Utada Hikaru: Ultra Blue

Ultra Blue, Utada Hikaru

This is Love

Keep Tryin’

Blue

Nichiyo no Asa

Making Love

Dareka no Negai ga Kanau Koro

Colors

One Night Magic, feat. Yamada Masashi

Kairo

Wings

Be My Last

Eclipse (Interlude)

Passion

*****

Songs in bold are previously released singles. Songs in blue (with a link) have already been reviewed. Those songs will, however, be reviewed in context of the album once more.

*****

Ultra Blue is Utada Hikaru’s fourth studio album, released on June 14th, 2006. It has sold 905 049 copies and reached #1 on the Oricon charts.

This is Love, a song released as a radio single to promote Ultra Blue, is my favorite of the new songs, and is a great way to introduce the album. It doesn’t really reflect what comes later, but still. I really liked the speed of the song, and I liked when the song tuned down for a while. The lyrics are pretty good, too.

Since we’re into the fast beat of This is Love, Keep Tryin’ (single originally released on February 22nd, 2006), my all-time favorite song, seems to fit perfectly. The moderately explosive beginning, after a slow synth prologue which remains in the background for most of the song, really caught me. I liked the ups and downs of the song (the first verse is very joyous and second is slower, more depressed), which fit with the lyrics, demonstrating the ups and downs of life. I didn’t particularly like the ending, but it’s OK; my favorite part of the song isn’t the music, but the lyrics. One of the elements of taste in music is my dislike of typical love song lyrics, because they’ve become cheesy over time. But Keep Tryin’ is a song about life, and that, no matter how many times you may be pushed down, you must keep tryin’!

Next up is Blue, which is slower than Keep Tryin’ but still stays in the same style as the two preceding tracks, as we make our way down to Dareka no Negai ga Kanau Koro. I liked Blue like an average song, which is to say that it’s nothing exceptional. The end was kind of fuzzy and I didn’t really that.

Nichiyo no Asa (Sunday morning) isn’t a good song, in every respects. For those who like rap, this might be a good song because it relies almost solely on powerful background beats, but I don’t.

Making Love, which isn’t about “making love”, but about separation, is an interesting and beautiful song, although it doesn’t brag about it. My favorite part was the chorus, with beautiful vocals on Utada’s part.

Dareka no Negai ga Kanau Koro (single originally released on April 21st, 2004) is second only to Final Distance when it comes to ballads. It’s a moving song, linked to Making Love by its lyrical content, with vocals which express the desperation and sadness of the song.

Colors (single originally released on January 29th, 2003) is the oldest of the Ultra Blue era songs, released three years before the album, separated by the rest due to the release of English album, Exodus (which will be reviewed later). Colors is slow and fast at the same time, which made it very attractive to me. Some have called this song dull, but I persist to think that this song is one of Utada’s greatest.

One Night Magic, feat. Yamada Masashi is one of my least favorite songs on the album. Although Yamada Masashi’s voice does fit with Utada’s, I didn’t like the actual song.

Kairo (sea road) is something else. (Note that it should be pronounced kai-ro, and not ka-iro; the second one would mean “flame color” or many other things.) It takes a while for it to pick up, and it almost immediately stops again, but the vocals are just plain gorgeous.

Wings (originally the B-Side on Keep Tryin’) isn’t really all that great a song. It’s a relaxing song, but there’s something about it, perhaps all the “la la la la…” and the beat that comes in after a minute or so.

Be My Last (single originally released on September 28th, 2005) is an acoustic ballad which fits into the theme of Ultra Blue, with the opening lines asking her mother why we destroy that which we have made. It’s got a lot of non-lyrical lines and repetition, but those lines were the best in the album. Toward the end, it becomes kind of repetitive, but it doesn’t prevent this song from being fabulous.

Eclipse (Interlude)… what can I say? I don’t like interludes very much, so I won’t say anything particular about it. Well, it does manage to introduce Passion from the strongly contrasting Be My Last.

Passion (single originally released on December 14th, 2005) opens with a few seconds of slow music, then a guitar is added, and then the song so-to-say “explodes” (don’t turn the music high because you can’t hear the first few lines very well). The song’s sound reflects its name: it’s a powerful song about something which can be very powerful. After a lot of listens, I’ve kind of my interest in it, but I’m still going to give it a good rating.

Ultra Blue, although it was Hikaru’s first album not to reach the million-line in sales, is definitely her best album, including her best singles. Her album songs are a lot better than those from Deep River. I didn’t like the Heart Station era singles quite as much, especially not the massive fuss about “Flavor of Life”, and I hope she turns back. Needless to say, Ultra Blue is not a “happy” album; it conveys, to me, the feeling of “alright, you might’ve just hit rock bottom, but there’s always the possibility to climb back up”/”down looking up”. One last thing: if you have the time, go an look at the music video of Keep Tryin’, because I find it to be the best of Kiriya Kazuaki’s music videos (for those who shouldn’t know who he is, he was Utada’s husband to the time, and, as a movie director, he directed his former wife’s music videos, creating stuff that North American stars will never get—you hear that, Coldplay?!).

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