Utada Hikaru born 19 January 1983, also known as Hikki, is a Japanese pop singer-songwriter. She is one of the most successful, influential and acclaimed pop singers in Japanese music history. Hikaru has sold an estimated total of 35,000,000 records in Japan, making her the ninth most successful musical act ever in Japan. Part of her success is due to her being bilingual in English and Japanese.
Utada Hikaru was born in New York of Japanese parents who had met and married in the US. Her father, Teruzane Utada, was a record producer, and her mother, Junko Utada, was an enka singer who performed under the name Keiko Fuji. Utada began to learn how to play the piano at the age of three and began to take part in the chorus of her parents recording around the age of six or seven. She also did small vocal parts in her parents' music project, U3 under the name of H* IKASO U. Their first album as U3 was released in 1990, when Utada was ten. In 1995, the family group changed their name to Cubic U. When she was ten years old, her parents asked her if she was able to write a song and she wrote the song I'll Be Stronger.
Her debut album Precious failed to be released in the United States due to restructuring issues at EMI. Japanese producer Miyake Akira heard the album and managed to convince Utada to try to start a career in Japan and signed her under Toshiba EMI. In 1998, at the Music Talks convention in Asaka Blitz, Utada debuted in front of an audience of press, producers and other people by singing the English version of Sakamoto Kyu's international hit, Ue wo Muite Arukou. Precious was released in Japan in 1998, and again in 1999, after which it sold 702,060 copies.
Utada moved to Tokyo in 1999 to attend the American School in Japan as well as Seisen International School, and continued to record with EMI. Her single Automatic/time will tell became the second most successful single by a solo female artist in Japanese music history. Two months later, Movin' on without you was followed by her official studio debut album First Love, which sold over five million copies in a month during March and April of 1999, putting Utada amongst the top one hundred wealthiest people in Japan.
Eight months after First Love, Utada released her fourth Japanese-language single, Addicted To You, which sold one million mark in its first week, making it the fastest selling single of all time by a solo or female artist in Japan.
In 2000, Utada embarked on her first major headlining tour. She returned to New York City to attend Columbia University and study biology, but left after a year to pursue her career.
Utada continued to release hugely successful records. In 2002, she was diagnosed with an ovarian tumor, and underwent surgery. Although that meant putting TV appearances and other promotional activities on hold, Distance sold 2.35 million in its first week of release.
In 2002, Utada married Kazuaki Kiriya, a photographer and film director fifteen years her senior. Kiriya has directed several of her music videos.
Her singles compilation album Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol.1 sold 1.4 million units sold in its first week of release and stayed on the Oricon album chart for over two years. It was also her first to debut at #1 on the United World Charts, the first time in music history for any Asian artist.
In 2004, Utada released her North American English-language debut album, Exodus, under the name Utada. Her American debut as an Island Def Jam Music Group artist was ignored by the American market because there was virtually no promotion from her record label. Utada was also busy doing songs for anime, soap operas, and video games during this time. Devil Inside became a club smash in the U.S. in 2004 and topped the Billboard Hot Dance/Club Airplay charts.
A year later, Utada issued Ultra Blue as a digital release. She continued to release songs digitally. Keep Tryin' in 2006 sold more than 2.5 million downloads. This Is Love was her first digital only single and went on to become the ninth most downloaded song in Japan for 2006. Flavor Of Life -Ballad Version was the most downloaded ring tone of January and February 2007 in Japan and by the eve of the release of the single, it was revealed that the ballad version has been downloaded over two million times. In March 2007, Utada was divorced.
Utada Hikaru is one of Japan's most successful artists of all time, and has sold over an estimated 40,000,000 records.
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