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hearing a lot from, soon.
“Utada” is her family name, and music is the family business. Born in
Manhattan to a traditional-Japanese-style-singer Mom and musician/producer Dad,
she was flying frequently between New York and Tokyo before she had learned to
walk. Now, 21 years old and bilingual, Utada prizes her unstable, nomadic
upbringing which has instilled in her an open yet analytic mind, and the
confidence to quickly adapt to any new environment.
To Utada, both metropolises are home. Then perhaps the recording studio could
be called her third. There she went after school to do homework, take naps
under huge speakers, and watch her parents recording music.
As naturally as a shoemaker’s son takes up his father’s tools, she composed and
recorded her first song at age 11. At 13, she recorded her first solo album in
English—she had written and composed most of the songs. A year later, a music
producer at Toshiba EMI casually asked her if she was capable of writing
Japanese songs. Her answer would become the first recording for her debut
album, which has sold over 9 million copies since its release in 1999.
Let me guess; that number either impressed you, or it totally turned you off
with the thought that she’s another one of those big foreign acts that try to
break the US market and can’t even cause a stir. Now, let me bet, that when you
hear Utada’s music, you will listen hard because it is nothing like what you
expected, maybe sense a smile creeping up your cheeks, and after drawing your
personal opinion, look forward with wonder to how the rest of America is going
to take it.
“I’m always troubled when people ask me to classify my music,” says
Utada. “I try to make GOOD, original music; something entertaining,
different, memorable, well-crafted, and worth paying money for. Sometimes I’m
as pop as The Police; sometimes as fierce as The Mars Volta, and I always,
always enjoy being humorous and seductive.”
In Japan, Utada quickly acquired a notoriety for sparse media exposure due to
academic priorities (like… high school!). She is currently on leave from Columbia
University, opting the intensity of her career over campus life. “I
realized that I already knew exactly what I wanted to do. And so for the first
time, I consciously chose music as a full time profession. Maybe I’ll go back
to University when I’m a grandmother.” For now she prefers doing most of
her work alone with her laptop and keyboard, sequencing and arranging,
composing, and writing lyrics.
“When my music starts playing on airwaves and clubs, I want everybody to
notice and say, ‘Hey, this is that Japanese girl, right?!’ ” …But how
will we recognize her at first, with just her music? Take it from Utada who
says, “I’ll make sure that you know it’s me.”
“written by Utada”