Review: Fantôme by Utada Hikaru

Fantôme by Utada HikaruDepending on how you count, it’s been either seven or eight years since Utada Hikaru last released an album. Sure, she released some songs in those years, but she spent most of the time on break. Her experiences and pursuits in those years – those songs, the suicide of her mother, her becoming a mother herself – informs Fantôme, an album that’s interesting both in where it sits in the J-pop legend’s oeuvre and in just how much things have changed since then. One, yes, things have changed, but Fantôme does not sound like it’s stuck in time nor trying hard to keep up. The caveat is, there really aren’t any standout moments on the record: after “Michi” kicks everything off as some sort of statement of intent, it relaxes and slouches a bit. Yet it all feels deliberate, and that’s the most important thing of all: even if the album flags towards the final third – it could be my stamina – you have the sense that you know what Hikki is doing, and you’re more than willing to go along for the ride. She sounds assured throughout the record, and that alone, it seems, is enough. [NB]4/5

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