Utada Hikaru – HEART STATIONApril 15, 2008 at 11:13 AM | Posted in Utada Hikaru | 19 Comments
HEART STATION is Utada Hikaru’s 5th Japanese album and it was released on March 19, 2008. The album reached #1 on the Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 1,007,181 copies.
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Opening the album is the catchy synth pop tune Fight The Blues. Analyzing the song by its title and lyrical content, it’s like a response to the overall theme of her previous album ULTRA BLUE, which basically had a darker, more serious tone to it. Fight The Blues is a proclamation to have a stronger character while set next to sweeping synth lines and an upbeat rhythm. This song was also used as radio promotion for the album.
The first half of the album features almost all of the singles starting with the title track HEART STATION. To be perfectly honest, this is my least favorite song on the album mostly due to Hikaru’s strained vocals. The melody of the chorus is catchy but it easily gets repetitive near the end.
I would normally be against seeing all of these single tracks clumped together, but on here they all seem to flow extremely well. My favorite Hikaru song in recent memory, Beautiful World, makes an appearance as track 3. I never get tired of the epic, yet simple ethereal sound of the music mixed with the gentle synth beats.
Up next is the infamous ballad version of Flavor Of Life, Hikaru’s highly popular single released in February 2007. It would make more sense to put the spotlight on the ballad version because the lyrics are definitely more suited to be sung in a slower, more emotional form. Speaking of the lyrics, they just break your heart and they really showcase her excellent songwriting skills.
Following that depressing song, the more heartwarming Stay Gold comes in. The overall arrangement of this song is amazing since it mixes a gorgeous piano with a unique, almost gritty beat. Hikaru’s vocal performance is great as well and I liked the elongated notes she sang during the chorus.
I still love the blaring brass intro to Kiss & Cry and the catchy beats that follow. Hikaru lets loose in this song and shows the more fun side of her voice. Starting with this song, the album begins to swerve into a more upbeat direction and finally into the new tracks.
This is the first time in her Japanese albums where the interlude is placed in the middle. Gentle Beast Interlude is fascinating with its accumulating chaotic sound and random adlibbing by Hikaru. It even features a sample from the song HEART STATION but what makes this interlude unique compared to her others is its perfect transition into the next track.
I didn’t even notice Celebrate started until Hikaru began to sing and I was really amazed by how the 2 tracks work together because they really go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other in my opinion. Going back to Celebrate, it’s by far my favorite of the album’s new tracks. The synth is extremely infectious and the beats make this song really fun. The melody is catchy as well and it’s very easy to sing along to.
Probably the most recognized of the album’s new tracks is Prisoner Of Love because of its tie-in with the drama Last Friends. It’s even getting released as a single in May! Anyways, I enjoyed the serious tone of this song because of the constant piano and the effective “thudding” sound that appears from time to time. The use of orchestral strings in the chorus and the bridge make it stand out as well. Despite the nature of the music, Hikaru has created another really catchy track.
Ah, here we are with Take 5, a song that has stirred up quite a controversy amongst fans because of its abrupt and sudden ending. Before I get into that, this song was originally created during the ULTRA BLUE era so it has a heavy synth arrangement on a grand scale. The lyrics are interesting as well since they are about death and the desire to not have a physical body. Just like most cases of death, is it often unexpected and the ending reflects that. The song just STOPS at the 3:43 mark, literally.
What it makes this even more strange is that Boku wa Kuma begins right after the ending of Take 5. This was definitely intentional on Hikaru’s behalf and having this cute children’s song after a song about death was quite crafty of her. In this case, Boku wa Kuma might refer to the concept of rebirth or Hikaru wanted to showcase an extreme contrast between the two songs. Either way, it has grown on me and the simple melody of the chorus is beyond catchy.
Ending the album on a lighter note is Nijiiro Bus, a bright track with a strong drum beat and nice piano chords. I know that the title rainbow colored bus might come off as a little silly at first, but I really liked the message that the lyrics presented. Hikaru sings about everybody wanting to go to a place of their fantasies and feeling the same emotions while traveling on this “rainbow colored bus”. The song can get a little repetitive towards the end but its fun to sing along to nonetheless and the her adlibbing adds some extra feeling.
The original synthed up version of Flavor Of Life appears as a bonus track. I was wondering how the original would be placed on the album and as a bonus track, that’s acceptable. While the ballad version is much slower and appropriate for the lyrics, the original adds a faster rhythm while attempting to make it more upbeat.
I could see that Utada Hikaru took a simpler approach to the overall presentation of HEART STATION. The album as a whole isn’t as complex or grandiose as ULTRA BLUE in terms of the music, but instead makes up for it in other areas. For one thing, HEART STATION is a much more comprehensive and neater album with smoother transitions. Also, the album isn’t a mixed musical package like ULTRA BLUE. Each track on HEART STATION has something different to offer while still maintaining a central theme and sound. I could go on, but I’ll finish this review by saying Hikaru has created an album that’s easy to pick up, easy on the ears, and most importantly: enjoyable to listen to.
1. Fight The Blues
2. HEART STATION
3. Beautiful World
4. Flavor Of Life -Ballad Version-
5. Stay Gold
6. Kiss & Cry
7. Gentle Beast Interlude
9. Prisoner Of Love
10. Take 5 (テイク 5)
11. Boku wa Kuma (ぼくはくま)
12. Nijiiro Bus (虹色バス)
13. Flavor Of Life
Note: My favorite tracks are highlighted in blue!