Hikaru Utada has been described by fans as a no-nonsense non-Western version of an American pop star. Take Britney Spears, cut out all the weird stuff with that Kevin guy, add decent lyrics, give her the ability to write her own songs, and cut the “slut” factor: you’ve got Hikaru Utada.
The young lady previously recorded both the English and Japanese versions of the Kingdom Hearts theme song “Hikari” (known in English as “Simple and Clean”). I enjoyed this song (both its original slow version and the pumped up opening remix), but I knew she could do better. I found that “better” song in Passion.
Within the first week of its release, many VGM fans had reported to me that they thought “Passion” to be a mediocre song. In one sense, it is. The chord progression stays the same. The song is stable, constant, repetitive. You get the feeling that the song isn’t “going anywhere.” I’ll accept those complaints.
But (and this is a big but), this song has a feel to it unlike most other pop songs and radio hits. The music here reminds me of the UK vocalist Imogen Heap: the samples, the drum work, and the voice effects are ethereal in a way that is simply beautiful.
Not to mention, the bonus music video is amazing. The clip above doesn’t have much of it, but the first minute of this video is done in anime, and then it switches to live-action Utada with blue-men timpani players, then girls dancing in pink, and then at the end some horses run through a field. It’s weird all right, but assuming the imagery is a metaphor for Utada breaking out of an illusory world, it fits well with the song (and the lessons learned in Kingdom Hearts II).
The “after the battle” version is used in the ending of Kingdom Hearts II: it’s longer, and it makes use of the verses without the drums for the first half of the song. However, it also has a longer instrumental ending. I like the original single version more, though the softness is enjoyable.
I heartily recommend this single to you, unless you purchased the KH2 OST, which happens to have both versions of the song on it. If you don’t want the full KH2 OST (which has some repeat tracks from the first game and has received mix reviews), please get this single. I’m passionate about this.