Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Don't call her Utada (wasn't that a song in "Lion King?") Call her "Hikki." Her fans, do. You'll be a fan too, once you download "Ultra Blue," Hikki's 2006 album. It compiles the hit singles she made in the four years since her last full-length release. Stand-outs include "Dareka no nagai ga kanau koro" from the soundtrack to "Casshern" and "Passion," which was on the soundtrack to "Kingdom Heart II."
Though Hikki's album has several songs with English titles (Blue, Colors, Wings, Be My Last, and Passion) none are sung in English (although "Keep Trying" does use those two words surrounded by Japanese lyrics). As you'd expect from JPop, a predictable melody takes odd minor-key turns in its execution. There's little intrusion of beats or electronic noises, and Hikki doesn't test her limited range by holding notes dramatically. Another pick here, "Making Love," is more a pop song (suggesting a wafer slice of Madonna circa the 80's) than a soundtrack for the act itself.

Don't worry, don't worry, don't worry...Kyoko Fukada isn't going to alarm you. Neither will I, so don't worry about any puns about her last name. Nothing here matches Yoko Ono at her wildest, although this singer-film actress can get a bit quirky. She seems to have had an adverse reaction to David Rose's 'Holiday for Strings.' Echoes of that fast-paced melody and its lounge-style orchestration turn up from time to time on tracks of her album "Universe."
The opening song "Kimi no Hitomi ni Koishiteru" sets the pace with cute, quickly sung lyrics. The backing shifts from Henry Mancini and Buddy Rich to Badfinger or Abba on "Swimming" (no, not sung in English) and "Shitsumon Ga Aruno." "American Shorthair" goes the bossa nova route with a prowling bass line. When you reach the last track, "People," you'll enjoy a sweet anthem with nice chord changes, as Kyoko wanders into territory that wouldn't be out of place for Petula Clark or a slightly saki-high Olivia Newton-John.


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