"Final Distance" is a song by Japanese recording artist Hikaru Utada for her third studio album Deep River (2002). Written by Utada herself, the song was produced and composed by long-time collaborators Akira Miyake, Utada's father Teruzane Utada and herself. "Final Distance" was originally recorded as "Distance" which was taken from the album with the same name, despite not being a single. The song was re-recorded and re-arranged after Utada was aware of the young girl who was inspired by Utada, was murdered during the Osaka school massacre.
Musically, "Final Distance" incorporates more instrumentation than the previous, including violins, an acoustic piano and synthesizers. The song strips the original pop music from "Distance" and is a pop ballad song. Despite being written in 2000 from the original version, Utada reflected on emotions of sorrow, pain, anger and celebration upon hearing the Osaka massacre. Utada personally dedicated the track to six-year-old student Rena Yamashita who, being a fan of Utada and written an essay about her, was murdered during the event.
"Final Distance" received praised reception from most music critics, who praised the re-arrangement and favored this version, although some critics felt the song was inferior to her past ballad tracks. Critics have cited the track as an album and one of Utada's career highlights. Commercially, "Final Distance" stalled at number two on the Oricon Singles Chart, making it her first single to have missed the top spot. The song also resulted in being her lowest selling physical singles at the time but was surpassed by her 2004 single "Dareka no Negai ga Kanau Koro".
An accompanying music video was shot by her then-husband Kazuaki Kiriya, featuring two versions of Utada inside a Utopian-inspired city with ballet dancers and a gothic-like orchestra. The song has been performed on her Utada United 2006 tour and has been featured on a MTV Unplugged appearance in 2002.
During her four-year career since her 1998 debut with her single "Automatic", Utada's status as a Japanese singer and producer was enormous and had benefited with strong sales around Japan. Her first two singles since her debut; "Automatic" and "Movin' On Without You" sold over one million units in Japan, with the first selling over two million. The parent album First Love eventually became the highest selling Japanese album of all time, exceeding sales of more than 7.6 million units in Japan and was certified octuple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ) for shipments of eight million units; the album eventually sold an additional three million worldwide, totaling to 10 million sales. By the end of the year, Utada was rank number 5 on a Japanese radio station Tokio Hot 100 Airplay's Top 100 Artists of the 20th Century by the station and its listeners.
After having a two-year break from the public, her second studio album Distance (2001) became another success and sold over four million units in Japan. The album was backed by the singles "Addicted to You", "Wait & See (Risk)", "For You" / "Time Limit" and "Can You Keep a Secret?", with nearly all the singles achieving over one million sales in Japan. On that album, she recorded "Distance" which contained the same lyrical content as "Final Distance" but the arrangement was handled by Utada and Japanese composer Kei Kawano.
Conception and composition
"Final Distance" was written, co-composed and co-produced by Utada herself, which she has been doing since her debut. The song was co-composed and co-produced by her father Teruzane Utada and long-time collaborator Akira Miyake. Utada recorded the track at Studio Terra and Bunkamura Studio in Tokyo, Japan. "Final Distance" features several instrument pieces including strings arranged by Saito Neko and played by Great Eida, acoustic piano by Kawano Kei, synthesizers by Tsunemi Kazuhide and other instrument arrangement by Utada. Both "Final Distance" and "Distance" feature the same lyrics but arrangement for the latter track was handled by Kawano Kei. Utada had begun work on her third studio album Deep River in 2001, but Utada discovered a benignovarian tumor and was omitted to undertake surgery to remove it. She had managed to re-record and finish the track in time.
The conception of re-recording "Final Distance" was due to the Osaka school massacre that took place in early-June 2001. The Osaka school janitor Mamoru Takuma, armed with a kitchen knife, stabbed and killed a total of eight children, with another seven others being attack. Mamoru was diagnosed with severe borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder and paranoid personality disorder; He was later convicted and sentenced to death by hanging on September 14, 2004. One of the murdered schoolgirls, six-year old Rena Yamashita, had written an essay about Utada, talking about how she wanted to become an actress and how Utada inspired her. Yamashita had won an essay competition regarding her essay about Utada. Utada was in the studio while being told by her father about this. While the recording the track, she reflected on emotions of sorrow, pain, anger and celebration and felt that she "found a new meaning" that she will "hold on to the end." She called the re-recorded version "the most beautiful thing I have ever made [...]" and "wish Rena-chan had heard it too [...]"
