Deep River

Deep River was Utada Hikaru’s 3rd studio album. It was released on June 19, 2002 and reached number 1 on the charts with 2,350,000+ copies sold. In all Deep River would go on to sell over 3,605,000+ copies making in the number 8 best selling Japanese album of all time. It would also reach number 1 on the yearly charts, her 3rd album to do so. This is also her last Japanese studio album to sell over 2 million physical copies. Due to some surgery, Hikki was limited to only magazine and radio promotions. This album’s title track has a PV with it, making it her first song to have a PV and not be a single.

Deep River - Utada Hikaru

1. SAKURA Drops
2. traveling
3. Shiawase ni Narou
4. Deep River
5. Letters
6. Play Ball
7. TOKYO Nights
8. A.S.A.P.
9. Uso Mitai na I Love You
11. Bridge (Interlude)
12. Hikari

Beginning Deep River is the sensational SAKURA Drops. This song was released as the last single, along with Letters, so you could say it ended the Deep River Era, but ironically it begins this wonderful and phenomenal album. It begins with an impressive drum roll, followed the xylophone and Hikki’s lovely vocals. Anyway, the verses here sound great, but it’s the chorus that shines through. It’s catchy, the vocals are great, and the lyric content is off the charts. And the instrumentals are beautiful as well, and the panting beforehand was incredible. It’s a truly beautiful song that goes on to mentions cherry blossoms blooming and and how they sway in time and in the wind and it talks about having the last heartbreak. I really liked the guitars playing at the end, a nice little touch.

After a heartfelt song we have the extremely up-beat traveling. It’s one of her most popular, exhilerating songs to date. Not to mention the extremely large amount of English in this song, which probably is why it’s so catchy. I mean the chorus just screams up-beat, lighthearted, and infectious. Surprisingly enough even the verses are catchy. The pop feeling in this song is light yet such a colossal force. And besides the pop music, there’s a hint of dance, although it’s not techno. Either way it’s such an amazing song, and such a fan favorite.

Following is Shiawase ni Narou, lit. Let’s Be Happy, which written when Hikki was only 17. It begins with a piano playing quite lovely. And it’s quite upbeat when it comes to the chorus. It actually sounds very R&B influenced, but not to the extent of her older songs. But it does song nice with all the beats. The verses consequently sounds very sweet, and innocent, somewhat contrasting. Her vocals here were particularly good, I loved the mix of high and low. And the ad-libbing during the bridge was so unexpected but great. And as usual, the English was phenomenal.

Time for the phenomenal, profound Deep River. This song shares its name with the album. This song is considered a ballad and a beautiful one at that. You can hear the acoustic guitar immediately. Other instrumentals include a rather Indian sounding instrument and some soft drum beats. It’s one of the lighter songs on the album that has a new vibe to it. For some reason I think of an island when listening to it. Then again the PV was shot in Hawaii. Some English can be heard between the chorus. I can honestly say that this is one of my favorite songs from this period. The chorus was just so amazing and so beautiful. Overall a mind blowing ballad.

The optimistic Letters follows shortly. The beginning sounds mystical with the acoustics and the strings. And it sounds very good, especially the drum beats. And here the chorus is actually very catchy. It’s up-beat, a little optimistic, pop sounding, and just wonderful lyrically. Another little thing is that piano keys can be heard after the chorus, a nice little treat. The music is a bit on the lighter side, and all the background vocals are great. As for the regular vocals, they rocked for the most part. I only wish there was some more diversity.

Next is a rather interesting promo track entitled Play Ball. The beat is unusual to me, but then again I’m not to used to it. However it’s a very upbeat song, but sadly that’s about it. It did use a bit of English, but it’s not her best song. The chorus was very fast paced, unlike the verses which were slow. I did like the instrumentals though, somewhat nice. Very light, nice use of the harp, strings, and some beats. Nothing more to say about this song except for the fact that it could’ve been better. But this song was used to promote the album on the radio like This Is Love, Parody, and Fight The Blues.

For some reason TOKYO Nights seems to make such a title? When Hikki told her father about the title he told her it sounded like a title her mother would make, hence the good title. Anyway, the song begins right away with some traditional instruments, very fast paced. And the verses are as equally good as they are fast. Drum beats signal the chorus, which sounds breathtaking as always. And the chorus sounds so catchy. I think it’s because of the fast music and the incredible vocals, Japanese and English. And you can even hear some English towards the end of this song, that is spoken perfect as always.

A.S.A.P. which is As Soon As Possible, in case you didn’t know. Beginning with some church bells it sounds rather ominous. And once the drums, and screeching instrumentals play it sounds somewhat scary. But than the strings play and it’s a little better. The fast moving music along with the catchy verses quickly pull you in just as the chorus begins. And the chorus is catchy with the A.S.A.P. in it and all, not to mention the English. Quite a bit on English is used in this song. I love the constant beat of this song. And there’s an almost whistling sound, or a tea kettle. I can honestly say that it’s a nicely written song. Overall a chilling yet beautiful song.

The memorable Uso Mitai na I Love You lit. A False/Unbelievable I Love You is up. Most people will remember this rock song because it has the same hook as Simple And Clean. But besides that making this song catchy, there are also some exhilerating guitar riffs. And with that familiar melody it’s easy to fall victim to this addictive tune. Hikki also exhibited some great vocals, both deep and soft, although I wish there was more English. As for the chorus, it was impressive. Very predictable but still good. It’s a nice change of genre, rock rather than pop.

And time for the final cute of Distance, FINAL DISTANCE. This song is a ballad remake of Distance, originally on the Distance album. It’s a very emotional and moving song that can bring tears to all. The lyrics are the same except for one word, and the mood is very dark and solemn rather than up-beat. The piano and the strings are the signature instrumentals, but the strings sound so beautiful during the chorus. And the chorus is absolutely breath taking and powerful. And Hikki’s vocals are so strong and filled with intense emotions. Her ad-libbing is what I loved, especially towards the end.

Easing the transition into the final track is Bridge (Interlude). There’s a constant beat, similar to a heart. The strings are very prominent in this song, an excellent edition. And with the birds chipping it sounds very similar to a forest. It then quiets back down to the beating heart, and then finishes.

Ending the album is the breathtaking Hikari lit. Light. This word shares its name with Utada, even though Hikaru and Hikari have different vowels Hikaru comes from Hikari and it means Bright, or Brightness. This song oddly enough starts off the the chorus first, something that has now become quite common. The chorus sounds so fantastic and so full of life, so full so emotion. It shares a resemblance to her 2003 song Simple And Clean, so it sounds pretty good. The verses here are so sweet and fantastic too. What a beautiful way to end Hikki’s 3rd album.

Overall Review: Deep River was a phenomenal and moving album. I think that at this point it was one of the best albums both quality and lyrical wise. It also showed a new direction as Hikki had drifted away from her R&B roots. It’s not hard to see why it was the no. 1 album of the year and the no. 8 Japanese album of all time. Some tracks could have been better but most were just outstanding. I loved how most were so new and invigorating. And the lyrical content was so beautiful and often profound. It’s easy to see why it’s one of her signature albums, not to mention the monochromatic photoshoot.

Final Grade: 100A+


3 Responses to “Deep River”
  1. NotebookDarling says:

    Gosh you write lovely reviews.
    I want to write like you one day :]

  2. Jasonzx11 says:

    I saw a picture of Hikki wearing something like a toga in youtube. Where to get similar one worn by her??

  3. Obiwan says:

    I really like the m-flo version of Final distance, very dance oriented and good groove

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