2004-10-28 - "Stick it in your ear" - The Des Moines Register
"Stick it in your ear"
By KYLE MUNSON (firstname.lastname@example.org) - REGISTER MUSIC CRITIC
The Des Moines Register - Thursday, October 28, 2004
If we consider Utada Hikaru the Japanese answer to America’s Britney Spears, then the Far East is far above and beyond us in the pop-diva game.
This 21-year-old singer-songwriter-producer has sold more than 17 million albums in Japan in the last five years, and her 1999 debut is the best-selling album in Japanese history.
Now the excellent “Exodus” is Utada’s English-language introduction to the rest of the world, but she’s no stranger to America. She was born in New York to Japanese parents before she became a teen sensation in Tokyo, and she returned in recent years to study at Columbia University.
Musically, Utada has much more in common with Iceland’s Bj?rk than Britney — an angelic voice that floats atop a complex, dense storm of everything from synthesized beats to delicate strings.
Famed American hip-hop producer Timbaland adds his rhythmic midas touch to two songs, but Utada’s own impeccable programming fares even better. “Easy Breezy” is the brightly melodic and radio-friendly pop gem of the album, while tracks such as “Hotel Lobby” (about a prostitute) take on a more atmospheric and chilling tone.
“Kremlin Dusk” is the rich stunner of the CD, featuring rippling drums contributed by Jon Theodore of Texas rock band the Mars Volta.
Utada is a sharp lyricist as well as a musical firestorm. She touches on Edgar Allan Poe, Led Zeppelin and Freddie Mercury as influences but then also does occasionally lapse into standard pop-diva sex-kitten mode; one of her Timbaland-produced tracks, “Let Me Give You My Love,” finds Utada cooing, “Buckle up boy, I know you’re gonna like what I got.” (Britney, eat your heart out.)
But the balance of “Exodus” proves that Utada’s unique musical voice doesn’t get lost in translation.
Utada, “Exodus” (Island) FOUR STARS out of FIVE