Utada performing in 2006
Utada Hikaru (宇多田 光)
January 19, 1983
|Nationality||American (jus soli, expatriate)|
Japanese (jus sanguinis)
|Alma mater||Columbia University|
(m. 2002; div. 2007)
(m. 2014; div. 2018)
|Associated acts||Teruzane Utada|
Utada Hikaru (宇多田 ヒカル, born January 19, 1983), who is also known as Hikaru Utada and the mononym Utada (English: //, Japanese: [ɯtada]), is a Japanese-American singer-songwriter and producer. Born in the United States to Japanese parents, record producer Utada Teruzane and enka singer Keiko Fuji, Utada began to write music and lyrics at an early age and often traveled to Tokyo as a result of her father's job. Eventually, a recording contract with Toshiba-EMI was signed and, under the stage name Cubic U, Utada released her English-language debut album Precious in early 1998, but it was a commercial failure. In the following year, heavily influenced by R&B and dance-pop, her Japanese-language debut First Love was released and became an instant success. Backed by the massive success of singles "Automatic", "Time Will Tell", and "Movin' On Without You", the album sold two million copies in its first week in Japan, topped the Oricon charts for six non-consecutive weeks and went on to sell six million more throughout the rest of 1999. First Love eventually became the country's best-selling album of all time.
Her following album Distance was released in early 2001 and spawned Utada's biggest hit singles—"Addicted to You", "Wait & See (Risk)" and "Can You Keep a Secret?"—which became million-sellers. The album was commercially successful and broke several sales records after three million copies were sold in its first week of availability in Japan, instantly becoming the country's fastest-selling album. In 2002, backed by chart-topping singles such as "Traveling", "Hikari" and "Sakura Drops", Deep River, which incorporates elements of pop folk, was released and went on to become one of Japan's top-selling records of all-time. Subsequent full-length releases—Exodus, Ultra Blue and Heart Station—achieved million-selling status certified by the Recording Industry Association of Japan. After a prolonged hiatus, Utada released acoustic-driven Fantôme and Hatsukoi, which reached number-one on the Oricon album charts.
By the end of the 2000s, Utada was deemed "the most influential artist of the decade" in the Japanese music landscape by The Japan Times. Utada's commercial success has made her one of Japan's top-selling recording artists of all time with over 37 million records sold since launching her career in the late 1990s. Twelve of her singles have reached number-one on the Oricon Singles Chart, while ten of her albums have become chart-toppers. Six of her full-length releases are among the country's highest-selling albums of all time, including First Love, Distance and Deep River, which are among the top ten best-selling records of Japan's music history. Additionally, Utada is best known by international audiences for writing and producing four theme-song contributions to Square Enix and Disney's collaborative video game series Kingdom Hearts: "Simple and Clean", "Sanctuary", "Don't Think Twice" and "Face My Fears".
Early life and beginnings
Utada was born in New York City as the only child of Teruzane, a Japanese record producer, and his wife Junko, an enka singer, performing under the stage name Keiko Fuji. At the age of 10, Utada began to write music and lyrics. She did her recordings with her mother, releasing songs under a band named "U3" (also known as Utada 3) until 1996 when she started her first solo project, "I'll be Stronger", The "Cookin' with Moses Vocal" from this project was called the "Cookin' with Gas Vocal" on the promotional release.
"I'll Be Stronger" was released under the artist name Cubic U, a mathematical reference to her being the third Utada "power", and was her pseudonym before becoming a superstar in Japan; the song was not released in the United States. In 1997, she started her next project, though at first she was hesitant. Cubic U released her debut single "Close to You", which was a cover of The Carpenters' song. She then released her debut album Precious the following year. Both the album and single failed to chart on the Oricon charts.
1998–2003: Japanese debut, First Love, Distance, and Deep River
Utada moved to Tokyo in the summer of 1998 and attended Seisen International School, and later the American School in Japan, while continuing to record on a new contract with Toshiba-EMI. Her movement originally came from Japanese FM radio. She opted for becoming a singer-songwriter instead of attempting to become an idol. Leading up to the release of her Japanese debut album First Love, at the age of 16, Utada released two successful million-selling singles: "Automatic/Time Will Tell" and "Movin' On Without You". "Automatic/Time Will Tell" sold over two million copies. Backed by her singles, her debut album First Love went on to sell over 7 million units in Japan alone (with an additional 3 million overseas, bringing it to a sum of at least 10 million units), becoming the highest selling album in Japan's recent history. The album yielded the single "First Love", which peaked at the #2 spot. By the end of the year, Utada was rank number 5 on a Japanese radio station Tokio Hot 100 Airplay's Top 100 Artists of the 20th Century by the station and its listeners.
