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Passion (Utada Hikaru song)

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Single by Utada Hikaru
from the album Ultra Blue
Released December 14, 2005
Format CD single, digital Download
Length 4:44 (Album version)
4:27 (Opening version)
5:58 (After the Battle)
Label Toshiba-EMI
Writer(s) Utada Hikaru
Producer(s) Utada Hikaru, Akira Miyake, Teruzane Utada
Utada Hikaru singles chronology
"You Make Me Want to Be a Man"
"Keep Tryin'"
Alternative cover
US cover for "Sanctuary"

"Passion" is a song recorded by Japanese recording artist and songwriter Utada Hikaru for her fourth studio album Ultra Blue (2006). The song was used as the theme song for the 2005 video game Kingdom Hearts II. The song was written, composed and produced by Utada herself, while additional production was handled by Teruzane Utada and Akira Miyake. Utada had written and composed the song when she was approached to record another song for the Kingdom Hearts series, which she had contributed previously on the first video game. It also made an appearance on her 2010 greatest hits compilations: Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol. 2 and Utada the Best.

Spoken in both English and Japanese language, the lyrical content depicts the events of past, present and future and incorporates themes of love, hope and safety. When Utada accepted the offer to record the track, she found it difficult to write a Japanese-worded version of the "Sanctuary". "Passion" and "Sanctuary" received critical praise from contemporary music critics, who found it her most experimental track to date. Critics praised her vocal delivery and commended the production values, in contrast to her 2009 album This Is the One. Commercially, "Passion" had suffered in Japan for being Utada's first Japanese single to miss the top spot on the Oricon chart. The song peaked at number four on the Japanese Oricon Singles, her lowest charting single and her first single to miss the top three position, but eventually tied with her 2006 single "Boku wa Kuma".

The accompanying music video for the single "Passion" was issued for the single as well, directed by Kazuaki Kiriya. The video features scenes of anime culture that represents the image of Utada herself and features Utada in a grand hall, shot all by green screening effects and finishes with a paddock of running horses. During production, Utada had compared the video, choreography and set to 1997 animated action-fantasy film Princess Mononoke. The video was positively received by critics for its comparison sets to the video game, but received minor criticism for the lack of video game inspiration and footage.


In 2004, Island Def Jam asked Utada to be part of the soundtrack for the American film Rush Hour 2. She accepted the offer and recorded "Blow My Whistle", a duet with American rapper Foxy Brown and was written by Utada, Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo with production held by The Neptunes.[1] After Island had discovered Utada's successful musical career in her native Japan, Island offered Utada a record deal for an English-language album. After accepting the offer, Exodus (2004), the first English album by her, was released in September 2004. The album was a success, selling over one million units in Japan but only obtained limited success in the United States, charting at 160 on the Billboard 200.[2][3] A year after the international release and promotion of Exodus, Utada moved back to Tokyo and returned to the Japanese music scene with her album Ultra Blue.[4]

In early 2003, Disney and Square Enix executives had development plans for Kingdom Hearts II but did not provide specific details until July 2003.[5] Tetsuya Nomura, the creative director of the series, engaged an early release for the game, but Nomura noted several obstacles particularly with Disney's approval of using characters and series; one of the prime examples were of Tarzan and Mickey Mouse, which the latter was approved and the first being declined due to management and provider changes.[6] Nommura had said that he only had Utada in mind to record songs for the soundtrack because he believed she was an iconic singer that could break both foreign and international barriers.[7]

The announcement for the sequel was announced in July 2005, saying ""When we were creating the original game, there were a lot of factors that were influenced by Utada-san's theme song. That influence will once again be felt in [our development of] Kingdom Hearts II [...]"[8] Nomura chose not to have a different singer perform the second theme song because he believed fans associated Utada with Kingdom Hearts.[9] Utada derived her inspiration from the worlds and characters in Kingdom Hearts and she also received written explanations of the stories from Nomura.[9] Conversely, Nomura commented that Utada's theme songs influenced several factors in creating the games.[10]

Recording and production[edit]

Utada begun work on with "Passion" when producers of Kingdom Hearts approached her to consider in working again.[7] During this, Utada felt inspired by the animation and storyline of the new game and felt it was "these things [...] that the ending theme will build on all this from here onwards. It was a really hard thing to do."[11] When she recorded "Hikari" for the first Kingdom Hearts, she felt her contribution towards the "soulless" game was uneasy but felt that the overall look of the game "was so crucial that I got a lot more info on the characters."[11] In an interview that promoted Ultra Blue, and the English counterpart for the game, Utada expressed;

