On Rivington Street in lower Manhattan, we saw this advert promoting a new album release by Utada Hikaru, a major Japanese pop star. She rose to fame with a series of chart-topping dance pop tunes four years ago. But unlike most young J-pop idols, Utada wrote her own material and had a vocal range that put left much of the competition in the dust. She was a true Tokyo diva without any of the usual diva baggage–no capricious attitude, no pretentious posturing. Plus, Utada’s music was really good and represented a fresh break from the neverending parade of dross that passed for a lot of mainstream Japanese pop music. Utada was an original. She spoke fluent English and had lived in the United States while growing up. But what was really amazing about her was that when her first big hit single, “Automatic,” arrived on Japanese radiowaves, Utada was only 18 years old. Now she’s got a new record, “Exodus,” and, in an ambitious attempt to reach a larger international audience, it’s being released in the United States, where Japanese pop idols rarely bring their music. Utada’s new disc drops October 5.

Ivan Corsa Photo