Automatic (Utada Hikaru song)

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"Automatic"
A body shot of a Japanese–American woman (Utada Hikaru) standing in front of a blue room, surrounded by led-lights. She is wearing white clothing and has her name and the songs title superimposed.
The 12cm CD artwork that commercializes both "Automatic" and "Time Will Tell".
Single by Utada Hikaru
from the album First Love
A-side "Time Will Tell"
Released December 8, 1998
Format
Recorded August 1998
(Studio Z'd, Wonder Station Yoyogi Studio, Studio Terra, Tokyo, Japan)
Genre R&B
Length 5:28
Label
Writer(s) Utada
Producer(s)
Utada Hikaru singles chronology
"Automatic/Time Will Tell"
(1998)
"Movin' On Without You"
(1998)
Alternative cover
The mini CD that commercializes "Automatic".

"Automatic" is a song recorded by Japanese–American singer Utada Hikaru, taken as the lead single from her debut album First Love (1999). It was released on December 8, 1998 through Toshiba-EMI in two physical formats: mini CD single and 12" vinyl. Additionally, the single included the A-side "Time Will Tell", which originally served as the B-side for these versions. The song was written and co-produced by Utada herself, while Akira Miyake and the singer's father Teruzane Utada served as producers. Despite working previously in English language under the name Cubic C, "Automatic" is Utada's first Japanese recording, and premiered after finishing high school in Japan.

Musically, "Automatic" is an R&B song that incorporates elements of pop, dance and soul music. Lyrically, it delves into themes of love, and focuses on a previous relationship by the singer. Although an English version was recorded, executives at Toshiba-EMI insisted to promote herself in the Japanese market, so she wrote it the regions respective language. Upon its release, "Automatic" received positive reviews from music critics, who commended Utada's vocal abilities and production style. It won numerous accolades in Japan, and has subsequently been listed as one of her best releases.

Commercially, "Automatic" and "Time Will Tell" experienced success in Japan, reaching number four on the Oricon Singles Chart and sold over 772,000 units there. After it was re-released as a 12cm CD single, the track peaked at number two and sold 1.291 million units, tallying over two million copies in Japan; it was certified million by the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ) for physical shipments. Since its release, Oricon has ranked it amongst many best-selling singles in the country, and has earned other distinctions for its commercial success.

An accompanying music video was directed and produced by Tomu Izawa, where it feature the singer in two rooms; a small with a yellow sofa, and a blue room that is lit by LED lights. In order to promote the single, Utada had included it on all her concert tours, such as her Bohemian Summer 2000, Budokan 2004 concert shows, Utada United, In the Flesh and her most recent Wild Life tour. Additionally, the recording appeared on compilation albums conducted by the artist, and has made appearances on various commercials in Japan.

Background and production[edit]

Born and raised in New York City, Utada had her first solo experience in professional recording with Cubic C, a pseudonym used for her earlier English language work. After completing her first record Precious (1998),[1] with the help and guidance of her parents, musicians Teruzane Utada and Keiko Fuji, it failed to generate interest in both the United States and Japan, with the record only appearing at number 38 on the Oricon Albums Chart in the latter country. At the time however, Utada had moved to Toyko and attended Seisen International School, and later the American School in Japan, subsequently scoring a record contract with label Toshiba-EMI.[2] Executives at the company worked with her to become a classified singer-songwriter instead of an idol singer, but prompt her to write and record songs in Japanese language rather than English.[3]

From the bunch, Utada solely wrote "Automatic" in Tokyo, and recorded a demo tape in mid-1998—which then appeared on the special 15th Anniversary edition of her album First Love (1999).[4][5] She received help by her father, his friend Akira Miyake, and they both served as producers to the track. Additionally, the singer acts as a co-producer and co-composer to the recording, two roles which she felt was necessary in becoming a singer-songwriter.[3][4] The trio begun working on her debut single, and recorded it at three studios: Studio Z'd, Wonder Station Yoyogi Studio, and Studio Terra, all based in Tokyo, Japan.[6] According to Utada, she revealed than an English version exists, but remains unreleased.

