Utada Hikaru – First Love

December 8, 2012 at 11:54 PM | Posted in Utada Hikaru | Leave a comment

Utada Hikaru – First Love

1. Automatic -Album Edit-
2. Movin’ on without you
3. In My Room
4. First Love
5. Amai Wana ~Paint It, Black
6. time will tell
7. Never Let Go
8. B&C -Album Version-
9. Another Chance
10. Interlude
11. Give Me A Reason
11. Automatic -Johnny Vicious Remix-

♦ ♦ ♦

First Love is the debut album by Japanese/American singer Utada Hikaru, released on March 10, 1999. The album reached #1 in weekly Oricon charts and charted for 85 weeks. It has reportedly sold over 7,650,000 copies in Japan, and 10,056,000 copies worldwide. This made First Love the #1 album for 1999, as well as the highest-selling album in Asian music history.

Ofcourse there had to come a time for me to review this album. Automatic -Album Edit- is the song that made her famous, and although this is a shorter version than on the single it’s still a long track at five and a half minutes. Ofcourse I know Hikki has the best vocals in the Asian music industry, I love her timbre and vibrato, her vocals sound so light and the techniques are so good. The vocals really come out great in this R&B track with a very nice beat to it. There’s a little bit of repetition in the track, but in this case I really don’t mind because of how catchy the overall track is.

It’s great how Movin’ on without you is more energetic than the previous track with some electric guitar riffs, fast percussion with high hat accents and some semi-rapping/fast singing in the verses by Hikki. For late 90s music, I must say this song has a pretty modern feel to it. There’s a great drive here, the instruments work perfect together and the lead and background vocals blend very well.

In My Room is more mellow R&B and easy listening stuff. The arrangement is very pleasant with soft piano notes in the background, scratches and smooth percussion. There’s a good flow in the track but still there’s some repetition in the melodies. The repetition is not bad or anything, Hikki’s vocals make it bearable and it’s still rather catchy. It has its charms but it’s not the best track on the album, you can enjoy it as mellow background music.

The title track is #4 on the album. First Love is the first ballad as well and it starts off with a gorgeous piano melody and acoustic guitar. It eventually becomes the most beautiful, sad song I have ever heard. It’s so easy to relate to the lyrics, I have to admit this song made me cry like a baby when I was listening to it. Songs rarely do that to me. I could listen to this song again and again, FAVORITE.

Amai Wana ~Paint It, Black. ROLLING STONES, haha! After such an emotional ballad Hikki takes it up a notch with this quircky and funky R&B song with fast melodies and lines, bass and hard percussion. The little brassy kind of elements in the song make it very memorable and unique too. It’s a fun and sparkly song, very different from the rest of the tracks too.

time will tell is another mellow R&B song on the album, very much in the style of In My Room but then a lot less catchy. Except for the percussion and piano notes perhaps. It has a nice vibe but still there’s not much to tell about this song. It’s not that boring but less interesting than the rest of the tracks anyway.

The second half of the album opens with Never Let Go, and I instantly recogized (and loved) the sample of Sting’s ‘Shape Of My Heart’! Samples usually do the trick for me, but in this track I have one issue I never thought I would have: Hikki’s vocals. She sounds like BoA gone wrong, whiney and just not like herself. The arrangement is pretty cool and I enjoy the music, but the singing is meh.

Apparently the title for B&C -Album Version- stands for ‘Bonnie & Clyde’. Always nice to know. Bonnie & Clyde songs are cheesy as hell, but who cares. Ofcourse it’s another mellow R&B song with a good flow to it, funky guitars and some strings in the background. Hikki’s vocals are back to good again, the background vocals blend in well again and the whole track is just so much more satisfying than the previous one.

Apparently Hikki played it safe with this album’s style, it’s clear she went R&B with this. Another Chance is another R&B song but it’s a bit more lively than some of the other tracks that are more mellow. The beats are a little bit faster and the guitar riffs are a tad funkier, which is always nice for a little variation. The vocals and backgrounds are perfect again, no comments on that actually. Just that the vocal melodies make this song so memorable, catchy and one of the better tracks.

Interlude: what it says on the tin. Some little harmonizations, background chattering and an answering machine message. Pretty random.

Wow the beat on Give Me A Reason is sick. It acts like a ballad but that percussion makes it so much more interesting, it’s like they spiced up the arrangements they used on some other calm R&B songs to get this one. Some say the percussion ruins the song, I say it’s exactly what made this song, together with the amazingly catchy melodies in the chorus. This track also features some of the best vocals on the album.

It’s great to see that one of the best tracks on the album got a dance version with Automatic -Johnny Vicious Remix-. From beginning to end, this was an amazing remix and the track deserved this, it’s the most memorable and enjoyable song on the album and the remix is even more catchy and amazing. Great ending to the album (as a bonus track), ‘It’s automaaatic‘!

I’ve been pushing back this review so many times for the past couple of months, I just had to make myself sit down and just do this thing. I was so curious about ‘the best album in Asian music history’, so my curiosity finally won me over (even after a full day of work). I must say it’s not exactly the best album I’ve ever heard, but still this is an amazing debut album by an Asian artist, especially when she was just 16 years old at the time! The girl already had an amazing voice back then, and for a late 90s album her music sounds pretty modern and Westernized. It suits her, and although she could’ve ditched some of the mellow stuff, Hikaru made a fabulous first album!
PS The track First Love will probably be on repeat for the rest of my life this week.

Favorite tracks: Automatic -Album Edit- | Movin’ on without you | First Love | Amai Wana ~Paint It, Black | B&C -Album Version- | Another Chance | Give Me A Reason | Automatic -Johnny Vicious Remix-

4 stars


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