After a two-year break, Utada released her follow-up album Distance, garnering a first-week sales of 3 million units sold. Backed by her singles – "Addicted to You", "Wait & See (Risk)", "For You" / "Time Limit" and "Can You Keep a Secret?" – Distance became the best-selling album of the year, with 4.469 million copies sold in Japan alone. Additionally, "Addicted to You" became Utada's best-selling single, selling one-million in its first week which became the highest first week sales for a female solo artist and staying on top of the chart for two consecutive weeks. "Wait & See: Risk" and "Can You Keep a Secret?" also were later ranked at #6 and #10 respectively on Oricon's list of 10 Best-Selling Singles from January 1, 1999 to April 24, 2006. Utada also went on to release a single which was dedicated to the female victim of a murder case in Ikeda, Osaka, titled "Final Distance".
In 2001, Utada recorded the song "Blow My Whistle" for the action-comedy film Rush Hour 2. It was a collaboration with American rapper Foxy Brown, and was written by Utada alongside Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo. The song is included on Def Jam's Rush Hour 2 soundtrack, which peaked the 11th spot on both the Billboard 200 and number 1 on the Top Soundtracks. Although Utada usually produces her own songs, Blow My Whistle was produced by The Neptunes.
Leading to her third album, Utada released "Traveling", "Hikari", and "Sakura Drops/Letters"; all the songs reached the top of the charts. Before the release of Utada's third album, Deep River, Utada underwent surgery after being diagnosed with a benign ovarian tumor, causing Utada to put her promotional activities on hold. After recovering, she released Deep River and immediately went on promotional tours. While there were no TV appearances, she promoted her album in magazine and radio interviews.
Deep River sold 2.35 million copies on its first-week sale. Oricon reported that sales eventually surpassed 3.60 million, making Utada the only singer or group in Japanese music history to have three consecutive albums surpass the three million mark, by RIAJ standards. It was her third consecutive time to hold the #1 position on Oricon's Yearly Albums chart and became the eighth best selling album of all time in Japan.
In 2003, Utada's promotional and personal life schedules became more active due to her marriage and an imposing agreement with Island Records in the United States to release a "proper" full-English debut album. Though she released "Colors", it was her only single release for 2003. The song featured experimental tones for the first time in Utada's discography. It became her longest charting single ever with a 45-week trajectory on the Oricon Singles chart, selling 881,000 copies, and was #3 on the Yearly Singles chart.
2004–05: Foray into international market, and Exodus
Her first singles compilation album Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol. 1 was released on March 31, 2004. It became the best-selling album of 2004 in Japan, making her the only solo or group artist to reach #1 four times on the yearly charts. It was the first compilation album to reach #1 in six years on the yearly charts, and the first compilation album to reach #1 in twenty-six years by a female artist. Despite its success, the album received little promotion and no new material; moreover, it charted longer on the Oricon Albums chart longer than any other Utada release to date (over two years). The album sold over 2.575 million units in Japan, making it the 34th best-selling album ever in the country. A month later, on April 21, she released her only Japanese single in 2004, "Dareka no Negai ga Kanau Koro", which topped the singles chart for two consecutive weeks and sold 365,000 units by the year's end and was also the main theme song for Casshern, directed by her then husband Kazuaki Kiriya.
In mid-2004, Utada moved back to New York, and began work on a new recording contract with Island Def Jam Music Group. On October 5, 2004, she released her North American English-language debut album, Exodus, under the name "Utada", which was her new American-given artist title at the Universal Convention. It was released on September 9 in Japan, with a special booklet and housed in a cardboard slipcase. In an MTV interview, Utada expressed skepticism about her American success: "I don't think it's the music that I'm concerned about. It's obviously that I look really different and there really aren't any completely Asian people [who are popular singers in the U.S.] right now." She also remarked that it was the album she'd always wanted to make, and one that wasn't pandering to her usual fans. Exodus became Utada's fourth consecutive release to debut at #1 and boast 500,000 copies in its first-week sales in Japan. American sales were not as successful, it reached #160 in the US Billboard 200 chart; it however peaked at #5 in the Heatseekers chart. "Easy Breezy" was released as the lead single in early August 2004, followed up by "Devil Inside" a month and two weeks later. Utada then became the cover of the Interview magazine June 2005 issue.
