Single review: Hikaru Utada - Time

Single review: Hikaru Utada - Time | Random J Pop

In the age of Miss Corona, Hikaru Utada releases a song about turning back time.

Toot-toot on the Ocarina bitch. Toot-motherfuckin'-toot on it.

Current world situation aside for just a minute, the song being about time is very fitting given its sound, because it's very familiar. If I had to pin this sound to an 'era' of Hikaru's, I'd probably file it under Heart Station, where she was starting to take all of her previous sounds and meld them, whilst bringing her R&B vibes back to the forefront after stepping around them for Ultra Blue. But it's not hard to imagine Hikaru recording something like this for any of her albums really, because it touches on sounds and vibes that she'd showcased on each of them. There isn't much in the way of newness on this song, but that's not a bad thing. Given the lyrical context of "Time", it makes sense that it would sound like something Hikaru has done before and ring with familiarity. After all, she's reminiscing about a good time that she and somebody else remembers.

The return of HikaR&B on "Time" comes as little surprise when you realise who's involved with it. The song is co-produced by Nariaki Obukuro, who featured on one of Fantôme's best cuts "Tomodachi", which led to a partnership of sorts, as the two would work together on a further two songs: one for a Ringo Sheena tribute album and one for Nariaki's. Knowing that Nariaki produced "Time" has me wonder what a version of the song would have sounded like with him on it, especially given how I feel about the vocals on this thing.

Hikaru sounds fine singing this song, but there's this roughness to her vocals on the verses which offset the sensuality and smoothness of the music itself. Then there is her delivery, which comes off like she's attacking the song. Hikaru gives a very similar energy to "Time" that she gave 2007's "Kiss & Cry", when I feel that she needed to almost seduce the song and give it the same energy she gave on "Anata". I get why she would approach the song this way given the lyrics, which are about a lover being almost aggravated and annoyed at mistakes they'd made and wanting to make it right. But I can't help but feel that I would have settled into this song more had Hikaru dialled things back a little, because the contrast of her vocals on the verses and the music itself prevent the song from clicking with me completely.

Then are the vocal arrangements, or lack there-of. Hikaru Utada was an artist who used to put way more effort into her vocal arrangements than she was given credit for. But these got dialled right back from Fantôme onward. It wasn't much of an issue on Fantôme given the style of the songs, the narrative of the album, the very controlled way in which Hikaru sang, and that the production was rich and picked up any slack that may have been left by Hikaru choosing not to add 10 tracks of vocals to every song. But I listen to "Time" and I hear space where ad-libs, harmonies and layers should have been to give the song breadth. I hear moments where Hikaru goes for a note and tries to play around with her voice, when she should have kept things far more level and steady. During the bridge section when the music pulls back - playing just that bit more with vocal layers, channels, effects and even running her vocals in reverse as per "Passion" and "Bōkyaku" would have really added a greater sense of being sucked into this time void that the music evokes before Hikardi B spits with her verse.

"Time" is a really nice song. I don't think Hikaru has it in her these days to do a flat out bad song. The vibe of it is nice and the production is slick. And despite being 5 minutes long, the song doesn't feel long. But "Time" doesn't do the things with vocal production and arrangements that I feel it should have done, and it's a big thing which holds it back for me.

RATING: 6 / 10

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