The singles that could've been: Hikaru Utada's This Is the One

The singles that should've been: Hikaru Utada's This Is the One | Random J Pop

I don't think anybody involved with Hikaru Utada's This Is the One had any real plan for it as far as singles were concerned. And it's a shame, because "Come Back to Me" wasn't a complete disaster. The bitch charted. And as much as fans rank This Is The One as Hikaru's weakest album, it has some good songs which would've made great singles that were easier to service to US radio than pretty much anything on Exodus, aside from the Timbaland productions. And even then...

So lemme tell you which songs I think could have made some damn good singles from Hikaru Utada's This Is the One.

Apple and Cinnamon
Written by Hikaru Utada, Tor Erik Hermansen & Mikkel Storleer Eriksen
Produced by Stargate / Co-produced by Hikaru Utada

One of my faves from This Is the One, but a song that gets dragged by fans for being too basic. But hey. Basic isn't always bad. Hikaru Utada is known for songs which frame things from unique perspectives and features at least one line that makes you say 'What the fuck?' because it's either so strange or so beautiful. But "Apple and Cinnamon" is not that song. And I don't think it should be shat on just because it's short 'n' sweet (LIKE APPLE AND CINNAMON, I'll see myself out) and super straight-forward.  This is a song from the same woman wrote a song about a stuffed bear and then went on to write a song about coriander.

The second verse definitely shoulda been longer though.

One of Hikaru's gambits is how she's able to sell emotion, and the sorrowfulness really comes through in "Apple and Cinnamon", partly because the lyrics are so simple and straight-forward, which always helps when you want something that will stick after very few listens. Fuck what people say, this song is great. It only takes two spins for you to know the song well enough to lip sync to it as you body roll like a depressed bitch in the shower.

This One (Crying Like a Child)
Written by Hikaru Utada, Tor Erik Hermansen & Mikkel Storleer Eriksen
Produced by Stargate / Co-produced by Hikaru Utada

Circa 2005 is when we saw a renaissance of the heavy hitting melancholic R&B balladS, after a period when it seemed that all the charts wanted was shit you could dance to. Mario's "Let Me Love You", Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together", Mary J. Blige's "Be Without You", Ne-Yo's "So Sick". All mid-tempo. All slapped. All depressing. All massive hits. So Hikaru Utada capitalising on that with a song like "This One (Crying Like a Child)" would have been a smart single choice. And it being produced by Stargate, who were one of the most popular producers from 2006 to 2010 would have worked in Hikaru's favour too.

"This One (Crying Like a Child)" is a song that oft gets overlooked on This is the One, but it's a really good, with some damn good lyrics which evoke a similar tone to some of her Japanese lyrics.

Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence - FYI
Written by Hikaru Utada, Tor Erik Hermansen, Mikkel Storleer Eriksen & Ryuichi Sakamoto
Produced by Stargate / Co-Produced by Hikaru Utada

This Is the One is an album which divides the Hikaru Utada fanbase unlike any other. But if there's one thing many agree on, it's that "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence - FYI" was a great song that shoulda been released as a single. The production is great. The chorus is catchy. The lyrics are quirky. Hikaru Utada approaches the song vocally the same way as her Japanese material, which was the biggest issue I had with every song on Exodus, where Hikaru sounded a bit raggedy. 

This Is the One, much like Exodus, was a chance for Hikaru to do styles of songs that she perhaps would never consider doing for her Japanese language albums. But "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence - FYI" strikes a perfect balance between something new for Hikaru, something familiar for her fans, and the sampling of Ryuichi 'Yellow Magic Orchestra' Sakamoto's classic "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence" is a nice nod to her Japanese heritage without declaring that she's easy breezy and Japanesey. "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence - FYI" would have been the perfect single to introduce wider Western audiences to Hikaru Utada. And it also would have made a great Japanese Winter single too had she recorded it in Japanese.

"Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence - FYI" is brilliance that went to complete waste. I don't get how Def Jam could have heard this song and not felt it was single material.

