Legal name: 宇多田 光, 宇多田光
Also performs as: Cubic U
Hikaru Utada (宇多田 ヒカル, Utada Hikaru, born January 19, 1983), who also goes by the mononym Utada English /ˈuː tɑː də/, is a Japanese American singer and songwriter. After releasing the commercially unsuccessful English-language album Precious under the stage name "Cubic U" in 1998, she rose to prominence in 1999 with the release of her second album, First Love, which sold over seven million copies in Japan and became the best selling Japanese-language album of all time. With the release of First Love, Utada became a recognized pop icon in Japan, and experienced continued success with follow-ups Distance (2001) and Deep River (2002), the former of which sold over three million copies in one week, collecting the largest first-week sales of all time in Japan and in the world. Her first compilation, Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol. 1 (2004), charted for 149 weeks in Japan and became her longest-charting project.
She was described by Time Magazine as a "Diva On Campus", a reference to her having attended Columbia University for a brief, career-break semester in 2000. In 2004 after being signed to Island Records in the United States, Utada began recording her second English album, Exodus. It was commercially unsuccessful in the United States, though the song "Devil Inside" topped the dance chart there. Exodus did, however, ship over one million copies in Japan. Utada released a new album, Ultra Blue, in 2005, but it failed to sell over one million copies and became her worst-selling album at the time. Its singles had not experienced as much success as her previous releases, save for lead single "Colors". The album included her first digital single, "This Is Love", which was downloaded over one million times in Japan. She made a major comeback in 2007 with the single "Flavor of Life", which sold over five million copies in Japan alone and is one of the best selling singles of all time with worldwide sales exceeding eight million. Her next three singles charted within the Oricon's top five and sold well in Japan, and were followed by a number-one album, Heart Station (2008). It sold over one million copies in Japan. A third English-language album, This Is the One, followed in 2009 and produced the US top-five dance hit "Come Back to Me", but became the lowest selling record of her career. Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol. 2 (2010), her second compilation album, was supported by the digital single "Goodbye Happiness". Its video marked Utada's directorial debut. After her Utada: In the Flesh 2010 world tour and the two-date Wild Life concert, Utada went on hiatus in 2011, and officially remains on hiatus as of 2015. In 2012, she released a digital single, "Sakura Nagashi", and it was subsequently certified Platinum in Japan.
She has had three of her Japanese studio albums in the list of Top 10 best-selling albums ever in Japan (number 1, 4, 8) and six of her albums (including one English-language and one compilation) charting within the 275 Best-Selling Japanese albums list. Utada has had twelve number-one singles on the Oricon Singles chart, with two notable record achievements for a female solo or group artist: five million-sellers and four in the Top 100 All-Time Best-selling Singles. It is estimated that Utada has sold more than 52 million records worldwide, making her one of the best-selling music artists in Japan.
In 2009, she was considered "the most influential artist of the decade" in the Japanese landscape by The Japan Times. Additionally, Utada is best known in the West for making two theme song contributions to Square Enix and Disney's collaborative video game series Kingdom Hearts: "Simple and Clean" (which is the re-written English-language version of her 10th Japanese single "Hikari") for Kingdom Hearts and "Sanctuary" for Kingdom Hearts II ("Passion" in the Japanese version of the game).