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Utada Hikaru – ULTRA BLUE [4th Japanese Studio Album]

Posted on: June 27, 2008

Utada Hikaru’s fourth Japanese studio album, entitled ULTRA BLUE, was released on 06.14.06. Claimed to be her most experimental album to date, ULTRA BLUE is a mix of fantastic songs that the listener can really fall into. The singles released before the album were: COLORS and 誰かの願いが叶うころ (both released in 2004) as well as Passion and Keep Tryin.’ This Is Love was released as a radio single in order to promote the album.

This Is Love is an upbeat number and a fantastic album opener. The keyboard opening makes for a nice transition into the chorus, which features some great vocals that Hikki reaches singing more with the higher notes. It ends with “this is love, this is love” before the first verse starts. The verses have a sort of dreamy feeling that really works with the beauty of the lyrics to capture the song’s atmosphere. The moments of pure instrumentation sound great as they take the listener into the world of the song. The third verse takes a slightly different direction as Hikki’s vocals remain smooth and the following chorus sounds brilliant as the focus is put on Hikki’s vocals rather than the instrumentation. This Is Love ends with some great adlibbing from Hikki, bringing a truly strong album opener to a strong close.

Keep Tryin’ is an uptempo number that is inspirational for the listener. The song begins with a magical instrumental before Hikki cheerfully sings the chorus. The opening line, “I don’t care about anything,” has a certain personal element of relatability that the listener is hooked from first listen. Her vocals sound great as she stays a little on the higher side and holds her notes well. She finishes with “keep tryin” and that phrase alone captures the atmosphere of the song perfectly. During the verses, the same magical instrumenation runs through as Hikki sings the lyrics very nicely. The hook is differentiated by a change in instrumentation which moves to being slightly more varied and Hikki’s vocals reach higher during this section. The small instrumental section is wonderful as a dream feeling is established. The song ends as Hikki lists people and tells them to keep trying. It’s a very nice finish to the song and fits with the song’s overall feel.

The third song is the interesting BLUE. The song begins with a smooth instrumental before Hikki does some very nice vocalizing. During the verses, the piano serves as the central instrument for the instrumentation and Hikki’s vocals sound great during the slower parts of the song. The chorus features a stronger energy as Hikki sings higher and the music picks up tempo. Although the two pieces are placed together, they don’t clash at all and sound completely natural as they protrude the other further. The pure instrumental section is very pretty and puts an emphasis on Hikki’s strength at producing songs. BLUE is an excellent song to give the album it’s name. In an interview Hikki stated that BLUE really reflected the direction of the album and the listener can see what she meant by listening to this song.

In an interview for ULTRA BLUE, Hikki stated that 日曜の朝 was her favorite song from the album and for its relaxing atmosphere, it’s no wonder why. The song begins with a somewhat uptempo instrumental before the chorus starts. There is a certain energy to it even though the overall sound is pretty mellow. The verses are nice as they capture the slower feel of the song with deeper vocals. The hook features a higher tone instrumentation in addition to some vocalizing from Hikki in the background and even some of the lyrics sung with a whispery voice. 日曜の朝 is a fantastic track and certainly one worth the listen on ULTRA BLUE.

Making Love is a great album track..The song opens up with a nice piano interlude before the song’s true sound comes in. Her vocals during the verses are smooth and move perfectly with the music in keeping with the song’s atmosphere. The hook begins to pick up the energy in time for the chorus. Her vocals during the chorus show a little more strength and when she sings “making love,” the listener really takes notice. The verse following the second chorus is interesting as her vocal strength seems to be pushed to the background in order to focus on the rapidity at which she sings the lines. There is a sort of comical effect created by this that keeps the listener interested, which is definitely a good thing. Making Love is an excellent album track and a noteworthy fit on ULTRA BLUE.

The album’s true ballad arrives with 誰かの願いが叶うころ. The song opens up with the beautiful sound of the piano along with some vocalizing by Hikki. The verses feature some softer vocals that really do capture the song’s emotional presence. At points, it sounds as if Hikki is on the brink of tears while she is singing and it stands out to the listener strongly. The chorus stands out even more as the piano melody becomes stronger as do Hikki’s vocals. The singing of the title in particular is something that stands out to the listener. 誰かの願いが叶うころ is a very nice ballad and although it’s not her strongest ballad, it’s definitely a song to watch out for because Hikki communicates her emotions and sorrow very strongly from start to finish.

