Utada is featured in the latest issue of Billboard Magazine. The full text of the article can be read after the jump.
Japanese Superstar Utada Aims To Conquer The States
By Rob Schwartz
What do you do when you’re a J-pop superstar in Japan, and a native English speaker, but have failed to take off with your first U.S. release?
Try again, of course. Japanese phenomenon Utada will release her new English-language record, “This Is The One,” March 24 on Island Def Jam, with all parties predicting greater success the second time around. Her first English-language record, 2004’s “Exodus,” peaked at No. 160 on the Billboard 200, selling 55,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
“My first English album was a very experimental, mad-scientist-in-a-laboratory kind of album,” Utada says. “It was a bit of a mess on my side as well as on the record company’s side. I didn’t know how to [express] myself to the public.”
This time, Island Def Jam Music Group president/COO Steve Bartels says the label is “extremely committed to breaking Utada in the United States.” Kimitaka Kato, president of Universal International in Japan, says, “Utada’s talent has been recognized by [IDJMG chairman] L.A. Reid, which led to this launch. We believe that the moment has come for the world to embrace Utada as a true global superstar.”
She’s already achieved that status in Japan, despite being born and raised in the States, until she was 14. Her 1999 debut album, “First Love” (Toshiba EMI), is the best-selling album in Japanese history, selling more than 7.5 million copies, according to SoundScan Japan. All but one of her subsequent six releases have moved more than 1 million copies.
Managed by her father, Teruzane Utada, on both sides of the Pacific, her star status at home is such that she has separate deals for her Japanese repertoire — which appears on EMI under her full name, Utada Hikaru –– and English language releases, which come out through Universal under the name Utada. “Exodus” has sold more than 1 million copies in Japan, and “This Is The One” is due there March 14. But Utada says she remains committed to Japanese repertoire and is already working on her next Japanese album.
As for “This Is The One,” she says it’s “an album made for the purpose of [being] mainstream,” having enlisted top songwriter/producers with U.S. track records and strong ties to IDJ, including the-Dream, Stargate and Tricky Stewart.
“For this project, Utada wanted to work with some of the hottest producers on the charts right now,” Bartels says, “but more importantly they wanted to work with her. The-Dream, Tricky Stewart, Stargate and many others are big fans of hers, and all of us know what the U.S. and Europe are soon to find out — Utada is a star.”
Bartels says Utada’s American “sensibilities and sound” set her apart from other Japanese artists seeking stateside success, noting early press supports from Nylon, the New York Times and Vibe. A slot is also booked on CBS’ “The Early Show,” with more TV appearances to be scheduled.
Utada had her longtime hair and makeup artists fly in from Japan for key U.S. promo work after feeling her image wasn’t presented correctly in the States on “Exodus.” The artist says she’s feeling more confident about how she’s perceived this time around.
“I feel very comfortable about all the promotional work I’ve been doing,” she says. “probably because there is less of this hype about a Japanese pop star making a breakthrough that I struggled with last time.”