"Exodus '04" was released at the end of June 2005 and featured remixes from The Scumfrog, Richard Vission, JJ Flores and Peter Bailey. In the UK, Mercury added another two remixes for "You Make Me Want to Be a Man" in the original album, titled "You Make Me Want to Be a Man (Bloodshy & Avant Mix)" and "You Make Me Want to Be a Man (Junior Jack Mix)". By the end of the year, Utada was voted "Number 1 Favorite Artist of 2004" by Oricon's annual readers poll.
The fourth single from Exodus, "You Make Me Want to Be a Man", was released in October 2005 in the UK. "Devil Inside" became a club hit in the U.S. and topped the Billboard Hot Dance/Club Airplay charts. Both the Exodus album and the "You Make Me Want to Be a Man" single were released in the UK, with different artwork from the US and Japanese versions.
2005–08: Return to Japan, Ultra Blue, and Heart Station
A year after the release of Exodus, Utada moved back to Tokyo and returned to the Japanese music scene. Leading up the release of her fourth album, Ultra Blue, Utada released a string of successful hit singles: "Colors" (#1), "Dareka no Negai ga Kanau Koro" (#1), "Be My Last" (# 1), "Passion" (#4), and "Keep Tryin'" (#2). The digital single "This Is Love" was released to promote the album, netting 1,000,000 digital downloads.
Ultra Blue sold 500,317 copies in the first week, lower than that of the previous album, although it still topped the Oricon Daily, Weekly, and Monthly charts. Ultra Blue gave the artist her fifth consecutive chart-topping Japanese album (excluding her English album) to sell in excess of 500,000 copies for a first-week sales. On July 13, Toshiba EMI published a report stating that Ultra Blue had sold over one million copies worldwide and four million digital ringtones already making it one of EMI's 10th best-selling album of the past year. The album, which did not contain much pop music, was met with mixed reception and did not boost sales, although the album was certified Million by RIAJ for one million shipments. Additionally, it was the highest-selling original studio album by a Japanese female artist in 2006.
Ultra Blue later became available on the iTunes Japan online music store, charting at #4 on the 2006 yearly download rankings. Two weeks after the release of Ultra Blue, Utada began a nationwide tour titled Utada United 2006 on June 30, 2006 which ended on September 12, 2006. This was Utada's second concert tour after her debut tour Bohemian Summer 2000 and five performances at the Nippon Budokan in 2004. Aside from her Japanese work, the tour's set list featured three tracks from her 2004 English-language album, Exodus.
The singles that were released prior to Utada's fifth studio album, Heart Station, were able to reach the Top Five position on the chart, including the #1 hit "Flavor of Life", which would become the best selling digital single in Japan with over 7,500,000 copies download. Around the same time, Utada said she visited New York to talk with producers and executives at Island/Def Jam about recording a new English album. Later in the year a digital track by American R&B artist Ne-Yo, titled "Do You" from his 2007 album Because of You, featured Utada and was released in Japan on November 21 (the song was later featured on Ne-Yo's "best of" album, Ne-Yo: The Collection, released on September 2, 2009 in Japan and November 2009 in the US).
On June 30, 2007, the British EMI Group, which had held a 55% stake in Toshiba EMI since before Utada's debut in Japan, purchased the remaining 45% stake from the Japanese Toshiba Corporation, therefore making Toshiba EMI a wholly owned subsidiary of the London-based record label. Toshiba EMI then changed its name to EMI Music Japan to reflect Toshiba's divestiture from the business. Utada's first single under the new label, "Beautiful World"/"Kiss & Cry" was released as a double A-side single on August 29, 2007, and also reached #1 on the Oricon Daily Chart. Beautiful World was used as the theme song for Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone, the 2007 film reboot of the anime, Neon Genesis Evangelion, while Kiss & Cry was used in a series of commercials for Nissin Foods' Freedom Project advertising campaign starting April 20, 2007 and was previously released as a digital download on May 31, 2007.
The year 2007 ended with the single "Flavor of Life" becoming the best seller of 2007 and with Utada being voted "Number 1 Favorite Artist of 2007" by Oricon's annual readers poll, three years after she was last voted #1 on the poll. She sold 12 million digital ringtones and songs in 2007, the highest of a Japanese artist in one year. The single was featured as the main song in second season of TV drama Hana Yori Dango.
