HEART STATION is Utada Hikaru’s 5th studio album. It was released on March 19, 2008. It reached no. 1 on the Oricon charts with 480,081 copies, but this is only from Tuesday and on, so in total the album sold 501,681 copies on the first week. In all the album has sold over 1,003,030+ copies, making it her first album to surpass a previous album. This album contains all singles from the childish Boku wa Kuma to the ethereal and mid-tempo ballad Heart Station / Stay Gold. One thing noticeable about this album is that most of the old tracks are on the beginning six, with the exception of Fight The Blues, and most of the new tracks are in the latter seven tracks. According to a magazine this is Hikki’s most heartwarming album to date. She also mentioned that her role as a women played a part in this album.
Album / 10th Anniversary Promotions:
As far as I’ve seen this is the most heavily promoted album that Hikki has released. Free ringtones were available for 4 days each for Automatic and First Love, the total downloads were 500,000+ and 700,000+ respectfully. Along with that EMI Japan is working alongside Mixi, a site similar to Facebook, to promote the album and those that write about their First Love are entered to win special prizes. Along with that 4 magazines have been give CD Data along with 20 pages full of interviews etc and some scans. A spread for ROCKIN’ ON Japan, a popular magazine, was also made. This album as marks her 10th Anniversary into the music industry. Many songs had tie-ins, thus helping promoting the album. For example, Flavor Of Life -Ballad Version- was used in Hana Yori Dango 2, and Prisoner Of Love will be used in the drama Last Friends. Stay Gold was used in an ASIENCE CM and HEART STATION was used in a Recochoku CM. And there are many other tie-ins. And feel free to comment to tell me what you think of my reviews. *Thanks to La La for the album scans!
1. Fight The Blues
2. HEART STATION
3. Beautiful World
4. Flavor Of Life -Ballad Version-
5. Stay Gold
6. Kiss & Cry
7. Gentle Beast Interlude
9. Prisoner Of Love
10. Take 5
11. Boku wa Kuma
12. Niji-iro BASU
13. Flavor Of Life
The album begins with the synth and ethereal track entitled Fight The Blues. This song was used to promote the album and was released on the radio March 3, 2008. The song begins with the music followed by Hikki ad-libbing and then Hikki singing the chorus. The chorus here is so great lyrical wise and catchy-ness. The verses are short and sweet and sound so amazing. Right before the chorus you can hear some panting in the verse, and it sounds fantastic. The lyrics talk about how everyone fights the blues and that you shouldn’t be sad because when you are your enemies are happy. It also mentions that not only men, but women too must be strong. If it wasn’t that clear there is quite a bit of English present. After Hikki sings the third chorus the music softens until she sings the second part. This music is so synth and ethereal it’d fit into her more experimental pop music. After that Hikki sings the final chorus and it sounds so beautiful. Following that Hikki ad-libs in the end of the song. It was also the first new track on the album. This was a beautiful way to begin her 5th studio album.
The next track is the radio inspired smash hit entitled HEART STATION. It was the last song to be released as a single along with Stay Gold back in February; which would explain the low sales. This song was also the most popular song on the airwaves as it was played over 1000+ times, checkmating the competition. And to top it off, it’s also the title track. Hikki stated that it represented the overall feel of the album. The chorus is fantastically written and is so catchy. The lyrics talk about a Heart Station and how it’s full of sinners and lovers. And a little bit of information, when Hikki sang this song live she would add “This is from the bottom of my heart” everyone seemed to love it and hoped that it would be added to the album, it wasn’t sadly. But on the album case after the CD has been removed you can see writing that says “This is from the bottom of my heart” how cool is that. This is such a beautiful song with an ethereal flare that everyone should hear. Here is the full review of HEART STATION.
Beautiful World, the experimental pop sensation. Originally released as the third single of the album along with Kiss & Cry, it was also the image song for Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone. This is one of her most beautiful songs in years and it’s so catchy. The song has that Ultra Blue music feel to it, but not as ethereal. The chorus filled with the piano chords is so majestic, it’s catchy enough to be a dance tune I think but that’s me. Here the lyrics talk about having just one wish come true, and telling a beautiful boy that he still doesn’t realize his beauty. The verses are simple and yet still sound so good, so elegant. In the end you can hear Hikki ad-libbing once again, it seems like she’s been doing this more lately. This song has grown to be one of my favorite songs from Hikki. Click here for the full review of Beautiful World.
