Hikaru Utada: Deep RiverAll Grown Up…

Hikaru Utada: Deep River
Genre: JPop
CREDITS: 2002 Hikaru Utada, TOSHIBA-EMI
Track Listing:

  1. SAKURA Drops
  2. traveling
  3. Shiawase ni narou
  4. Deep River
  5. Letters
  6. Play Ball
  7. Tokyo Nights
  8. A.S.A.P.
  9. Uso Mitai Na I Love You
  11. Bridge (Interlude)
  12. Hikari

…And it’s not just because she recently got hitched. The former teeny-bopper, who gave us the melancholic First Love and made us dance to the tune of Automatic, is now a woman. While vastly different from the first album First Love, Deep River is not too far away from the atmosphere of the second album Distance. Most of the songs here are still very playful, continuing the thread that Distance started, but the entire CD itself has a newfound flavor. Deep River reflects Hikki’s maturity both as a woman and as an artist.

Let’s start off with Sakura Drops. Its slow dramatic pace and heartbreaking lyrics tell the story of love and its ups and downs. No wonder it was used for the Japanese drama First Love.

Traveling is a catchy upbeat track that doesn’t strike your fancy within first hearing, but can certainly grow on you. Soon, you’ll find yourself dancing to its rhythm. First because the words seem silly and second, it’s just as its title suggests: it makes you travel to places within your imagination.

Hikari, the last track, was used as background music for the English version of Kingdom Hearts and the opening theme for the original Japanese version of the game. For anyone who is not into videogaming, Kingdom Hearts is that popular role-playing game resulting from Disney and Squaresoft’s partnership. Who could blame these two giants for their choice of music? The song speaks of destiny, arduous journeys, and promises made in the light of hope. Perfect for an RPG! (Side note: I actually hated playing that RPG so much that I think Square and Disney are lucky they chose Hikki to do the OP theme. Hikki’s probably the only good thing I can say about it.)

Other notables are the title track itself, Deep River, a beautiful ballad that makes me think it was dedicated to her husband Kiriya Kazuaki, and Final Distance, the slower version of Distance, which we’ve first heard in the 2nd album of the same name. Final Distance is actually more soulful than its more upbeat counterpart, almost sounding like it came from a New Age album.

I enjoyed Tokyo Nights, not just because of the playful accompaniments but also because the words and rhythm itself convey a sense of adventure. Letters is probably the track that best defines Hikaru Utada’s vocal prowess, as this is where she uses her modulation techniques to the hilt. Uso Mitai Na I Love You makes use of hard rock guitar rifts, but the song title itself is almost an oxymoron, which means “A False I Love You” in English. This is arguably one of the best tracks in the album as well.

With so many lovely tracks featured in Deep River, it becomes one of those few records wherein choosing a favorite becomes a problem. Now if I can only make up my mind as to what my next “national anthem” will be. I always find it in a Hikaru Utada CD. And to think, this is an all-grown-up Hikki at her finest.

Rating: 10/10

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