Me Muero
Written by Hikaru Utada, Tor Erik Hermansen & Mikkel Storleer Eriksen
Produced by Stargate / Co-produced by Hikaru Utada

"Me Muero" features a drum pattern that Stargate ran into the ground after the song that first featured it (Beyoncé's "Irreplaceable") became a worldwide smash hit. If Stargate weren't recycling acoustic guitars and these same-ass drums for singles on the radio, then others were imitating it. It was a huge trend that went on for a good while. So Hikaru absolutely could have jumped on the wave of that, whilst also offering something different - because nobody was giving acoustic guitars with a jazz lounge vibe at the time.

"Me Muero" is a weird song, but it sums up part of who Hikaru Utada is so well. She's writing about doing really regular-ass things like checking e-mails and eating chocolate; things that most don't write about for a pop song. And if they do, they at least try to make it sound cool and sell it with some grandiosity. But Hikaru's like 'Nope. I'mma just tell it like it is. I'm in my pyjamas, I'm a mess, and missing my man'.

It was a wonderfully direct song about depression, which unknowingly set a tone for This Is the One which gets missed, which is Hikaru Utada's frankness when it comes to songwriting. Whether she's talking about thinking about dick whilst at work, cheating on her man, or gazing into the future like Raven and writing a song about how Francesco needs to pack his broke-ass up and leave.

Dirty Desire (Mike Rizzo Radio Edit)
Written by Hikaru Utada, Christopher Stewart, Sean K., Kuk Harrell
Produced by Tricky Stewart & Hikaru Utada / Co-Produced by Kuk Hurrell

Now, "Dirty Desire" is a banger. It's a ho anthem for the ages. And I prefer the original version of the song over this remix. a US single? I don't think it woulda worked out.

There's an expectation that audiences would have for the music video and live performances of a song like "Dirty Desire" that Hikaru wouldn't meet. There would need to be choreography. There would need to be ass. There would need to be chest and pussy pops. Things Hikaru just won't give. Also, "Dirty Desire" isn't a song that's reflective of This Is the One or Hikaru Utada's material in general, and I could imagine the lyrics being torn to shreds and meme'd online if the song were released at scale.

As much as I like "Dirty Desire" I just don't think it would work as a US single for an artist like Hikaru Utada. But the remix as a UK single however? Yes bitch. The UK taste level is all over the damn place for starters. UK audiences don't have the same expectation of pop stars that US audiences have, so Hikaru wouldn't get dragged for not pulling a "Dirrty" in the music video. And as for the sound, UK radio would absolutely soak up the remix. Whilst I don't think US radio would have given the Mike Rizzo remix of "Dirty Desire" a warm welcome, the gay clubs definitely would have. Teruzane needs to get this shit as a lip sync song on RuPaul's Drag Race.

I always felt that it was a shame that Hikaru never officially released either of her English studio albums in the UK, because I think she would have done well here. The UK leg of her In the Flesh tour selling out almost immediately and forcing a second date (which also sold out) was a sign that she had a sizable fanbase here. But given that she's able to live in London fuss free without fear of being recognised everywhere, maybe it's for the best that she never truly took off in the UK.

This Is the One wasn't a great album. Let's be real. It was clear from the ugly ass font on the cover and the baffling sequencing of the songs ("On and On" as the last track!?) that Def Jam did not give a fuck, and that Hikaru herself was probably over the whole thing. It makes zero sense, given that everybody went to the trouble of recording the damn thing.

There weren't enough songs on Exodus that could make good commercial singles, which may have been part of the reason why This Is the One was so conformist by comparison and produced entirely by the two producers who shaped US radio due to such huge hits like "Umbrella" (was produced by Tricky Stewart), "So Sick" (produced by Stargate), "Irreplaceable" (produced by Stargate) and "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)" (produced by Tricky Stewart). Clearly Def Jam wanted a shot at hits, so it's bizarre that they said 'Fuck it' and gave up after one single.

💿 Reviewtada: One Last KissDare ni mo Iwanai | TimeHatsukoi | Fantôme | This is the One | Heart StationUltra Blue | Exodus | Deep River | Distance | First Love

🎧 Playlistada: Slaykaru Queentada | Hikaru Utada: R&B | Hikaru Utada: Ballads | Hikaru Utada: Bops | Hikaru Utada: Remixes