Too young to fall in love?

by Steve McClure

2002 was an eventful year, to say the least, for superstar singer/songwriter Utada Hikaru. In March, she signed a international recording deal (as an English-language artist — she remains signed to Toshiba-EMI as a Japanese-language artist) with Island Def Jam.

Utada told Billboard magazine that she hopes the time is ripe for an Asian artist to break through in the West. “Maybe the fruit has always been ripe, but so far, Asian artists who reached for it were a few inches short. I think the fact that I’m a native English speaker just might cover those last few inches. Of course, in the end, it all boils down to the music.”

When the deal was announced, Island Def Jam supremo Lyor Cohen said that Utada’s first album for the label would be released either late in 2002 or early this year.

But those plans seemed to have been delayed after Utada was hospitalized in May due to side effects she suffered following an operation in April to remove a benign tumor from an ovary.

And in September, Utada took Japan by surprise by marrying Kazuaki Kiriya, a 34-year-old photographer and video director with whom she has worked for the past couple of years. Utada, by the way, is still only 19.