On January 19th, 1983, in the city of Manhattan, New York, a star was born. |
In the fullness of time, she would be known by many names. Among them, "Hikki" by her friends and fans and "(Kazuaki) Iwashita Hikaru" after her recent marriage but in the beginning, she was known simply as "Utada Hikaru".
This is her story...
* * * * *
In a way, it can be said that the talent for music is written in her genes. Her parents both spent their lives involved with the music industry in some way or another. Her father, "Teruzane Utada" was a producer of music while her mother, "Keiko Fuji" was something of a famous singer in her own right back in Japan who enjoyed a fair amount of fame in the late 60's to early 70's. Her mother's talents as both a singer and a songwriter seem to have passed down a generation and now those very same talents run through the veins of her daughter.
Mr Teruzane's father used to work for Shochiku (a famous Japanese movie company. Mr Kiriya Kazuaki's debut film, CASSHERN, is also under this company) in New York. Therefore Mr Utada Teruzane also moved to NY when he was 16, by his father's influence. In 1979, Ms. Keiko Fuji (real name Utada Junko, maiden name Abe Junko) moved to NY on her own to start a new life after ten years of
insane popularity as a Japanese enka singer. There she met Mr. Utada Teruzane, fell in love, and got married. Hikki's husband, Mr. Kiriya Kazuaki (real name Iwashita Kazuhiro), also moved to NY at the age of 15, skeptical about Japan's education system. In 1983, Hikki was born in Manhattan, New York. So in one way or another, each and every member of the family was connected to New York.
As a child, Hikaru ended up spending a lot of time in the recording studio along with her parents which had the effect of immersing her with music from an early age. She began to learn how to play the piano at the age of 3 years and even began to take part in the chorus of her parents recording around the age of 6 or 7. While she enjoyed many tunes that catered solely to young children, her father's influence showed her that there was more to the musical world than simple Disney tunes and even listened to the various popular rock artists of the time. A bit later in life, under the influence of her friends, her eyes were opened to the world of R&B.
Many of the fans that she has today had their eyes open to her existence from her official debut of "Automatic" but not so many are familiar with her activities as an artist before that point; as if she had sprung into existence with her debut with no past musical history to speak of and nowhere to go but forward. This is obviously not the case. As with everything else in the world, Hikaru's story had a beginning and middle and eventually, will have an end.
Hikaru's first forays into the world of music took place with her parents beside her as they formed a group called U3 when she was only 7 years old. It was decided then that each member of the group should have a stage name. Keiko was Ra U, Teruzane became Sking U and finally, Hikaru herself became H* IKASO U. Their first album as U3 was released in 1990; Hikaru was 10 at the time. The album was called U*STAR and Hikaru's contributions to the album came in the form of the illustration on the CD jacket the lyrics for two of the songs on the album. A bit later on, they released two LP's titled "Rainy Day" and "New Life" but weren't very popular and didn't catch a hold before fading from the public eye.
In 1995, the small family group changed their name to "cubic U" and soon after, released another piece of work of which, Keiko did most of the singing. This time though, Hikaru took on a bigger role than she had before and her time was soon to come...
In 1997, Hikaru changed her stage name from H* IKASO to Cubic U to distinguish herself from the name of her family's group for her solo efforts and released a single in the US. In January of 1998, Cubic U (Hikaru) sprung onto the music scene with her debut album, "Precious." All of the songs on the album were in english so perhaps, understandably, it didn't appeal very much to the Japanese public. The album received a fair amount of praise overseas though, foreshadowing and paving the way for what was soon to come...
While recording "Precious" in the studio, she caught the eye of one Akira Miyake who happened to be the music producer of Toshiba EMI and would eventually become her producer. Her voice and her looks while recording caught Miyake's eye and her suggested to her father that perhaps, she should consider a Japanese debut. Miyake continued after Teruzane, slowly persuading him and convincing him until eventually, Teruzane agreed to the idea of his daughter debuting in Japan.
She made her appearence in the October of 1998 during "Music Talk", a semi-annual event sponsored by Toshiba EMI to make known new musicians to the world of music in the hopes of being discovered. Hikaru sprung onto the stage, covering "Sukiyaki," a rather famous song which was originally sung by Kyu Sakamoto. A series of performances which amazed her audience closed with her singing a song that was soon to be released to the public. Needless to say, the audience present at the event were rather impressed.
Near the end of the year, Hikaru debuted onto the Japanese music scene with the hit single, "Automatic." The rest, as they say, is history. Various singles were released, each eating up a huge chunks of the popular music charts, finishing off with the release of her debut album in Japan, "First Love." In an unbelievably short amount of time, Hikaru and her album had climbed up to the top of the Japanese pop music stage and stayed there as her cover song, "First Love" even became the theme song of a television drama. The album "First Love" hit number 1 in the charts and stayed there long enough to hit the record as the most popular debut album released to date in Japan, selling more than 9 million copies. Live performances soon followed, raising her popularity with the crowd to even greater heights.
Despite how busy she was with her musical career, Hikaru wasn't one to shirk from hard work and as such, could still be seen around the campus of Columbia University in the US from time to time. She seemed to relish the relative anonymity that could be had in the US that was simply impossible to find in Japan. As her musical career became more of an issue though, she decided to take a break from her education to focus her attention on her music.
Her various singles and two albums, while unequalling the success of her first album, cut up a respectable swathe of the top-selling charts of Japan. Before, during, and after the release of these albums were various projects and releases, notable among them: her concerts, Bohemian Summer 2000 and Hikaru No. 5; her performance of "Blow My Whistle" with Foxy Brown for the Rush Hour 2 soundtrack; her singing of the theme song for the video game "Kingdom Hearts"; the various singles released and the news of her upcoming US debut has kept her a topic of interest in the music industry and furthermore, has kept her in the public eye. None more so than her marriage to her 34 year old photographer and video director, Kiriya Kazuaki on September 6th, 2002.
Marriage at the young age of 19 was seen as a bold and somewhat rash move on her part and undoubtedly broke the hearts of many a male fan as the teen songstress gave her heart away and tied the knot. Hikaru hastens to assure the public that her decision to wed stemmed from a natural desire to spend her life closer to the one she loves.
While nobody can predict the future with any great deal of certainty, with her current releases from her highly anticipated North American debut, it's safe to say that the future has never looked as bright for our rising star, Utada Hikaru, aptly named after the Light.
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