Utada is the English language project name of 宇多田ヒカル (Utada Hikaru). She is a third culture singer, composer, arranger, and record producer in Japan and United States. Utada maintains this name in the west as she intends to keep her English style separate from her Japanese music. She has sold an estimated 52 million albums worldwide. Utada is fluent in both English and Japanese as she was raised in both New York and Tokyo. She is most notable in the west for composing and singing the Kingdom Hearts themes 光 (Hikari) and Simple and Clean, as well as the theme songs for Kingdom Hearts II, Passion ~opening version~ and Sanctuary ~opening version~.
Utada Hikaru was born on January 19, 1983 in New York City 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 藤圭子/Keiko Fuji). Utada has been recording since 1993, and made her first professional recording at the age of twelve. She released her first album comprised of all English songs, Precious, in 1996 under the pseudonym Cubic U. The 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."
Originally, Utada's music had an R&B style to it, but now her music has progressed to a more pop/experimental tone. Her R&B sound was what brought her so much attention with her first release in Japan, Automatic/time will tell, as there were no other artists with her distinct style.
Utada was once-married to famed director Kiriya Kazuaki, who directed the movie CASSHERN, where she sang the main theme song Dareka no Negai ga Kanau Koro .
After her first singles compilation album Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol. 1 was released in March 31st, 2004, Utada moved back to New York to work on her second english album Exodus, which was released in the US on Oct 5th, 2004. Due to lack of promotion by her record label Island Def Jam, however, the album was met with indifference in the US market, undoubtedly not ready to accept a new foreign artist. However, the second single from this album, "Devil Inside," managed became a club smash in the U.S. and topped the Billboard Hot Dance/Club Airplay charts.
Utada moved back to Tokyo after a year of promotion for Exodus, and returned to the Japanese music scene. Despite being criticized of poor oversea advance, she released three albums over the span of 2 years: Ultra Blue and Heart Station, both certified of selling one million for shipments by the RIAJ, On October 20, 2008, her song "Eternally" from her 2001 album Distance was used as the theme for the drama Innocent Love. The song was later released as a digital single. By the end of the year, Utada was also voted the "#1 Favorite Artist of 2008" by Oricon's annual readers poll, making it her second consecutive year, and third time overall, to win the vote; her previous years being 2004 and 2007.
According to Utada's blog, on September 25th, 2007, Utada began speaking to Island Def Jam about her second English-language album. There is no set schedule, as Utada's tone suggests that she is in no rush. On October 23rd, 2007, Utada said that she had already made several demo tracks for not only the upcoming English album, but also her fifth Japanese album and was scheduled to record some of the songs on that afternoon.
On November 14th, 2007 it was announced that Utada would be featured on a download only version of Ne-Yo's song Do You. The song was released in Japan on November 21st.
Utada will be releasing her second English album, This is the One, on March 24th, 2009 in the United States electronically. A physical copy will be released later, on May 12th, 2009. The main single "Come Back to Me", which she dubbed her "breakout song" during an interview with KiwiBox, was released for airplay on February 9th, 2009. Despite her previous English album's lesser success, Utada is confident about this one. "I don't want to do experimental stuff. I just want to make a really good Pop album," she tells the interviewer. "This is the one, you know?"