Utada Hikaru [DISTANCE] (Second Album)

January 4, 2009

Wait & See ~Risk~
Can You Keep a Secret?
Distance
Sunglasses
Drama
Eternally
Addicted to You (Up-In-Heaven Mix)
For You
Kettobase! (蹴っ飛ばせ!, Kettobase!; Kick It!)
Parody
Time Limit
kotoba ni naranai kimochi (言葉にならない気持ち, Feelings That Can’t Be Put to Words)
Hayatochi-Remix (Bonus Track)

The album starts off with the up-tempo Wait & See ~Risk~. I have never liked this song and I most likely never will. I can’t really say what it is that I don’t like, I mean the arrangement is refreshing, has somewhat of a futuristic vibe and goes well with the whole flow of the song, and despite some notable strain Hikki’s vocals are good and she seems to be pretty into the song. I just always find myself bored with this track and impatiently waiting for it to be over. It just does nothing for me and comes across as to over the top and bland. I guess it stems from the fact that she’s done songs like this and better; despite this being one of her top selling singles it fails to impress me. Its a good start to the album though.

The next track on the album is the mid-tempo Can You Keep a Secret?. This is another song by Hikki that I’ve never really liked, because it came across as very impossible to me. Its grown on me though. The arrangement is a bit stifling, but I like the whole breezy flow of it. Hikki’s vocals are good, but a lot of the time, during the chorus, it sounded like her voice was going out. This song is a bit long, and you become very much so aware of that fact in the latter half of the song. Still, this track has enough going for it to somewhat keep my attention and make me like it. Plus, it reminds me a lot of Simple and Clean.

The next track on the album is the whimsical Distance. I heard Final Distance before I heard this, and at that point in time I did not know that there was an original version of it, but when I finally did, I knew I had to listen to it. I actually thought the songs were going to sound similar, but they couldn’t be more different from one another. It took a few listens of this for it to grow on me, but now I just adore it and its such a fun song to sing. I mean as where ‘final distance’ is depressing and moody, this song is rather upbeat and cheery. The arrangement just pops out at you and it just sounds so innocent and cute. Hikki’s vocals are great, especially towards the end when she starts ad-libbing. This is one of those songs that just compels you to sing along with it (you have too, its such a fun song song to sing!) and a definite favorite of mine.

The next track on the album is the laid-back Sunglasses. This is a really interesting song, and though Hikki dabbled in rnb during her earlier career, I never would think her to come out with something like this. The arrangement is doused in rnb, its heavy with rnb, but it carries such an oldschool vibe that really makes it stick. Hikki’s vocals are crazy, because they are so intense, it felt like she was really into this song, and the whole performance gave off such a mellow vibe. Its a straight filler song, but like Play Ball its a pretty damn good one.

The next track on the album is the chaotic Drama. I don’t get this song at all, and I wonder what point Hikki was trying to make in regards to it? The arrangement is experimental; dark, moody, ambient–it gave off such a goth and emo vibe and that honestly turned me off a bit. Hikki’s vocal performance was very strange, because I’m not sure what she was aiming for; tortured soul? unrequited lover? It just confuses me. The song isn’t bad, but it just goes completely over my head, because too much is going on with seemingly no purpose. I like this song, but at the same time I just don’t know what to think of it. The song completely reflects the title, because it just screams with conflicted emotions. This is a pretty interesting song though, definitely.

The next track on the album is the touching Eternally. I do love this song, its one of my favorite Hikki tracks. Its also one of the first songs I heard by her. I use to listen to it all the time. The arrangement is soothing, sadly romantic and sparkly. Hikki’s vocals were gorgeous. There’s notable strain of course, but you barely notice it because she keeps it somewhat in control. Hikki’s voice is full of emotion and it really just absorbs you into the song and makes you think of that one person who just does it for you.

The next track on the album is Addicted to You (Up-In-Heaven Mix). I like this song and I’m wondering why she didn’t just do a regular version of this, instead of mixing it up. Its still good, doesn’t play like a remix at all, but it just makes me curious. The arrangement is a smooth bit of rnb synth, that plays so nice and Hikki’s vocals, though they strain a bit when she’s going for those higher parts, fit right in. This song reminds me of Never Let Go from her first album.

