2004-10-28 - "Stick it in your ear" - The Des Moines Register
"Stick it in your ear"
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

This article comes from Utada Net.com

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