Musically, "Final Distance" is a departure from the "bright and warm" pop version of "Distance". "Final Distance" is composed as a low-tempo pop ballad incorporating string assembles and pianos through the entire song. Utada's vocals are layered and sounds more "anxious" than the original version. A reviewer from OngakuDB.Com commented that it was a "hauntingly solemn atmosphere" and called it "fresh." The song also features a trance remix and "funny" dance-pop remix and two instrumentals of both "Distance" and "Final Distance".
"Final Distance" received acclaim from most music critics. David Jeffries, who had written the extended biography of Utada at Allmusic, had selected the song as an album and career standout track. A reviewer from CDJournal had reviewed the original version "Distance" and said the song was "positive" pop tune, commending the songs production. Another reviewer from CDJournal discussed Utada's first greatest hits compilation Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol. 1 and commended the track. The reviewer said the song was "beautiful" and "delicate", and felt the production "penetrated" well.
Yonemoto Hiromi from Yeah! J-Pop praised the songs "transformation" to a pop ballad. Despite Himori calling it one of "[Utada's] masterpieces", he did found Utada's new ballad music were "inferior" to her previous music, citing her 1999 single "First Love" as an example. A reviewer from OngakuDB.Com had commented that they were "impressed" with the new track, commending the "haunting atmosphere" and ballad influence. The reviewer also called it "tremendous."
"Final Distance" debuted at number two on the Oricon Singles Chart. The song was blocked from the number one position which was held by "The Peace!" by Japanese idol girl group Morning Musume. "Final Distance" stayed at number two for four consecutive weeks, while the number one spot was occupied by two songs: "Era" by Japanese band Storm for the second week and "Gold" by B'z for the third and fourth week respectively. The song fell to number six in its fifth week and number ten in its sixth week. In total, the song spent twelve weeks inside the top forty and fell to number forty-nine in final thirteenth week.
"Final Distance" was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of Japan (RIAJ) in September 2001 and sold over shipments of 500,000 units in Japan. "Final Distance" resulted in being Utada's lowest selling single in physical sales until this was surpassed by her 2004 single "Dareka no Negai ga Kanau Koro" which only sold over 300,000 units with a double platinum certification.[A][B] It was not until Utada's 2005 single "Passion" were it became Utada's lowest performing single based on both digital and physical sales, only selling 100,000 physical and digital units respectively.
"Final Distance" became her first single to miss the top spot on the Oricon chart. The song was the only song on her Deep River album to have missed the top spot, with the following singles "Traveling", "Sakura Drops", "Letters" and "Hikari" peaking at number one.
"Final Distance" was directed by Utada's then-husband Kazuaki Kiriya and was his first directional debut for Utada's singles. Despite this, no DVD edition of the single was released on any format. The video opens with a time-lapse of an ocean. It features Utada singing with two different costumes on in front of yellow back drops. There are inset cuts of a small child and an elderly man dress in dark clothing. It shows Utada in two different settings; a ballet recital with several performers on stage dancing to the track and a dark gothic room with performers dancing to the song, playing the violin and shows Utada sitting down in a school uniform. Through the song, both Utada's are singing the track while dancing and walking around.
After performing in front of an orchestra, both Utada's are in front of a yellow-lit backdrop, looking towards each other and are separated from a glass frame. As they sing, they put their hands against the glass, trying to touch each other. The ending shows both Utada's on a rock in the ocean, in set off a city. As shooting stars come from the sky, both Utada's merge and the scene zooms out in time lapse, similar to the opening scene, and zooms out to show a space-like island with different mechanical structures hovering around it.
Cover versions and live performance
In November 2014, Universal Music Japan had announced that there would be a tribute album towards Utada's musical works and would be covered by a variety of musicians. During the time off the announcement, however, no specific artists were mentioned and this left public speculation. It was then announced through AramaJapan.com that the artists had been unveiled for the project which included Japanese-American singer AI; she was revealed to have recorded "Final Distance" for Utada Hikaru no Uta, a tribute album celebrating 15 years since Utada's debut.
A duet version that mixes Hikaru's vocals recorded in 2001 and AI's vocals recorded in 2014 was released in AI's collaboration collection album, The Feat. Best, released in November 2, 2016. This version has a new arrangement, closer to the original song. 
