Utada was back in New York City this past week and somehow found the time to meet with Ningin ningens David, Hoc and Megu. No Ningin camera crew this time. Just a casual interview 27 floors up on the West side of Manhattan with Utada and her father. Utada was lounging out like it was a lazy Sunday with just a T-shirt, jeans and an ear flapped knit cap - except it was Monday. Her upcoming English language album, This Is The One, is set for a March debut and will be released in America and Japan. In this first of two parts, Utada talked about record label politics and writing her new album.
David: The first single that’s out right now has a very American R&B sound to it, will the album have that same sound? Your other Japanese albums have more of an electronic sound to them.
Utada: Compared to the Japanese stuff, yes, there is a bit more of a very American sound I guess. I think the R&B-ness of it is because of the fact that I wanted to make an album that would be mainstream and good pop. At this point, R&B, it’s just that it’s mainstream.
David: and pop?
Utada: Right. But then there are many different styles in the album. Like the songs, they’re all very… some of them are more European sounding or Japanese influenced, it’s many different forms, but overall I would say there’s that mainstream feeling.
David: The first single “Come Back to Me” isn’t necessarily an indication of the entire sound of the album?
Utada: It’s hard. In some ways it is, and in some ways it isn’t.
David: People who already know your stuff will find something familiar?
Utada: Yeh, I think so. There should be something familiar with “Come Back to Me” as well. It’s just what aspect or how much you’re talking about… just the essence as an artist or the nature of the genre or nature of the track. It’s the same voice.
David: “Come Back to Me” personally I think it goes a little bit back towards your older stuff.
Utada: Yeh, it’s true. To the very beginning. [laughs]
David: It seems to ride more on your actual voice.
Utada: Yeh, I intended to be more of a singer, which is where I started out anyways. I feel very comfortable, like at home with the new song.
David: I assume you’re very confident about the new album because you’re going to release the American version in Japan.
Utada: That’s a sign of confidence? [surprised]
David: Well, it’s not like your Japanese releases. So you must be confident that even tho your Japanese fans are used to listening to something else from you…
Utada: Oh, it’s not a choice that I’m releasing in Japan. It’s more record company politics. It’s like in the contract. It’s not like “I’m going to put this out in Japan because I’m confident.” That kind of thing? Nada!
Utada: It’s politics. No choice.
David: Is it EMI that’s releasing in Japan?
David: Oh, well that’s a little surprising.
Utada: Really? I don’t think any artist has that choice to put it out and in what country. That’s not up to the artist. It’s completely up to the record company.
David: I guess I’m surprised [because] I thought you would have a little more say in it.
Utada: No. [laughs]
Utada: “This Is The One”
David: For “Come Back to Me” you worked with the Stargate producers. Did you work on any other tracks with them?
Utada: More than half the songs. There’s ten songs on the album and six of them were done with Stargate. And the other four with Tricky.
David: Did you have a say in songwriting for all the tracks?
Utada: Yeh, I wrote the songs. Wouldn’t have it any other way. [laughs]
David: You also worked with Timbaland–
Utada: For the last album.
David: Are there any other American producers or artists that you want to collaborate with?
Utada: Not really. When the time comes I will think about who, but not really. [laughs]
David: You prefer being a solo performer?
Utada: This time the reason why I decided to work with Stargate and Tricky was because I didn’t want to have any big producers on the album like Timbaland-type producers that have their own color coming out, like their character is strong, like Timbaland-esque.
David: It sounds like Timbaland.
Utada: Right, where as I wanted it to be just me. To have track makers instead of producers. Stargate and Tricky are more like track makers. They’re producers but compared to Timbaland-type producers, they’re better at bringing out the quality and characteristics of a particular artist. They can take one step behind, sort of, into the background a bit. They know how to do that. That’s how they work. It was a very interesting collaboration in terms of music as well. I said “I’m going to write all the songs. That’s how it is.” I also collaborated on the tracks as well. I added some tracks, I changed the chords, had a part in the arranging… so I think a lot of me comes out in the whole album… which is good. [smiles]
David: I think a lot of you comes out in the single that’s out now. Like I said, it definitely reminds me of some of your older material.
Utada: Yeh, like the “First Love”-ish thing. Yes.
David: But contemporary.
Utada: But the 2009 version. [laughs]
Utada’s new single “Come Back to Me” goes on sale on iTunes on February 9, and the new album “This Is The One” comes out March 24.
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