To a certain demographic—Japan-lovers, video game otakus and general Asia-philes—the singer Hikaru Utada is a goddess of cool. In fact, Utada is the only woman to be name-dropped in two separate issues of Complex as a reader's "dream date" on our Street Detail page. With her ever-changing style, sexy bilingualism and Tetris fetish, Utada is clearly our type of gal.
In 2004, after years of doing Beyoncé numbers in Japan, Utada released her first U.S. album, Exodus on Def Jam. Though it had some good songs, it ultimately failed to make her an American star. Five years later, Utada is back with the follow-up This is the One, out now on iTunes and dropping officially on May 12. Whereas Exodus was what Utada now calls an "uncomfortable, bold and experimental" project, This is the One is more of a focused, concerted effort at breaking the U.S. charts with production from Stargate ("So Sick," Ne-Yo; "Irreplaceable," Beyoncé) and Tricky Stewart ("Rockin' That Shit," The-Dream, "Umbrella," Rihanna). It seems to be working: The new LP debuted at #2 on the iTunes Pop Album chart. In anticipation of its official release, we sat with Utada and got her commentary on 7 YouTube clips related to her career...
CLIP #1: "EASY BREEZY" MUSIC VIDEO FROM EXODUS (2004)
Utada says: This was the first video for the last album. I came across too sexy in it, and they focused on that, but that's not my character really. So that was really weird, especially as a first impression. Like you wouldn't imagine that I was the singer/songwriter of the song when you saw this. So mission unaccomplished [laughs]. I remember running through this artificial rain so many times and it was freaking freezing.
CLIP #2: "SORRY I LOVE YOU," FANMADE KOREAN DRAMA CLIP
Utada says: Oh, that's cute! Of course it's illegal [laughs], but this is really nice. I ain't going to say shit if you're not going to say shit! [Laughs.] But no, I'm very flattered. I can't stand cheesy dramas though. I really can't stand it.
#3: "SACNTUARY" FOR KINGDOM HEARTS VIDEO GAME
Utada says: I guess most of the people in America know me from this song, probably. [Also] "Simple and Clean," you know. One of Kingdom Hearts' main creative directors, [Tetsuya] Nomura, is a big fan of mine, so he offered me to do this theme song. This is actually the remix version. [Sings along.] See a lot of my songs were written from a guy's perspective. I love you, don't get me wrong, but does that mean I have to meet your father?
CLIP #4: UTADA FAN SINGS "DEEP RIVER"
Utada says: I think I heard about this. This is so sweet. Oh, she's so cute. Look how shy she's feeling. Awwww, how cute. Right through me, look at my heart. It's pretty amazing. I have some friends check the fan websites and stuff, or my fans actually e-mail these things to me. It's so cute, this person singing. She's feeling it! [Laughs.]
CLIP #5: NINTENDO DS COMMERCIAL
Utada says: I was the first spokesperson for DS, I guess. My hands are tiny, too, so that's the problem. I don't remember how this came along, but the way I decide whether to accept an offer or not for these sort of commercials is whether I really use it or not. Even if it's really good money, if the product has nothing to do with me, I'm not going to promote it as if I'm in love with it. That's why I did the Sony commercial in Japan for MB player discs and batteries, because I used them so much back then. And Nintendo, I'm in love with this stuff.
CLIP #6: UTADA'S TETRIS CHALLENGE
Utada says: This was so hard because it was the first time I used wi-fi and I was just so mad at how difficult the situation was and how bad I was. So then I started to go on wi-fi, and I've been playing against people all over the world. My level is in the highest..the way that Tetris otakus are categorized, I'm a master.
CLIP #7: KEIKO FUJI (UTADA'S MOM) SINGING ENKA
Utada says: I look up my mom's stuff on YouTube all the time. So amazing, so cool, love her so much. That was what was good about TV stuff back then. Now, especially in Japan, everyone has a bunch of takes, everyone has like three or five cameras, running around you. Cut, switch, zoom in, zoom out. It's like, yo, unnecessary.
BONUS VIDEO: "COME BACK TO ME," UTADA'S NEW SINGLE