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Utada Hikaru – DEEP RIVER [3rd Japanese Studio Album]

Posted on: June 25, 2008

Utada Hikaru’s 3rd Japanese studio album, entitled DEEP RIVER, was released on 06.19.02. The album is critically acclaimed for its beautiful lyrics and amazing sound. The singles released before the album were FINAL DISTANCE, traveling, 光 and SAKURA ドロップス / Letters.

The album opens up with the beautiful SAKURA ドロップス. A drum-roll opens up the song before the chorus comes in. Her vocals during the chorus are breathtaking as she hits the high notes wonderfully and sings the rest with power and emotion. Sections of pure instrumentation really spotlight the creativity and the beauty behind the music. During the verses, the instrumentation becomes simplistic and the emphasis is put on Hikki’s voice, which is somewhat deep. As the verses appraoch their end, Hikki’s breath is heard in the background as she sings and the flourish of instrumentation re-introduces the chorus perfectly. Following the third chorus, the guitar is spotlighted during a section that consists of pure instrumentation along with some adlibbing from Hikki that sounds great. This sequence closes the song nicely, making SAKURA ドロップス one of the prettiest songs on DEEP RIVER and the perfect opening song that captures beautiful instrumentation and strong lyrics.

traveling picks up the energy very nicely in this uptempo track. The song begins with a magical instrumentation that takes the listener into the world of the song from the very beginning. Following a small section of vocals from Hikki is the first verse. There is a certain catchiness that really sounds nice and Hikki’s vocals only enhance it. The hook feature some vocalizing by Hikki in the background while she delivers her lyrics with a spirit that is very enjoyable. The title of the song really does stand out during the chorus, which is definitely the most catchy part of the song. The vocal strength during the song is very nice as it adds to the pleasant atmosphere of the song. The third verse allows for even more vocal prowess to be shown off as Hikki delivers her lyrics wonderfully. traveling does a great job of capturing a fun spirit and taking the listener into the world of the song from start to finish.

幸せになろう is one of the album’s upbeat tracks that really is an enjoyable listen. The song begins with a clacking sound before the first verse starts. Hikki sounds great as she sings over a sole piano instrumentation and there is such a graceful feeling established that the listener really can feel what she is saying. The chorus picks the energy up and has a sound similar to her earlier works as a nice and catchy R&B sound. The second verse is similar to the first however the instrumentation is solely focused on the piano and a larger emphasis is placed on the beat. The hook comes after the second chorus, which features English lyrics and the way that she sings her lyrics makes the lyrics step out even more. The hook followed by a nice piano finish brings the song to a great close. 幸せになろう is a very nice track and is one of the more enjoyable songs from DEEP RIVER.

Deep River is one of the album’s best songs for its beautiful sound as well as the personal lyrics. The song opens up with gorgeous instrumentation with a few soft vocals from Hikki before the first verse starts. She delivers her lines perfectly with enough softness to really capture the emotion of the song but enough power to put a focus on her lyrics. The chorus stands out the most as Hikki’s vocals show their range as she hits the higher notes perfectly and her “ahhs” sound heavenly with the music. She then follows by saying “that’s why I chose you” and the emotional charge behind that one line really is amazing. After the final chorus, Hikki sings some adlibs that allow her to reach higher and they make a perfect finish to the personal song. Deep River is one of the best songs on the album for Hikki’s wonderful vocals and absolutely fantastic lyrics that can really resonate with the listener.

Letters is a very nice track that was released as a single before the album. The song opens up with strumming and soon the first verse starts. Her vocals remain well-pitched in a higher range and the hook is an enjoyable section as Hikki vocalizes a little in the background and she sings her way nicely into the chorus. The chorus is nice with a very interesting beat with some great supporting vocals. The “aahs” really sound great and stand out from the chorus strongly. Nearing the end, Hikki speaks in English to the beat and its presence in the song is somewhat unexpected but enjoyable nonetheless. Letters is a very nice track with an interesting and cool beat and some more talented vocals from Hikki. It’s certainly not a track to be missed.

プレイ・ボール is one of the most interesting and addictive songs on DEEP RIVER. The song opens up with a cool and somewhat dark instrumentation before the first verse starts. Her vocals sound wonderful here in combination with the instrumentation and as the verses come to a close, the music begins to become a little more varied. Hikki introduces the chorus as she speaks in English saying “sounds like play ball.” The chorus is easily the most addictive part of the song as Hikki delivers the lyrics nicely and the English phrases such as “first impression” and words such as “mission” and “passion” really pop. Of particular interest are the Japanese words that bear a resemblance to their English counterparts such as “hunter” and “runner” and their inclusion really was interesting. The pure instrumental section is a cool addition as the guitar is spotlighted before returning back to the final chorus. Hikki shows off even more vocal range as she hits the higher notes wonderfully. This song is an excellent addition to the album and is certainly a track that should not be skipped.

