March 24, 2023

Utada Hikaru Is the Least Interesting Thing about “Fantôme”

In the Staff Selections post for September, I said that I had more to say about Utada Hikaru’s comeback album “Fantôme.” Today is that day! My review of the album for The Japan Times was released online earlier today and will be out in print in a few hours.

Before the album’s release, a lot of people were saying that Utada’s comeback would be the album that “saves” JPop. But did it really need saving? No. The scene is perfectly fine, but some people aren’t willing to look past the top of Oricon for things that are actually decent. They can’t let go of their old faves who are hasbeens, flops, or retired now. A lot of people wanted Utada back because in a strange way they thought that her coming back would banish idols and make their faves relevant again. Or maybe they were just chasing after their dying youth. But no, none of this is going to happen because this album is simply not dynamic enough to create change in the industry.

To be blunt, Utada Hikaru is the least interesting thing about this album. She knows that Japanese music is robust still, hence her picking 3 unique artists to feature on this album. Too bad these guests overshadowed her. “Fantôme” made me wonder about the next Shiina Ringo, Nariaki Obukuro (OBKR), and KOHH releases rather than the next Utada Hikaru release. She didn’t create a craving in me with “Fantôme.” But how could she when she created an album that is basically a bunch of middle of the road songs that could double as drama themes? “OMG Ronald! Don’t be an ass! It’s an album about her dealing with her mom’s death!” But is it really? I mean, what does her singing about her long rumored lesbianism (well now basically confessed lesbianism) have to do with her mom’s death?

But is this really the best Utada Hikaru could do after a near decade hiatus, the death of her mother, a new marriage, and the birth of her first child? If so, maybe she needs more time to engage in those “human activities” she famously left the music industry to pursue.

My full review can be read here.