Sunday, June 28, 2009

Is this the one?

For my birthday, Brutus picked me up a copy of Utada Hikaru's new English language record, entitled This is the One. Utada and I go way back, her being my First Love of Japanese pop music, she always kept things Simple and Clean.

This is the One is the second Utada album to be gifted to me by Brutus in our longstanding friendship. The first, Single Collection Vol. 1, assembled the best of Utada's Japanese singles and forever affirmed her status as the queen of J-pop in my eyes.

This is the One also represents Utada's second foray into the English-language music space. Her first album, Exodus, crashed and burned in the North American market, vaguely damaging her overseas reputation. So is this album, as the title asserts, the One?

Get your own playlist at!

Brutus warned me that I would need to give the album three chances before I made any judgements. It would take me that long not to hate it. True to his word, my first listen through This is the One left me with the unimpressive sensation that I was listening to any other would-be pop diva following in the footsteps of Britney Spears circa 1998, cheap-looking self-promoting cover art and all. Whatever charm made Utada's Japanese music so likable seemed to be missing.

However, as predicted, through multiple listens, the album quickly began to grow on me. The teeny-bopper style still prevailed, but Utada's recognizable voice and J-pop familiarity began to shine through. Particularly catchy was the single Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence - FYI, which I have included for your discrimination above.

NYC, NYC, whoa, whoa... Tokyo, Tyoko, whoa, whoa...

What surprised me the most about Utada's English-language album, however, was the amount of sexual innuendo. Now that I could actually understand lyrics, some of Utada's lyrical content seemed to stand in contrast to her generally modest image. Not unwelcome, simply unexpected.

Take, for instance, the song aptly titled Dirty Desire:

When I'm alone at night, I sit and fantasize
And in my fantasies, I love you long time
Doing my nine to five, I'm thinking six and nines
I've got to make you mine

Can you feel my?
(Dirty Desire)

When I told Brutus about my surprise, he replied, "She knows Westerners are horny, so she says a couple of dirty words - platinum." But I think in terms of horniness, the Japanese already have Westerners beat.

In the end, Utada's album invokes in me teen angst over love and relationships that are highly reminiscent of high school. Her trademark style is in there somewhere, so I still hope that she will be able to take off in the North American market (I actually heard her song playing at Suzy Shier when shopping with my girlfriend). Ganbatte!


sandlot said...

"And in my fantasize, I love you long time"

seriously? love you long time? i can't believe she sung that... i'm quite disappointed.

a_ndy said...

Okay, sorry that was my bad. It was "fantasies." It's still grammatically questionable ("I love you long time"???), but not quite as bad.

Btw, what is G4T? said...

finally a post about ME. This is my most favourite post ever <3.

mello said...

heard her song at suzy shier? that really is a step! =) I've never heard non-western songs in regular malls....but then again, maybe I just don't go shopping often enough. haha

a_ndy said...

I don't think Utada's new album should be considered non-Western music. They're English songs designed to break through in the Western market.

sandlot said...

I'm not talking about the gramatical aspect of the phrase (although that itself is quite bad). "love you long time...", it's these types of phrases that continually perpetuate this asian female stereotype of a "geishia lady" hyper-sexualized demure and "exotic".

I bet you it was a white guy who wrote it.. or some asian guy who thought it would appeal to westerners.

G4T = go for tea... i thought you would know this. lol.

Alexis said...

That song is pretty explicit (my goodness, it took me like five minutes to think of the word explicit.. I must be very tired). Kind of surprising, like you said.

a_ndy said...

@sandlot - Oh, I guess I should've known that. I thought you were talking about some kind of trendy electronic device, like a smart-phone.

Go For Tea might be expensive, but it has a licence in awesomeness, so it's all worth it in the end.

As for your contempt for the perpetuation of Asian females as sex objects, I like the way you think. However, I have to admit in the name of fairness that white teeny bopper pop queens often also have hyper-sexualized lyrics.

Joyce said...

I definitely prefer her Japanese songs, her English lyrics always turn me off. Maybe her Japanese ones are just as bad, I just can't understand them. 8D;;;

Michael said...

Okay I gotta step in here. While "me love you long time" has become this running joke about the linguistic abilities of FOB-y azn whorestitutes (prostitutes who do it cuz they're whores, DUH!), the REASON it's so pervasive is not (entirely) some malicious racist whiteman's agenda.

It's a direct quote from Full Metal Jacket, which is a pretty fucking brilliant movie with a predictably large societal influence.

Here is the scene in question (from imdb):
Da Nang Hooker: Hey, baby. You got girlfriend Vietnam?
Private Joker: Not just this minute.
Da Nang Hooker: Well, baby, me so horny. Me so HORNY. Me love you long time. You party?
Private Joker: Yeah, we might party. How much?
Da Nang Hooker: Fifteen dollar.
Private Joker: Fifteen dollars for both of us?
Da Nang Hooker: No. Each you fifteen dollar. Me love you long time. Me so HORNY.
Private Joker: Fifteen dollar too beaucoup. Five dollars each.
Da Nang Hooker: Me sucky-sucky. Me love you too much.
Private Joker: Five dollars is all my mom allows me to spend.
Da Nang Hooker: Okay. Ten dollar each.
Private Joker: What do we get for ten dollars?
Da Nang Hooker: Every t'ing you want.
Private Joker: Everything?
Da Nang Hooker: Every t'ing.
Private Joker: [to Rafterman] Well, old buddy, feel like spending some of your hard-earned money?