Utada Hikaru – HEART STATION

April 15, 2008 at 11:13 AM | Posted in Utada Hikaru | 19 Comments
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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.

♦ ♦ ♦

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.

Overall Rating

4½ stars

Tracklisting

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
8. Celebrate
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!

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19 Comments »

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  1. Yay I was looking forward to this review! Which was very nice, by the way. I agree with you in saying that this album is much easier to listen to than Ultra Blue, and has a really nice, simple concept. The inclusion of Boku wa Kuma still annoys me, but I’ve gotten used to it.

  2. I LOVED THIS ONE!! I WAS SO HAPPY TO SEE THIS REVIEW!! i think Hikki did an amazing job ^_^ but yay for Hikki and my ears lol i loved this song.

    though i don’t know Take 5 ended like that. Easy Breezy kinda ended like that too on her Exodus album.

    BUT YAY CAN’T WAIT FOR THE NEXT ALBUM =D

  3. Great Review XD! I was waiting for this for weeks. I’m so happy now.

  4. Wonderful review!!! I agree, Celebrate is the best new track! It’s really catchy! I also love Prisoner Of Live though. My favorite song on the album is Stay Gold.

  5. Nice review, I was expecting something different though. *Hint hint* ;D

  6. Ah, nice to see that you enjoyed Heart Station.
    It really is one of her best albums right now.

  7. take 5 was my personal favorite. and for some reason i feel like a sexy lady listening to celebrate lol

  8. Take 5 was my favourite non-single =)
    The sudden ending, and suddenly, Boku wa Kuma
    ^ took me by surprise

  9. Again, great review :) This album is definitely easier on the ears than Ultra Blue. I still love Beautiful World….and Celebrate is my favorite new song~ Take 5 really surprised me XD at first I thought “Huh? Is the cd defective or something?”

  10. The album was perfection sans Boku wa Kuma XD.

  11. Haha, so that finally solves the mystery about Take 5. I really couldn’t figure it out myself! haha

    Hmm. I haven’t been listening to Hikki for that long, so it’s hard for me to understand the differences between the two albums from such a subjective standpoint.

    Though I found it repetitive listing to so many singles in a row, I do agree with you that the album is well constructed. The last have starting with the Interlude is well rewarding. And know I even like Boku wa Kuma. Should I blame Take 5 or Hikki’s genius? hehe.

    Great review as always Lex. ^_^

  12. I love ぼくはくま with an inexplicable passion XD Why does everyone have to coin its childishness negatively as repetitive or mediocre composing? Take it easy folks. I’m quite glad to see Hikki go back to her ‘simple and clean’ days :D
    I agree with you, Lex, on the transition between Take 5 and the cute Kuma song. ;D That was a nice relief of depress :D

  13. nice one Lex. The only grip about the album’s that I rather Utada would alternate a single & non released single as it seems to me that the 1st 1/2 of the album consists of material that she has released already while the other 1/2 comprises of new material

  14. Nice review. The album is good, but not fantastic imo. My favorite new track is Take 5, but damn with that ending, even if the song is about death… Prisoner of Love is great too. I loved all the songs from the singles except for HEART STATION, which I still can’t seem to get into and Boka wa kuma is okay, but really shouldn’t have been on the album…also, it sounds completely weird after Take 5.
    Niji-iro bus is waaaay too long, I already got bored of it in the middle, the melody is kind of cute, but that’s about it. Flavor of Life was completely unnecessary, ‘cos it’s just extremely out of place after two children’s song…

    So yeah, I’m having trouble with enjoying the last few songs on the album. Some of the songs are somewhat random for me, so that’s why I prefer ULTRA BLUE by a lot.

  15. the only song that i would love is just Prisoner of Love

    rest of them is just OK

  16. i only like prisoner of love. the rest is just so so… boku wa kuma is cute because it’s a kid song.

  17. I love Boku wa Kuma for its adorableness and innocence. TEIKU 5 is synth godliness; beautiful. Love it when she says “Mafuyu no”. Niji Iro BASU is childish R&B; fun, perky, and the overall playfulness is awesome. Prisoner of Love is gorgeous, the dramatic piano combining w/ a string set & the beat. Though I don’t move or wanna dance, Celebrate is still great. Fight The Blues, love at first listen, the Indian music coming in at the chorus was different. I still prefer ULTRA BLUE for its musical diversity & the first half of the album not being released but HEART STATION is still A- material.

  18. Niji Iro BASU bored me too. How come no one likes Boku wa Kuma? =O It’s just so cute =)

  19. Even after almost 2 years, “HEART STATION” still hasn’t gotten old and is currently located in my CD player getting spun regularly everyday.

    It was the best Album of 2008 and even in this year of 2009 it was still the best thing and no other Female artist has been able to come close in sales to how well “HEART STATION” has sold.

    *COUGH*OverOneMillion*COUGH*


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