Utada Hikaru (Japanese: 宇多田ヒカル), born January 19, 1983 in New York City, United States, also known by her fan-nickname "ヒッキー" (Hikki), is a third culture singer, composer, arranger, and record producer in Japan and the United States.
Utada Hikaru was born to Japanese parents who both had roots in the Japanese music industry; her father, Teruzane Utada, was a producer, while her mother, Junko Utada, was an enka singer (she performed under the stage name Keiko Fuji (藤圭子). Utada Hikaru has been recording since 1993. She made her first professional recording at the age of twelve, and recorded her first album, Precious, in 1996 under the pseudonym Cubic U. This album led to her career overseas. In a recent MTV interview (MTV's You Hear It First, October 2004), Utada said: "Someone in Japan heard it, at a Japanese record company, and he said, 'Oh, can't you write in Japanese? You speak Japanese.' And I didn't want to say no, so I had to try it."
Utada Hikaru was married to Kazuaki Kiriya, a photographer and movie director. He directed several of her music videos, including "Final Distance", "Traveling", "Hikari"/"光", "Sakura Drops", "Deep River", "Dareka no Negai ga Kanau Koro"/"誰かの願いが叶うころ", "You Make Me Want to Be a Man", "Be My Last", "Passion", and "Keep Tryin'". Also, "Dareka no Negai ga Kanau Koro"/"誰かの願いが叶うころ" was played during the credits of Kiriya's directorial debut, Casshern. Their 4 1/2-year marriage was drawn to a close on March 2nd, 2007 as both Kazuaki Kiriya and Utada Hikaru filed divorce papers.
Utada Hikaru may be most known in some cultures for her contribution to the Square-Enix & Disney video game series "Kingdom Hearts" where she performed the song "Hikari"/"光" (or mostly known as "Simple and Clean" in the English version) for the first game. She also performed "Sanctuary" and "Passion" (English and Japanese versions of the same song, respectively) for the second game.
Utada moved to Tokyo in late 1997 and attended Seisen International School, and later the American School in Japan while continuing to record on a new contract with Toshiba-EMI. Her movement originally came from Japanese FM radio. Unlike other pop-stars at the time, she was more focused on becoming a singer and songwriter while other Japanese female singers were attempting to become idols. Leading up to the release of her Japanese debut album First Love, Utada released two successful million-selling singles: "Automatic/Time Will Tell" and "Movin' on Without You". "Automatic/Time Will Tell" sold over two million copies. Backed by her singles, her debut album First Love went on to sell over 7 million units in Japan alone (with an additional 3 million overseas, bringing it to a sum of at least 10 million unit), becoming the highest selling album in Japan's history. The album yielded the single "First Love", which peaked at the number-two spot. By the end of the year, Utada was rank number 5 on a Japanese radio station Tokio Hot 100 Airplay's Top 100 Artists of the 20th Century by the station and its listeners.
After a two years' break, Utada released her follow up album Distance, garnering first-week sales of 3 million units sold. Ayumi Hamasaki's first greatest hits compilation album was released the same week with the aim to make a positive duel by Hamasaki's label, Avex Trax. This duel helped the two albums to break the record of the fastest selling album worldwide, with Utada's album reaching the first position by less than 150,000 copies. Backed by her singles — "Addicted to You", "Wait & See: Risk", "For You/Time Limit" and "Can You Keep a Secret?" — Distance became the best-selling album of the year, with 4.469 million copies sold in Japan alone. Additionally, "Addicted To You" became Utada's best-selling single, selling one-million in its first week which became the highest first-week sales for a female solo artist and staying on top of the chart for two consecutive weeks. "Wait & See: Risk" and "Can You Keep A Secret" also were later ranked at number 6 and number 10 respectively on Oricon's list of 10 Best-Selling Singles from January 1, 1999 to April 24, 2006. Utada also went on to release a single which was dedicated to the female victim of a murder case in Ikeda, Osaka, titled "Final Distance". Between 2005-2005, she attempted to break into the US market under her stage name Utada which her album Exodus.
