Japanese Megastar Utada Hikaru Returns to the Charts as 'Fantome' Tops World Albums

Utada Hikaru, 'Fantome' album cover

After years away, Utada Hikaru has made her official comeback to the music industry with new album Fantome and, with that, the Billboard charts.

The Japanese-American megastar, who holds the record for largest-selling album ever in Japan, released Fantome on Wednesday, Sept. 28, marking her first full-length album since 2009's This Is the One (Utada's second album in English) and her first Japanese LP since 2008.

Despite a shortened time period to rack up chart points with the atypical release date (most albums are released on Fridays to coincide with the new global release date and the Billboard charts are tracked from Fridays to Thursday), Fantome debuted at No. 2 on World Albums on the chart dated Oct. 15 after moving more than 1,500 copies. The LP jumps to No. 1 on World Albums this week, moving 2,000 additional copies for more than 3,500 in total to date.

Fantome marks Utada's most stripped-down and personal work yet with the events during the star's professional hiatus undoubtedly influencing the stunning, 10-track album. Many songs touch on elements of grief and death (the singer's mother, fellow singer Keiko Fuji, passed away due to an apparent suicide in 2013), but also includes notes of inspiration and love (Utada married her second husband Francesco Calianno in May 2014 and gave birth to a son in July 2015).

That feeling is perhaps best felt in must-hear single "Michi" -- which rises to No. 5 on the Japan Hot 100 this week -- blending a dance beat with Utada's vulnerable, on-the-verge-of-cracking delivery, "It's a lonely, it's a lonely, it's a lonely road / But I'm not alone," she sings as she details how someone may be gone, they are inside her heart.

Other standouts that bow on the Japan Hot 100 include the stirring, string-focused "2jikan Dake No Vacanes" duet with Japanese-rock singer-songwriter Sheena Ringo (rising to No. 23 this week) and lovely piano ballad "Hanataba Wo Kimini" (below, at No. 35).
Fantome is Hikaru's first entry on the World Albums chart, but it isn't her first album to enter the Billboard charts. To date, she's released two English albums and both charted on the Billboard 200. She first hit us with Exodus, which peaked at No. 160 on the Billboard 200 in the issue dated Oct. 23, 2004, and followed up five yeras later with This Is the One, which peaked at No. 69 in the issue dated April 11, 2009.