Single review: Hikaru Utada - One Last Kiss

Single Review: Hikaru Utada / 宇多田 ヒカル - One Last Kiss | Random J Pop

I wasn't particularly fond of Hikaru Utada's 2020 single "Time". And as much as I liked its follow-up "Dare ni mo Iwanai", it wasn't a song I played much. In fact, I don't think I've played it once since May of last year. "One Last Kiss" however is a different story. My waist has been doing figure eights every day since this song first dropped, and I'mma be bussin' down to it throughout 2021 whilst I still have strength in these knees.

Single Review: Hikaru Utada / 宇多田 ヒカル - One Last Kiss | Random J Pop

I'm about to get real corny. But one of the nicest things about "One Last Kiss" is that it feels almost like an embrace from somebody you've known for years. Hikaru Utada's ability to not always be present, yet be SO present when she releases music is such a unique thing, and probably not something she sets out to do. "One Last Kiss" is so comforting despite the sorrowful lyrics. It's the perfect song to close out Rebuild of Evangelion; a film series which started 15 years ago. A retelling of a story that many have been familiar with and held dear for decades.

Evangelion is a beloved series, not just in Japan, but the world over. The Rebuild of Evangelion tetralogy kicked off in 2007, with 2 years in between each film. This was until the final film Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time saw numerous delays causing it to release 5 years after the last. Fans have been losing their minds over the chance to see the final film, and it holds so much more weight during a time when there have been so few big cinema releases as a result of the pandemic. So that sense of joy and sorrow between the film and the song is completely palpable. And if you're a fan of Hikaru Utada AND Evangelion, then you're probably an emotional wreck at finally having such a great and heart warming / breaking song which represents a new beginning, but also the closing of a chapter.

Single Review: Hikaru Utada / 宇多田 ヒカル - One Last Kiss | Random J Pop

Surprisingly, "One Last Kiss" is co-produced by A.G. Cook of PC Music; known for his work with SOPHIE and Charli XCX. However, the song isn't of a style that A.G. Cook is primarily known for, especially if your frame of reference for his sound is Charli XCX. "One Last Kiss" is not this bombastic banger and it's not glitch pop - it's very mellow and subdue. But the A.G. Cook-isms are present, particularly in the builds, and the way in which the song ebbs and flows.

One thing I often find about songs that Hikaru Utada has produced and sequenced herself is that the sounds are usually really basic, sometimes to a fault. There's always a good foundation, but the lack of finesse and flourishes leaves the music feeling a little hollow if it doesn't feature the talents of session players and glorious string arrangements. A.G. Cook's additional touch helps round "One Last Kiss" out and feel a lot more full without completely overblowing the song to the point where its energy shifts from what Hikaru intended. Hikaru Utada also doesn't give us the type of intricate vocal production and layering that she used to, and this is highlighted in her stripped down productions which don't fill the empty space that her vocals otherwise would have. A.G. Cook fills the breadth with sound, resulting in a song that feels a lot more whole than it would have done otherwise.

I hope A.G. Cook and Hikaru work together on more stuff. I'd like it even more if she handed over the Ableton files for "Time" and "Dare ni mo Iwanai" for him to tweak for the upcoming album.

If you're a PC Music or an A.G. Cook fan, be sure to check out the instrumental of "One Last Kiss", where the PC Music touch is more apparent, especially from the 2:40 mark onward.

Single Review: Hikaru Utada / 宇多田 ヒカル - One Last Kiss | Random J Pop

The release of "One Last Kiss" also features a new version of "Beautiful World", a song which was originally written and released for Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance. The De Capo version of "Beautiful World" is a nice surprise, being a remix of sorts, a re-working and also a self cover. It's cool hearing "Beautiful World" with Hikaru Utada's vocals as they are now with new ad-libs here and there, especially as she didn't perform it on her Laughter In the Dark tour, marking the last time she performed it being her Wild Life tour in 2010 right before she peaced out.

This version of "Beautiful World" will probably be an acquired taste. It's not as easy to latch onto as the original version or the outstanding PLANiTb remix due to the way in which it is arranged. There's a lot of space in the song and moments of emptiness. Even just in the intro of the song, it feels like you're waiting on Hikaru to start singing, but she's missed her cue. The De Capo version isn't going to be my go-to when I want to hear "Beautiful World". But in the context of Rebuild of Evangelion and it being used during the credits roll of the film, the more cinematic approaches taken with the arrangement makes sense. And it's cool hearing a form of narrative when you play all three versions of "Beautiful World" back-to-back and journey through each of them.

"One Last Kiss" also transitions straight into this new version of "Beautiful World", which is a nice touch to have included on the One Last Kiss EP, especially if the transition is something those who watched Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time were smitten with.

Single Review: Hikaru Utada / 宇多田 ヒカル - One Last Kiss | Random J Pop

"One Last Kiss" is one of Hikaru Utada's best singles in quite some time. It manages to occupy this sweet spot between feeling fresh and new for Hikaru, but also very familiar. It could sit on Heart Station, Hatsukoi, Ultra Blue or even This Is the One. Yet it still feels like something we've not heard Hikaru do before. It just makes you realise how nebulous some of Hikaru's material can be. But it's great hearing Hikaru continue to pull from so many different pockets of what she's done before, but still deliver something that feels forward facing and new. Especially after a string of albums where she jumped from style to style and didn't look back.

If "One Last Kiss" is a sign of what's to come, then CHOO-CHOO bitch.