Utada Hikaru Gives First Interview Since Hiatus, Debuts Heartbreaking ‘Hanataba wo Kimi ni’ Video
Utada Hikaru's Fantôme is coming — in less than just four weeks now.
With her first Japanese studio album since 2008's Heart Station just around the corner, the "First Love" Japanese pop icon is evidently gearing up on the promo front, beginning with her first formal interview since announcing her hiatus from musical activities back in 2010.
As suspected after reading through the mournful lyrics of both "Hanataba wo Kimi ni" and “Manatsu no Tooriame," which dropped earlier in 2016, Fantôme is in memory of her late mother, who tragically committed suicide in 2013.
Fans were quick to notice upon seeing the tracklisting that, unlike any of the bilingual superstar's other albums, all of the song titles appear in Japanese. This is intentional: "She used to rely on English phrases when she didn’t want to sing about things too directly. This time, she only wanted to sing beautiful Japanese lyrics," according to a translation by UBlog.
She also gave some high-level descriptions of some of the songs featured inside: "Ningyo" ("Mermaid"), an acoustic track, was written "at a point after her mother’s death where Utada wasn’t sure if she could write music again," while "Kouya no Ookami" ("Wolf of the Wilderness") was inspired by German-Swiss writer Hermann Hesse's 1927 novel, Steppenwolf.
With a much-needed sigh of relief, not everything sounds quite so heavy: "Michi" ("Road") is a "danceable" track to "reiterate that she is doing okay," and "Ore no Kanojo" ("My Gal"), a "very adult-themed" track. ("Dirty Desire" Pt. 2, anyone?)
It also seems like Fantôme is one of Utada's most personally involved albums yet, having hand-picked the album artwork photographer (Julien Mignot) and sequenced the track order herself for the first time.
Along with the interview, Utada also debuted a new, black-and-white clip for "Hanataba wo Kimi ni" — and it's a little tough to watch.
Packed with pensive close-ups (and even some tear-shedding), the clip sees the singer breaking down while singing along to the song. Even more devastating: as eagle-eyed Hikki enthusiasts soon noticed, the Cartier rings she's wearing in the video were given to her by her mother years ago, which she blogged about back in 2008. Gah.
Consider this era — or at the very least, this song and video — as a necessary step on the road to healing. As she said in a fan Q&A, she "doesn’t think she’ll be able to make something like this again." However, she (mercifully) reiterated that she’s "planning on continuing music after this album."
Watch the video for "Hanataba wo Kimi ni" above.