2005-May - "Utada: The making of an international pop star" - Alloy.com
"Utada: The making of an international pop star"
By: Charli Penn
Alloy Online - Alloy.com - May 2005
Madonna made her mark in New York City. Usher brought a whole new meaning to Atlanta. But in the world of music, Utada Hikaru put Japan on the map! Her debut album First Love, sold over 9 million copies to date, making it the greatest selling album in Japanese history. Ironic, since Utada was born in New York City. As the only child of a Japanese singer and a music producer, music was the family business. She penned her first song at age 10, recorded her first single at 11, and produced a full-length album at age 12. By 13, Utada was an established composer, songwriter, and singer with only one thing on her mind -- making good music! Record execs approached her about creating a Japanese album, and the rest is music chart history. One Japanese-language platinum-selling album after another, Utada, took the international music biz by storm. But even with a reputation that great, Utada somehow remained nothing more than a small dot on the American pop scene radar. But that was then, and this is now! So watch out Britney and Christina: Utada's ready to show America who's boss with Exodus, her first English -language release. She's now 22, happily married to photographer Kiriya Kazuaki, and on temporary leave from Columbia University. So what's it like to be one of the biggest stars on the planet, and still be able to walk the streets of New York City unnoticed? "Surprisingly, peaceful," says Utada. Alloy tracked down the incognito superstar to find out her recipe for success. Take notes ladies!
Never Look Back
"When I was fifteen [stardom] all came at once, and it was a bit of a shock. I have nothing else to compare my life to, so it's not any easier or harder to be a famous musician -- it's just my life!"
Take Your Career Seriously At All Times
"I can't do anything too crazy. I'm always thinking about a job or a performance that I have to do the next day, or I'm afraid that people might notice me someplace doing something silly, so I only go out occasionally."
Listen To Your Parents Advice
"My mom would always say 'you have a great voice' and at first, I thought she was crazy. Then, when I was eleven, my father suggested I write a song, and that's when I fell in love with music."
Have An Ally
"[My husband] and I met at a photo shoot. I thought of him more like an older brother, [but] it turned into a lot more. I don't know when we officially knew we were going to get married; one day we just started planning it. Now he's like my best friend."
Build On Your Strengths
"A lot of the words [to my songs] come to me while I'm in motion -- when I'm in a car, on a plane, or looking out the window at the scenery while I'm on a train. So I really like taking walks. I'll walk wherever there's a street!"
Love Yourself Unconditionally
"I'm only 5'2", so I'm on the smaller side. I like being short, it's actually kind of cute. In a weird sort of way, I know it makes me stand out."
Set Realistic Goals
"[The music business] is a really tough field to get into. If singing is what you really want to do, you don't have to become the top singer in the world. You can be a lounge singer, a shower singer, or any kind of singer you want to be. Just enjoy it for what it is."
Have a Backup Plan That Will Make You Just As Happy
"Whenever I get tired of what I'm doing, I can just quit and go back to University to study chemistry or biology. I always wanted to work in a science lab because it's a lot like a studio."
Trust Your Gut
"I was a little nervous about working with [Timberland] at first because I [hadn't] worked with another person to compose a song. It took a couple of days for me to feel comfortable because I had to talk him into letting me do my own writing. Now everyone loves the song we did together."