According to Utada, she said that she wrote "Sanctuary" before writing "Passion" because she felt the composition was easier to write for "Sanctuary" than the latter song. Utada found it difficult to write Japanese lyrics for the melody.[11] Utada confessed that when the song was finished, she had to create a B-Side that was identical to the other.[11] This resulted in ~after the battle~, which was featured during the credits of the video game.[12]


According to the sheet music published by BMG Rights Management at, it is composed in the key of F major and features a moderate tempo of 108 beats per minute.[13] The music site identifies the musical composition as pop rock and was published by Walt Disney Music Company.[13] The song talks about the past, present and future of the character in my song relate to each other, and the arrangement builds a peculiar, almost floating feeling.[11] David Jeffries from Allmusic compared it to Disney song "A Whole New World" and songs by Nine Inch Nails.[14]

With instrumentation of synthesizers, drum machines and drums,[15] the song starts with "soft backing vocals" and "electronic pulses" and moves on to pop tribal drum beats.[16] Throughout the chorus, English words are reversed and can be heard if the song is reversed.[16] The verses become "edgy" and "rocky" and "the whole sound is a much more mature and darker mood [...] The song then finally reaches up a notch for a climax of guitars, drums, electronics and bleeding vocals to return to its very soft beginnings."[16]

According to Miko Amaranthine from Yahoo! Music, he said "Passion" is another love song that resembles a missing love but leaving life without him/her [...] This song reminds me that without my past, the present wouldn't be as it is."[17] Within the themes of "Passion" and "Sanctuary", the song includes multiple themes of trust, hope and safety.[18] The song features lyrics and sentences that talk about nostalgic childhood memories that either "fold or, sometimes intertwine" and introduces a new world throughout the lyrics.[19] Throughout the song, there are backmasked messages and layers of vocals on top of each other and is filled with drums and a guitar solo.[18] Like the parent album, "this really sums up the theme of this album – it is not happy, but filled with hope."[18]



"Passion" was released on December 14, 2005 as a digital download, and was included in the Kingdom Hearts II Original Soundtrack and a CD single was released on December 22, 2005.[20] Both versions were used as the theme song for Kingdom Hearts II, with the album version used in the intro while the "After the Battle" version served as the closing theme.[20] Because the music video had not been shot during that time period, only the CD Single had been issued in Japan. One year later, "Sanctuary" was released on July 20, 2006 as a digital single in Japan only. "Passion" was included in the Kingdom Hearts II Original Soundtrack and a CD single was released on December 14, 2005.[20] The song was intended to be released worldwide on her second English studio album This Is The One, but was only released on the physical copies in the United States.[21] In early 2006, the CD+DVD edition came out in Japan. The cover, taken by Mitsuo Shindo and Takayuki Aoya, features Utada looking directly towards the camera where a small part of the background is shown, where she is on a field.[20]

Critical response[edit]

"Passion" and "Sanctuary" were generally compared to works of American band Nine Inch Nails.

Both songs were well-received from music critics. Eli Kleman, a staff member from Sputnikmusic, gave the songs both positive remarks from the parent album. He stated "[Passion] shows Utada at her most varied. Much quicker in pace and just as passionate as the rest of the tracks, it is a truly interesting song."[22] A reviewer from the online publication said the song is frankly one of the most captivating vocal songs I have heard in an extremely long time."[16] David Jeffries from Allmusic labelled the song "epic" and "emotional".[14] A reviewer from Channel-Ai awarded "Passion" four-and-a-half stars out of five, saying "it is without a doubt that [Passion] is superior to [Sanctuary] in every way. This is proof that Utada’s Japanese works are better than its English counterparts, and it would be a long time before Utada transverse into an English career again."[18]

Bradley Stern from MuuMuse said her vocals and production "brings the track to another level, transcending the patterns and limitations of most modern pop. To me, [Passion] is the defining point of Utada’s artistic craft." He concluded saying "Above all, “Passion” is a remembrance of times past. It is a symbol of beautiful memories, nostalgia, and looking toward the future."[23] said "[Sanctuary] is quite an earthly song, nothing similar compared to the other songs in the TITO album. It’s kinda like a new age track."[24] Michael Pascua from said that adding both "Sanctuary" and "Simple & Clean" were "happy additions" to the parent album, saying "Both songs showcase a strong musical style that isn’t necessarily in the R&B flare that This is the One provides. They also help connect any video game player who hasn't necessarily listened to any of her Japanese albums or even knew that she had another English album [...]"[25]

Commercial response[edit]