Composition and release[edit]

Musically, "Automatic" is an R&B song that incorporates elements of pop, dance and soul music. According to a contributor of Japanese magazine CD Journal, he/she noticed that the R&B composition was a very "common" trait in Western culture in the late 1990s.[7] Kano, writing for Rockin'On Japan, agreed, and felt the song infused contemporary soul and club music. The writer commented that her experimentation with R&B music was signfiying to Japanese culture, as he felt the country did not emphasize the genre. Additionally, he noticed the contrast of her "painful" yet "innocent" vocal range in the number.[8] In a similar review, Mori Tomoyuki from Amazon.com believed that the singers use of R&B "influence the country" and other growing musicians.[9] David Bertrand Wilson from Wilson & Alroy's Record Reviews said that "Automatic" has a "casual intimacy" that is unusual for a "dance track", and noted its "distorted-yet-laid-back lead guitar."[10] In 2009, for the singers second English-language album This Is The One, there is a song titled "Automatic Part. 2", which samples parts of the English mentions from the Japanese release.[11]

"Automatic" was released as a double A-side with "Time Will Tell", which premiered on December 8, 1998 through Toshiba-EMI in two physical formats: mini CD single and 12" vinyl. Both packages feature the two song, but included a different third track; the mini CD featured an original karaoke of "Automatic", while the vinyl included an English-dub mix of "Time Will Tell".[4][12] The cover art for the mini CD was a shot from the accompanying music video, which has the singer sitting on the yellow sofa.[4] In the United States, "Automatic" and "Time Will Tell" were added onto a special 12" vinyl that was published for promotional usage, namely through underground clubs.[13] Furthermore, her record label re-released the single the following year as a standard CD single, where it took the track list from the vinyl; the artwork was yet another shot from the clip, this time with Utada standing in the blue room wearing white clothes.[14]

Critical response[edit]

Since its release, "Automatic" has received positive reviews from music critics. A journalist of CD Journal awarded it a special star recognition, praising Utada's "full of emotions" and vocal abilities. Although he/she did feel that the sound was "generic", the review stated that the production was "flexible" and "pleasant", whilst noting her professional abilities at 15 years-old at the time.[7] Kano, writing for Rockin'on Japan magazine, examined the singles ability to re-ignite J-pop globally, and praised her vocal performance in the track. In conclusion, he commented; "Everything started from here."[8] While reviewing her greatest hits album Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol.1 (2004), Hayashi, reporting from OngakuDB.com, was surprised by "Automatic"'s longevity, seeming that it was released "just yesterday".[15] Satoshi Shimada of Yeah!! J-Pop! and Kanako Hayakawa from Shinko Music agreed, and both felt it was one of the strongest hits from the collection.[16][17] David Bertrand Wilson, writing of Wilson & Alroy's Reviews, labelled the tracks quality and sound a "surprise", in comparison to the parent album's remaining work.[10]

Since its release, "Automatic" has been awarded several accolades by music organisations. In 2000, the single was given the gold award for most royalties received from the previous year at the JASRAC awards, beating her own song "Time Will Tell".[18] That same year, it received the Honorable Mention at the Japan Record Awards, and at the Japan Gold Disc Awards, "Automatic" was awarded Song(s) of the Year with her follow-up releases "Movin' on Without You" and "Addicted to You".[19]

Commercial response[edit]

Commercially, the mini CD single of "Automatic" / "Time Will Tell" experienced success in Japan. It opened at number four on the Oricon Singles Chart, her first charting experience in that category, and spent a total of 23 weeks.[20] By the end of 1999, Oricon ranked the single at number 22 on their year-end chart, with estimated sales of 772,080, making it the seventh highest entry by a female artist—five of which were claimed by the singer.[21] After the singles re-release on a 12cm compact disc in early 1999, "Automatic" and "Time Will Tell" re-entered the chart at number two, two positions higher than the original format. In total, the single spent another 23 weeks, tallying it up to a run of 46 chart appearances.[22] This release claimed an additional 1,290,700 units, making this Utada's best-selling physical single; it was listed at number five on Oricon's year-end chart for the same year.[21]

Because of their individual releases, "Automatic" / "Time Will Tell" has sold 2,062,780 copies together, effectively marking it as the second highest-selling single of 1999, just behind "Dango 3 Kyodai" which was a collaborative release between Kentaro Hayami, Ayumi Shigemori, Sunflower Kids, and the Dumpling choir.[21] Furthermore, it is the second highest-selling single by a female artist, only behind Namie Amuro's hit "Can You Celebrate?" which has amassed 2.750 million copies in the region.[21] In 2014, in celebration of the singers 15th anniversary of First Love, "Automatic" entered the Japan Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary chart at number 73 and 53.[23] It was certified million by the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ) for physical shipments, and gold for 100,000 ringtone cellphone purchases.[24][25]