Utada's fifth studio album, Heart Station, was released on March 19, 2008, becoming her fifth consecutive number-one Japanese studio album. Although it had collected the lowest first week sales for Utada's career, with 480,081 copies sold, the sales of this album reached a million on the Oricon charts in January 2009, making it her first Japanese album to do so since her 2004 compilation album. It was given a certification of one million for shipments by the RIAJ. Heart Station became the best-selling digital-format album on the iTunes 2008 yearly album charts in Japan, and was also the highest-selling original studio album by a solo female artist on the Oricon Yearly Chart.
Her song "Prisoner of Love" was used as the theme-song for the television drama Last Friends. Although "Prisoner of Love" was not initially released as a single alone, it reached number 1 in iTunes and the Chako-Uta charts after it was released as a single for the drama. It reached number 2 at the Oricon Weekly charts. It won Best Theme Song at the 57th Drama Academy Awards and sold 2.9 million downloads. It marked the fourth successful Utada drama tie-in (following 1999's Majo no Jōken and First Love, 2001's Hero and Can You Keep a Secret and 2007's Hana Yori Dango and Flavor of Life).
By the end of the year, Utada was also voted the "Number 1 Favorite Artist of 2008" by Oricon's annual readers poll, making it her second consecutive year, and third time overall, to win the vote; her previous years being 2004 and 2007.
2009–10: Return to the US, and This Is the One
On December 16, 2008, information leaked onto the internet that Utada's next English-language single, titled "Come Back to Me", would be scheduled for airplay release through U.S. Rhythmic/Crossover and Mainstream formats on February 9 and 10, 2009 respectively via Island Records. The new English album, titled This Is the One, was released on March 14, 2009 in Japan and on May 12, 2009 in the United States. This Is the One debuted at #1 in Japan on March 13, 2009, the day it was released in Japan, but became Utada's first album not to top the weekly chart since Precious. On March 30, 2009 she appeared on New York City radio station Z-100 (100.3), the largest pop radio program in the U.S., and granted a live on-air interview on the station's Elvis Duran Morning Show, a breakthrough that would lead to a promotional schedule up and through the album's international physical release on May 12. Utada also sang the theme song for the second Evangelion film, Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance. The single was released on June 27, 2009, and is a remix of her previous single, "Beautiful World". The new single is titled "Beautiful World -PLANiTb Acoustica Mix-".
On October 14, Utada stated that she was writing lyrics that were due on October 15. She also added that some "German magic" would be added to the music. It was revealed that Goetz B, who had previously worked with Utada on her album Ultra Blue was in the process of mixing tracks for her.
On December 21, 2009, Utada's Dirty Desire remixes were released only on Amazon.com, Zune Marketplace, and the U.S. iTunes Store, in support of This Is the One and her upcoming tour. The tour, Utada: In the Flesh 2010, was her first concert tour outside Japan and included eight cities in the US and two dates in London, UK. The tickets for the second London performance went on public sale November 13, and reportedly sold out in just five hours.
2010–15: Second return to Japan, Single Collection Vol. 2, Wild Life, and hiatus
On August 9, 2010, Utada announced on her personal blog that beginning in 2011, she would go on an indefinite hiatus; citing fatigue since her debut 12 years previously, as well as see to some personal matters. She said the hiatus would last anywhere from two to five years.
Before her hiatus began, she said that she would go "full throttle" on her artistic activities, and soon after her site was updated, and a new compilation album, Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol. 2, was announced, with a release date of November 24, 2010. This new album would include all her Japanese singles, from "Dareka no Negai ga Kanau Koro" to "Prisoner of Love" on disc one, as well as an extra EP, featuring five new tracks. Later it was announced a DVD containing the promotional video for Goodbye Happiness would be included in all first-press edition pre-orders.
On September 27, 2010, Utada revealed a new single, entitled "Hymne à l'amour (Ai no Anthem)", which became a commercial tie-in for Pepsi NEX. The song features both Japanese and French lyrics, written and translated by Utada herself.
On October 3, 2010, Utada's official EMI website was updated with the album artwork and final track list for Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol. 2. First Press editions included a 3-fold paper slip case, along with a Kuma-chang good luck charm, and a lottery slip for fans to have a chance at winning one of 1000 tickets to WILD LIFE (this idea was, however, later scrapped).
