Distance was Utada Hikaru’s much anticipated sophomore album. It was released on March 28, 2001 and took number 1 on the charts with 3,002,720 copies sold in the first week. This album would go on to sell over 4,469,135+ copies. This album also reached number 1 on the yearly charts making it her second number 1 album of the year. Distance is also the highest selling album of Japan in the 21st century, and the 4th highest selling album in Japan.
Some background information: both Hikki and Ayumi were some of biggest J-Pop divas, if you will, and both were releasing an album on the same day. Ayumi was releasing A BEST, her 1st compilation album, while Hikki was releasing Distance, her 2nd studio album. Now before this as they both were extremely popular each of their labels were creating a feud, if you will. This was really accomplished when Avex, Ayumi’s label, released A BEST on the same day as Hikki’s Distance. Now when the two albums were released Distance came in 1 with 3,002,720 copies sold, this gave it the highest first week sales, while A BEST sold 2,900,000 copies, making it the second highest first week sales. Both albums would reach the yearly charts with Distance at 1 and A BEST at 2.
1. Wait & See ~Risk~
2. Can You Keep A Secret?
7. Addicted To You [UP-IN-HEAVEN MIX]
8. For You
11. Time Limit
12. Kotoba ni Naranai Kimochi
13. HAYATOCHI-REMIX (Bonus Track)
Kicking off Hikki’s sophomore album is the R&B tune Wait & See ~Risk~. It’s one of her oldest R&B songs and it’s fast paced. The music is catchy and the vocals are to die for. And like many songs from Hikki, it incorporates some English. But there are some rock elements like the guitar present. A great way to begin her album.
Ending the Distance Era was Can You Keep A Secret?. It too like distance reached no. 1 on the yearly charts. It’s another one of her R&B songs and the last one she released. It’s up-beat, extremely catchy, and repetitive with the English. But it’s a good thing in this case. The acoustic guitar in this song was pretty good too. The beats were great, although they weren’t as strong as usual, but on the bright side they were a bit different. And the vocals were amazing as usual.
Up next is the memorable title track Distance, which gives its name to the album. And although it begins with an almost childish start featuring the little twinkles, or some xylophone music, don’t let that fool you. This song has some very deep and profound lyrics. The chorus is as equally catchy as it is great, and it is. It sounds sweet with the innocent vocals and the background vocals. And although I love how up-beat this song is it’s still odd to hear this version after hearing FINAL DISTANCE, they’re mirror opposites in the music sense. Anyway, the music is great and somewhat mid-tempo and the English was so fitting. And the mini-trumpets in the song were incredible. One of the must hear songs on the album.
Making an appearance is the ever smooth Sunglasses. It’s another great R&B track that I have recently come to love. It gets off to an almost mystical start with the orchestra like instrumentals but quickly changes into a laid-back R&B tune. The beats are smooth yet infectious. The vocals are great and so soft at a few points. It’s no surprise that the song overall is addictive and that the chorus is magnificent. Not to mention catchy, those background vocals really help. And the guitar I believe, or some synth instrument, maybe a keyboard during the bridge is just liberating. And one interesting fact, a PV it seems, or some studio footage was released for this song. So it’s somewhat of one of a promo track, so listen to it!
Shaking up the album is the rock oriented Drama. It’s pretty aggressive thanks to the guitar riffs and drum beats. It has some interesting lyrics and unique vocals. At some points they’re deep at others they’re soft. At times it was hard to hear Hikki sing due to the guitar. And although I’m not too fond of this track, it sure is catchy. Especially with the all the English.
One of the few ballads on the album is Eternally. It still contains some R&B despite being a ballad but it works for the song. And the strings were just beautiful, along with the piano and the bassline. Then there’s the chorus which is rather beautiful and profound. It utilizes some English along with some strong vocals. And the English makes this song so amazing. The background vocals were great too. The song was altered and remixed for the 2008 drama Innocent Love, and might be released physically even. That being said, you know it’s good.
Even heavier in the R&B vibe is Addicted To You [UP-IN-HEAVEN MIX]. It contains some heavy beats and smooth vocals. The R&B sound is very strong, and it’s the prominent force. It’s infectious to a degree and pretty addictive. But that’s no surprise since it’s one of her oldest songs. Hikki also exhibits some great high vocals in this song.
Another R&B ballad present is For You. As I said this song really isn’t one of my favorites and it didn’t catch my attention for the most part. I did like the beats though but overall it wasn’t all that catchy. There were some points where it was strong and catchy, but it wasn’t enough. But on the bright side the vocals were strong and there were some strings. But it’s still one of her weaker tracks. The second title track was stronger. Still a good song, just not as powerful as the others.
Rocking the album is Kettobase! lit. Kick it off! It’s the last rock song on the album. The rock music with the guitar and drums are to die for. And the beginning is pretty memorable. The chorus is catchy, and that guitar playing sounds so riveting. And the vocals are perfect and powerful.
Oh no, it’s a Parody! That’s actually a loose translation, but the song is good. Parody was actually used to promote the album over the radio, much like This Is Love for Ultra Blue. The lyrics are very playful and rather humorous. Like most of her songs, English is used and for this one the English has never sounded better. The music sounds up-beat and it has that distinct R&B feel. The chorus sounds so catchy and addictive, and a little funny too lyrically. During the bridge you can hear guitars along with drums which leads into the final chorus. And in the end you can hear her singing in English, which makes it even better. Overall this is one of the best songs on the album.
A lighter R&B infused song is Time Limit. Which was arranged by Rodney Jerkins of Darkchild, hence the American sound. The music is lighthearted with some great beats. Obviously the chorus is catchy and the English is impressive. One of her better up-beat tracks for sure.
Sweeter and more notable is Kotoba ni Naranai Kimochi lit. Feelings That Can’t Be Put to Words, or Indescribable feelings. It’s mostly R&B but theres a hint of ballad in this song. The mid-tempo music sounds great with the odd beats. And the chorus in this song is the catchiest part. There really isn’t much English in this song, but that doesn’t stop this song from being good. One interesting thing is that the melody is from Interlude on First Love, and the vocals sound the same too.
Ending the album is HAYATOCHI-REMIX, which is a remix of the track Hayatochiri on Hikki’s Wait & See ~Risk~ single. This song sounds a lot better than the original with the piano opening and with the jazz-like feel. I really didn’t like the original that much but for some reason I like this song better. The song later develops more of a distinct R&B vibe. The sensational beats were smooth, and very effective in this song. The ad-libbing is amazing along with the vocals. The vocals were great due to the fact they’d be low and high frequently and intertwined. Not to mention how much English was used, even though it was mostly when she’d ad-lib. And the music is off the charts. It’s an irresistible way to end Hikki’s sophomore album.
Overall Review: Distance was R&B excellence! It’s actually my fourth favorite album from Hikki, but she only has had five Japanese albums, so that’s good I guess, but all are incredible. This is also one of her most R&B influenced albums she’s released. I loved all of the singles that she released in this period, and how they were so amazingly good. There were some songs that I didn’t like that much, well they just weren’t that good, but the ones that I liked were terrific. But overall this is perhaps one of the best albums that I’ve listened to. One of the best sophomore albums easily!
Final Grade: 100A+