Tetsuya Nomura, the creator the Kingdom Hearts, want Utada to sing the theme. “Utada is the only artist ns envisioned singing the theme track for Kingdom Hearts,” Nomura stated in 2002 (via IGN). Because that Nomura, Utada to be proof, “that music transcends national and also language barriers.”


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At that time, however, it to be still challenging for Asian and Asian-American artists to break through in the US. Sure, Kyu Sakamoto’s “Ue o Muite Arukou” (which to be retitled together “Sukiyaki”) topped the U.S. Billboard charts in 1963, yet it would certainly be the only song through an oriental artist to perform so until BTS in 2020, v “Dynamite.” Utada was certainly a pioneer, and because of its inclusion in Kingdom Hearts, “Simple and also Clean” had the ability to reach a fixed audience.

Utada, of course, didn’t specifically arrive out of nowhere. Born in brand-new York to document producer Teruzane Utada and also popular singer Keiko Fuji, Utada went to institution in Tokyo but got their music education first-hand. “I did my homework in the studio, slept in the studio, and I make my an initial song as soon as I was choose 11, ns think,” Utada called NPR in 2009. “And i was record from prefer 12-13, so that was as with the family members business.”

What made Utada stand the end in Japan as soon as First Love hit wasn’t only the songwriting, singing, and also performing skills, yet the fluidity through which the artist moved between Japanese and also American culture. Utada to be truly international. Uneven the other stars the the era, Utada wasn’t creating songs v English unit volume or in English since that to be cool—or, at least, considered as such in Japan. English and Japanese are Utada’s native languages, and each stood for a different component of the artist.

It’s not only heritage and society that language conveys. Utada, who is nonbinary, has used it to completely express us in different ways. “So once I write Japanese songs and also sing them, i sound a little much more androgynous, choose boyish,” Utada additionally said in the very same interview. “And then I, i noticed this freshly like v this in my latest album in English <This Is The One>, i seem to sound a little more feminine when I write songs in English, choose the woman side the me appears to come out a small more.”

Having a deep expertise of both languages is possibly why as soon as Utada interpreted “Hikari” into English, it wasn’t done in a line-by-line exact rendition. Instead, the track was rewritten to fit the language. The words are different, however the soul of the songs is the same.In a 2009 interview through JQ magazine, Utada explained:

I’d done a couple of songs where I had to translate. Like for Kingdom Hearts, I had actually to do an English variation of the track ‘Hikari,’ which ended up being ‘Simple and also Clean,’ and also then likewise for Kingdom mind II, I had actually to make the Japanese variation which to be the song ‘Passion’ and also then the English variation of the was ‘Sanctuary,’ and that was hard...it felt strained—and together a result, i’m happy the I functioned hard to perform those, because those English versions room really an excellent and ‘Simple and also Clean,’ i think, is a really an excellent song, and people...most that the people that know me right here , they know me for that—but the not best for me together a writer, to...because, ns think my level the how good I to be in English and also Japanese space both the same, so there is a an obstacle in terms of technological stuff.

But that wasn’t only the words that needed to be readjusted with “Hikari” and “Simple and Clean.” The melodies additionally needed to be contempt tweaked. In the same interview, castle added, “Actually, I adjusted the melodies because that ‘Simple and Clean’ and ‘Hikari’ due to the fact that when you adjust the language you’re singing in, the exact same melodies nothing work—and as a writer, that just very frustrating come have, like...I composed these melodies for Japanese words, and also to need to write in English because that that, it’s simply not right.” The only method to solve that is to change the melodies, to best suit the strong points of every language.

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Utada has actually talked around those differences, and how lock even create different personalities. “This happens with a lot of bilingual kids, however I seem to sound a little an ext diplomatic when I speak in English or a little an ext settled down, choose calmer, kind of, ns guess, and kind that proper,” Utada called NPR in 2009. “And then in Japanese, ns think this is due to the fact that I learned, I supplied to review a most Japanese comic books, ns sound more like a comic publication character, like just kind of wacky personality type of - a lot much more animated. And when i sing or once I write, the a bit various too.” This is other I’ve likewise noticed in mine children, who were born in Japan. Their personalities do adjust slightly depending on which language they room speaking.

“It’s funny in Japan to press that envelope a tiny bit, constantly, and to play v the beauty, beauty of the language, the subtleties and also everything,” Utada told JQ.

“But with English, it’s less complicated to be an ext blunt, or...like really metaphoric, but that no make much sense maybe, like in a Beatles type of way, and also that’s the difference, I’d say, but I gain working in both languages.”