It was announced on October 15, 2010, that the anticipated footage from Utada's In the Flesh 2010 tour would be released in the following months, confirmed by both Utada and Teruzane's Twitter accounts, and a physical DVD release would be ousted in favor of a digital-only package with a promise of release before the year's end.[needs update]
In late October, it was revealed online at Tower Records Japan and several other websites that an English-language "best-of album" titled Utada the Best" would become available in Japan on the same day as Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol. 2, November 24. Utada reacted to the news, stating: "I understand that if it doesn't sell, I'm the one who will take the hit, but to be honest, I don't want my fans putting down money for something that my heart isn't in." She later commented: "The release of Utada the Best is entirely against my will. I wish that my fans won't have to buy it. There's no new material in it."
Utada later announced a new single, "Goodbye Happiness", with its accompanying PV appearing publicly on November 9, 2010. The song was also chosen as the new Recochoku Chaku-Uta TV commercial theme song. She also appeared on a track entitled "London City" with English rapper Devlin on his first studio album, Bud, Sweat and Beers, which was also released on November 1.
On November 8, 2010, EMI Japan announced on its Web site that the company had made a new global recording deal with Utada, also stating that all of her future works regardless of language would be released under one name: Hikaru Utada. This also signaled the retirement of Utada's Western stage name, Utada.
From November 24, 2010, first-week sales for Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol. 2 were 231,000 units according to Oricon album daily charting. Although replacing Heart Station as her lowest first week sales of any Utada Hikaru album to date, this release marked Utada's seventh consecutive #1 album (5 original and two best-ofs) since her debut, surpassing KinKi Kids' previous record of six and making her the artist with the most successive consecutive #1 albums in Oricon chart and Japanese music history (the latter according to her label EMI) since premiering. On April 10, 2011, Utada won the award for "Best Conceptual Video" in the SpaceShowerTV Music Video Awards for the PV for "Goodbye Happiness", which also marked her directorial debut.
Utada held a short, two-concert tour before her hiatus began, titled Wild Life, on December 8 and 9, 2010, performing both dates at Yokohama Arena, Yokohama. The December 8 concert was broadcast in 64 cinemas in Japan while it was simultaneously broadcast on Ustream, a live video streaming website. Between the two channels set up for the concert on Ustream, they were accessed a total of 925,000 times, with 345,000 unique viewers, which was a global record on Ustream.tv for the highest number of simultaneous accesses of any video, with the previous highest being only 100,000.
Japanese TV station NHK premiered a documentary about Utada on January 15, 2011, entitled Utada Hikaru ~今のわたし~ (Utada Hikaru: Ima no Watashi, Utada Hikaru: What I Am), a documentary featuring studio performances by Utada ("Show Me Love (Not a Dream)" and "Goodbye Happiness"), as well as a few clips from the Wild Life performances. It also featured a post-Wild Life interview with J-Wave host Chris Peppler about her decision to go on hiatus as well as what she plans to do, in which she said she wanted to do volunteer work overseas, and also travel. Utada also stated that she would continue writing music during her hiatus. It was later revealed that the documentary would be broadcast internationally, specifically the US on February 12, 2011 and Europe on February 2, 2011, on the NHK channel (TV Japan in America, and JSTV in Europe).
A DVD and Blu-ray release of Wild Life were confirmed and initially set for release on April 6, 2011. However, on March 24, 2011, Utada tweeted that both the DVD/Blu-ray of the Wild Life tour had been postponed, due to the earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan damaging the pressing factories. The DVD was released on April 20, 2011, with the Blu-ray following.
On November 16, 2012, Utada's YouTube account uploaded a video entitled "桜流し" ("Sakura Nagashi", meaning "Flowing Cherry Blossoms"). The song featured is Utada's newest single. The single was co-written with Paul Carter, and was digitally released on November 17, 2012. A DVD single was released a month later. "Sakura Nagashi" is the theme song from the animation movie Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo.
In September 2012, the British EMI group was broken up and sold to various companies. On April 1, 2013, Utada's record company, EMI Music Japan, was absorbed into Universal Music Japan, became defunct as a company and was renamed to EMI Records Japan. Therefore, all of Utada's further releases before switching to Sony Music Entertainment Japan would be through Universal Music Japan.
