Home Music Single Review: Hikaru Utada – Gold ~Mata au hi Made~

Single Review: Hikaru Utada – Gold ~Mata au hi Made~

Single Review: Hikaru Utada – Gold ~Mata au hi Made~

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The post header image, featuring the text ‘?J Pop Single Review’ and a shot of a vinyl of Hikaru Utada’s “Gold ~Mata au hi Made~”. The cover art features a shot of Hikaru Utada in a custom Tomo Koizumi. surrounded by dancers who are out of focus.

When I first heard the preview for “Gold ~Mata au hi Made~”, I figured there was a likelihood that the second half of the song would switch into something different, because the previews seem to focus so specifically on the start of the song. And having now heard the full version, I get why. Because the first half of “Gold ~Mata au hi Made~” is the only part which really fits the tone and look of the film from what I’ve seen.

But here’s my thing with “Gold ~Mata au hi Made~”. I actually think there should’ve been a version which kept the vibe of the first part of the song. And that maybe “Gold ~Mata au hi Made~” shoulda got the “Flavor of Life” treatment.

If you know, you know.

The switch which occurs in “Gold ~Mata au hi Made~” isn’t completely drastic. But it’s different enough to the point that it almost feels like a different song. It isn’t like “Bad Mode”, where it’s just the groove that changes. With “Gold ~Mata au hi Made~” it’s almost like we get a different song. And I think the tonal and genre shift is going to be quite divisive.

My problem with this song isn’t that there is a switch. It’s that the song doesn’t really go anywhere once it occurs. If the switch in the second half had built up to something in a way which really rounded out the song and finished what the first half had started, I would have adored the shit out of this song. But because it doesn’t, “Gold ~Mata au hi Made~” is a song which has a great first half which then transitions into something else which sounds great and promising, but doesn’t go anywhere. And the whole song winds up coming up short as a result.

Hikaru Utada in the TV spot for “Gold ~Mata au hi Made~”. Bathed in a blue light, wearing a Tomo Koizumi custom dress.
Hikaru Utada – Gold ~Mata au hi Made~ | Sony Music Labels Inc.

I really like that Hikaru Utada is continuing to be a little experimental with their music though. Bad Mode really showcased how much freer Hikaru Utada seems to be when it comes to their songs. They are unafraid for there to be lots of space in their music. For songs to be as long as they need to be. For things to shift and change. Hikaru Utada’s approach to their music could possibly be seen as an allegory for their personal journey. Hikaru Utada announced that they identify as non-binary in 2021. And has also become far more open about their son, who has become more of a presence in their artistic expression. Hikaru also seems to have developed this new lease of life when it comes to their career. The past 2 years have seen Hikaru become far more active than they have been in a really long time. The promo for Bad Mode was stretched out for an entire year after its release, which is rare for a Japanese album, period. Much less a Hikaru Utada release. Hikaru seems to have reached a sweet spot where they have not only found safe spaces and a collective of people to be creative with, but they are able to actually enjoy the fruits of their career without the full pressures of ‘the machine’ of the music business or the wonderings of ‘What if’ concerning living life because they never took the time to do it. For the first time in quite some time, Hikaru seems happy with the balance they have, and it really carries through in the music.

There is also a sense of completeness to Hikaru Utada when it comes to their musical persona. Once again we are hearing / seeing the impact of Exodus continue to be felt in Hikaru’s music, which is great. Not only because it’s a sign that Hikaru actually did care about that album more than we thought, but we’re finally seeing Hikaru Utada and Utada become one. And as much as everybody hates This Is the One, we get that folded into the mix too. “Gold ~Mata au hi Made~” in many ways sounds like a fusion of the style of Stargate productions (“Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence – FYI”, “Apple & Cinnamon”) and the Tricky Stewart productions (“Dirty Desire”) from This is the One.

There is a warmth and a comfort which Hikaru Utada’s music has now as a result of the sense of completeness they seem to have found in themselves and in life, and I really feel all of this in “Gold ~Mata au hi Made~”. It’s one of the things I like most about the song.

Hikaru Utada in the TV spot for “Gold ~Mata au hi Made~”. Stood in a room in lit in blue, wearing a Tomo Koizumi custom dress, surrounded by dancers who are out of focus.
Hikaru Utada – Gold ~Mata au hi Made~ | Sony Music Labels Inc.

“Gold ~Mata au hi Made~” not only feels like an extension of the journey we saw Hikaru Utada go on throughout Bad Mode, but a loopback on the point at which Hikaru was at for Fantôme. “Gold ~Mata au hi Made~” could be perceived as Hikaru Utada looking back on that lonely road they spoke of, and realising that they were never truly alone. “Gold ~Mata au hi Made~” in many ways feels like it could potentially be a song about their mother. Having finally reached a place where thoughts of her no longer feel like reminders of the void left by her passing, but the space she occupied when she was alive. And it could also be a song from the perspective of Hikaru writing a letter to their son from the future, to prevent him from feeling the level of loneliness they had felt.

However you choose to interpret or read into the song, “Gold ~Mata au hi Made~” is a song about hope. It’s a celebration of not only the memory you have of somebody, but the joys of being fortunate enough to love and be loved. And at a time like now where it feels like so many of us are losing so much, it’s a nice sentiment to hear from somebody who has experienced the loss of someone they held so dear. Because it’s a reminder that you can find happiness on the other side in the literal or metaphorical sense.

The message of “Gold ~Mata au hi Made~” speaks to me more than the sound of the actual song itself though, which is so fucking unfortunate. I really do wish the latter half of the song were better arranged so that it better captured the feeling of euphoria and revelling in a good memory that I think it was trying to convey. For some, this may still have been achieved. But I needed more.

Whilst it’s nice that Hikaru has found a partner in crime in A.G. Cook as a co-producer, I do think that Sam Shepherd (aka Floating Points) would have been a better choice for this song, just based on how stellar his work was on songs such as “Bad Mode”, “Kibun ja Nai no” and “Somewhere Near Marseilles”, all of which had the richness, builds and payoff in their final moments which “Gold ~Mata au hi Made~” lacks in the hands of A.G. Cook. A characteristic of A.G. Cook’s productions occasionally used to the subverting the expectation of a typical drop. And something this works. But sometimes when a song needs a build, a drop and a payoff, it should just be given a build, a drop and a payoff. And “Gold ~Mata au hi Made~” definitely needed these things for me.

And as much as I do like the style shift, part of me does wish that more of the elements of the first half of the song carried through into the second half, which is something I feel Floating Points would have been mindful of and actually done had he co-produced the song. Keep the piano, bring in strings and have a drum & bass style back beat to drive the whole thing. I think this would have held the song together far better and been easier to build off of, instead of this ‘Okay, so what now?’ vibe that the song falls into by the time it hits the 3 minute mark.

Hikaru Utada in the TV spot for “Gold ~Mata au hi Made~”. Bathed in a warm light, wearing a Tomo Koizumi custom dress.
Hikaru Utada – Gold ~Mata au hi Made~ | Sony Music Labels Inc.

“Gold ~Mata au hi Made~” is not a bad song at all. But the arrangement and production choices result in it not finishing as strong as it started. I would like a slight re-working by the time the album comes around. But, who knows. Maybe when sequenced within an album it will work. Because I didn’t like any of Bad Mode’s singles when they released, but within the album, they hit differently. So, I guess we’ll see.

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