Destiny Line – Ai no Matador –

Posts Tagged ‘Oricon Year 1999 Singles

Utada Hikaru’s debut Japanese studio album, entitled 03.10.99. The album was highly successful as it is still the highest selling album in Japanese history. The expected reason for this is because she brought a new R&B/Pop sound that had not been heard in J-Music before. Two singles, Automatic and Movin’ on without you, were released prior to the album and First Love was a album re-cut single.

The album opens up with the strongest song, Automatic (Album Edit). The song starts off with a fun beat and is a perfect display of that strong R&B/pop sound. Her vocals are somewhat deep during the verses but they match the sound of the instrumentation perfectly. The English phrases such as “my rainy days” and “sun will shine” really stand out as they are sung in English. The chorus really stands out as Hikki shows off her vocal strength and the back-up singing up “I don’t know why” is a perfect touch. The ending line of the chorus really pops as it sung in English such as “I feel so good.” Hikki’s vocals during the song really do bring the lyrical story to life. With the final chorus, Hikki really brings out even more vocal range as she reaches higher and sings more powerfully. Automatic (Album Edit) is a wonderful starting track and certainly a track that should not be missed.

Next comes Movin’ on without you. The song begins with Hikki singing in English “nothing’s gonna stop me, only you can stop me” and the instrumentation shows off some rock tints with the guitar. The verses are sung with a deep voice and some rapidity that really makes the listener listen to what she is singing. The chorus features some stronger vocals with a poppy uptempo beat to match the more R&B sound. In the case of this song, the verses are much stronger than the chorus, which is lacking a little something to really make it stand out. The instrumentation is veyr interesting and is noteworthy and the verses are catchy enough to make Movin’ on without you stand out.

In My Room is the next song on the album. The song begins with a sweet and soft instrumental before the first verse starts. She sings the verse nicely as her vocals work well with the music and they are sung with emotion to bring the lyrics to life. As the verse comes to an end, the piano becomes a more prevalent part of the instrumentation. The chorus doesn’t stand out nearly as powerful as it should as the instrumentation reverts back to its simplistic sound right after the verse. Had that melody been in the chorus, combined with Hikki’s stronger vocals, the chorus would have popped. Pure instrumentation brings the song to a close and unfortunately, the song isn’t nearly as strong as it should have been. It’s definitely one of the less memorable songs on First Love.

One of the album’s real ballads, First Love, follows. The song starts off with a sorrowful instrumentation supported by Hikki’s vocalizing to really bring the atmosphere to life. The lyrics in this song are so beautiful and are something that any listener, no matter where, can relate to. Hikki’s vocals carry their emotional presence strongly. The chorus really stands out as Hikki shows off some more vocal power and range as she hits her notes wonderfully. The gorgeousness of this music really is a perfect match for Hikki’s vocals. Pure instrumentation brings the song to a perfect close, much like it opened the song. First Love was released as a recut single due to its popularity and if the listener listens to this song, it will be no surprise why. The lyrics are personal and sound like they come from the heart and Hikki sings with such emotion and beauty that they stand out all the more. First Love is one of the album’s best songs and certainly not worth missing out on.

甘いワナ ~Paint It Black~ picks up the energy on a more poppy sound. Opening the song is a cool and slick instrumentation that sounds really pretty before a more upbeat and fun sound comes in. Hikki sings her lyrics quite quickly and it makes the listener not want to miss one word. There is a certain attitude that is sung with these lyrics that really stand out to the listener. The chorus is nice as that poppish sound comes to full force and Hikki sings her way through it with consistent vocals. Before the third chorus, Hikki sings very strongly as she reaches higher to really make her lyrics stand out. There is almost a carnival-like feeling that comes through the pure instrumental section and it is a nice touch in helping the song stand out. Near the end of the song, Hikki repeatedly sings “I see a red door and I wanna paint it black,” which comes from the Rolling Stones’ song Paint It Black. The song is a great addition to the album and is on more of the pop side of the album spectrum.

Hikki slows things down with Time Will Tell. Piano instrumentation starts the song off before the song’s true sound comes in. Hikki’s vocals during the verses sound very nice and are a good fit with the music and although the lyrics are somewhat simplitic, they work iin being relatable to the audience. The chorus is a bit bland although the instrumentation is nice. The vocalizing from someone in the background certainly isn’t necessary though. During sections of pure instrumentation, the song’s strength comes through strongly. Time Will Tell is a pretty bland track on First Love but it does blend well with the album’s overall sound.

Never Let Go is the following song. The song starts off with a sweet and mellow instrumentation alongside some vocalizing from Hikki. The lyrics of the song are great and Hikki’s vocals really bring them to life. There isn’t much change, instrumentation wise, to introduce the chorus. The change of vocals really signals its coming. Hikki sings in a higher range and at points, it does sound a little pitchy but the instrumentation is really interesting and thus it stands out. The following verse features the echoing of Hikki vocalizing in the background throughout nearly the entire verse and honestly, it does sound annoying. With the later choruses, Hikki sounds stronger. Never Let Go is an okay song but the repetition of the vocalizing in the background really is annoying and if it was removed, the song would have been stronger.

B&C (Album Version) picks up the album’s tempo with this cheery number. After a poppy instrumental, Hikki nicely sings the first verse. The poppy element is even seen in her voice as she moves perfectly in sync with the instrumentation. The chorus features some even stronger vocals, particularly on the last line when she mentions “Bonnie & Clyde.” The third verse sounds great as Hikki reaches high and hits her notes wonderfully. B&C (Album Version) is a great addition to the album and one of the more enjoyable numbers on First Love.

Another Chance continues the uptempo sound of the album. The song starts off with a slightly funky instrumentation to open it nicely. Hikki sounds nice singing the verses as a certain softness really stands out to the listener. The chorus doesn’t really stand out as nicely as hoped as the instrumentation remains identical throughout and no line really makes it pop. Another Chance stands out primarily for its instrumentation and Hikki’s vocals are just nice here. It’s worth a listen every now and then.

This album’s interlude is simply titled Interlude. The lyrics in this song come again later as the opening lyrics in 言葉にならない気持ち from her sophomore album, Distance. The interlude is very short, only lasting roughly 20 seconds and it is easily her worst interlude. Perhaps it is the music but these lyrics sounded much stronger in the context of 言葉にならない気持ち. Honestly it’s a very short and pointless interlude.

The album closes with Give Me A Reason, a lyrical gem. The lyrics are beautiful and really sound as if they are coming from her heart. Unfortunately, the sound of the song is a little boring and it is the longest song on the album, and feels like it drags on at certain points. Her vocals definitely have their moments when they shine and the instrumentation has some great moments when the guitar is spotlighted but it’s not enough to make the song stand out as much as it should. Traditionally Hikki’s closing songs are great but it wasn’t the case for this album.

Album Ranking: B –

Hikki’s debut album definitely has the lyrical strength that is is praised for and it has some awesome songs that show off that unique R&B/Pop flare that holds the album together such as on Automatic, First Love, B&C and 甘いワナ ~Paint It Black.~ Although one sound ties the album together, it does work somewhat negatively in that a certain sameness does come out on some tracks and makes them less special. The album has its high points and its low points and certain songs are definitely worth the listen.