Music video[edit]

An accompanying music video was directed and produced by Tomu Izawa, and despite Utada's previous musical work, it is her visual debut.[26] The visual opens with a small intro screen of Utada and the songs title, and disappears to show Utada sitting and singing on a yellow sofa, in front of a closed garage door. As the chourus, she starts to dance with various close-up shots of her face. The second verse and chorus showcases Utada in a small blue room lit by a LED light, and superimposed the songs title on various scenes. It ends with the singers title against her face, as the screen is tinted blue.[27] The clip was included on her 1999 DVD collection Singles Clip Collection Vol. 1, and subsequently on the 15th anniversary edition of First Love, which included all the visuals from the record.[28][5] The yellow sofa and garage door scene was parodied in Halcali's single "Tandem", and subsequently through Utada's single "Goodbye Happiness" (Nov 2010), which she directed herself.[29]

Promotion and cover versions[edit]

In order to promote the single, Utada conducted several commercial endorsements with companies throughout Japan. It first appeared in the commercial for Honda Life, and subsequently was featured on the Game Boy Color video game, Beatmania GB 2 GatchaMIX for the Game Boy Color.[30] Additionally, "Automatic" has appeared on all concert tours by the singer; its first appearance was her Bohemian Summer Tour in 2000.[31] The following year, Utada hosted an MTV Unplugged series which had her performed the number as one of the closing songs; it was featured on the live album/DVD, and premiered throughout various Japanese music television shows.[32] Three years later, the singer included the track on the set list for her Live in Budokan tour, which was a resident series of concerts at Nippon Budokan, and two years later on Utada United as part of the encore.[33][34] In 2010, Utada commenced her first international tour in the United Kingdom and United States, titled Utada: In the Flesh 2010. For each date, she performed "Automatic", which was again, another encore number, and has most recently performed it on her December 2010 show Wild Life.[35][36]

In 1999, Hong Kong singer and actress Kelly Chen covered the song in Mandarin.[37] Ten years later, Jamaican reggae group Sly and Robbie and Unitzz released an English language cover of the song.[38] A second reggae cover was produced in 2011 by DJ Sasa with Island Souls on their album Respect! J-Pop, featuring vocals by Shinobu Nakasone of OrangeClover.[39] Kyoto rock band Unchain released a cover of the song on their cover album Love & Groove Delivery (2013).[40] Swedish band Dirty Loops covered the song on their 2014 album Loopified, and in the same year singer-songwriter Yasuyuki Okamura recorded the song for Utada Hikaru no Uta, a tribute album celebrating 15 years since Utada's debut.[41]

Track listings and formats[edit]

Personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from the CD liner notes of First Love: 15th Anniversary edition.[5]

Musicians and personnel

  • Hotoda Goh – mixing
  • Kei Kawano – additional arrangement
  • Masashi Kudo – recording
  • Tsuyoshi Kon – Guitar
  • Akira Miyake – production
  • Nobuhiko Nakayama – synthesizer programming
  • Akira Nishihira – arrangement, keyboards, programming
  • Taka & Speedy – rhythm tracks arrangement, programming
  • Masaaki Ugajin – recording
  • Hikaru Utada – writing, vocals
  • Teruzane "Skingg" Utada – production

Charts and sales[edit]

Release history[edit]

