Before her major debut with her album First Love (1999), she sold several records with mediocre success. After First Love's release, which went on to become the best-selling album in Oricon's recent history,Utada would go on to have three of her Japanese studio albums rank in Top 10 best-selling albums ever in Japan (#1, #4, #8) and an overall six of her albums, two English-language and one compilation, thus far in her career charting within the 275 Best-Selling Japanese albums list.
Utada currently has 12 number-one singles to date on the Oricon Singles chart, with two notable record achievements for a female solo or group artist: 5 of them being million-sellers and 4 placing in the Top 100 All-Time Best-selling Singles.For her achievements, she was described by Time Magazine in 2001 as a "Diva On Campus," while attending Columbia University for a brief, career-break semester in 2001. In 2003, Utada was ranked #24 in the survey of Top 100 Japanese Pop Artists of All Time by HMV, and #10 in HMV's Top 30 Best Japanese Singers of All Time in 2006.
Additionally, Utada is also credited for two theme song contributions to Square Enix's Kingdom Hearts video game series: "Simple and Clean" and "Sanctuary". In 2007, her single "Flavor of Life" reached #2 in worldwide digital download yearly single chart with over 7.2 million downloads,and contributes to 12 million digital sales for her over the same year.
Early life and beginnings
Hikaru Utada was born in New York City to Japanese parents with roots in the Japanese music industry. Her father, Teruzane Utada, was a record producer while her mother, Junko Utada, was an enka singer, performing under the stage name "Keiko Fuji." Junko Utada’s mother, and Hikaru’s grandmother, was a blind shamisen player (ごぜ, or goze). Utada made her first professional recording at the age of twelve. She did her recordings with her mother, releasing songs under a band named “U3” (also known as Utada 3) until 1996 when she started her first solo project, "I'll be Stronger." The "Cookin' With Moses Vocal" from this project was called the "Cookin' With Gas Vocal" on the promotional release.
"I’ll Be Stronger" was the first song Utada wrote. It was released under the artist name "Cubic U," a mathematical reference to her being the third Utada 'power,' which was Hikaru's pseudonym before becoming a superstar in Japan. The song failed to release in the United States, and in 1997, she started her next project, though at first she was hesitant. Cubic U released her debut single "Close to You," which was a cover of The Carpenters' song. She then released her debut album Precious, but it failed to be released in the United States due to restructuring issues at her then record label Capitol Records.
She released Precious in Japan on January 28, 1998, and then later re-released it on March 31, 1999 to much better success. It has sold 702,060 copies to date in Japan, making it a significant hit for an all-English album in that market.