We now come to Flavor Of Life -Ballad Version- which is one of her most powerful ballads. It was originally released as the second single in this era, as well as the best selling. But this was the song that was used as an insert to a popular teen drama, a huge factor in its popularity. This is by every sense a ballad. Hikki’s voice sounds deep during the verses and yet high during the chorus, a beautiful combination. The music is an array of a piano, acoustic guitar, and an orchestra of strings. The chorus is so beautiful and mesmerizing. The lyrics talk about how it’s painful when you say “thank you” and that the unbreakable magic after “good bye” is weakly bittersweet. This is one of her best songs in years as far as ballads go, and part of her most successful single for this era. For the full review of Flavor Of Life -Ballad Version-, click here.
And now for another ballad, this one entitled Stay Gold. Stay Gold was released alongside HEART STATION as a double A-Side single less than a month before this album was released, thus ending the HEART STATION Era. This song however was first heard in December when it was used in an ASIENCE Shampoo commercial, and that’s what stirred up so much speculation. The song can best be described as a mid-tempo ballad, that has a little R&B flare to it. The chorus sounded beautiful yet so short. Here the lyrics mention that “because they are loved they don’t have to worry about anything and that they should Stay Gold and keep smiling innocently.” I thought that it was a change for Hikki’s singles because the mood was slightly different, but that’s OK. A little bit of extra information is that this song, like Take 5, was inspired a bit by death, which is most notably heard during the whispers, a nice little touch. For Stay Gold’s full review, click here.
What could be better next than the hot percussion summer track Kiss & Cry. This song was considered an effervescent, summer, pop/R&B tune. It opens up with percussion instruments and then the R&B beats take effect. The verses are sweet and simple, and somewhat humorous. The chorus is so fantastic and screams upbeat. I personally think that this was the happiest of the songs released as a single, and it shows. Lyrical wise it’s not so serious as the others. It tells us to “Get closer, don’t hold back, even if you get hurt just a bit, it’s all right, Kiss & Cry.” Simple and yet sage advice, and from someone so young. Click here for the review of Kiss & Cry.
Gentle Beast Interlude, the mysterious new beginning. The interlude, I feel, is really a separation of new and old. From here one out most of the songs are new, with the exception of two songs. This is also the first interlude that Hikki actually sings, or ad-libs I guess. Anyway Hikki ad-libs a few parts until you hear Heart Station in the background and that Ai… The music is fast-paced and sounds as if a beast is racing through a forest. The music is very upbeat and has the ethereal quality. This song along with Celebrate was put onto the same demo disk, and it shows as the transition between both songs was smooth.
I didn’t notice when Celebrate began to play and that made me feel a little stupid. But it just means that the interlude did its job and that Hikki is more talented than ever. The music is so upbeat and screams dance. The verses are pretty good and are modern as far as references go. The chorus is upbeat, exuberant, and really dance-able, not to mention catchy. I love this song because it sounds so full of happiness, sadly unlike a few of Hikki’s songs. There really isn’t that many words but Hikki has found a way to lengthen the song. The lyrics mention a secret wedding on a hill where the moon can be seen, how a dress suites a sexy lady, and to Celebrate. In the background you can hear Celebrate and Hikki ad-libbing. Another little thing about the song is that part of the lyrics mention a “beast with gentle eyes awakens,” remind you of a certain interlude? What a new upbeat, hot dance tune.
Time for the song so beautiful, so profound, that it was released as a re-cut single, it’s time for Prisoner Of Love. This song was mentioned by Hikki to be the second strings song. The song is such a beautiful ballad, that does indeed feature a sad chord and amazing R&B beats. The lyrics mention how “dull everydays have begun to shine” and how “you stole my heart.” The chorus here is really great, fast paced and is catchy. This song is also going to be used in a Japanese drama, and the lyrics were asked to be for friends and lovers. A little interesting fact is that this song was first written in English then in Japanese. One thing you’ll notice is that at the end of the chorus Hikki mentions that she’s a Prisoner Of Love, just a Prisoner of Love. I thought it was going to be just another ballad, but I was wrong. This song is beautifully composed and the lyrics are great. But it sounded so sad, but I guess that’s what they meant with the sad chord. This will be released as a re-cut single on May 21, and it will feature a Quiet Version.