COLORS is one of the most unique sounding songs on ULTRA BLUE. After a beautiful instrumentation, the first verse comes in. The melody has its slower moments and its faster moments during the verses, which really stands out to the listener. Hikki’s vocals remain calm and somewhat angelic in time to let them fly freely on the chorus. The chorus and the following pure instrumental section stand out strongly and sound great. The instrumentation that closes the song is really a perfect finish, bringing COLORS to a close as one of the most unique and creative pieces of ULTRA BLUE that is definitely not worth missing out on.

Yamada Masashi joins Hikki for the addictive One Night Magic. The track begins with a sweet and enjoyable uptempo instrumental alongside some vocalizing from Hikki. The English phrase “all your time through all your days” during the first verse really stands out, surrounded by Japanese lyrics. Her vocals sound great here, especially as she finishes the verse when she reaches high. Masashi delivers the hook and sounds great before Hikki takes the chorus. Her vocals sound great and the background repetition of “oh baby give it up” really stands out. Masashi then repeats a line and takes Hikki into the second verse. The third verse really stands out as Hikki sings all of it in a higher register than she’s sung on the song before and it sounds heavenly. She hits her notes flawlessly, drawing attention to the overall atmosphere of the song. Masashi finishes off the song nicely after Hikki sings her chorus nicely. One Night Magic is one of Hikki’s few collaborations and one of the strongest songs on ULTRA BLUE.

海路 is a beautiful and heavenly song that puts a spotlight on the instrumentation. The song opens up with a dreamy instrumentation and Hikki is heard as she vocalizes a little. There are few lyrics in the song so that the song’s focus is really on the music and how directional it is. As the listener listens to the song, the music as well as some vocalizing from Hikki creates a journey that the listener is taken on. Her vocals are consistently strong throughout the entire song and the somewhat slow pace she delivers the lyrics works perfectly in the song’s favor as each syllable is pronounced and emphasized strongly. The lyrics, although there are few of them in the song, are powerful and are a perfect fit with the song’s overall atmosphere set forth by the sound. 海路 is a fantastic track that catches the listener’s ear from the first moment and takes the listener on a journey into Hikki’s world.

WINGS is a nice uptempo and uplifting song. The song opens with a piano interlude before the first verse comes in. Her vocals work well with the music to capture the song’s atmosphere of the lyrics. The song doesn’t really have a set structure and that connects with the free spirit of the lyrics. The sections of pure instrumental sound particularly nice as they spotlight the carefree attitude that the song evokes, keeping the listener following Hikki’s voice from start to finish. WINGS is a nice and mellow uptempo number that finds a nice home on ULTRA BLUE.

Be My Last, the album’s weakest song, is next in line. The song begins with the strumming of the guitar and the first verse. Hikki’s vocals are nice and they carry the emotions throughout the song nicely. While the desperation and emotion come across in Hikki’s voice strongly during the chorus, it doesn’t hook the listener as strongly as desired. Her vocals after singing “be my last” sound a bit whiny and are a bit off-putting. Be My Last does a good job of communicating the presence of the emotion but isn’t as strong at porraying them effectively.

The album’s interlude is Eclipse (Interlude). The song picks up with a nice uptempo energy that runs throughout the song. There isn’t much to say but Eclipse (Interlude) really is enjoyable and makes a nice transition into Passion.

Passion, one of Hikki’s signature songs for overseas fans, appears as the album’s closing number. The song begins with some smooth adlibbing over a heavenly instrumental. The song’s true sound comes in and the first vocals are of the chorus, which really make the song come to life. Her vocals are smooth and she holds her notes effortlessly. The whistles and the guitar during the pure instrumental sections sound absolutely great. The verses feature some deeper vocals from Hikki that are still smooth. The lyrics of the song are really beautiful and the combination of the instrumentation and Hikki’s vocals allows the listener to be taken into the world of Passion and experience the song’s magic. The final group of lines are sung with even more energy and with even more vocal strength. Passion is an experimental song but one that is very successful. The beauty of the instrumentation as well as the smoothness and strength of Hikki’s vocals open a magical world up to the listener and it is one of Hikki’s best songwriting qualities that comes full force.

Album Ranking: A

ULTRA BLUE is Hikki’s most experimental album to date and features many gems that are fundamental listens such as the album’s opening track This Is Love as well as the album’s closing song Passion. Tracks like One Night Magic, Keep Tryin’ and COLORS are great uptempo songs while 日曜の朝 and 海路 are glorious songs. One of Hikki’s best albums, it’s certainly worth listening to.

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2 Responses to "Utada Hikaru – ULTRA BLUE [4th Japanese Studio Album]"

i love utada hikaru she is amazing i wish i could meet her in person she gr8 at all of her songs!! ^-^

nice blog!!! please visit us, thanks^^ asianworldmusic.blogspot.com

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