Love on first listen

Confession: I don’t mind R&B music. Really, I don’t.

I love those slinky beats, those jazzy, sexy harmonies and that overly slick production. It takes no less craft to make a Janet Jackson or TLC album than it does to polish the rough edges around a Nine Inch Nails or Rage Against the Machine album.

It’s the lyrics that get on my nerve.

Utada Hikaru is the perfect solution for a person who loves R&B music but hates most of the inane couplets that accompany it. “Hikki” sings mostly in Japanese, and for non-speakers, it’s the best way to enjoy her seductive diva pop.

With a language barrier in tact, Hikki must depend on her music to convey her theme, and while it’s a good guess she may be singing about the same topics as some teen band based in Orlando, it’s packaged in a mature, adult contemporary sound more akin to Des’ree than to Britney Spears.

Utada also writes her songs solo. First Love contains not a single collaboration, although she does enlist a team of arrangers to flesh out her music. On such tracks as “Automatic” and “Movin’ on Without You,” the beats are all familiar, but there’s nary a recycled riff.

Even when she quotes Sting on “Never Let Go” or the Rolling Stones on “Amaiwana ~ Paint It Black,” it doesn’t come across as commercially crass.

Dare I say it, but a 17-year-old Japanese teen has the Orlando pop machine beat. Take that Britney Aguilera.