It was released as a preceding download from the album on December 3, 2014. This version received favorable reviews from most music critics. Bradley Stern from MuuMuse was particularly positive off the collaboration, stating "For the most part, the featured musicians on Utada Hikaru no Uta stay faithful to the original records while adding their own unique flare to the production [...] like [AI]‘s soulfully somber take on “Final Distance,”." The song was performed on MTV Unplugged, along with her single "First Love". Utada has played the song only on one of her concert tours, this being the Utada United 2006 tour.
Credits adapted from the CD single's liner notes.
- Hikaru Utada – songwriting, composition, vocal production, production
- Teruzane Utada – composition, vocal production, production
- Akira Miyake – composition, vocal production, production
- Saito Neko – string arrangement
- Kawano Kei – keyboards, synthesizer, programming, production (track 4)
- Tsumeni Kazuhide – synthesizer
- Yokan - horn (track 4)
- Great Eida Strings – strings
- Recorded by Ugajin Masaaki and Watanabe Syuichi (track 4) at Studio Terra, Tokyo, Japan and Studio Bunkamura, Tokyo, Japan
- Mixed by Goh Hotada at Bunkamura, Tokyo, Japan
- Kiriya Kazuaki – photographer
- Aoki Katsunori – art direction
- bff – design
- Maeda Eiko – styling
- Kanehara Yakayasu – hair and makeup
- Kimura Masatomo – design production and distribution
All tracks written by Hikaru Utada.
|1.||"Final Distance"||Kei Kawano, Hikaru Utada|
Neko Saito (strings arrangement)
|2.||"Distance -PLANITb Remix-"||Russell McNamara||6:15|
|3.||"Distance -M-Flo Remix-"||Shin Kono (strings arrangement)||5:56|
|4.||"Distance"||Kei Kawano, Hikaru Utada||5:42|
|5.||"Distance -Original Karaoke-"||5:41|
|6.||"Final Distance -Instrumental-"||5:37|
Charts, peaks and positions
- ^"GOLD ALBUM 他認定作品 1999年2月度" [Gold Albums, and other certified works. February 1999 Edition] (PDF). The Record (Bulletin) (in Japanese). Chūō, Tokyo: Recording Industry Association of Japan. 473: 9. April 10, 1999. Archived from the original(PDF) on January 23, 2014. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
- ^"GOLD ALBUM 他認定作品 1999年3月度" [Gold Albums, and other certified works. March 1999 Edition] (PDF). The Record (Bulletin) (in Japanese). Chūō, Tokyo: Recording Industry Association of Japan. 474: 9. May 10, 1999. Archived from the original(PDF) on January 22, 2014. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
- ^"GOLD ALBUM 他認定作品 1999年9月度" [Gold Albums, and other certified works. September 1999 Edition] (PDF). The Record (Bulletin) (in Japanese). Chūō, Tokyo: Recording Industry Association of Japan. 480: 8. November 10, 1999. Archived from the original(PDF) on January 18, 2014. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
- ^"Announcing the Top 100 Big Artists of the 20th Century as chosen by listeners and J-wave (リスナーとJ-WAVEが選んだ20世紀のビッグ・アーティスト100人を発表！)". www.j-wave.co.jp (in Japanese). 1999. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
- ^"GOLD ALBUM 他認定作品 2001年4月度" [Gold Albums, and other certified works. April 2001 Edition] (PDF). The Record (Bulletin) (in Japanese). Chūō, Tokyo: Recording Industry Association of Japan. 499: 8. November 10, 2001. Archived from the original(PDF) on January 17, 2014. Retrieved January 17, 2014.
- ^"JaME – The 1st database and information website about Japanese music – www.jame-world.com". Jmusiceuropa.com. Retrieved January 22, 2011.
- ^ abcdefFinal Distance (CD single liner notes). Hikaru Utada. Toshiba. EMI Japan. 2001. TOCT-4311.
- ^"Japanese teen pop star home after bout with side effects of ovarian surgery". AP Worldstream. May 11, 2002. Retrieved August 27, 2007.
- ^Struck, Doug (June 9, 2001). "School Stabbings Diminish Japan's Feelings of Safety". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on June 10, 2001. Also published online as "Diminished sense of safety in Japan".
