Utada Hikaru MSN Interview – HEART STATION

by sljinu on December 2, 2008 · 7 comments · AddThis

HEART STATION Promo

This article is translated from an interview done with Utada Hikaru by MSN.
Translation by sljinu

MSN: Your previous work, Ultra Blue was released four years after its predecessor and on the 1st July 2006 you began your first nationwide tour in six years. Since that tour, you’ve been writing new music so could you please explain as to how you went about creating this album.

Utada: In between performances, I’d compose small segments quickly and it all came about like that. There were already a few singles released so I thought “Ok, I’ll do it properly and make a proper album”. The songs actually came out so smoothly and progress was so good that I thought I could continue on like this until the end. However, that progress only lasted up until the last three songs. Progress slowed down severely and I was like “Oh my God…” so basically, we kind of rushed the last two tracks.

The thing is, as you complete the final songs for the album, you have to start thinking about the overall balance of it as you make it. I mean, at the beginning, you also have that thought in mind but there’s also so much more freedom involved when you start composing. However, as you come to the final two songs or so, it becomes a bit like the last puzzle piece where how it fits in will depend on all the others. I definitely think that the last part is the hardest. A bit like the decorative icing I guess.

From the beginning, I had always intended to make this album easier to listen to so anyone can enjoy it. I always aimed for a simple melody, simple lyrics and a simple message rather than overcomplicating it all. But overall, I had a lot of fun making this album. It’s got quite a masculine feel to it but that’s because that’s the way I am at the moment. It’s got quite a nice feeling to it I think.

 

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MSN: Your new song, Heart Station has that radio motif, shown by the line “Radio waves of the heart”. Can you explain as to why it’s also the same name for the album? It seems you were quite determined to make it so.

Utada: While working on the arrangement for the song, I was thinking that I should probably get started on working on the lyrics too. With that, I had all these ideas come to mind and when I randomly thought “Heart Station”, I thought like “Oh, it’s got a nice ring to it”. The ideas for the lyrics also gradually began to form and by the time we decided to go with the title “Heart Station”, the song had already gained a lot of popularity at the recording studio. Everyone was like “Oh, this sounds good! We need to come up with an album title now…” then I just randomly spouted “I think Heart Station would be good,” and everyone else was like “Really? Hmm, sounds good. Let’s call it Heart Station then!”

HEART STATION PV Screenshot

Afterwards, I was asked countless times if I was really sure that I wanted “HEART STATION” as the title and I was like “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” That was because up until now, I haven’t really used the word “heart” and it’s quite simple. Usually, I’d have to think hard about all the components to the song but in this case, it came out really naturally. I hope the audience can also feel how direct and honest this song is. Also, “Heart Station” is really easy to pronounce in Japanese isn’t it?

 

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MSN: The motivational title, Fight The Blues kicks the album off to a start. Why did you choose this particular track to be the opening one? And also, please elaborate as to why the dramatic yet familiar tracks HEART STATION, the ending theme to the highly anticipated remake of Evangelion, Beautiful World, and the image song to Hana Yori Dango 2, Flavour of Life – Ballad Version- followed afterwards.

Utada: The producer, Miyake, suggested that since the previous album’s title was Ultra Blue and it featured the song Blue, what if we were to use Fight the Blues as the first track to signify the scattering of the past? That’s why it’s the opening track to the album. I made this song right after the single for Beautiful World/Kiss & Cry I think. These days a lot of people are quite discouraged and then there are a lot of people who are completely depressed right? That’s why I wanted to do a song which literally sent out the message of “Fight those blues!”. Just a simple and straight message like that.

 

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MSN: The 6th track, Kiss & Cry was used in the Nissin Cup Noodle Freedom Series commercial. Apparently, when you listened to this song all over again, I heard you discovered something unexpected. Could you also please discuss how you came about writing these profound lyrics?

CD Data Magazine Scan

Utada: I actually haven’t listened to this song for quite awhile but looking at it now, I found there were quite a lot of things that I liked about it. Like, for example, I thought “Wow, these lyrics are pretty good! The arrangement is also really cool!” or something like that. I wanted to write quite a lively song and after writing it, I still feel that this has the most energetic feeling to it and that it’s probably the most polished song too. It sounds a lot better listening to it on the album than as the single.
With regards to the lyrics, I integrated a lot of Western and Oriental beliefs together to form a single philosophy. Like for example, with the Western culture, people believe that your destiny is what you make it and that you’re in control while in Asian culture, people tend to believe that it’s all been pre-determined and that we can’t do a thing about it. I actually believe in both ideas and I thought that this fusion of philosophies worked quite well in Kiss & Cry.

