Some people wait a lifetime – or, well, about twenty years – for a moment like this: Utada Hikaru‘s entire back catalog is now available to stream on Apple Music.
From her debut 1998 single “Automatic / Time Will Tell,” all the way through to last year’s Fantôme, Utada’s back catalog is finally just a simple stream away globally, as announced on Utada’s official website on Friday (December 8). And that includes dozens of music videos, too.
Oh, and don’t worry: it’ll hit Spotify too on January 8. Oh baby, wait and see…
Considering the digital hoops I once jumped through in my middle-to-high school years in order to gain access to these precious gems all those years ago (forums and torrents and downloads, oh my), it makes me just a little bit verklempt to think about how excited teenage me would be. (Don’t get me wrong – I’m ecstatic now, but baby Bradley would be frothing at the mouth.)
I wrote a very, very high-level guide to diving into Utada’s discography a while ago when I was working at PopCrush, which probably still holds up. Luckily, the Apple J-Pop crew went ahead and made Essentials, Next Steps and Love Songs playlists timed with the catalog launch. So if you’re new, dig in!
That’s far from all the good news, either: Utada’s website confirmed that she’s returning with a new album in 2018 (which we basically already knew) – and she’s heading out on her first domestic tour since 2006’s Utada United, which is to say: sorry kiddos, but Santa’s not coming this Christmas. Daddy needs to save his coins to fly to Japan next year.
To tide us over until the forthcoming post-Fantôme masterpiece, we’ve got a brand new single: “Anata” (“あなた”) – or “You.” It’s for a movie called DESTINY Kamakura Monogatari, and was written and recorded earlier this summer in London. The song employs “Buddhist themes” to fit the supernatural movie’s plot. (Also, the movie looks insane.)
The “Anata” music video was shot by Jamie-James Medina, who also directed the dark and moody “Forevermore” video from earlier in the summer with all of that exquisite choreography – and the Geico gecko cameo at the very end.
This time around, the tone is far more chill, as Hikki hosts a jam session with fellow musicians while she records the track. No plot, no high concept – just working in the studio, doing her job, a la “Prisoner of Love.”
The song falls in line with Utada’s current instrumentation-rich groove she’s riding at the moment, fleshed out by horns and strings and drums, as opposed to the beat-filled experimental electronica of her later work, or the slick R&B-pop gloss of her early days. (Those earworm melodies are the classic stuff of Hikki, of course.)
And the lyrics are, as with all Hikaru-penned tracks, poetic as ever. It’s an ode to her baby son – or at least, written from the perspective of a mother singing to her child.
It’s also quite modern, and undeniably a reaction to The World In Which We Live Today: “I want to stay in this room just a little longer where the announcement of war’s beginning and the activists’ footsteps can’t be heard,” she croons. “The era you were born into is brimming with doubts and vices / But bright enough to shake the lights in the clear night sky, the one shining is you.”
As promised, the song does tread through Buddhist territory, as she casts away all other superficial concerns: “let’s give in to our unending pain and continue our journey, darling” – very “all life is suffering.” (Heavy! And therefore, very on brand.)
Anyway, it’s the weekend! Go deep-dive into Hikki’s back catalog and give her some streams, as well purchasing as this new jam (yes, the post-Fantôme Epic Records Japan singles are still iTunes only for now) – and start up a piggy bank for that trip to Japan with me in 2018.
“Anata” was released on December 8. (iTunes)