Interview with Hikaru Utada at Coachella 2022 – Billboard

On the first day of this year’s first weekend at Coachella (April 15-17), J-pop superstar Hikaru Utada surprised fans by announcing that she would be performing the next day at the Head in the Clouds Forever showcase. from 88rising. The event will be streamed live on YouTube, meaning fans around the world who couldn’t make it to the festival grounds could tune in to witness the Japanese-American hitmaker’s special set online. The following is a report from Billboard Japan on Hikaru Utada’s first Coachella performance, along with excerpts from an interview they gave immediately after her performance.

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I was one of the lucky ones who got to watch the show at the venue and walked to a position by the rink where I could see Hikaru Utada with the naked eye. Having attended numerous concerts and festivals in the US, I can safely say that I have never seen such a large gathering of Asians in one place before, and it was an unheard of sight. The LGBTQ crowd was also highlighted by another artist’s performance that I saw on the first day of the festival, which to me felt like the wave of a new era signifying the younger generation’s inclusive attitude towards racial and sexual diversity.

88rising, an American platform run by Sean Miyashiro that promotes Asian culture around the world, introduced Head in the clouds forever on the main stage at Coachella. It was a historic moment, as a record label had never curated this stage before, and perhaps it was Goldenvoice’s respect for diversity that made it possible. In fact, this year’s lineup included artists from Mongolia, Belgium, Italy, Brazil, Latin America, and many other countries.

Secretly, I was worried that the up-and-coming artists of ’88 might feel a little underdog that day, as Billie Eilish was headlining the main stage. But Indonesian rapper Warren Hue opened the display with a majestic performance accompanied by a dozen dancers, pumping up the crowd closer to the stage. Next up were Milli from Thailand, with a characteristic style of melodious rapping; BIBI from South Korea, whose English and Korean lyrics over catchy pop beats left a sense of well-being; NIKI from Indonesia, who performed her beautiful songs with a 15-piece symphony orchestra and contemporary dancers; and then Rich Brian, also from Indonesia. Each performed an average of four songs in a medley, and the performances proceeded at a brisk pace.

As the sun set and the magic hour sky displayed a mix of blue and pink hues, Hikaru Utada finally appeared on stage and made her Coachella debut in the kingdom hearts theme “Simple and clean”, which suddenly starts with the chorus.

Looking back after the show, they shared, “It was over in an instant. It felt amazing, it really felt amazing. And I had no idea what to expect because I don’t know how many of the people in the crowd would know about me or be excited to see me. And for the first festival experience to be the main stage at Coachella, and what happened tonight was incredible. The crowd was so engaged with me and they were so there and, you know, they were warm to me and gave me so much energy.” As they noted, the audience filled the moment of silence after the lyric “It’s hard to let go” with warm applause.

Although they seemed to have some difficulty singing at first, they quickly recovered to give a nostalgic rendition of “First Love.” From the low notes at the beginning to the chorus, her graceful singing naturally brought back memories for those of us who had listened to her first album of the same name over and over again in the late ’90s. During the third song, “Face My Fears” , about 10 dancers appeared on stage adding additional excitement to the show. Hikaru Utada then sat on the stairs center stage, surrounded by the dancers, and released a smooth rendition of her record-breaking 1998 debut single “Automatic,” sounding not a day older than when it was released. first released. published.

With nine artists making up an 80-minute set, the amount of time each artist has obviously becomes limited. Hikaru Utada explained his reasons for choosing these songs for his Coachella segment: “Sean said that he was listening to me at the same time the first album came out and that it was a special moment in his life, that [the songs] they represent a special moment of his life”, they shared. “So definitely, you know, [thinking] ‘Automatic’ and ‘First Love’, all these things. Like everyone around him, the crew, everyone wants to hear that and ‘Simple and Clean’. ‘Clean’ seemed like a no-brainer. So I said, ‘Okay, those three.’ And then there wasn’t much time for many other songs, but ‘Face My Fears’ felt like a good song that woke up the crowd. It’s on my last album, so I said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

Chinese superstar Jackson Wang took the stage after Hikaru Utada and showed off his impeccable dance moves, and after collaborating on a number with Hue and Brian, Hikaru Utada once again premiered his new song “T”, accompanying himself on the keyboard. This new track is included in the head in the clouds forever compilation, and Hikaru Utada revealed the recording process while talking about their young collaborator in the interview, “I stayed up all night doing that, I rewrote most of the lyrics. They told me that the song has to be mastered in two days so that it is ready to be released today”, they explain. “Then we went into the studio, we recorded the next day with Warren Hue. He is incredible. He could be my son, seriously! He’s 19 years old. He is incredible. He left his part after I did mine. We mix it the next day. It was mastered that night. It was last minute, but I think it turned out to be a great song.”

Hikaru Utada also went into detail about why they chose to work with 88rising: “It’s mainly Sean and the passion he spoke to me with,” they said. “I haven’t really been in contact with my Asian fans directly outside of Japan…and even with Asian-Americans who are familiar with me, I didn’t know there was so much support. I just didn’t get a chance to really know. It was a huge eye-opener for me and it also felt amazing… for me to get in touch with my Asian-American side as well.”

After Hikaru Utada’s performance of “T,” South Korea’s CL performed three songs, and the final highlight of the event was when 2NE1 got together for the first time in seven years to perform “I Am the Best.”

Coachella YouTube Live Streams have become an annual tradition, and now it’s easier than ever for artists to connect with audiences around the world by performing at the festival. When asked how connecting with global fans inspires them, Hikaru Utada talked about how they dealt with his identity for a long time.

“When I was here [in the U.S.], I always felt a bit awkward… I didn’t really grow up feeling very race conscious because I grew up mostly in international schools where we were all from 80 different countries in the world. I have always felt like a human being. I always wished it was simpler. Only that, we could have done it, not think so much about it, ”they shared. “But it’s an important part of our identity and somehow I missed out on building my identity as an Asian person. So weirdly, finally, I feel like I’m getting in touch with it. And with things like social media and online interaction with fans, I’m aware that I get a lot of reactions from non-Japanese fans. I really feel the buildup when I do something online.”