After one week sales, "Passion" peaked at number four on the official Oricon Singles Chart.[26] "Passion" charted three spaces behind Bump of Chicken's "Supernova / Karma" at three, Remioromen's "Powder Snow" at two and Exile's "Tada ... Aitakute", which debuted at number one that same week.[27]

In its second week, the song descended to number ten and by its fifth week, the song had descended outside off the top thirty and stalled at number thirty-three.[28] The song descended to number fifty-nine in its sixth week and exited the top seventy in its next week and stalled at number eighty-five.[29] In its eighth week, the song fell to number ninety-seven, which was its lowest charting position week and managed to rise three spaces to number ninety-four in the ninth and last week, the only chart improvement through its chart course.[30] Nevertheless, "Passion" was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ) for shipment of 100,000 units.[31] The single was also certified gold by RIAJ for 100,000 legal ringtone downloads in Japan.[32]

"Passion" also resulted as the Utada's lowest charting single since her debut single "Automatic/Time Will Tell", which peaked also at four respectively that first charted eight years prior.[33] This, however was eventually tied with her single "Boku wa Kuma" which peaked at four.[26] In total, the song stayed in the charts for fifteen weeks total, which became her third overall longest charting single from the parent album singles "Colors" and "Dareka no Negai ga Kanau Koro", all staying in at forty-five and twenty-two weeks respectively. As a result, "Passion" resulted in becoming Utada's lowest selling single in Japan until it was surpassed by her single "Heart Station" and "Stay Gold" three years later, which peaked at three and only sold 77,000 copies in Japan.[34]

Music video[edit]

"The anime character that [Moromoto Koji] made for the music video is of a girl that he made to really look like me. When I first looked at it, Mr. Morimoto kept drawing girl's faces that I thought looked different from my own, but on the way he must have changed it. I got an explanation out of him, and he said that he only noticed it that moment. I mean, I don't think I'm cute, but I thought he made my image into a really cute one! [...] I was really happy about it though! [11]

—Hikaru Utada talking about the concept off the video.

The music video for "Passion" was directed by Kiriya Kazuaki, and filmed at Gung-Ho Films studios in Beijing, China. Throughout the music video, there are many scenes which include CGI-imagery (which was produced by N-Design), and the opening even included an anime-style animation sequence. The anime sequence was produced by Morimoto Koji and his company STUDIO 4 °C (the same people who created the Fluximation-style animations for cellphone services using songs from Utada's EXODUS album). Utada commented "Some dancers and drummers that were in the music video really gave it their all. I thought I'd made so many mistakes, and I had to apologise so much!! I also kept on trying."[11] She also commented "The people who were doing the on-the-spot filming seemed to have my sort of make. Like, not very adult-like and not very feminine [...], much like as if we were all Princess Mononoke. Uggh, it looks like I'll be getting more female fans now!"[11] In the video, the animated woman in the first chorus was a representation of Utada.[11]

The opening features computer generated effects that looked orb-shaped, then zooms out showing an anime-woman flying through the sky with the small orbs floating around her. The woman flies around a space-like atmosphere, then zooms out with her flying over butts and in front off the sun. The end of the first chorus shows the woman dashing downwards towards buildings within the sky. The first verse features Utada walking through Japanese-inspired computer-generated butts and smoke and then zooms out to show Utada walking in a grand hall, showing blue and purple colored Kachina's in cloaks, hitting drums to the songs beat.[16]

When the chorus finishes, she starts to walk inside a cathedral-like room and stands upon a higher platform and summons pink covered kachina dancers, dancing with the songs beat and features close-ups off Utada's face and body movement.[16] When the third and final chorus starts to begin, a zoomed-out shot shows the hall change and extends the interior, summoning more dancers inside the room while dancing to the song. While in the room, there are computer-generated blossom leaves (often known in Japan as "sakura") falling from the ceiling and landing on the floor.[16]

During the bridge, it continues to show Utada and the dancers dancing in the room, but intercuts scenes of Utada overlapped images of butts, which are seen at the start of the video. The grand hall starts to disconnect and the walls start to disappear with a mysterious light shining through the removed walls, only to show a herd of horses running through a field.[16] The video ends with Utada stretching her arms against the sunlight, as the camera zooms away from her via birds eye view, all shot by a toy airplane which was controlled by the director off the video.[35]

"Passion" was first previewed on in early 2006.[36] The music video was fully distributed on Utada's YouTube account and to date, has been viewed over 6.4 million times on the site, making it Utada's 11th most viewed music video on her channel, just under "Hikari" which has gained 6.7 million views.[35][37][A]

Usages in media, performances and covers[edit]

