the song ends with Hikki’s “heaven” repeated various times as the song comes to a close. Tippy Toe is a very interesting song, both in terms of its lyrical approach as well as its sound and is a song that really stands out on Exodus.

Hotel Lobby is an interesting song that centers around the theme of prostitution. The song begins with a catchy pop instrumentation before the first verse starts. Hikki sings her way through nicely through the verse as the two sets of vocals, one deep and one high, intertwine. Between the two parts of the verse is very catchy “ahh” that sounds great. Its repetition throughout the rest of the song is still catchy. The chorus is even catchier as Hikki’s vocals sound great and the instrumnentation retains its style. Some of the lyrics talk about reportings and things that “go unseen,” which display a certain education on the subject that stands out lyrically. The somewhat haunting “she’s unprotected” right before the final choruses also stands out during the instrumentation. The final chorus features a different ending line “catch me cause I think I’m falling; I’ll be waiting in the mirrors of the hotel lobby.” The echo effect of the word “lobby” really stands out and the final instrumentation is a perfect finish to the song. Hotel Lobby is a fantastic album track worth listening to.

Animato is the most interesting track on the album and the best song the album has to offer. Hikki has stated that this song is her favorite from the album and was the one who translated the song into Japanese for her fans herself. To her, she says the song is about her being a singer. The song opens up with a very cool instrumentation before the first verse starts and the lyrics show off her flare as she sings “somebody out there better get this, not many people can do it like this.” The sections of pure instrumentation connect the verses and the chorus and it is these small breaks that really stand out and keep the listener hooked to the music. She ends the verse very nicely as she sings “life’s messy so I clarify it, simplifying things for everybody.” The chorus features some nice lyrics such as “I’ll take my diamond shoes” and “I need someone who’s true; someone who does the laundry too.” Lyrics such as these stick out as being very “Hikki.” The song ends with that magical personal touch as she lists some of her favorite musical acts such as Elvis Presley and F. Mercury. Animato is definitely a track to be remembered and is truly the album’s strongest offering.

The same sound from Opening appears in the album’s interlude, Crossover Interlude. Interestingly enough, the very same music is used but put to more of a dance beat, which keeps the interlude lively and enjoyable. The song also features the same lyrics and once the lyrics start, the instrumentation changes a bit, keeping the song fresh in the listener’s mind. Unlike Opening, Crossover Interlude fades out with the dance beat rather than letting the beat finish at one point. Although Opening does a better job of matching the sound with the lyrics, this interlude is a nice listen.

The haunting fan-favorite, Kremlin Dusk, appears after the album’s interlude. The song begins with a dark and cold instrumentation before the Hikki sings the first verse, with pretty vocals that capture the atmosphere of the song perfectly. The lyrics here also show the overall lyrical theme of the song – “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe, who is directly mentioned in the first verse. Mentions of “Lenore” and the “the raven” round off the verse perfectly. Her emotional vocals on the word “home” really do show the song’s emotional presence. The song is interesting here as there is no real chorus and pure instrumentation connects the two verses. Half-way through the song, the tone changes and a more rock sound is channeled as Hikki delivers some wonderful lyrics such as “torn by the arms in opposite direction.” The section is a very nice change of pace and after the song returns to its beginning beautiful instrumentation. She emotionally sings “is it always the same when a heartache begins, is it like this?” The instrumentation brings the song to a perfect finish as one of the more memorable songs on the album.

You Make Me Want To Be A Man is one of the most interesting songs on the album, thematically. The central theme is the desire to be a man so that she can better understand her husband. The song opens up with a very interesting instrumentation before the chorus comes in. Her vocals sound great as she hits higher notes strongly, particularly when she hits the note on “man.” During the verses, her vocals are lower and are followed by a small adlibbing section that introduces the chorus nicely. You Make Me Want To Be A Man isn’t the strongest song on the album but it’s a nice listen every now and then.

Wonder ‘Bout displays an interesting instrumentation with a pop sound. The song begins with some cool music and Hikki’s vocals are echoed as she sings “every day” before the first verse starts. Her vocals sound very nice here and the lyrics do a good job of capturing the anger and other emotions that Hikki brings to life with her voice. The hook features some interesting lyrics such as “are you asleep or are you still afraid of the dark” before nicely moving into the chorus. Hikki shows off more controlled vocal power during the chorus as she sings various questions and finishes nicely “I wonder ’bout but I don’t give a damn about you.” It’s somewhat surprising coming from Hikki but it makes the chorus pop at the end. The second verse features a particularly striking lyric “rather be out of the rain, now I understand why my mother ran away.” That lyric stands out to the listner before going into the hook. The pure instrumental section is a nice spotlight on how interesting the instrumentation is before the same echoing of “every day” appears again. More instrumentation brings the song to a nice close as the listener enjoys the song from beginning to end. Wonder ‘Bout is an excellent track that shows a certain anger that comes across strongly from her vocals and the lyrics.

More sexual energy appears with the album’s semifinal song, Let Me Give You My Love. An instrumentation that circles around pop flare opens the song before the first verse starts. Hikki’s vocals are great and the lyrical content is also interesting as she sings that after the young boy next door passed away, she came to the realization that people shouldn’t waste any time and soon the sexual metaphors come in with “mixing gene pools” and getting “multilingual.” The hook makes a smooth transition between the verses and the chorus as she describes soulsearching and a body that is “jaw-dropping.” Her vocals go a little bit higher on the chorus and there is a certain fun-ness to that sexual atmosphere that is refreshing like when she sings “giddy-up baby giddy-up baby, let me give you my love.” The third verse features Hikki singing in a deeper tone while another set of her vocals are heard singing higher and the two come together particularly at the last moment of the verse as she sings “hot, hot, hot.” Pure instrumentation brings the song to a close, making Let Me Give You My Love a truly wonderful addition to the album.

A personal touch is put on the acoustic finale, About Me. The song opens up with Hikki playing the guitar as she sings the first verse. Her vocals sound wonderful and the honesty of the lyrics really stand out to the listener. More of a beat comes in with the chorus as she sings lyrics such as “right now you’re sure you love but are you really ready to know more about me?”  and the moment after the chorus is finished, the piano is showed off. Another noteworthy lyric is “what if I don’t want a baby; what if I’m not cute and naive?” which really shows off the personal flare that the song emotes. The song ends wonderfully as she sings “right now you’re sure that you love me but are you really ready to know more about me?” and then finishes it with “up and down…and down, round and round and round, where do we go?” Her vocals on the final “down” really stick out, bringing the song to a wonderful finish. About Me is a personal acoustic song that allows Hikki to be honest lyrically and makes for the perfect album closer.

Album Ranking: A +

Hikki’s second English album is a collection of magnificent songs that are both interesting instrumentally and lyrically. Hikki’s dirtier side is brought out on songs like The Workout and Wonder ‘Bout. A highly personal touch was put on the album with her humor showed off on Easy Breezy and her feelings on being a singer on Animato and the beautiful honesty of About Me. Exodus reflects a side of Hikki that isn’t necessarily reflected in her Japanese works and really is one of her best albums to date.

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2 Responses to "Utada Hikaru – Exodus [2nd English Studio Album]"

I believe this is her first English album. O:

But nevertheless, I LOOOVE this album. Great review as always. :’D

Well actually she released an album called “Precious” under the name Cubic U before her Japanese works and this album was her 1st English album, thus making Exodus her 2nd 🙂

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