For me the album that converted me to really liking Hikaru Utada's music was Distance, even though to many especially it seems in the West it appears to be the ugly duckling of Hikaru's Japanese discography, but I vehemently disagree. Speaking objectively, it is her second best selling album. Personally, I think Distance is Hikaru's best and most underrated album, though I certainly think Deep River and Ultra Blue are really close and Heart Station and Fantom are close as well. One of the greatest compliments I could give an album is to say that it converted me to being a fan of an artist I previously wasn't really into that much and such is the case for Hikaru Utada and Distance. It is the beautiful vulnerability and lovely feminity in her voice and for me Distance is Hikaru's most immediate, passionate and spontaneous sounding album like with the laughs left in at the end of Wait and See, including beautifully silky vocals and lovely sky high whines, cries and agility rising into falsettos with fine fluidity. What it lacks in moments of meditation and empty space, it makes up for in antic energy, sincerity and a fascinating juxtaposition of styles and moods in combining r and b, Latin, rock, and ballads as in the lush strings and big vocal build up in Eternally. It grooves, jostles then soothes the listener between the tracks but isn't afraid to leave in a free rough abrasive sounding edges here and there to give it the feel of the joy and strife of life which gives it a kind of genuine R and B pedigree. It is also makes a great period piece evoking the early 2000's vividly like a recording sent up in a space ship to remind one of this specific time and place.
Wait and See comes out of the box with an alternating tide of relatively quiet chime like instrumentation rising to a full throated whine that blasts off in the chorus symbolized well in the video when Hikaru races through the streets on a motorcyle while she sports some cool moves with an extended mix of overdubs and a laugh left in providing an interesting outro to the song. The Latinesque r and B Can You Keep a Secret has an intriguing whining and quivering quality in the vocals with some nice backing vocals and a catchy bopping dance rhythm, some tasty Spanish acoustic licks mixed with a whispering interlude, and more appealing whining in the chorus. Actually, there is a slightly neurotic quality that grates just a tiny bit yet this is actually an asset because it gives it a more desperate unsettling quality.
Personally, I find the claim that this album is a copy of American R and B only in the Japanese language to be erroneous since the composite of styles that are mixed into the songs is quite unique when taken as a whole. For instance, the soothing chimes and silky smooth vocals and intricately interwoven overdubs, that greet the listener in Distance seem to be an embroidered synthesis of American r and B, traditional Japanese and Hikaru's own unique blend of the two with touching subtlety and sophistication. Such lovely rise and fall out of the falsetto in this song too and the seamless production really pulls the listener in. The discordance and distortion in Drama with electric guitar and Hikaru's emotional and gutteral delivery adds some grit and rawness to the album that contrasts "drama"tically with Distance with the cross current of clashing overdubs creating a really pleasing cacophony. Vocally,
Addicted to You starts out rather deep and quiet but crescendoes into a beautifully full throated plaintive delivery and then the outro leaves in Hikaru's shig a shig a which adds more spontaneity to the album. Then, comes the fabulous Kettobase which combines the vulnerability of Eternally, the Latin rhythms and passion of Can You Keep a Secret and the rocking discordance of Drama with the masterfully phrased, "I Want your bAAAby." with an onslaught of whines, cries, rapid rises and falls in pitch. And then a ecstatic full throated peak in the chorus. This song among many others shows me what a vocal virtuoso Hikaru really is. Finally, Time Limit is a straight up fantastic R and B piece in a bit more traditional style with a fabulous blending of Hikaru's lovely whines and cries, harmonious backing vocals and a really tasteful rap breakdown. These are my favorite songs but For You has a cool groovy breakdown and lovely smoothness in the vocals with some nice keyboard touches and some plucked strings flourishes I also like Parody and Sunglasses. I also really like the flowing silky glossy look of Hikaru on the cover to the album. It is really aesthetically appealing but her downcast eyes suggests the Distance in the title. Overall, I give this album 5 stars.
I am surprised to finally see a fairly new thread about Kana Nishino one of my favorite singers ever from anywhere. She has such a beautiful and resonant R and B base mixed in with cute concept, country, and a roller coaster of emotion bursting with joy to bittersweet sadness in her ballads, also mixing a touch of country like in Darling and When I Find My SoulMate with Japanese traditional and plenty of highly appealing pop. I have no idea what she is doing now, though I miss her singles, albums and live performances. Not only is Kana one of the few single artists who can sell out dome tours by concentrating almost completely on the quality and charm of her voice and personality (since she doesn't focus that much on dancing), but she also set a record by having the most number 1 songs on the short lived digital download chart from 2009 to 2012. During this stretch, she had an amazing 12 number 1 singles on this chart, which I believe is the most during this period.
Here is a list of all her number 1 digital download singles. I love all these songs:
1. Motto 2 weeks week of October 20 and week of November 3
2. Dear 1 week week of December 1
3. Best Friend 3 weeks
4. Aitakute Aitakute 2 weeks
5. If 2 weeks
6. Kimitte 3 weeks
7. Distance 2 weeks
8. Esperanza 1 week
9. Tatoe Donnani 2 weeks last week of 2011 and first week of 2012
10. Sakura, I Love You 2 weeks
11. Watashitachi 3 weeks
12. Go For It 1 week chart is discontinued while this song is number 1
Sooyoung. I also think Sooyoung has the quickest wit, is the funniest and does the best impersonations on variety shows
Tayeon for having such a beautiful, strong and soulful voice and charisma
but the whole group is beautiful most of all in the music and stage presence
My opinion of SNSD has changed dramatically in a positive way over the last couple of weeks. I like them as much as my previous top favorites.