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Single Review: Hikaru Utada - Pink Blood

Single Review: Hikaru Utada (宇多田 ヒカル) - Pink Blood | Random J Pop

When I first heard the snippet of “Pink Blood” I was hardly excited, but I knew better than to judge a song based on a snippet. After all, I wasn’t overly keen on “One Last Kiss” when I first heard a smidgen of it in the Evangelion trailer. Then the full song released and I ended up adoring it, and there was all this amazing shit that took place throughout the song. “One Last Kiss” ticked a lot of boxes which I wasn’t expecting it to. First off, it felt like a visit from an old friend you haven't seen in a while; so much about them feels comfortable and familiar, but there’s a sense of newness too. “One Last Kiss” felt like it was taking you on a journey, which contextually would be fitting for those who had been following the Evangelion films that Hikaru Utada’s music has been soundtracking for over a decade. By comparison “Pink Blood” feels like a visit from a friend who isn’t great at conversation and doesn’t give you much. You’re happy to see them. But you’re just sat there like ‘Okay, so what now?’.

“Pink Blood” feels like a song where nothing is really happening. And it’s pretty disappointing that after hearing the song in snippet form in To Your Eternity trailers for 2 months, the full thing doesn’t give much more. The same beat we heard in those 30 seconds is what we hear for a full 4 minutes...and that's it. Hikaru’s vocals don’t switch up in any way. There’s no lush arrangement. The vocal arrangements? Where are they? "Pink Blood" is just...coasting along, but going nowhere.

Single Review: Hikaru Utada (宇多田 ヒカル) - Pink Blood | Random J Pop

I have mentioned in other reviews of Hikaru Utada’s music that basic production, or just a flat out lack of production and consideration of arrangements hurts some of her songs. This is how I felt about “Time”, and I share the same thoughts about “Pink Blood”.

Folk have often misunderstood me when I’ve cited Hikaru’s ‘My first GarageBand song’ approach to some of her music. I don’t need every song to sound lush like an “Anata” or a "Nijikan Dake no Vacance". I just need a song to feel whole, fully considered and complete. When I listen to “Pink Blood”, it just sounds like it’s very clearly missing things. Hikaru Utada's now frequent collaborator Nariaki Obukuro is credited as a co-producer and co-arranger on this song, but his touch doesn’t bring to the table what A.G Cook's did for “One Last Kiss” - who elevated what otherwise would have wound up as another instance of a song sounding basic in the worst ways and lacking. What Nariaki brings to the table is a vibe, but I needed more than just that here.

The structure of “Pink Blood” is also strange. It opens up with part of the chorus, a chorus of which isn’t really prominent in the song at all, as it just melds in and out of verses. I had to run the song back, because I couldn’t remember if I’d heard the chorus in the actual song aside from the intro, or if there was even one at all. And then what should have been a B-Section / Pre-chorus comes in 2 minutes into the song. At this point I thought ‘Oh cool, a switch-up’. But just at the point when the song finally feels like it's gonna go somewhere, it packs up and leaves - resulting in the song feeling incomplete.

You’re about to get a trash analogy, but I’m going with this because Hikaru seems to be living for water lately and is getting money from Suntory. But I get the sense that Hikaru wanted the song to feel almost like water. Something which just flows without these clear divisions of VERSE. CHORUS. VERSE. MIDDLE-8. CHORUS. But the execution feels off to me, because the song just feels like it’s meandering. Hikaru has done these (what I am now referring to as) water types of songs before. Fantôme had a couple, “Bōkyaku” being the most notable one. But even as nebulous as “Bōkyaku” felt, there was still a structure and subtle things in the production that kept you placed throughout the song. “Pink Blood” doesn’t really have that, and as a result I find my concentration completely veering off from the song when I’m playing it.

Single Review: Hikaru Utada (宇多田 ヒカル) - Pink Blood | Random J Pop

“Pink Blood” was always going to have a tough time following up “One Last Kiss”, which was an instantly likeable song, a surprise, and featured great production from start to finish. “One Last Kiss” was simple, but it was direct and executed well.

“Pink Blood” just doesn’t feel like it’s really going anywhere, or has a sense of where it wants to go. It starts at one level and then just stays there right until the end. The music video provides the variety and sense of build that the song just doesn’t have. And the build didn’t need to be something big and dramatic. Even if it were something simple like a string arrangement coming in for the refrain, a piano, a harp. SOMETHING. The song ends exactly as it started, there’s no real climax, there’s no ebb or flow.

It’s a shame in this instance, because “Pink Blood” has a great foundation, and I do like the vibe it was going for. It also has a beautiful set of lyrics about self acceptance, and realising that you have to build the world that you want around you. It's incredibly timely for a song like this with this type of message to release during Pride month. But there needed to be more to this song. As it is, there’s just not enough to captivate me and hold my full attention.

I’m willing to give "Pink Blood" another chance when the inevitable follow up to Hatsukoi drops - as I do find that some of Hikaru’s singles that I’m not initially keen on work better when listened to as part of an album, and then I find myself growing to like them a heck of a lot more.