A year after the release of Exodus, Utada moved back to Tokyo and started work on her next album. Leading up the release of her fourth album, Ultra Blue, Utada released a string of successful hit singles: "Colors" (number 1), "Dareka no Negai ga Kanau Koro" (number 1), "Be My Last", (number 1), "Passion" (number 4), and "Keep Tryin'" (number 2). The digital single "This Is Love" was released to promote the album, netting 1,000,000 digital downloads. Ultra Blue sold 500,317 copies in the first week, lower than that of the previous album, although it still topped the Oricon Daily, Weekly, and Monthly charts. Ultra Blue gave the artist her fifth consecutive chart-topping Japanese album (excluding her English album) to sell in excess of 500,000 copies for first-week sales. On July 13, Toshiba EMI published a report stating that Ultra Blue had sold over one million copies worldwide and four million digital ringtones already making it one of EMI's 10th best-selling album of the past year. The album, which did not contain much pop music, was met with indifference and did not boost sales, although the album was certified Million by RIAJ for one million shipments. Additionally, it was the highest-selling original studio album by a Japanese female artist in 2006.
A tour of Japan, "Utada United 2006," commenced on June 30th, 2006 (Two weeks after Ultra Blue's release) and ended on September 12th, 2006 after Utada Hikaru's performances at Yoyogi. Aside from her Japanese work, the tour's set list featured songs from her debut English-language album Exodus. The dates were all cumulatively announced, and ticket sales started on May 28th, 2006 with the majority of venues selling out in less than two hours.
Utada Hikaru released the single "Flavor of Life" on February 28th, 2007. Her next single, "Beautiful World / Kiss & Cry", was released in Japan on August 29th, 2007 - A track which also doubled as the theme song to the anime movie "Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone", which opened in theaters in Japan on September 1st.
On the 20th of February, 2008, Utada Hikaru released her 20th Japanese single, HEART STATION/Stay Gold which reached #1 on Japan’s weekly radio charts, which was followed shortly after by her 6th Japanese studio album, HEART STATION released on the 19th of March, 2008. On October 20th, 2008 her song Eternally from Hikki's 'Distance' Album was used as the theme of the drama ~ Innocent Love. By the end of the year, Hikki was voted "Number 1 Favorite Artist of 2008" by Oricon's reader poll making it three times she had won the award. Utada then returned to the US market, releasing This Is The One. She also went on tour, 'Utada: In The Flesh', playing in cities around the world, such as LA, New York and London.
On August 9, 2010, Utada announced on her personal blog that beginning in 2011, she would go on an indefinite hiatus, citing fatigue since her debut 12 years previously. She also stated a need for rest, to study new things and learn more about the world, as well as see to some personal matters. She said the hiatus would last anywhere from two to five years.
Before her hiatus began, she said that she would go "full throttle" on her artistic activities, and soon after her site was updated, and a new compilation album, Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol. 2, was announced, with a release date of November 24, 2010. This new album would include all her Japanese singles from Dareka no Negai ga Kanau Koro to Prisoner of Love on disc one, as well as an extra EP, featuring five new tracks. Later it was announced a DVD containing the promotional video for Goodbye Happiness would be included in all first-press edition pre-orders.
From November 24, 2010, first-week sales for Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol. 2 were 231,000 units according to Oricon album daily charting. Although replacing Heart Station as her lowest first week sales of any Utada Hikaru album to date, this release marked Utada's seventh consecutive number 1 album (5 original and two best-ofs) since her debut, surpassing Kinki Kids' previous record of six and making her the artist with the most successive consecutive number 1 albums in Oricon chart and Japanese music history (the latter according to her label EMI) since premiering. On April 10, 2011, Utada won the award for "Best Conceptual Video" in the SpaceShowerTV Music Video Awards for the PV for "Goodbye Happiness", which also marked her directorial debut. On December 7, 2011, Recochoku updated their yearly download and awards chart, with Utada's Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol. 1 being the second most downloaded album of 2011.
An announcement was made that Utada would perform a short concert tour titled Wild Life (December 8 and 9 2010 only) at Yokohama Arena, Yokohama to promote the album, her first Japanese concert since 2006's Utada United.
On 8 November 2010, EMI Japan announced on its Web site that the company had made a new global recording deal with Utada, also stating that all of her future works regardless of language would be released under one name: Hikaru Utada.