On December 9, 2013, to celebrate Utada's 15th anniversary since her debut under that name in Japan, EMI Records released Utada: In the Flesh 2010 tour footage in iTunes and announced a re-release of her debut album First Love, including a special limited edition that contained the original album remastered, instrumentals from the original tracks, unreleased tracks and live footage from Utada's first live show, LUV LIVE.
On December 8, 2014, Universal Music Japan released a tribute album entitled Utada Hikaru no Uta. Riding on the promotion from Utada's fifteenth anniversary, the album features cover versions of Utada's back catalogue of songs by different popular artists such as AI, Ayumi Hamasaki, Peabo Bryson, Ringo Shiina, and more. It was released coincidentally on the same day as her debut Japanese single "Automatic/Time Will Tell", which was released sixteen years previously.
On December 26, 2014, Universal Music Japan revealed through media outlet Weekly Bunshun that Utada only has one album left before her contract with the label ends (which is allegedly her original contract with the then-EMI Music Japan) and that her comeback in the music industry is currently in discussion.
2015–2016: Motherhood and Fantôme
On July 3, 2015 Utada posted on her blog that she had given birth to a son and was working on a new album, which was primarily written while she was pregnant. She asked for patience before the album is released as she transitioned into motherhood.
In January 2016, it was reported that Utada would release a new song in the spring. "Hanataba o Kimi ni" ("Bouquet for You") was the theme for the television show Toto Neechan (とと姉ちゃん)), which aired on April 4, 2016. In February 2016, "Manatsu no Tōriame" was aired on April 4, 2016 to be the theme to a late-night TV station's news show, NEWS ZERO. That same day, Utada's Website announced the official song's release, as digital singles, on April 15.
Utada's website was also updated, with the announcement of a project titled "New-Turn", in which fans are encouraged to purchase Utada's music and to use the hashtag "#おかえりHIKKI" ("Welcome Back Hikki") on Twitter. The aim is to use proceeds from the music purchased to plant more cherry blossom trees in the tsunami-damaged areas of Japan after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake. The website also confirms Utada's return to artistic activities, fronted by the Twitter campaign.
On 8 August 2016, the album's title, track list and cover were released. The album's title was announced as Fantôme (French: ghost), containing eight new songs, as well as the previous three singles, for a track listing totaling eleven tracks. The new album marked a first for Utada to be released in an SHM-CD format. Following its release on September 28, Fantôme was commercially and critically successful. It debuted atop the Oricon Albums Chart and stayed there for four consecutive weeks, the most of any of her studio albums since First Love. It was awarded Album of the Year at the Japan Record Awards and received positive reviews from media outlets. At the end of the year, it was ranked the third-best-selling physical record of the year by Oricon, as well as the best-selling digital album, according to Billboard Japan.
2017–2019: Label transfer to Sony Music, Hatsukoi and tour
On February 9, 2017, it was announced that Utada is switching labels to Sony Music Japan sub-label Epic Records once her contract with Universal expires in March. The label announced that new material would be released later in 2017. The first digital single under the label, called "Ōzora de Dakishimete", was released digitally worldwide on July 10, 2017. The second one, called "Forevermore", was released on July 28. It features the drummer Chris Dave. A third digital single, called "Anata", was released on December 8. The song was chosen as the theme for the movie Destiny: Kamakura Monogatari. On December 8, Utada announced that her Japanese repertoire, from her debut single Automatic to her sixth album Fantôme would be available on all streaming services except Spotify, where its available a month later on January 8, 2018.
In 2018, Utada released her seventh Japanese album, the first of which under Epic, and embarked on her first domestic tour first since her Utada United tour in 2006. Utada has also co-produced the singer-songwriter Nariaki Obukuro's major label debut album, Bunriha no Natsu, under Epic. The first single off the album, "Lonely One", has Utada credited as a featured artist and was released on January 17, 2018 through streaming services.
On February 10, 2018, it was announced that Utada would provide the theme song for the video game Kingdom Hearts III, called "Chikai" ("Oath"), along the English version, called "Don't Think Twice", for international audiences. It was confirmed that "Chikai" would be included in her seventh Japanese album, set for release in 2018. A third studio collaboration with Obukuro was announced to be released in Sheena Ringo's tribute album, Adam to Eve no Ringo, a cover of Ringo's song "Marunouchi Sadistic", which they both covered one year earlier in Obukuro's radio show.