Region Date Format Label Ref.
Japan December 8, 1998
  • Mini CD single
  • 12" vinyl
Toshiba-EMI [4][12]
1999 CD single [14]
December 9, 2014[A] Digital download EMI Music Japan [42]
Australia [45]
New Zealand [46]
United Kingdom [47]
Ireland [48]
Germany [49]
France [50]
Spain [51]
Taiwan [52]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Automatic" was not released individually, but appeared on the remastered versions of Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol. 1 when it was distributed worldwide.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Precious (CD album; Liner notes). Cubic C. Sony Music. 1998. 
  2. ^ "派手な宣伝よりも音楽そのもので勝負 FM、クチコミでアルバム825万枚" (in Japanese). Trendy Nikkei. 1999. Archived from the original on December 7, 2008. Retrieved January 22, 2017. 
  3. ^ a b Lister, Tim (June 15, 1999). "From cotton candy to acid rebels, Japan's pop scene heats up". Cable Network News (CNN). Retrieved January 22, 2017. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Automatic / Time Will Tell (Mini CD single; Liner notes). Utada, Hikaru. Toshiba-EMI. 1998. TODT-5242. 
  5. ^ a b c First Love: 15th Anniversary (CD album; Liner notes). Utada, Hikaru. Toshiba-EMI. 2014. TYCT-69015. 
  6. ^ First Love (CD album; Liner notes). Utada, Hikaru. Toshiba-EMI. 1999. TOCT-24067. 
  7. ^ a b "Automatic / Time Will Tell / Utada Hikaru". CD Journal (in Japanese). December 8, 1998. Retrieved January 22, 2017. 
  8. ^ a b Kano (March 31, 2004). "Utada Hikaru Singles Collection Vol. 1" (in Japanese). Utada Hikaru's official website (www.utadahikaru.jp). Retrieved January 22, 2017. 
  9. ^ Tomoyuki, Mori (March 10, 1999). "Utada Hikaru Singles Collection Vol. 1" (in Japanese). Amazon.com. Retrieved January 22, 2017. 
  10. ^ a b Bertrand Wilson, David (2016). "Hikaru Utada". Wilson & Alroy's Record Reviews. Retrieved January 22, 2017. 
  11. ^ This Is The One (CD album; Liner notes). Utada, Hikaru. Island Def Jam. 2009. UICL-1088. 
  12. ^ a b c Automatic / Time Will Tell (12 vinyl single; Liner notes). Utada, Hikaru. Toshiba-EMI. 1998. TOJT-4140. 
  13. ^ a b Untitled (12 vinyl EP; Liner notes). Utada, Hikaru. Toshiba-EMI. 1998. PRT-8402. 
  14. ^ a b c Automatic / Time Will Tell (CD single; Liner notes). Utada, Hikaru. Toshiba-EMI. 1998. TOCT-4127. 
  15. ^ Hayashi (April 7, 2004). "Utada Hikaru Singles Collection Vol. 1 (album review)" (in Japanese). OngakuDB.com. Archived from the original on June 11, 2004. Retrieved January 22, 2017. 
  16. ^ Shimada, Satoshi (April 5, 2004). "Utada Hikaru Singles Collection Vol. 1 (album review)" (in Japanese). Yeah!! J-Pop!. Archived from the original on June 11, 2004. Retrieved January 22, 2017. 
  17. ^ Hayakawa, Kanako (April 15, 2004). "Utada Hikaru Singles Collection Vol. 1 (album review)" (in Japanese). Shinko Music. Archived from the original on June 11, 2004. Retrieved January 22, 2017. 
  18. ^ "JASRAC賞" (in Japanese). JASRAC. Archived from the original on August 27, 2014. Retrieved August 27, 2014. 
  19. ^ "RIAJ Award Data from 1st year to 20th year" (PDF) (in Japanese). Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ). Retrieved April 18, 2015. 
  20. ^ a b "Automatic/Time Will Tell – Utada Hikaru" (in Japanese). Oricon News. December 8, 1998. Retrieved January 22, 2017. 
  21. ^ a b c d e f "1999 Yearly CD Chart" (in Japanese). Oricon; published through Music TV Program. 1999. Retrieved January 22, 2017. 
  22. ^ a b "Automatic/Time Will Tell – Utada Hikaru" (in Japanese). Oricon News. December 8, 1998. Retrieved January 22, 2017. 
  23. ^ a b "Japan Billboard Hot 100". Billboard (in Japanese). March 18, 2014. Retrieved August 28, 2014. 
  24. ^ a b "GOLD ALBUM 他認定作品 1999年2月度" [Gold Albums, and other certified works. February 1999 Edition] (PDF). The Record (Bulletin) (in Japanese). Chūō, Tokyo: Recording Industry Association of Japan. 473: 9. April 10, 1999. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 23, 2014. Retrieved January 22, 2014. 