- ^Japan mourns school victims." CNN. June 10, 2001. Retrieved on February 5, 2010.
- ^ abcdeEssay.
- ^ abcdefOngakuDB.Com (August 15, 2002). (in Japanese). Yahoo! Japan. Archived from the original on February 20, 2004. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
- ^Jeffries, David (March 19, 2015). "AllMusic - Hikaru Utada, Songs, Highlights, Credits and Awards". Rovi. Allmusic. Retrieved February 15, 2015.
- ^"Ayumi Hamasaki / FINAL DISTANCE review" . CdJournal.com. 18 February 2015. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
- ^"Ayumi Hamasaki / Utada Single Collection Vol. 1 review" . CdJournal.com. 18 February 2015. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
- ^Yonemoto Hiromi of Yeah!! J-Pop! (August 15, 2002). (in Japanese). Yahoo! Japan. Archived from the original on February 20, 2004. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
- ^ abcde"CDTV PowerWeb:! Ranking Date for FINAL DISTANCE by Utada Hikaru". Oricon (Bulletin) (in Japanese). Recording Industry Association of Japan. August 4, 2001. Archived from the original on January 1, 2007. Retrieved April 9, 2015.
- ^"CDTV PowerWeb:! Ranking Date for 4 August 2001". Oricon (Bulletin) (in Japanese). Recording Industry Association of Japan. August 4, 2001. Archived from the original on January 2, 2007. Retrieved April 9, 2015.
- ^"CDTV PowerWeb:! Ranking Date for 11 August 2001". Oricon (Bulletin) (in Japanese). Recording Industry Association of Japan. August 11, 2001. Archived from the original on January 3, 2007. Retrieved April 9, 2015.
- ^"CDTV PowerWeb:! Ranking Date for 18 August 2001". Oricon (Bulletin) (in Japanese). Recording Industry Association of Japan. August 18, 2001. Archived from the original on January 4, 2007. Retrieved April 9, 2015.
- ^ ab"GOLD ALBUM 他認定作品 2001年7月度" [Gold Albums, and other certified works. July 2001 Edition] (PDF). The Record (Bulletin) (in Japanese). Chūō, Tokyo: Recording Industry Association of Japan. 502: 8. September 10, 2001. Archived from the original(PDF) on March 8, 2012. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
- ^ [Works Receiving Certifications List (Gold, etc) (April 2004)] (in Japanese). Recording Industry Association of Japan. May 10, 2004. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
- ^"The Record - August 2003 - Page 15"(PDF) (in Japanese). Recording Industry Association of Japan. Retrieved December 23, 2010.
- ^ [Record Association Investigation: October Digital Music Download Certifications] (in Japanese). Recording Industry Association of Japan. November 20, 2008. Retrieved December 13, 2013.
- ^ [Record Association Investigation: December Digital Music Download Certifications] (in Japanese). Recording Industry Association of Japan. January 20, 2010. Retrieved January 23, 2014.
- ^. RIAJ (in Japanese). 2006-01-10. Retrieved 2010-09-18.
- ^. RIAJ (in Japanese). 2007-05-20. Retrieved 2010-09-18.
- ^"CDTV PowerWeb:! Ranking Date for Traveling by Utada Hikaru". Oricon (Bulletin) (in Japanese). Recording Industry Association of Japan. May 18, 2002. Archived from the original on February 21, 2007. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
- ^"CDTV PowerWeb:! Ranking Date for Sakura Drops/Letters by Utada Hikaru". Oricon (Bulletin) (in Japanese). Recording Industry Association of Japan. May 18, 2002. Archived from the original on June 21, 2006. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
- ^"CDTV PowerWeb:! Ranking Date for Light by Utada Hikaru". Oricon (Bulletin) (in Japanese). Recording Industry Association of Japan. March 30, 2002. Archived from the original on June 21, 2006. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
- ^ abcde"宇多田ヒカル - FINAL DISTANCE". Youtube. April 10, 2015. Retrieved Nov 7, 2010.
- ^ ab"VARIOUS ARTISTS TO PAY TRIBUTE TO UTADA HIKARU VIA A COVER ALBUM". Aramajapan. December 3, 2014. Retrieved December 3, 2014.
