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Utada Hikaru’s 2nd Japanese studio album, entitled Distance, was released on 03.28.01. R&B is a genre explored on the album. The singles released before the album were Addicted To You, Wait & See ~リスク,~ For You / タイム・リミット and Can You Keep A Secret? Parody was also released as a radio-single before the album release.

The album begins with Wait & See ~リスク.~ The song begins with Hikki singing “Is it all for you?” and the attitude that she says it with really stands out and soon she delivers an impressive vocal. With the verse, she sings with a little rapidity that stands out to the listener right away. The chorus shows off more of a rock flare in the instrumentation and Hikki’s vocals are shown off more here than in the verses, making the chorus really stand out to the listener. The third verse features more great vocals but nothing compares to the amazing note she hits right after the small pure instrumental section. Wait & See ~リスク~ is a great opening track that shows off some great vocals and a enjoyable instrumentation. It’s certainly not a track to be missed.

The second song is Can You Keep A Secret? The song opens up nicely with the chorus and once it finishes, more of a beat comes in as she repeatedly sings “hit it up like this.” Once that section finishes, the instrumentation returns back to its slower sound and her vocals really capture the emotions strongly. Hikki’s vocals sometimes sound a bit awkward during the chorus when she pronounces the name of the song. The pure instrumental section is merely okay with the strumming of the guitar and Hikki speaking in the background. Can You Keep A Secret? is the album’s blandest song for instrumentation that doesn’t particularly catch the ear of the listener and the awkwardness that Hikki’s vocals sometime create.

DISTANCE is the album’s cheeriest sounding songs, which is interesting as the lyrics don’t quite portray the same atmosphere. The song begins with a very happy souding instrumental so that the listener is taken into the world of the song from the first listen. There is a certain relaxing element to the verses that work perfectly with Hikki vocalizing in the background and her singing peacefully in the forefront. The chorus features some very nice vocals, particularly at the beginning of the chorus where she reaches high and hits the note perfectly. From its pretty and happy instrumentation in conjunction with its strong lyrics, DISTANCE is an excellent title track and stands out on the album.

サングラス is a nice and relaxing R&B number that stands out. The track opens up with a dreamy instrumentation before the song’s true beat comes in. Her vocals during the first verse sound nice and work with the music very nice. She even reaches high and hits her notes perfectly. The repetition of the word “pretender” strikes the listener throughout the song at various points. The chorus features some great vocals and are sung with the emotion of the fantastic lyrics. The pure instrumentation section is wonderful as it is a return to that dreamy atmosphere that sounds wonderful and leaves a strong impression on the listener. She finishes the song with a few adlibs, one in English “I need someone I can rely on” over the sweet music. The song is an excellent R&B number with Hikki’s vocals shown off very nicely.

Hikki explores the sounds of rock in the fantastic ドラマ. The song begins with a strong rock instrumental before the first verse. Hikki’s vocals are somewhat deep in keeping with the song’s atmosphere but become more aggressive and powerful once the chorus arrives. English is spread throughout the chorus such as “baby let me touch you” and “baby let me kiss you.” The instrumentation becomes more varied with the guitar playing a larger role in the song’s sound, making the chorus the most addictive part of the song. The hook in which she sings in English is a perfect addition to the song. She sings “tumbling, tumbling, can’t you see that I will be your ecstacy” and the atmosphere set forth by this section really fits with the overall sound of the song. ドラマ plays with the sounds of rock to create a very strong track and one of the best songs on the album.

Eternally is one of the album’s true ballads. The song begins with an orchestral opening before she beautifully sings the first verse. Her voice carries the emotions of the song strongly and show the lyrical strength vocally. Her vocals during the chorus are fantastic as she reaches high and sings the notes with emotions that come across to the listener clearly. The song is nice and her vocals sound great however at certain points, she sounds like she strains to hit the notes. Overall though, the song is a nice performance and although it isn’t the strongest song on the album, it’s worth a listen.

