Album review: Hikaru Utada - Heart station

Hikaru Utada - Heart station | Random J Pop

My future wife and the J-Pop Goddess (Yes Miss Hamasaki, you need to sit down!) that is Hikaru Utada is back with a new hair cut, a white shirt, a lesbian aura and a face that looks like she has a failing internal organ. Oh yeah! And her fifth studio album Heart station. She prick teased her fans for a whole year, but she's finally given up the goods. So after a string of successful albums and a music career in which Hikaru rarely (if ever) drops the ball, how does her brand new album fare?

Heart station starts off incredibly strong. "Fight the blues" kicks things off with its uplifting chorus and playful melody. F**k knows why Hikaru didn't release this as a single, because it's fire! Then comes the title track "Heart station", which is probably one of my favourite songs on the album because Hikaru works the R&B line that she hasn't towed since Distance. The beat has a very Timbaland-esque style about it with its shifty drums and heavy bass lines. A fantastic song, which is heightened by the cool subject matter and Hikaru saying "Baby, can you hear me?" in a way that makes me want to book a ticket to Japan and seduce the hell out of her. The album then throws the hauntingly beautiful "Beautiful world". The song flows like a more emotive and sweeping version of "This is love" from Hikaru's Ultra blue. It's a great song and Hikaru's vocals are heavily layered, resulting in her to sounding alot more subdue than normal - blending perfectly with the music and unifying with it completely. Then comes "Flavor of life", which has to be one of Hikaru's best ballads to date. The changing melody, the orchestrated strings, Hikaru's sexy low register - the song is near perfection. "Stay gold" is pretty generic on a first listen, but it's simplicity does grow on you and you soon find yourself drawn to the song and how beautiful it is. "Kiss and cry" once again has Hikaru tapping into an R&B sound. With old skool hip-hop style drums, an abrasive horn sample and trippy synths: the song is incredibly funky. I'm partial to do the robot, and pop and lock to this track. I love how it bounces and it's a shame Hikaru didn't do a proper music video for the song when she released i, instead of some anime bullshit and several close ups of a Nissin pot noodle.

After the obligatory interlude which every Hikki album has, the album begins to lose some steam. "Celebrate" is a nice song, but it sounds like a stripped down version of "One night magic" from Ultra blue. The way Hikaru breaks it down before the chorus, calling out the DJ and sexy ladies working dresses is hot and pretty surprising. But as a whole the song feels like it's missing something. "Prisoner of love" also feels like it's lacking something. It sounds alot like "For you" from Hikaru's Distance, only with stronger vocals and some orchestrated strings. "Take 5" has Hikaru going all Björk on us, as she did on her English language album Exodus. The song is cold and as haunting as f**k. It chills me to the bone and makes me skip back to "Celebrate", but it's a nice song. The song does feel like it's going nowhere around the 3 minute mark though. More of a climax would've made this song much better. "Boku wa kuma (I'm a bear)" is pretty crap and should've been included as a bonus track. Whilst the song has a unique charm about it carried by Hikaru's cute delivery and the songs' simplicity, it should've been tagged onto the album as a bonus track as opposed to a fully fledged part of the tracklist. "Niji-iro bus (Rainbow coloured bus)" is a nice song and a cool close to the album. It would make a great theme song, because I could definitely imagine it on a TV show or a Japanese drama. A nice uplifting track. The original version of "Flavor of life" is tagged onto the end of the album as a bonus track. Whilst it's cool to hear the song with a more uplifting melody, it's nowhere near as good as the ballad version because the faster tempo, rapid blips and pulses that whizz around the song detract from the emotion of Hikaru's vocals - something which stands out on the ballad version and also sells it. This song being stuck as the last song of the album also dampens the effect of "Niji-iro bus".

Heart station feels quite dreary and depressing as an album. Perhaps understandable given the expectations everybody has of her and her music, and that she divorced less than a year ago. But even so, Heart station has a very melancholic undertone. The first half of the album is solid, but the second half feels too sedated and unpolished. Almost as though Hikaru's heart wasn't in it. A cool aspect of Heart station is that it fuses sounds and elements of her past albums First love, Deep river, Exodus and Ultra blue - acting almost as a retrospective of her sound. This is nice for those whose first exposure to Hikaru is Heart station, even though they won't pick up on the throwback elements.

I can guarantee Hikki fans will like this album, but I cannot guarantee you'll find this album amazing. Heart station is definitely worth a listen, but not all of the songs will not hit you straight away as they did on Distance or Deep river. You definitely have to listen to the album several times before you can fully appreciate it, but it still stands that this is quite a boring album on repeated listens and the the first half of the album is a heck of a lot stronger than the last. Hikaru Utada's talent is undeniable and she has nothing to prove at this stage in her career. But she definitely needs to switch up her sound a little. Heart station is a good album, but not a terrific one, and I personally prefer Ultra blue. With all this said, this album is certainly better than what most J-Pop bitches put out when they're firing on all cylinders and is most certainly worth a purchase. Then again, I'll buy anything Hikaru puts out, because she's got me p***y whipped like that.

RATING: 7 / 10

Album highlights:
■ Fight the blues
■ Heart station ★ J's fave
■ Beautiful world
■ Flavor of life -Ballad version-
■ Kiss & cry
■ Celebrate
■ Niji-iro basu

Comments

  1. the only song that i like from this album is prisoner of love.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm late than a muthaf**ka!

    *wouldn't have it any other way*

    I've actually had this album for quite a while and have listened to it all the way through many times and I honestly think there isn't a bad song on it. There are a couple quirky ones ("Boku wa Kuma" is weird as hell) but my feelings of every song range from like to f**king love (with the entire first half going towards the latter).

    ReplyDelete
  3. My favorites on the album are: Prisoner of Love, Take 5 (someone on youtube edited the song to have an end), Goodbye Happiness, Heart Station and Flavor of Life.

    For me, Prisoner of Love and Take 5 are great

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  4. Random J. Utada didn't drop the ball on this Album. You dropped the ball on this review.

    Not one mistake was made on this Album except the bonus track should have been excluded and DID take away from Niji-iro BASU's closing.

    Not boring, depressing out dreary. Every song is solid and polished.

    I want a retraction.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This review is my opinion. Just as your comment expresses yours. You will get no retraction. If you want a review which is more in line with how you feel about this album, then search Google to find one.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Lulz. Didn't think you'd reply. I was just being dramatic. Didn't actually expect a retraction either. Again, just playing.

    And I wrote my own review 5 years ago as well. So it's all good.

    Sorry if I made you feel any kind of way. Cheers.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Funny, it is my first and only japanese cd i bought, i jave to say my love forma hikki is as consistant as ayu's actual musical direcction, 😀 , and many songs you listed as favs are the ones i don't give a shit about XD form me stay gold, take 5, and boku wa kuma makes sense with the concept. I hope she keeps this sound forma a while, i think un the ver y deep of her heart she wants to make music as alternativa as this, about what you said above. Geez she has of jpop what i have of americano, NOTHIN' . and the lyrics, well, the woman it's nota miliyah kato but it's ok. This das the only álbum i could stand complet with no interrumptions, everything from ultra blue till exodus is nice, from deep river till first love, god awful as beyonce's face at monday mornings, srsly no one will tell this woman wants to be "serious" as a musician with such a basic taste *ifuckinhateR&B*

    ReplyDelete

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