Single Review: Utada Hikaru – “桜流し”

This is Utada Hikaru’s new single, released on November 17, 2012 to coincide with the release of Rebuild of Evangelion: You Can (Not) Redo, the third installment of the Rebuild of Evangelion film tetralogy, for which the song serves as the ending theme.

Very pretty artwork. Kind of reminds me of the “Goodbye Happiness” single cover, and the muted colors are so evocative.

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Although I was totally caught off guard by the release of 桜流し (Sakura nagashi; Cherry Blossoms Flowing), I honestly couldn’t have hoped for a better way for Hikki to break her hiatus. This sprawling, solemn ballad features  one of the most beautiful piano-driven instrumentations I’ve ever heard and what I would go so far as to say is Hikki’s most mature-sounding vocal performance to date. Not unlike her earlier classic  FINAL DISTANCE, the song builds in intensity from verse to verse until it reaches its apex in the bridge, but ends somewhat abruptly with very little trailing off and no final chorus, lending a sense of finality. Also not to be forgotten are the lyrics, which are exquisite in their wistful simplicity (view the Japanese lyrics here and the English translation, done by Hikki herself, here). I almost have nothing more to say about this song because it is so beautiful that I fail to find the words to describe it. Please, I ask that you listen to it and experience it for yourself. It is truly one of Hikki’s most incredible songs yet.

The single also includes an instrumental version of the song.

Summary: I think I’m speaking for everyone when I say that this single came totally out of left field. Hikki’s been on hiatus for roughly two and a half years now, and other than some occasional stirrings on Twitter, has given no indication that intended to come back. Although I’m not sure this means Hikki’s hiatus is officially over, this much I know: none of us could have anticipated how wonderful this song would be. It is melancholy, nostalgic, evocative and simply one of the most gorgeous songs I’ve ever heard Hikki sing. In fact, listening to 桜流し, I was reminded of why Hikki is a legend in the world of Japanese music: the amount of emotion and longing she’s able to conjure in so few words, and with so few notes, is virtually unparalleled. Hikki is a gift, and her music simply heaven sent.

Single Grade: A+
Recommended? Yes

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