Hikaru Utada

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About Hikaru Utada

J-pop was never the same once Hikaru Utada changed the game at the end of the ‘90s. The child of Japanese music producer Utada Teruzane and enka singer Keiko Fuji, Utada was born in 1983 in New York and grew up largely in the U.S. before moving to Japan to launch a career as a singer-songwriter while still a teenager. With their love of new jack swing and singers like Mariah Carey and Mary J. Blige, Utada brought an American sensibility to J-pop, roughening up the sound’s clean edges with bigger bass and R&B rhythms. The fact that they wrote their own music—and would soon be producing it, too—also set them apart from J-pop’s stars. As energetic as it was innovative, Utada's fusion of American R&B, trip-hop, and dance pop turned them into a phenom. The best-selling Japanese album of all time, 1999’s First Love inaugurated a string of massive hits and tours. Unfortunately, the Def Jam label’s effort to turn Utada into a truly global sensation faltered when 2004’s Exodus—a wildly inventive album that included collaborations with Timbaland and the DFA production team—failed to get the U.S. attention it deserved. Nevertheless, even Utada’s lengthy hiatus to start a family in the 2010s did little to impair their status as J-pop royalty. What’s more, later singles like 2019’s exhilarating “Face My Fears”—a Kingdom Hearts III video game theme song co-produced by Skrillex—proved that Utada still defies notions of what a J-pop star ought to be and do.

New York, NY, United States
January 19, 1983
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