 

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MSN: From the 7th track onwards, the new tracks appear. Why did you make Gentle Beast Interlude as the introduction to the 8th track, Celebrate?

Utada: I just wanted to use the interlude as an introduction to Celebrate.Then it was a bit like “Oh, then isn’t it ok if we just use it as an interlude here?” and that turned into “Then let’s just do it like that”. I’m glad the album actually turned out like this where the first half was incredibly structured with all those A-sides and then the second half became a little chaotic. Putting this song here, it’s like “Celebrate because everything is finished” although the actual final piece that needed to be done was the interlude.

 

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MSN: Turns out Celebrate was the song with the temporary title. It seems you were so excited about making a song with that ‘Go! Go!’ up-tempo dance beat.

Utada: This song was the last to be completed for the album. Beautiful World also has that up-tempo feel but it’s not the type that you’d dance to, nor is it the type that has that really up-beat positive feeling as you said, and that’s pretty much what I wanted. I hadn’t finished it yet but I felt really motivated to do it; to do something that shares the party-feeling like that of Eivissa (Ibiza). I wanted the high-hats to be played a lot more gaudily when we were arranging it, and the people around me were like “Don’t you think this is overdoing it a little?” and I was like “Yeah, so?” Oh by the way, the song that was temporarily titled Yakekuso*, was this song.

Out of all the works I’ve done so far, Celebrate has been the quickest to complete. The composing, the arranging, the lyrics and the recording; it was all done in a period of five days. I was really shocked by how easily I finished it. I wanted to write the lyrics in a kind of Japanese hip-hop-ish way so I wrote in a similar style to Japanese rappers such as Orange Range. I used a lot of layering with my voice in this song to give the effect of a girl band singing the song**. The atmosphere for each verse is different. I often use this effect actually but I felt it worked particularly well in this song. I wanted to make this song such that it would have a dance beat to it but still be really stylish. And by stylish, I mean as in, it would suit the clubs of Aoyama more than those of Shibuya. It would give me great pleasure if they do use it in their clubs.

* Yakekuso means ‘Desperation’
** Utada makes a comparison to the American girl band, TLC

 

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MSN: There are also those fans who frequently check your homepage and were quite excited when you reported on your blog that you finished recording Prisoner of Love.

Distance Promotional Photo

Utada: I just felt like posting news about it since it’s been awhile since I’ve written a song that brought me great satisfaction. I used to make a lot of songs like this earlier in my career and since it’s got that feeling of already having been done, I tended to avoid the use of similar chord progressions and such. However, since one of the album themes was ‘honesty’, I thought “Well, why don’t I just follow that?” I thought I should just compose it because I liked it, rather than avoiding it simply for the sake of aversion. I then just pretended that it was my first R&B song again since I realized it didn’t matter that I had already composed the likes of these before. So to speak, since this style is a bit like my specialty, it was a bit difficult as well. I realized there was no need to stop doing R&B so that’s why it came out naturally. I thought “Oh, I’ve become a lot more honest with myself” (laughs).

 

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MSN: Then there’s your deep song, Take 5. In this song, it seems that you’re keeping the subject of the motif a secret from the listener.

Utada: First of all, just as a bit of trivia, the orchestra we used in this song is actually the same orchestra that we used for ULTRA BLUE. On ULTRA BLUE, there was this song called Kairo that was completed near the end. The night before we were going to do the actual recording, I thought “I wonder if it’s ok to release this strange song” and I thought “Oh, I’ll just compose an alternative just in case” and that track was this one. I then brought it to the studio and let everyone listen but they all said “Yeah, this is really good too but don’t you think that Kairo is more suitable for this album?” so this one was out. I forgot it for awhile but just as I ran out of ideas for HEART STATION, I remembered I still had this one so I thought “Oh I’ll just use that!” When I finished with the melody and the lyrics, I thought “Wow, this song is way weirder than what I first imagined!” Miyazawa Kenji wanted to make it like the line to the Milky Way like that moment where after you die, you separate from your body and become a star. I had the image of Giovanni and Campanella (an opera image) in my mind when I wrote it. The song was called Take 5 since HEART STATION is my 5th studio album.

 

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MSN: And now for the last decorative track of the album, Nijiiro Bus. It seems that your real objective for the album is hidden within the lyrics for this song.

