Revisit the Highly Underrated Utada Hikaru Album: Exodus

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  • Utada Hikaru (宇多田ヒカル) released an English album titled Exodus, in 2004 in an attempt to break into the Western market. The album was not well-received in the United States. Utada has mentioned that it is a very experimental, mad scientist kind of album. Many songs on this album do have pretty unique sounds. However, many people find the lyrics in this album pretty weird and I must admit that I myself feel embarrassed for Utada as she sings some of the lyrics.

    Many of the songs also have sexual lyrics to them which make it seem like she purposely wrote them to appeal to the Western market in which there are many popular songs with sexual lyrics. It does not work well with Utada in my opinion as she does not have that kind of image.

    Personally, I think Utada made a mistake by releasing Easy Breezy as the first single as it is a pretty mediocre and safe song.
    This song may have turned away other listeners from listening to more of her songs from the Exodus album. Utada most likely released this song due to its radio-friendly tune and memorable chorus phrase.

    However, many people actually find the lyrics “You’re easy breezy and I’m Japaneesy” really funny and thought it was poor, cheesy rhyming. From my interpretation, I guess what Utada meant was that the guy (most likely a Westerner) thinks that he is easygoing and could get any girls easily, and he thinks that Utada is an “easy” Japanese girl.

    Nevertheless, I think there are more noteworthy tracks on the album such as:

    Animato

    This song just seems to transport my mind to somewhere else. The chorus itself does not seem very outstanding, but I find I can’t help but to keep listening to the song. This attraction of this song is not so much about the chorus, but the overall song and background music which seem to tap into your psyche. The lyrics seem quite here and there and contain references to Utada’s favorite artists such as Freddie Mercury, Led Zeppelin, and Elvis Presley. If this song were a painting, it would be an abstract one.

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    This song narrates the story of a prostitute’s life. Utada was inspired to create this song as she always felt overprotected (a la Britney Spears) and when she thought about being unprotected, prostitutes came to mind. Somehow, it seems like pretty creative symbolism but people who do not know about this backstory would likely think that it is just another song in which Utada tries too hard to make it sound sexual for the Western market. The tune of the verse was also used in another song which is Kiss and Cry. I love the chorus of this song and despite the simple lyrics, it brings a strange feeling of sadness and loneliness.

    Kremlin Dusk

    The lyrics make references to Edgar Allen Poe’s work in the beginning. Utada said that she has been inspired by Poe. They even share the same birthday! This song can be an acquired taste to some people. If you do not enjoy songs which do not sound mainstream, it is unlikely that you would like this one. It is probably the most unique song ever produced by Utada. She really crossed her boundaries with this one and the song is about 5 minutes long which is longer than average. She was probably inspired by Bohemian Rhapsody which is roughly 6 minutes long and was composed by Freddie Mercury, one of her favorite artists. Towards the end of the song, I really like the part in which she sings “Is it like this? Is it always the same? When a heartache begins, is it like this?” as it is so heartfelt.

    You Make Me Want to Be a Man

    The music video has been compared to Bjork’s Love is All Around but I don’t think they are similar at all. After all, robots in music videos are not new or unique. Some people may find this song too repetitive but I find the tune very unique and addictive. Try listening to it a few times before deciding whether you like it or not. I also recommend that you check out the remix by Bloodshy and Avant as it is pretty good to listen to. At least in this song, the lyrics are pretty meaningful and do not make me cringe.

    The song is about her desire to be a man so she could understand her husband. In the song, she pleads “Baby please, don’t light that cigarette” because she wants her husband to talk to her instead of avoiding it through smoking (which is probably what some of you guys like to do!). The lyrics “arguments that have no meaning, this is just the way I am” is quite humorous and many men might find this true about women.

    Exodus ’04

    If you are making a decision to leave your family and stay on your own, you will be able to relate to the lyrics “Daddy, don’t be mad that I’m leaving, please let me worry about me, Mama, don’t you worry about me, this is my story.” This is a song about moving forward, leaving things behind and exploring new things, sort of what Utada was doing at that time: Moving away from her comfort zone of producing Japanese music and trying to market her music to the Western world. It was her 3rd English single which sadly did not become very successful. A part of it may be due to the absence of a music video.

    About Me

    This is a very safe sound with a mainstream kind of pop and R&B tune. However, it is not boring in any way and most people would find this song easy to listen to. This is a song which is very personal to her which is why I do not find the lyrics relatable. Nonetheless, I would recommend this song to beginners who are not so ready to explore and fall in love with the more experimental songs in the Exodus album yet.

    When I listened to the Exodus album long ago when it was first released, I did not like it because, like many other fans, I expected it to have J-pop sounds similar to what Utada produced for her Japanese albums. Nevertheless, upon listening to Exodus again recently, I realized that my taste has changed over time and I highly enjoy and appreciate this album now.

    Perhaps Utada’s work on Exodus was way too ahead of time so I did not enjoy it back then but love it now. If that’s really the case, then Utada is really one revolutionary artist!

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