Just when things couldn’t get better they do with Take 5. The music was originally intended to be used for an Ultra Blue track; and was called the most unique sounding song on the entire album. Hikki stated that she had some trouble coming up with the lyrics but after some help from Miyazawa Kenji’s “Ginga-Tetsudou no Yoru,” she was able to write it. The music is by far the most synth sounding music from Hikki. The lyrics are short and yet so profound. The chorus is so catchy and sounds excellent with the music complimenting it. The lyrics mention that “Her mood today is the highest and that she wants to be translucent,” along with a few other things. It’s also epic sounding, like Kairo, but more synth involved. One of the few things about this song is that it ends so abruptly, some people wondered if it was an error on the person who leaked the album, but I think that it’s supposed to be like that because it’s the full length of the song. Some people have said that it symbolized that death can occur so unexpectedly, so maybe that’s why it stopped. It was confirmed that the song is supposed to end that way by the staff on Hikki’s website. Also, Hikki mentioned that death played a direct role in this song, she also said that she thinks of death as restful, and is fond of the idea. Truly a beautiful song filled with synth elements, despite it sounding unusual.
The next track is Boku wa Kuma, which is for the child in all of us. Boku wa Kuma was the first song to be released as a single and as a result the first single in the HEART STATION Era. To be honest with you when I first heard this song I was thinking that the album would be quite childish and dull. But thankfully this wasn’t a predictor of the mood of the album. This song was used as an image song for a children’s program, and is one of the reasons why it was so successful. The chorus is sweet and innocent, but a little repetitive. The lyrics talk about “I’m a bear, I’m a bear…” Despite it being childish, Hikki said that it taught her that being an artist means that you have to have a little fun. This song also reflects how much her bear, Kuma Chang, means to her. Not a bad song really. For the single that started it all, click here.
And now for one of the saddest songs on the album, Niji-iro BASU. This is the final new track on the album. Hikki mentions that this song has an “analog sound” to it. To me it’s almost an evolved version of Boku wa Kuma, mostly because it sounds a little childish, and yet mature, but they are great transtions. The lyrics are said to be sad, yet have a positive message to it. The song itself sounds very upbeat, contrary to the lyrics. The music is a little synth and a piano along with some beats. This song sounds a little reminiscent of her past RB works just because of the overall feel of the song. The chorus is pretty good, but not as good as the others. Throughout the song the English phrase “Everybody feels the same” can be heard. The lyrics mention that “Everybody rides the Rainbow Colored Bus to a place beyond the rainbow.” Interesting lyrics for an interesting song. Towards the end Hikki ad-libs until the song is finished. That’s really my favorite part, especially since Hikki’s voice sounds so amazing then.
Flavor Of Life, the ever popular tune. This is the original version of Flavor Of Life. Originally the album was thought to have only 12 songs, but later it was determined that the album would contain 13 songs, and this was to be a bonus track. I guess it was to make the album more appealing as the ballad version was only going to be on the album. This is also the first time that a bonus track was already released before the album. This version is more synth oriented and is faster paced, and during the verses background voices can be heard. The lyrics are the same, so there’s no point in reviewing it more. I like this version better than the ballad version so I’m glad it was added to the album, I guess it’s also a great marketing tool too. Here is the full review of Flavor Of Life. This was a fantastic way to end Hikki’s best album yet.
Overall Review: HEART STATION was excellence and beauty in the flesh. It featured some of the best singles in her entirety and the best album songs in years. I liked all these songs because they were so new and had a happier mood than some of her previous works. The new songs were so new and ethereal and synth that it’s hard not to like it. And all the new tracks were able to hold their own against those that were released as singles, a rarity for most songs. Although, recently some people have disliked this album, but I can’t imagine why, the quality is superb. This is by far one of the best albums that she’s released in years. I also loved the simplistic design of the cover and of the photobooklet. It was a phenomenal 5th album and the best way to celebrate her 10th Anniversary.
Final Grade: 110A+++