[Utada Hikaru] Hikki's international adventure(s) and critical success - Ayumi Hamasaki Sekai
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Old 2nd August 2022, 09:23 PM
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Hikki's international adventure(s) and critical success

Curious to hear some opinions on this.

BADモード released this year, and in addition to it being pretty damn solid (will gladly discuss this too in more detail) I was also surprised somewhat at the attention it received, including a Pitchfork review and some sort of darling status in hip indie-ish circles (if I just stepped on some toes - apologies, not the intention). Now, perhaps BADモード specifically also just caters a bit more to hip music trends than Ayu's material generally does (I mean, A.G. Cook got involved, and of course Hikki's been on an interesting path down dream poppy R&B for a while), but it still caught me a bit off guard. While both Fantôme and Hatsukoi were also excellent albums, they did not get picked up outside of the Jpop crowd (less hip, perhaps?).

To what extent has Hikki's (well, Utada's, to be precise) international adventure contributed to this? Exodus was a weird era - with Easy Breezy somehow chosen as its lead single (make no mistake, it's a fun song that perhaps received an unfair amount of backlash for what certainly were intentionally goofy lyrics, but the album has such a wealth of good material to choose from!), being promoted on Disney Channel and such. Weird, because, have you ever tried it again? It's really damn good and was way ahead of its time production-wise. This Is The One is a bit safer, but also a great album with some really good tracks. Of course, Hikki received a bit more than usual exposure too with being featured on the Kingdom Hearts' soundtracks.

Interested to hear some perspectives. I could get into much more detail, but I think it's enough to kick off a discussion (also typing all this on my phone because I don't have a laptop, have mercy). What other factors helped?

Tie-in question (I considered posting this in the Ayu chat room, too): if Ayu had followed a similar route (an attempt at the US market, a song featuring in an internationally popular video game series), would she have had similar potential? Could M(A)DE IN JAPAN have had (indie) darling success? The upcoming album? Why or why not?
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Old 9th December 2022, 02:17 PM
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Hi all, I'm resurrecting this because I just started watching First Love on Netflix and I think it is a lot more contemporary international style as a drama than many of the usual Japanese ones (even the ones on Netflix). Has anyone else watched it? It got me thinking as well about the comparison between Hikki and Ayu, comparing this (which isn't about Hikki of course but is inspired by their music and their spectre is pretty central to it) with M-Aisubeki. And I think it hits at something fundamental about Ayu which is that she is the gaudy, low-brow appeal while Hikki has always been international, mature, understated, mysterious etc. I don't mean this in a negative way towards Ayu (I prefer her as an idol, I'm way more drawn to her character, her music, her lyrics, though I acknowledge Hikki was a child genius). Ayu reminds me of 90s rappers in a super weird way - she grew up as an underdog, she didn't have a lot, she was neglected, she said herself she didn't have friends, and she went it alone, then when she achieved fame and success she flaunted it notorious BIG style. She always went her own way, thought for herself, and expressed about this in her lyrics. At the same time, she appeals to something fundamentally Japanese in her cuteness, and something fundamentally Japanese 'working class' (if we could identify such a thing in Japan) in her gyaru-ness, sometimes uncoothe-ness, etc.. She went over and above and broke all records just to be the biggest and the best at everything. She massively had something to prove. The way her psychology comes through in everything she does and the way she communicates to her fans endears her to me even more. But with Hikki, they were privileged (as far as I know), coming from an upper middle class, trans-national family of musicians etc. Of course they have their own struggles, which have come to light the last couple of years. I guess what I'm trying to get at is it's sort of a class difference in Japanese society and Hikki is the sophisticated choice for internationalists.
It's interesting the question of why Exodus etc didn't take off but Bad Mode kinda has. Especially because whenever I meet anime fans in western countries, Hikki is like the only Jpop star they know (because of Kingdom Hearts).
Anyway, my thoughts for today lol
Watch First Love! And let me know what you think
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