東京 NIGHTS is another uptempo track that has a catchy beat to it. The first verse starts strongly with some deeper vocals from Hikki but she sings the lyrics to a very nice beat, making the words stand out more. She then sings in a higher octave and sounds great. The chorus continues the ascent of her vocal range as she sings higher and the English phrases such as “love is hard to find” make the chorus pop very nicely. The section of pure instrumentation after the chorus sound great especially with the very pretty strumming that ends each line of music. The third verse takes the sound in a slightly different direction with the instrumentation varying slightly and taking more on the element of the strumming to fit with Hikki’s vocals well. 東京 is a very nice uptempo song that stands out as being one of the more catchier numbers on DEEP RIVER.

A dark atmosphere arises on A.S.A.P. The beginning instrumentation conveys a dark atmosphere with the feeling of a storm in the air. The verses feature deeper vocals in order to keep up with the overall feeling of the music. The hook allows for a slight change of feeling as a more poppish sound is achieved before the chorus comes in. There is a return to that darker feeling and there are some nice vocals but the repetition of “A.S.A.P.” sounds a little bland. The second verse features lyrics that are delivered with a certain rapidity that works very nicely with the music. A.S.A.P. does a nice job of conveying the dark atmosphere that Hikki wished to create and even the desired image of a “wolf-girl” comes to live at parts such as the second verse but overall the song is somewhat bland.

嘘みたいな I Love You is a venture into the sounds of rock. The song’s opening features an exploration into rock that sounds very strong but once the verse starts, the aggressiveness of the music is lowered and there is a certain softness that combines well with Hikki’s voice. The constant guitar riffs throughout the song are a bit off-putting and would have been better had they been left for just pure instrumental sections. The chorus is pretty bland just like the instrumentation at this point but once the chorus finishes, the music jumps back to its cool and aggressive sound that it displayed at the beginning. Ending this track is the same interesting and cool instrumentation that opened it. The moment in which it stops and then continues again is a great moment that keeps the listener on the edge while listening to it. The song has some nice points during the pure instrumental sections but besides them, the song is pretty bland.

FINAL DISTANCE is the ballad version of Distance, from her previous studio album, which was used to commemorate a school shooting. The song opens up much differently from its original with piano playing alongside emotional vocals from Hikki. The following melancholy vocals really do capture the sorrow with an almost haunting atmosphere. During the verses, Hikki’s vocals carry perfectly with the music to establish that sorrowful feel and she shows off some very strong vocals. The chorus brings the emotions to a climax as the English phrases such as “I wanna be with you now” and “we can start over” capture the spirit of the song perfectly. The vocals near the end of the song are fantastic and the way that she holds them are really reflective of the song’s emotional hold. FINAL DISTANCE is a fantastic and emotional ballad that Hikki brings to life with her powerful vocals.

The interlude for DEEP RIVER is Bridge (Interlude). After a few moments of silence, a mysterious orchestral instrumentation arrives and it sounds beautiful. The strings sound fantastic and soon an uptempo element comes in, keeping the energy of the interlude up nicely. More silence ends the interlude, rounding it off as being strong from beginning to finish. Bridge (Interlude) is a very nice interlude with some beautiful orchestral music that makes it stand out strongly.

光 is the album’s closing song and the perfect finishing track. The song begins immediately with the chorus, which features some great vocals from Hikki and shows off her range as she hits the higher notes fantastically. The guitar serves as the central force of instrumentation during the verses, which are pretty addictive. The lyrics and her vocals both combine to tell a story and that quality is something that makes the song so loveable. Nearing the end of the verses, Hikki sings in a lower tone and the instrumentation varies slightly to make a perfect entrance for the chorus. These sections particularly stand out to the listener and really do sound great. The second verse features some great vocals as Hikki holds her notes perfectly and with consistent strength. The hook that follows the third chorus continues in the vein of the chorus’ sound with great vocals and an enjoyable sound. Pure instrumentation along with some very nice adlibbing from Hikki brings the song to a fantastic close. With its personal lyrics and the happy uptempo sound, 光 is one of Hikki’s most signature songs and is a perfect fit with the album.

Album Ranking: A

Hikki’s third Japanese album is critically acclaimed and it’s no wonder why. The lyrical content on the album is fantastic, showing thought and care and the sounds of songs such as プレイ・ボール and SAKURA ドロップス. Beautiful songs like Deep River and FINAL DISTANCE show Hikki can channel her emotions effectively to create wonderful music. One of Hikki’s signature songs, 光, appears as the album’s closing number and is a perfect finish and representation of everything that DEEP RIVER is. DEEP RIVER is an excellent album that offers a variety of sounds and moods and is something worth trying out.

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1 Response to "Utada Hikaru – DEEP RIVER [3rd Japanese Studio Album]"

NICE review! You should seriously think about becoming a professional critic.

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