The next track on the album is the funky For You. The first time I heard this song was a while back and I remember thinking the video was a live. This song is like a guilty pleasure, because despite it being such a good song, I never really listen to it or have the urge to listen to it. Hikki’s vocals were the best part, they were so intense and full of emotion, you could tell she was into it. I also liked when she would talk over the beat, it was a nice touch and added a lot of flare and personality to this track.

The next track on the album is the kick-ass Kettobase! (蹴っ飛ばせ!; Kick It!). Its like a less twisted version of Drama, but still just as insane. What was Hikki on when she recorded this song? ‘I want your baby’ What? Its so crazy, but this song is just all kinds of love and Hikki’s vocals are amazing. I really am a fan of Hikki’s more experimental songs, she really knows how to bring on the abstract.

The next track on the album is the somewhat acoustic Parody. I first heard this song a couple years back, when I watched an intimate live of it on youtube. I was taken, because Hikki put such heart and feeling into this song. I got the impression that she is talking about herself, because she says: ‘life story’ throughout, and that made it a bit serious as well as personal. This is definitely a different type of song that is not really heard all that often. I thought the arrangement, the drums, went perfect with the whole flow of the song and Hikki’s vocal performance was genuine.

The next track on the album rnb’s it up with Time Limit. I did not like this song once, I thought it was forgettable and also every time Hikki says, ‘dark child’ in the beginning I for some strange reason think she’s saying, ‘black child’. This song is interesting only because of two things: the arrangement which is funky and definitely has enough going for it to get your body moving and you into the song. The second thing would be the chorus, which is love and Hikki displays some great vocal tones, especially on the: ’cause i needed to’ parts, which are my favorite. I hate the bridge, it really sucks. This song has grown on me and I have the single to thank for that.

The second to last track on the album is kotoba ni naranai kimochi (言葉にならない気持ち, Feelings That Can’t Be Put to Words). This is a song that was suppose to be included on her first album, but it wasn’t finished in time so they moved it to this one. If you ask me, I think they should have just regulated it to a b-side, because the faster I forget about this song, the better. The arrangement plays like slow motion, its so forgettable and mind-numbing. Then Hikki’s vocal performance is quite possibly the worst I’ve ever heard from her, the feeling and emotion she put into this song came across as very fake to me and it made this song very long-winded. I’ll admit, the chorus was all right, but it just isn’t enough to save this song because the verses are just terrible and seem so disjointed, like Hikki was stumbling in her mind to remember the words. Then its like towards the end she tries to save the song by spewing out some desperate ad-libs, which should have sounded nice, but it just came across as her whining. This song is also long, its a couple seconds over five and its just way too dull to be so long. I knew there was a reason why I never listened and or paid attention to this song. Its boring.

The last track on the album is a bonus, Hayatochi-Remix (Bonus Track). I wonder why Hikki just didn’t put the regular ‘hayatochi’ on here, its a lot better than this. I heard a tinging, like someone hitting the same key on a piano throughout. I barely registered Hikki’s vocals and the song ended with a laugh. This was a pretty weak ending to the album and despite ‘kotoba…’ being a snore-fest, it would have made a much better album closer.

-GRADE: B+
Rating: **1/2 stars

Utada Hikaru’s second album DISTANCE was a lot better than her first album, and a pretty good album overall. The rnb flavor that she started out with in the beginning of her career and what in itself catapulted her to the very top of the charts is still very much so as dominant on this album as it was in the first. However, Hikki has decided to play around a bit with this album, its not as safe as the first one was and thus we are treated to the experimental: Drama and Kettobase! which really stand out for being so out there, but at the same time, so damn good. Hikki went a bit pop as well with Distance which is always a joy to listen to; slowed it down with Eternal which is one of her best ballads ever; got us moving with Can You Keep a Secret?, Addicted To You and Time Limit and got a bit personal with songs like For You and Parody. Of course not even Hikki is safe from the downer tracks and though they weren’t as bad as they could of been, they were still in there own right unmemorable (well except for Wait & See ~Risk~). The one that stands out glaringly would be kotoba ni naranai kimochi which was a whole bunch of weird and dull all thrown into one. Distance is a good album from Hikki, she expanded her range a bit and brought more variety this second time around as well as gave us a little taste of what was to come.

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