2005-04-17 - "Big In Japan: Utada" - Paper Magazine

"Big In Japan: Utada"
By: Kate Jacobs
Paper Magazine - Beautiful People 2005 April Issue - Saturday, April 17th, 2005


Utada slips through New York pretty much unnoticed, hanging out in her Upper East Side apartment and occasionally going to clubs. But in Japan, Utada is mind-bogglingly famous. The pop star, who writes all her own material, has four platinum albums to her name and can barely walk down the street in Tokyo without being accosted by screaming tweens. Thanks to the release of her first American album, Exodus (Island Records), last October, she may be enjoying her last days of Stateside anonymity as well. She actually grew up half in Tokyo, half in New York, the daughter of a traditional Japanese singer and a music producer. "It's my secret past," Utada says. "I grew up with a lot of prep-school girls on the Upper East Side." She initially rebelled against the industry ("I had to go to the studio with my parents every day when I was in elementary school, and I thought, 'This is not normal!'") but had a change of heart at age 11 when a Toshiba-EMI executive approached her about writing J-pop songs. Her first full-length album, First Love, was released in 1999. Now, at only 21, Utada has a distinctly different style from her pop-diva counterparts. Exodus is melodic, chilly and lyrically candid -- much more reminiscent of Bj?rk than Britney. And the image she projects is as distinct as her music. "I wanted to start out neutral [in the U.S.], a blank slate, so people wouldn't judge me as easily," she says. "I can't wait to start playing with my image here."

(image included with article - Utada wears cosmetics by Shu Uemura.)

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