In a world without you
No wish would come true
So even if a valley of blazing hell fire awaits us
I want to protect you
I don’t need anything other than you
Most problems are of no importance
I won’t wish for much, so please God
Please give me an unchanging tomorrow
-Utada HIkaru, Anata
When I think about J-pop, one of the first artists that comes to mind is Utada Hikaru. She is a legend in the J-Pop scene, as well as internationally for her songs in each of the Kingdom Hearts video games main entries (“Simple & Clean,” from the original Kingdom Hearts, particularly remained in the minds of fans for years after the game premiered).
Her 2018 concert tour, entitled Laughter In The Dark, is available to stream on Netflix. I was ecstatic to watch it, as I’m not a big concert goer and it’s basically impossible to go to attend a J-Pop concert for a major artist unless you’re in Japan. Sure, some anime cons have an artist now and then, but let’s be honest, those are few and far between. I have never been able to see Utada in concert, nor any my other favorite Japanese artists, so this was the closest experience I could get.
I have been listening to Utada’s music since her first release some twenty years ago, and this tour coincided with that 20th anniversary. She sang lots of older songs, as well as new ones like “Chikai,” which is the theme for Kingdom Hearts III. Having watched this shortly after playing the game, I was thrilled to hear her sing it. Her voice sounds very good live, which is nice since so many artists sadly just don’t sound that great on stage.
For Playstation VR owners, “Hikari” and “Chikai” were released on January 18, 2018, on the same day “Face My Fears” was released (another song for Kingdom Hearts III).
Some of my favorite songs from this concert were: “Anata,” “Traveling,” “Hikari,” “Too Proud,” “Chikai,” “Automatic,” and a few others. Some I hadn’t heard before, just weren’t my style. Utada is not a one genre artist; she can go from a power ballad to a pop song and throw in some lyrical bars in between, like with “Too Proud.”
The performance was excellent, from the lighting, band members, and even an interview in the middle of the concert to discuss how she gave her concert its title. The interview was conducted by Japanese comedian, Naoki Matayoshi, who is also an author. They had some fun moments together involving bottles being smashed. Her dance choreographer also joined for a couple songs.
Utada connects with her audience in a way that I appreciate from cultures like Japan. When an artist who is famous worldwide does a tour in her native country, the fans are often extra appreciative because they are proud to see one of their own shine in the global spotlight. She would have moments like talking with the audience as if they were friends catching up on life. This made you me more relaxed and enjoy the concert more, as it didn’t feel like a “show” per se.
I felt welcome while watching, and it was nice to see someone famous not act like she was this amazing superstar that nobody can get near to. I often find that to be the case with celebrities in the USA. Even though I’m not Japanese nor speak the language, I feel a connection to her music because it’s about very real life situations or insecurities. It’s not all fluffy and repetitive, which I also appreciate (and is the same with several other J-Pop artists). Her lyrics are like poetry, or thoughts about life which most of have.
If you have never watched a J-Pop concert, I highly recommend you check this one out. Whether you’re a fan or not, I promise you this experience will be something different for you. Utada’s personality is a special one; she’s very honest, and just enjoys her music for what it is, which is to make people smile and have a good time.
Let me know what you thought of the concert, if you are a fan, or what J-Pop artists you enjoy!
Concert setlist from Wikipedia
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