- ^ ab"『宇多田ヒカルのうた』全貌明らかに。井上陽水、椎名林檎、浜崎あゆみ、吉井和哉ら参加アーティストコメント" [All details revealed for Utada Hikaru no Uta, comments from contributing artists such as Yosui Inoue, Ringo Sheena, Ayumi Hamasaki and Kazuya Yoshii.] (in Japanese). Barks. December 3, 2014. Retrieved December 3, 2014.
- ^"AI「THE FEAT.BEST」に "FINAL DISTANCE（13 years distance mix） / AI + 宇多田ヒカルが収録" ["FINAL DISTANCE (13 years distance mix) / AI + Hikaru Utada in AI" THE FEAT.BEST "] (in Japanese). Utada Hikaru Official Website. October 2, 2016. Retrieved November 3, 2016.
- ^Stern, Bradley (December 2014). "Various Artists, 'Utada Hikaru no Uta' (Album review)". MuuMuse. Retrieved 2014.
- ^"Utada Hikaru - Final Distance (MTV Unplugged)". Youtube. April 10, 2015. Retrieved Nov 7, 2010.
- ^"一般社団法人 日本レコード協会". www.riaj.or.jp. Retrieved 2018-03-05.
- ^The RIAJ threshold had changed in July 2003, with original platinum certifications being 400,000 units.
- ^Despite "Dareka no Negai ga Kanau Koro" selling over 350,000 physical units, the single sold over 500,000 digital units and over 100,000 ringtone units in Japan, tallying up to over 950,000 units sold in Japan.
I've finally done it, the single! All finished!
Whew, it turned out to be unusually hard to make it this time . . . I mean, its production went as scheduled but I had been sucked up my mental and physical nutrition by this my baby during the past one month - conception period, so to speak - from when I started working out what to make till finished the recording!! It had kept sucking and sucking me up, growing and growing as it pleased, beyond my control. Sometimes I really thought "Aaaagh, this time I'm gonna be eaten up by the song!" But after all it really became a good one, all the better cause it had fully taken my energy! (I believe so . . .) It's something very, very special. The recording studio was like enchanted and I spent a week there being veiled by the mysterious sense, like attending an old traditional ritual, rather than creating something. I remembered the feeling when I attended a wedding for the first time. Though this may sound like everything has gone quite smoothly, I was actually very worried if I could really finish it, experiencing many happenings and mistakes. But amazingly enough, all of those kind of things became a chance for the song to be better! I've got a lot of wonderful episodes. I thought like "Am I being protected by somebody??" every time I experienced them.
This is the first time for me to do this - I would like to devote this single "FINAL DISTANCE" to a person. The word "devote" may sound pompous and strange, it's more like . . . "dedicate." I had been stuck in the studio since the 9th of this month and I was informed by my father on the second day of the recording in the studio about what had happened in Ikeda city in Osaka the day before the 9th. At that time I was also informed about the girl called Rena Yamashita and shocked more than words could express - I would sound so fake no matter what word I use, but I was really really mortified and sad, so I thought if there was anything I could do . . . and decided to dedicate this song - which I just started writing - to her (and of course to all the people directly involved in the case as well . . .) then and there. Given sorrow and anger, tenderness and power born from them, and what not, I found a new meaning in the song and thanks to it I was able to hold on till the end.
I don't know yet what you will think of this, but for me this is likely to be the most beautiful thing I have ever made, including the picture in crayon I drew for the first time in the kindergarden, chicken gratin I made in homemaking course in Junior High, essays I submitted in University, my past CDs, all of them! So now I'm worried more than usual if you would like it . . . see what happens! I wanna let you hear it soon! Please tell me your impressions on it. I wish Rena-chan had heard it too . . .
(Breathing out long) Whew! It's like, I finally told you lots of things I wanted to. I'm so sorry for being away from here for so, so long!!! (I'm worried no one would be checking here any more??) I've got so so so many things I wanna tell you, I wanna hear from you! I may write many of them in one go after this!
(NOTE by Nuuk)
"what had happened in Ikeda city in Osaka" ... eight elementary schoolchildren were stabbed to death and fifteen schoolchildren and teachers were injured by one man on June 08, 2001. It was reported by some media that Rena Yamashita, one of the eight killed, 8 years old, was a big fan of Utada Hikaru.
Eight dead in school stabbing spree (The Japan Times Online - 06/09/01)