In 2008, "Passion" was sampled for artist Stevey Jay's EP, The Streets Are Watching, for the song "Kingdom of Hearts". Although it shares the similar name of Kingdom Hearts it is not known to share any relation with the exception of the theme. The song was released under Suburban Entertainment. In 2011, "Sanctuary (Ending)" was sampled by American rapper XV in the song "When We're Done" contained in his Zero Heroes (2010) mixtape. In French Montana's mixtape Mac & Cheese 3 (2012), there is a song called "Sanctuary" which has Utada's song sample. During her 2010 international tour, Utada: In the Flesh 2010, Utada combined "Passion" with "Sanctuary", alternating between the Japanese and English versions of the songs. "Passion" was performed during Utada's two date concert series Wild Life in December 2010.[38]

In 2014, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and Peabo Bryson covered "Sanctuary" for Utada Hikaru no Uta, a tribute album celebrating 15 years since Utada's debut.[39] Jam and Lewis had discussed their interpretations off the track and commented;


Both "Passion" and "Sanctuary" have been cited as one of the only tracks that have gained Utada worldwide attention, particularly due to its influence through the video game industry.[41] Both songs were featured on the Japanese and international editions off Kingdom Hearts 2 game and, by March 2007, the video game sold over four million units globally.[42] Both songs have been notified as one of the best songs on a video game ever. The song was listed at the top spot on AOL Radio's 10 Best Video Game Music Soundtracks.[43] There was a fan poll on Enix Origin, and "Passion/Sanctuary" was placed a number four on their Top 10 Favorite Final Fantasy/Kingdom Heart songs.[44] Miko Amaranthine from Yahoo! Music listed "Passion" as his sixth best Utada song.[17]

When reviewing the song on, an editorial review had commented that as it was one of her most "magnificent" songs ever created by Utada, the review stated that it was "Pop music of the new coming era."[45] He also commented on the video for working really well and "represented a world that we have never seen."[45] A reviewer from HMV had felt that the songs contained her most "magnificent" quality and lyrics to date and also felt the song was something new to come for the "new pop era."[19] They also labelled the songs as "farewell songs."[19]

To further promoting the single sales-wise, "Passion" was released additionally with its alternative versions on the Kingdom Hearts Original Soundtrack Complete and the Kingdom Hearts 10th Anniversary Fan Selection -Melodies & Memories- soundtracks.[46][47] With sales off over 200,000 units in total, "Passion" sold lower than her previous Kingdom Hearts single "Hikari", which sold over 860,000 units in Japan and peaked at number one with a double platinum certification by Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ).[48][49]

In early 2013, the announcement off development off the third installment Kingdom Hearts III was commenced.[50] In October 2013, in order to commence a sequel to "Passion" and "Sanctuary", Utada's father and record producer Teruzane Utada was asked on Twitter about their contribution towards the third installment, and Utada replied "Yes."[51] This caused a large fan impact throughout social media in Japan and America.[52] However, on 18 October, Utada took to Twitter to clarify that he and Hikaru are "undecided" on contributing towards the song, stating that he was "confused" by the question when he was asked.[53]

Track listing[edit]

  • Digital download (Both songs are not digitally released together; released separately on parent albums)
  1. "Passion"
  2. "Sanctuary"'
  1. "Passion"
  2. "Passion" (After The Battle)
  3. "Passion" ~Single version~ (Video)
  • Japanese CD Single[20]
  1. "Passion"
  2. "Passion" (After The Battle)

Charts, peaks and positions[edit]


  • Artwork By – Mitsuo Shindo, Takayuki Aoya
  • Drums – Forrest Robinson
  • Guitar – Ben Mauro
  • Mastered By – Tom Coyne
  • Mixed By – Goetz B.*
  • Piano [Acoustic] – Matt Rohde
  • Producer – Miyake Akira, Utada Skingg Teruzane*, Utada Hikaru
  • Programmed By [Additional] – Alexis Smith
  • Programmed By, Keyboards – Matt Rohde, Utada Hikaru
  • Recorded By – Atsushi Matsui, Pat Woodward
  • Technician [Pro-tools Operation] – Glenn Erwin
  • Written-By, Arranged By, Vocals – Utada Hikaru

Release history[edit]

List of release dates by region, including format details, and record label
Region Date Format Label Version
United States[56] June 13, 2006 Digital download Toshiba-EMI Album Version
New Zealand[57]
United Kingdom[58]
December 14, 2005 Compact disc
January 1, 2006 Compact disc, DVD
January 1, 2006 Digital download English version[63][64]
July 20, 2009 Mainstream radio, radio airplay


  1. ^ To view the most views on her Youtube channel, click the "Most Popular" button in the top right to view the highest viewed videos in chronological order.


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