Continuing in the Utada Hikaru series is the single “FINAL DISTANCE”, which was originally meant to be a re-cut single from her second album, formerly titled ‘DISTANCE’.
A little bit of history behind the single itself: the single was made in honor of student Yamashita Rena who was tragically killed in a Japanese school shooting. Rena had won an essay competition with her dreams to be a singer much like Utada, and having heard this, Hikki remade the planned single to pay respect to Rena.
Having the same lyrics as its original counterpart, “FINAL DISTANCE” takes on a new approach; I won’t say anything snarky or pun-like here. Is “FINAL DISTANCE” a beautiful tribute to Rena?
“FINAL DISTANCE” is a re-working of the title track from Hikki’s second album ‘Distance’, going for more vocally-driven and orchestral in production. Hikki even said herself that the song itself is difficult to sing, as the song itself relies entirely on the delivery of her vocal prowess. And Hikki does not disappoint here, having the emotion to carry the song forward. Blending in some synth in between, the song is haunting and beautiful all at the same time. The original actually does not hold a candle to this version, as this orchestral portrayal gives more meaning to the lyrics. “FINAL DISTANCE” is amazing.
The remainder of the single bases itself on the original track, giving us re-worked versions of the upbeat version. This first edition is “DISTANCE -PLANITb Remix-“, which has Hikki working with PLANITb once again for more late 90s-early 00s dance-club vibes. This remix has a lot of power, giving us synth from every corner, turning the song into what you’d hear from the Billboard Dance/Club Charts in 2001. Despite its upbeat and nostalgic club vibe, it’s nothing really special and does not add to the original track. I’ll distance myself from this every now and then.
Beginning much like its original counterpart, if you are already with m-flo, you know you’re getting zoomed into space with its m-flo-esque introduction. Giving the title track a little bit more of a groovy-R&B-hip-hop feel, “DISTANCE -m-flo Remix-” is Taku Takahashi at his best in 2001, interspersing the track with a beat reminiscent of Crystal Kay’s ‘Boyfriend -part II-‘ (a great song), incorporating violins and robotic synth tones over a distorted hip-hop drum beat. This actually sounds much better than the original and gives it a catchier depth. Is there going to be a day when m-flo will collaborate with Queen Hikki herself? Who knows, but this one gives me the perfect amount of distance, which is right by my heart.
The original track “DISTANCE” is also included on the single, quite possibly to remind you what ‘FINAL DISTANCE’ was based off of. The song itself is a groovy mid-tempo ballad with an R&B tinge that ‘Distance’-era Hikki had been pulling off for the year before. Utilizing twinkling beats to accentuate the positive feel of the song, topped with a 90s-like piano melody, “DISTANCE” is a breezy jam, a complete opposite of “FINAL”, filled with breathy background vocals to make you sway in spot. A wonderful song from her second album, I’m closing off the distance between myself and this song… I wanna be with this song.
To answer the question when I began the review… this is a beautiful tribute to Rena.
“FINAL DISTANCE” is wonderfully made and “DISTANCE” itself was a good choice in paying the honor. The remixes on the single, in particular the m-flo remix, are fun re-workings and fare better than the original themselves. “FINAL DISTANCE” is another amazing single within Hikki’s discography and deserves more love than it already has.
MUST-LISTEN: FINAL DISTANCE, DISTANCE -m-flo Remix-