Utada: I wanted to make like a cute, analog style song. I realized I haven’t travelled by bus to go on a picnic or something like that for quite a long time now. I made this song using my childhood memories and all sorts of other nostalgic thoughts. In the song, the bus actually has a flying feeling as opposed to one of driving and it basically takes you to all these places. It has this ‘Beatles’ feel to it. In the end, it takes you to a world where there is nobody and it finishes. That was the real intention. In the first half, it’s quite a bright, cute and fun song because that’s what I originally planned but somehow, it ended up like that. It has this feeling of “Sorry, I’ll tell you what’s really happening…this is where the twist comes in”. It’s actually quite interesting how this appears at the end where no follow-up occurs.

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Bonus – The following section is composed of a seperate interview by MSN regarding Utada Hikaru’s single, HEART STATION/Stay Gold.

Cover

MSN: HEART STATION is the CM song used for your record company and in that CM, you were featured dancing about in your Kuma-chan costume. This song is going to be available for download from the 21st of January on Chaku-Uta. I do believe that this is going to be another immensely popular song so could you please explain how you went about composing this song?

Utada: I finished this song only extremely recently. However…I did have the introduction prepared from a long time before. I had it ready since…probably ULTRA BLUE. I always wanted to use it in some way because I really liked it but I wasn’t sure exactly what sort of song I could come up with and in the end, I couldn’t really do anything with it.

I used two different keyboard sounds to create the introduction. I found the use of two keyboards as a duet sounded really nice…however, after making it, I realized the bass’ tone colour didn’t really fit in with the other two, so I created another tune on the keyboard and then forming the three of them together…it was quite easy to compose. Coming to think of it, there aren’t many other? Like, there aren’t many song which have three layers of keyboards used.

Then basing the entire sound around this intro, it was really easy to compose the entire song too. I wanted this entire song to actually be the riff as opposed to something like Sakura Drops where the riff actually stands out against the rest of the song. Also, as soon as we finished the arrangement at the studio, my ideas for the lyrics just popped into my mind and I just instantly formed the title “Heart Station”…it just felt right. That’s why it was also really easy to write up the lyrics afterwards.

 

MSN: It seems as though this song is based on this radio motif again and additionally, it seems by the frequent updates to the radio station pages that everyone is really excited about HEART STATION. The keyword that appears when discussing HEART STATION seems to be “radio”. Can you please explain as to why you selected this theme since you have concentrated a lot on this idea.

Utada Hikaru

Utada: These days, people think things like “Isn’t it better just to download the mp3?” or “There’s already the internet radio and mobile TV etc”…it’s quite tough on the radio industry these days. Like, the age of the radio is fading away but I quite like it because it’s tied to that idea of nostalgia now. I like this world of the radio. It has that hand-made feeling to it, that analog feel, the idea of loving music. All those positive feelings are associated with it. Since the song has that sort of image to it, that’s probably why the idea of the radio came up. After all, I chose the theme as “Radio waves off the heart”.

 

MSN: It seems that you made this song for someone who is very important to you. Also, it seems that you wish for those who share those similar feelings to listen to this song too.

Utada: There was this person who was really important to me and we got along really well until one time there was this incident and we decided it was better to no longer contact each other. During our last exchange of messages, I wrote “Then, from now on, all contact will only be through the heart…” and I thought “Oh, that sounds quite nice.”
So basically, what I meant was like if there was something I wanted to say to him, say “How are you?”, since I can’t actually contact him anymore, instead, it will be like a message from my heart carried by through the form of electro-magnetic waves. If he managed to listen to this song for me then I can assume that my feelings have reached him.

HEART STATION Promotional Photo

However, this doesn’t mean I still have any feelings left for him, it’s more that I just wanted to ask how he was doing and that’s it. That’s why I was able to write the lyrics really easily and that’s why I don’t really expect a serious response. If you speak the message really clearly and honestly then people will listen.
I don’t usually wish for a particular person to listen to a particular song that I made however in this case, I really want him to hear it. Seriously, like, you can’t forget those feelings you had, those beautiful times you shared, and not knowing whether or not he or she passed away or not after breaking up with them…but they were still wonderful times and you still occasionally reminisce about them. I’d really like people with those sorts of feelings to listen to this song.

 

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MSN: Stay Gold was used for Kaou’s Asience commercial last October. From the 7th to the 13th of January, it already became the number one requested song on Japanese radio despite having not been released yet. Please tell us how you created the song with such a beautiful piano melody and an impressive falset voice.

Utada: I basically just wrote the phrase “ta-ra-ra-ra-ran ta-ran, tan, ta, ran-tan” on the piano…then everything else basically just fell into place. For once, I didn’t actually have a particular image in mind when I was composing Stay Gold. I just…wrote it. However, if I think about it, there was this cold yet warm feeling…like, some kind of flowing natural feeling; there was that sort of gentle feel to it. In the end, there were a lot of modifications to the song by the arranger but that piano arpeggio that I originally played was used just as I had composed it.

