Review Summary: In conclusion there is nothing more to say that HEART STATION is one great pop record. It may lack a bit of innovation and drive, but for the fact that it follows a concept, it works. Fans of GOOD and thoughtful pop music will like it a lot.
Hikaru Utada has been idolised for 10 years now in her home country Japan. The Japanese crowd is devoted to her luscious pop classics ("Automatic", "Addicted To You", "Hikari" - just to name a few) and always rewards her efforts with a #1 spot in the Japanese ORICON single and album charts.
Utada's state can be compared with the stardom of pop star Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera by now. The critics put her into a more specific genre though. Rather known as a 'pop singer/songwriter', she escaped the traditional miming teen pop generation.
HEART STATION is her former sixth studio record and has been named after her third single from this era. The term refers to her more grounded and basic album theme - namely life, love, desperation and also (surprisingly) ... death. The album is a real pop record - a collection of appealing mid-tempo tracks and ballads - with ethereal and minor euro-dance influences.
The record sets off with FIGHT THE BLUES, a light and airy mid-tempo tune which is softly accompanied by Hikaru's distinct vocals. The melody, as usual for Utada's songs, is soothing and memorable. HEART STATION, one of the released singles, has the same ethereal surrounding to it, but a very different tone. A little more unagitated in the verses, but efflorescent in its chorus. Beautifully soft and heartfelt. One of the standout tracks and the most subtle one in its musical presentation.
BEAUTIFUL WORLD, the third track off HS is a very colourful and joyous pop track. On par with FIGHT THE BLUES but a little more subtle and emerging. FLAVOR OF LIFE -BALLAD VERSION- is Hikaru's signature song of this era. The ballad has sold worlwide over 7 millions and is one of the traditional pure pop ballads. Beautiful strings and very fragile vocals... a must-listen for every pop fanatic! STAY GOLD again keeps up with the intense ballady mood, but feels more cosy to listen to. Very sweet and low-key. Could have been a lullaby.
KISS & CRY is the only proper uptempo song on the record. It contains a heavy basslines and some horns and trumpets appearing every now and then. Not exactly a classic, but a light and fun tune to listen to. The chorus is a bit repetitive though. Next follows the GENTLE BEAST INTERLUDE which goes into CELEBRATE, a nice and bouncy chillout song.
PRISONER OF LOVE proves to be a highly dramatic pop anthem. It's easily the most grabbing tune on the record, because Hikaru's vocals are very emotional and she sings the chorus with such effort... really great! There's a likeable dramatic feeling to the song which makes it compareable to FLAVOR OF LIFE in a way.
TAKE 5 is the strangest track off HS as it deals lyrically with death. Nevertheless... it's a rather powerful ethereal sounding pop song. Very likeable overall.
The album ends with BOKU WA KUMA and NIJI-IRO BASU, two songs made for a Children's TV show. They also sound a little cheesy and are definitely a bit out of place. Otherwise the album is another great effort from Utada, Japan's most famous pop singer to date. Some people may have expected too much, because her previous records ULTRA BLUE and DEEP RIVER were definitely much stronger overall. HEART STATION is more basic sounding, but a little more emotional than Utada's latest work.