Addicted To You (UP-IN-HEAVEN Mix) is the album’s seventh track. The song opens up with a cool instrumentation centered around the beautiful playing of the harp. During the verse, Hikki sounds great and delivers the lyrics with a small rapidity at times that really works. Generally her voice is deep during the verses and that’s a nice choice as her vocals stand out in contrast to the soft sound of the instrumentation. The hook stands out as Hikki sings in a slightly higher tone and there is certain delicate aspect to her voice that supports the instrumentation perfectly. The chorus is even stronger as she reaches inside of her and sings even higher. She sounds fantastic and the instrumentationremains just as pretty and interesting as it did from the beginning. The fun instrumentation brings the song to a close, making Addicted To You (UP-IN-HEAVEN Mix) one of the stronger songs on the album.

For You is an uptempo R&B track. The song begins nicely with a piano opening before the first verse starts. Her vocals are somewhat deep over the catchy beat. The verses feel somewhat long and Hikki’s vocals aren’t as strong as they could have been so a certain feeling of monotony comes. The chorus features a cooler instrumentation and some smoother vocals from Hikki and thus the chorus is much more enjoyable. The last English line of the chorus “I sing this song for you” pops nicely and during pure instrumental sections, Hikki is heard saying some lines in English. The English lines sung during the third verse are a nice change of pace and somewhat surprising as she sings “I want to make you cry.” Her vocals during this verse really stand out strongly. The lyrical simplicity of the song is actually pretty effective here as there is a certain relatability that the song has. For You is a nice track that starts off somewhat weakly but picks up over the course of the song.

蹴っ飛ばせ! is one of the more catchier numbers on the album and certainly a track not to be missed. The song starts right away with Hikki singing “I want your baby” and although certainly unexpected from Hikki, it does capture the interest of the listener. The verses are split into two parts with the repetition of “I want your baby” connecting them. Her vocals during the verses are really nice and she delivers her lines with a certain rapidity that sounds great. The chorus features stronger vocals from Hikki, particularly when she sings the title of the song. Her ending note of the chorus shows off her range as she hits the higher note perfectly. The song is of the most catchy and memorable songs off of the album and the repetition of “I want your baby” is definitely something that makes the listener hooked throughout the rest of the song.

Parody features a highly interesting instrumental and a very cool sound. The song begins with a cool instrumentation before she smoothly sings her way through the first verse. Her vocals work perfectly with the instrumentation, which features some jazz influences to make the listener go with her through the song much like a story. The chorus really stands out, particularly because of the English phrases such as “life story” and “real story.” The pure instrumental section spotlights the jazz influences and even the small rock flares hidden behind the music come out. Parody is one of the funner songs on the album with a catchy beat and lyrics that tell a story.

The semifinal song on Distance is タイム・リミット. A catchy uptempo instrumental backing track begins the song before the catchy hook begins. It’s mostly in English and the catchiness of the instrumentation matches Hikki’s vocals perfectly. Hikki holds her notes on the first verse nicely and she hits the higher notes wonderfully. The chorus continues the song’s catchiness with the same feel as the hook except it is sung all in Japanese. Hikki shows off more vocal strength and range with the second verse and sounds fantastic. The pure instrumental section sounds great with a hot beat although Darkchild’s voice really does get annoying. The cool music fades out, bringing the song to a close. タイム・リミット is one of the catchier numbers on Distance and is definitely worth the listen.

言葉にならない気持ち is the perfect album closer. The song opens up with a slow and relaxing instrumentation before the first verse starts. Her vocals during the verses are somewhat deep in contrast to the higher notes she reaches during the chorus. The chorus is really catchy and the instrumentation just stands out to the listener although it is somewhat simple. The pure instrumental section sounds great and the little adlibbing that Hikki does is really a nice touch. 言葉にならない気持ち is an absolutely fantastic song and closing number for the album.

Album Ranking: A –

Hikki’s 2nd sudio album features a lot of gems such as 言葉にならない気持ち, Parody, 蹴っ飛ばせ! and ドラマ. Although there is the bland Can You Keep A Secret?, the album is still a nice collection of uptempo and R&B numbers. It’s certainly something that should not be skipped.

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