I had this image in my mind about how I wanted to perform this song but whenever I played it, it never came out right. Expressing the right tone colour took me quite a long time and it troubled me quite a bit. Once I played however, I thought “Ah, it’s not right”. No matter how many times I changed it, I could never quite get it right and it gradually really began to annoy me. At that point I thought “Ah, this is no good…calm down, calm down…” and I took a deep breath. I closed my eyes then for some reason, during that moment I was concentrating quite heavily but as soon as I opened them, all I did was stare at my hands…so I thought “Oh, that’s no good either!” then I closed my eyes again and I just played that tune “tan-ta-ra-ra” and I realized I found exactly what I wanted. After that, it was all about using the right piano.

Additionally, since the piano can make a deep sound, there was no real need for a separate bass section. Since most pop songs tend to have a bass section, the fact that I refused to use it makes this song stand out a little and gives it that strange, airy sort of feeling to it.

I think that my character can be seen quite clearly through this song. I think the things I’m angry at, the dark thoughts I have, the hatred or fear can be seen through that bass line. Yet, people still say I live quite carefree-ly, as though I had no worries about anything at all. Thinking this way, the melody line represents the way I see the world, the way I live and I think the result came out really well.

I wasn’t thinking deeply like this when I was composing the song but when I completed the melody line, I thought “Ok, just the bass line left”. However, I already knew exactly what I wanted for the bass line and by lowering the melody line by an octave, it was complete.

Rebuild of Evangelion magazine scan
Rebuild of Evangelion

 

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MSN: The theme song to the 1st movie of the Rebuild of Evangelion tetralogy, Beautiful World contrasts highly against the feminine lyrics of Stay Gold. Could you please explain as to the meaning behind the songs title?

Utada: Well first of all…I think it’s the first time I’ve used really feminine lyrics in a song. I’ve been finishing phrases in a more feminine manner lately. Beautiful World had this teenage boy feel to it so I don’t know if this is a reaction to that, but Stay Gold kind of shares the other side of the story now. It has that message of like, “Keep that adolescent innocence you once had”, that pure sort of feeling from your teenage years. But the inspiration to the lyrics for this song actually came from older men. You know how like, every male has that somewhat innocent point about him somewhere? Like, no matter how old they become, there’s a part of them that’s still just a boy? So I was wondering what sort of title would suit this song but I really wanted to retain that same aforementioned pure feeling, hence the title Stay Gold.

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About the author

sljinu is a hybrid Asian. He is currently employed by the geekmaster eyn, working as a translator. He has time management issues but still finds precious minutes to listen to his beloved Utada Hikaru and Otsuka Ai as well as watch J-drama (among other things) on the train.

{ 1 trackback }

Utada Hikaru « El blog de Chala
December 28, 2008 at 12:49 am

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

lm UNITED STATES March 24, 2011 at 3:57 pm

i think utada hikaru’s music touches peoples hearts in a soothing way and that i thank the legend of pop lady utada hikaru

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sljinu AUSTRALIA December 13, 2008 at 10:03 pm

Oh, sorry about that. I must’ve used a bad source. I’ll have it fixed up. Thanks for that!

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gonzalo December 12, 2008 at 3:15 pm

That was great, thanks for translating! Just a minor nag though – TLC is from the States, not from Chile. I was suprised to read Chile here, as i’m chilean and it’d be incredible if Utada had drawn inspiration from a chilean artist. But that’s definitely not the case!

Thanks again for translating!

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bleach1st AUSTRALIA December 10, 2008 at 5:24 am

wow that took me an hour to read for some reason :S
really enjoyed it though and your grammar is perfect which made it a pleasure to read, thanks!!!

I can’t believe she just cut all her connects to the husband off though… I don’t think I could ever do anything like that :|

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いちごのフマ UNITED STATES December 6, 2008 at 10:15 pm

Thank you so much for this translation. :3

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remblue UNITED STATES December 5, 2008 at 12:27 am

Thanks for this translation :) It’s nice to get a peek inside of Hikki’s head to see where Heart Station came from. And I love Heart Station in general and I love the meaning within the song.

“Seriously, like, you can’t forget those feelings you had, those beautiful times you shared, and not knowing whether or not he or she passed away or not after breaking up with them…but they were still wonderful times and you still occasionally reminisce about them. I’d really like people with those sorts of feelings to listen to this song.”

My favorite part. I often wonder about some people who I have parted ways with in my life. And wonder how they’re doing etc. So I really feel this song <3

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