On April 17, 2018, a new single by Utada, "Hatsukoi" was unveiled in the drama Hana Nochi Hare ~Hanadan Next Season~ as an image song. It was the second song Utada delivered to the Hana Yori Dango drama series, after "Flavor of Life" in 2007. The single was released on May 30. On the next day, a single was announced for release on April 25 called "Play a Love Song", the theme song for Suntory Water SWITCH&SPARKLE.
On June 27, Utada's seventh Japanese album Hatsukoi was released. It contained all previous six singles, for a total of 12 songs. A new domestic concert tour, called Hikaru Utada Laughter in the Dark Tour 2018 was held from November 6 until December 9 (which was her 20th Debut Anniversary day), for a total of 12 dates at six different venues. The album debuted at #1 in Oricon physical and digital weekly charts, with total sales combined of over 242,000.
On September 28, it was reported that Utada would release a new single titled "Face My Fears" as the theme song for Kingdom Hearts III. The song was produced by herself and American musicians Skrillex and Poo Bear. "Face My Fears" was released as a CD single on January 18, 2019, making it her first release on the format in eleven years since her 2008 single "Prisoner of Love". It was also her first release with original English songs since This Is the One in 2009. The song became her first US Billboard Hot 100 at #98, and it peaked at #9 in Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart.
On November 1, 2019, it was released a Utada collaboration with singer-songwriter Sheena Ringo, called "Roman to Soroban LDN ver." ("The Sun and the Moon", in English). It was featured in Sheena's best of album Apple of Universal Gravity. An alternative version of the song, called "Roman to Soroban TYO ver.", was available on November 25. On November 27, 2019, Utada released her first single in over a year with "Shonen Jidai". It appears as track #5 on the Inoue Yosue Tribute album. Utada also did a live rendition of the song on her 2003 live DVD UH Live Streaming 20 Dai wa Ikeike!.
2020–present: Time and Darenimo Iwanai
On May 8, 2020, Utada released "Time", the theme song for the NTV drama Bishoku Tantei Akechi Goro. The single "Darenimo Iwanai" was released on May 29 as the music for a Suntory mineral water campaign, with Utada herself starring in the commercial.
In the second episode of Instagram live series “Jitaku Kakuri-chu no Hikaru Paisen ni Kike!", Utada confirmed that she's working in both new Japanese and English songs for her next album, including English versions of her Japanese songs.
Utada is bilingual and speaks English and Japanese fluently. On September 7, 2002, Utada married Kazuaki Kiriya, a photographer and film director who had directed several of her music videos. He was fifteen years her senior. On March 2, 2007, the couple announced their divorce, citing personal changes and lack of communication due to the nature of their jobs.
On August 22, 2013, Utada's mother, Keiko Fuji, died by apparent suicide by jumping from the thirteenth floor of a 28-floor condominium building in Shinjuku, Tokyo. On February 3, 2014, through an announcement on her personal site, Utada said that she was engaged to be wed to an unknown Italian man, asking for her fans and the media to view her personal life from a "respectable distance" as he is not in the entertainment industry. On the same day, her ex-husband Kazuaki Kiriya congratulated her on the new marriage. On February 10, 2014, Utada and her fiancé Francesco Calianno left a message on the official site of Utada explaining how they met each other, his being a bartender in a London hotel, and asking for privacy. They were wed on May 23, 2014. On July 3, 2015, Utada announced that she had given birth to a son. On April 6, 2018, it was announced that they had divorced.
Utada's music is primarily pop and R&B and sometimes incorporates other musical elements such as rock and hip-hop among others.
On her official website, Utada cites 16 musicians and composers: Freddie Mercury, Cocteau Twins, Nine Inch Nails, Jimi Hendrix, Prince, Édith Piaf, Chick Corea, the Blue Nile, Björk, Akino Arai, Lenny Kravitz, Béla Bartók, Mozart, Jeff Buckley, Yutaka Ozaki, and Hibari Misora as some of her favorite artists, and at another point lists R&B artist Aaliyah, Mariah Carey and Mary J. Blige as an inspiration as well.
Japanese studio albums
- 1999: First Love
- 2001: Distance
- 2002: Deep River
- 2006: Ultra Blue
- 2008: Heart Station
- 2016: Fantôme
- 2018: Hatsukoi
English studio albums
- Capitol Records
- List of artists who reached number one on the U.S. dance chart
- List of awards received by Hikaru Utada
- List of best-selling music artists in Japan
- List of number-one dance hits (United States)
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