Who Is Utada Hikaru? The J-Pop Icon Dazzled Coachella 2022 With an Unexpected Performance
Music lovers descended en masse on Indio, Calif. over the weekend for the first time since 2019. After two years of delays due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival returned for the first of two weekends of the 2022 festival with performances from Harry Styles, Billie Eilish and The Weeknd.
Festival-goers this weekend learned about another surprise performance shortly before Coachella kicked off. On Friday (April 15), 88rising announced the lineup for their Head in the Clouds Forever stage, which unexpectedly included J-pop icon Utada Hikaru.
Check out the announcement below:
On the festival's main stage Saturday night (April 16), Utada joined the likes of Jackson Wang and K-pop star CL and her girl group 2NE1. On stage, Utada performed some of their biggest hits and even debuted a new song.
Fans took to social media to panic about the rare stateside appearance from their fave.
"Why Utada have a Coachella announcement last minute," one fan tweeted. "I would have took my a-- there and bought tickets if I knew beforehand."
If you are unfamiliar with Utada, we pulled together everything you need to know about the Japanese-American music star.
Who Is Utada Hikaru?
Utada Hikaru, known as "Hikki" to their fans, was born in New York and spent their childhood traveling between the U.S. and Japan. They launched their music career at a young age. MTV notes that First Love — Utada's debut album — dropped when they were only 15.
Despite the young age of the rising star at the time of its release, the album remains one of Japan's top-selling records.
In the early 2000s, the star achieved crossover success and became a worldwide sensation through their partnership with Kingdom Hearts. Utada performed the theme song for the video game's first release in 2002. Meanwhile, "Sanctuary" soundtracked Kingdom Hearts II, and the hit-maker contributed two additional songs ("Face My Fears" and "Don't Think Twice") to Kingdom Hearts III.
They continued to drop albums, most of which were in Japanese, over the years. Utada's eighth studio album Bad Mode arrived earlier this year.
What Are Utada Hikaru's Biggest Songs?
With a career that spans more than two decades, Utada Hikaru has released a plethora of songs. However, if you are looking to familiarize yourself with their music, it's a safe bet to check out some of their biggest hits.
You could start with their Kingdom Hearts theme songs. "Hikari"/"Simple & Clean" were the first, and video game fans will likely be familiar with the sweet number.
"Passion" and "Sanctuary" take on a bit more of a rock edge. The Japanese-version of the track pulled double duty and landed on Utada's 2006 album Ultra Blue. Finally, "Face My Fears" and "Don't Think Twice" arrived in 2019. The former was produced alongside Skrillex and Poo Bear and amassed more than 45 million streams on Spotify.
Other notable numbers include "Automatic" and "Movin'on without you" off their debut album First Love. The latter is a particularly stirring cut that resonates with a late '90s charm. Fans also adore the balladry of the LP's title track.
Some of their other biggest hits include "Can You Keep a Secret?" off 2001's Distance, "Traveling" from 2002's Deep River and, more recently, the title track to their 2021 EP One Last Kiss.
Why Is Utada Hikaru's Coachella Performance So Historic?
Utada Hikaru's Coachella performance was a historic moment for Japanese music representation at the world-famous music festival. Although the festival is known across the globe, it wasn't until 2019 that the lineup featured Perfume as its first J-pop girl group, according to Metro.
With a successful career that's lasted more than two decades, Utada is arguably one of the biggest and most prolific Japanese acts to ever take the stage at Coachella. Notably, mega-J-pop star Kyary Pamyu Pamyu also took the stage at Coachella this year.
Additionally, the performance marked Utada's first U.S. performance in more than a decade.
All of the above fed into fans' excitement about the set and made it doubly special, even though Utada kept things casual and teased the performance with a simple post on Instagram.
"See you in a bit Coachella," they wrote alongside a promo pick. Check it out below:
What Is the New Song Utada Hikaru Performed at Coachella?
Fans at Coachella and following along from home celebrated Utada Hikaru's historic set at Coachella. The hit-maker played several of their biggest hits such as "Simple & Clean." Watch a snippet of the opening number below:
That wasn't all, though. Alongside their classics, Utada performed a new song. The superstar linked up with Warren Hue to record a dreamy anthem called "T." Currently it's unclear if this is a sign that more new music is on the horizon. However, it certainly capped off an excellent first stateside performance in over a decade.
Give the new song a listen below: