SAKURA Drops (SAKURAドロップス)
Shiawase ni Narō (幸せになろう, Shiawase ni Narō Let’s Be Happy)
Play Ball (プレイ・ボール)
Tokyo NIGHTS (東京NIGHTS)
Uso Mitai Na I Love You
Hikari (光; Light)
The album starts off with one of my favorites SAKURA Drops (SAKURAドロップス). This song is just amazing, it has so many different sounds and things going for it that its really hard not to stay engaged, the song literally absorbs you. It has such a fantasy and mythical like appeal to it, that makes the song just gorgeous and atmospheric. The arrangement is very haunting, I loved the drums at the beginning odd but fitting, and then the constant plucking of the piano strings adds an elegance to this song that seems lost. Hikki’s vocal performance was so very heart-breaking and longing, especially during the chorus when she hits that breathless hi-tone, and her voice strains and breaks. This song is nearly epic, and very much so incredible.
The next track is the up-tempo traveling. I just really love this song, its so catchy and infectious and just a lot of fun. Its good to have a song on this album that sounds like Hikki really had a lot of fun singing it in the studio, its just one of those feel good songs. The arrangement has a lot going for it, and really keeps you engaged and interested, with a vibe that really makes you want to get up and dance. Hikki’s vocals were as usual great, and I really loved the hook, the chorus, the bridge and her aud-libs. I’m not surprised that this was such a hit when it came out, its almost impossible not to enjoy this track.
The next track is the mid-tempo Shiawase ni Narou (幸せになろう; Let’s Be Happy). When this song first started it was very somber, especially when Hikki starts singing and her voice seems to be weighed down somewhat, like she is trying not to cry–just when I think this song is going to be some tear-jerking ballad we slam right into the chorus, which picks up and in an odd sense lightens the song, never to fall again but keep to that same pace. I’ve never really felt a connection to this song, or have I liked it much. I don’t listen to it outside of full album playthroughs, even if I do think its a good song at the end of the day. The title translates to, ‘let’s be happy’ but I don’t get that vibe from this song. It just carries this emptiness too it, that really puts me off of it. It seems almost misleading.
The next track is the down-tempo and raw Deep River. I really do love the guitar in the arrangement, the thrumming is just there, its like really in your face, but it doesn’t distract or take away from the song, but adds a deepness to it that really makes it stick. Hikki’s vocals were gorgeous and raw, and I love the ‘ho, ho’ parts in the hook, its like she’s letting out a breath of sigh dropping one burden after the other. This is one of my favorite Hikki songs, and the message it conveys is so powerful and felt.
The next track is the underwhelming Letters. I do not understand why I do not like this song, because its not a bad song, and I really enjoy the chorus and the aud-libs towards the end of the song, but man if this song isn’t long-winded. I just think it goes on forever, and its so draggy and impossible. I can’t really explain it but this song just irritates me like nothing else, and I dislike it more every time I listen to it.
The next track on the album is the rnb-ish Play Ball (プレイ・ボール). I’m very much so inclined to like this song, and honestly I think it plays like filler. It’s almost like, ‘why is this song on here?’ The arrangement isn’t anything special, but it managed to keep me interested and was nice in its own rather wistful way. I thought Hikki’s vocals were really smooth, and I loved how they just flowed. Her vocals really make this song sparkle, when it would have otherwise been a very boring and forgettable song.
The next track is the quirky Tokyo NIGHTS (東京NIGHTS). I have never liked this song, it just never really hit me as a good song. In fact it is one of my least favorite Hikki songs. Its just such an annoying song to me, and I just really hate listening to it, because it comes across as so disjointed to me. I’m guessing Hikki was going more towards experimental with this song, because that’s the vibe I got from the arrangement. Hikki’s vocals were good, but very irritating, because of this weird echo in her voice especially during the ‘tokyo nights’ part. I just really dislike this song.
The next track on the album is the dull A.S.A.P.. This song plays a lot like Play Ball in the fact that is sounds like such a filler track, with no point outside of taking up space. I liked Play Ball in a sense, it had a nice sensual rnb-ish flow to it that kept my interest, this song on the other hand grates heavily on my nerves. The arrangement played like static it was so bland, and Hikki’s usually great voice was underwhelming and really got on my nerves. I hated the ‘a.s.a.p.’ in the chorus, the way she spelled it out was just so pointless, and made this song even more average and unoriginal than it was. No effort was put into this song, and it went on far longer than it should of. I only regret that it didn’t end sooner.
The next track on the album is the high-energy Uso Mitai na I Love You (嘘みたいなI Love You; An Unbelievable I Love You). Oh, I just can not get enough of this song, it’s so addicting. Rock is such a guilty pleasure of mine (kind of like techno and pop is a guilty pleasure), and man did this song exude rock. I loved the arrangement, the electric guitar was just so perfect and gave this song such a dark and bad-ass atmosphere that was most welcome. Hikki’s vocals were great, I did enjoy how her tones were deep and then picked up just a bit, towards the ‘i love you’ parts of the chorus. I’m guessing she sampled Simple and Clean or Hikari, either way it was a nice touch and made this song stand out even more. The best part was at the end when she let’s the instrumental shine and you keep thinking the song is going to end and it starts back up again… I loved it!
The next track is the poignant ballad FINAL DISTANCE. This is one of my all-time favorite Hikki tracks, and one of the greatest songs in her entire discography. Rarely do I ever listen to a song that makes me heavy with not only sadness, but an infinite hope and that is exactly what FINAL DISTANCE does. A beautiful somber, haunting arrangement that fills you with longing and want, and Hikki’s powerful vocals really make this song stand out–one of the most moving songs I have ever heard.
The next track is the albums first and last interlude Bridge (Interlude). It’s starts off with the beating of a heart, than some rather nice music starts playing and it ends with the beating heart again.
The last track on the album is the hit Hikari (光; Light). I am one of the odd people who actually like Simple and Clean more than Hikari, but even so for a song I use to loathe at one point (probably because of the video), I actually do enjoy this song. Its one of her best, so light and airy and carefree, it really just brings a much needed smile to my face.
Rating: **1/2 stars
Utada Hikaru’s third album DEEP RIVER is not as good as I had once thought it was, but it is still a good solid album from her. I thought it was pretty brief and that was one of the pet peeves I had with this, despite the length of some of the songs it still played more like a mini album than a full album. I also didn’t like how some of the songs played like filler, Play Ball and most definitely A.S.A.P. for instance. I will never like Tokyo NIGHTS its too quirky and weird for me, and I like quirky and weird, so I don’t really understand why I dislike this song so much. Also, Letters will always be a boring drag of a song to me; despite my minimal dislike of this album Hikki, as usual, managed to include some top-notch songs: SAKURA drops, traveling, Deep River, Uso Mitai na I Love You, FINAL DISTANCE and Hikari, so all is forgiven. DEEP RIVER is not one of her better albums, it is a bit dull and entirely too brief, but its also Utada Hikaru, what other reason do you need?