  25. ^ a b レコード協会調べ 11月度有料音楽配信認定 [Record Association Investigation: November Digital Music Download Certifications] (in Japanese). Recording Industry Association of Japan. December 20, 2009. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  26. ^ "Utada Hikaru – Automatic" (in Japanese). Space Shower. December 1999. Retrieved January 24, 2017. 
  27. ^ "Utada Hikaru – Automatic". Utada Hikaru's official YouTube channel. November 7, 2010. Retrieved January 24, 2017. 
  28. ^ Singles Clip Collection Vol. 1 (DVD album; Liner notes). Utada, Hikaru. Toshiba-EMI. 1999. TOBF-5020. 
  29. ^ "「Automatic」をほうふつさせるその内容!" (in Japanese). Cinema Today Japan. November 9, 2010. Retrieved January 24, 2017. 
  30. ^ "GameFAQs Song List FAQ for the Beatmania series". GameFAQs. 2015. Retrieved January 24, 2017. 
  31. ^ Bohemian Summer Tour 2000 (DVD live; Liner notes). Utada, Hikaru. Toshiba-EMI. 2000. TOBF-5060. 
  32. ^ Utada Hikaru Unplugged (DVD live; Liner notes). Utada, Hikaru. Toshiba-EMI. 2001. TOBF-5508. 
  33. ^ Utada Hikaru in Budokan (DVD live; Liner notes). Utada, Hikaru. Toshiba-EMI. 2004. TOBF-5325. 
  34. ^ Utada United 2006 (DVD live; Liner notes). Utada, Hikaru. Toshiba-EMI. 2004. TOBF-5506. 
  35. ^ Utada: In the Flesh 2010 (DVD live; Liner notes). Utada, Hikaru. Toshiba-EMI. 2010. 
  36. ^ Wild Life (DVD live; Liner notes). Utada, Hikaru. Toshiba-EMI. 2011. TOBF-5701~2. 
  37. ^ 戀愛情色 (CD album; Liner notes). Chen, Kelly. Go East Entertainment. 1999. H99037-2. 
  38. ^ "Sly & Robbie J Paradise". AllMusic. 2015. Retrieved January 24, 2017. 
  39. ^ "リスペクト! J-POP". Victor Entertainment. Retrieved August 24, 2014. 
  40. ^ "UNCHAINが宇多田、林檎、靖幸、キリンジ、少女時代カバー" [Unchain covers Utada, Ringo, Okamura, Kirinji and Girls Generation] (in Japanese). Natalie.mu. January 16, 2013. Retrieved May 3, 2014. 
  41. ^ "『宇多田ヒカルのうた』全貌明らかに。井上陽水、椎名林檎、浜崎あゆみ、吉井和哉ら参加アーティストコメント" [All details revealed for Utada Hikar no Uta, comments from contributing artists such as Yosui Inoue, Ringo Sheena, Ayumi Hamasaki and Kazuya Yoshii] (in Japanese). Barks.co.jp. 3 December 2014. Retrieved 3 December 2014. 
  42. ^ a b "Automatic – Single by Utada Hikaru on Apple Store". iTunes Store (Japan). December 9, 1998. Retrieved January 24, 2017. 
  43. ^ "Adult Contemporary Airplay 2014/03/24". Billboard (in Japanese). March 19, 2014. Retrieved August 27, 2014. 
  44. ^ a b "オリコンランキング情報サービス「you大樹」" [Oricon Ranking Information Service 'You Big Tree']. Oricon (in Japanese). Retrieved May 21, 2014. (subscription required (help)). 
  45. ^ "Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol. 1 – Album by Utada Hikaru at Apple Store". iTunes Store (Australia). December 9, 2014. Retrieved January 24, 2017. 
  46. ^ "Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol. 1 – Album by Utada Hikaru at Apple Store". iTunes Store (New Zealand). December 9, 2014. Retrieved January 24, 2017. 
  47. ^ "Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol. 1 – Album by Utada Hikaru at Apple Store". iTunes Store (United Kingdom). December 9, 2014. Retrieved January 24, 2017. 
  48. ^ "Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol. 1 – Album by Utada Hikaru at Apple Store". iTunes Store (Ireland). December 9, 2014. Retrieved January 24, 2017. 
  49. ^ "Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol. 1 – Album by Utada Hikaru at Apple Store". iTunes Store (Germany). December 9, 2014. Retrieved January 24, 2017. 
  50. ^ "Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol. 1 – Album by Utada Hikaru at Apple Store". iTunes Store (France). December 9, 2014. Retrieved January 24, 2017. 
  51. ^ "Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol. 1 – Album by Utada Hikaru at Apple Store". iTunes Store (Spain). December 9, 2014. Retrieved January 24, 2017. 
  52. ^ "Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol. 1 – Album by Utada Hikaru at Apple Store". iTunes Store (Taiwan). December 9, 2014. Retrieved January 24, 2017. 

External links[edit]