Simple & Clean’s origin story weirdness

Hey, I’m going to talk about something in Kingdom Hearts, so like, brace yourself because I’m going to run the risk of being mean to a videogame and I know that can be super upsetting. If you’d like to go somewhere else, here’s a link. If you stick around, I promise that this one is, I think, extremely gentle and doesn’t do anything like talk about plots or characters. Promise.

Kingdom Hearts is a lot of things, but one of the many things it is is a delivery system for music, and no music is more iconic, apparently, than its enduring theme, presented first in the first game some twenty years ago, Simple & Clean. It’s great, it’s a song that is definitely, absolutely and unshakingly associated with the game, and yet, somehow, if you listen to the lyrics, you might be left wondering what the hell is going on here.

Alright, source material for those unaware about this smoochy song, during smooch month.

First, here’s the Kingdom Hearts theme, Hikari, by Hikaru Utada.

宇多田ヒカル-光 (Hikaru Utada) - Simple and Clean (Japanese) Kingdom Hearts Theme

And here, now, is Simple & Clean, the version in English.

Kingdom Hearts Simple and Clean by Utada Hikaru 720p HD Audio Boost Remix w/Lyrics in Description

My first research found that Hikari was written in 2001, that Kingdom Hearts came out in 2002, and that meant they weren’t related – that Hikari had just been made, then it was licensed for Kingdom Hearts. That made sense – Simple & Clean is unrelated nonsense. Except that, with further research, prompted by Friend Of The Blog Jeb Wrench, the song was written for Kingdom Hearts.

Or rather, Hikari was written for Kingdom Hearts.

One thing that’s possible if you’re a filthy monolingualist like me is the natural-seeming assumption that these two songs that sound really similar are the same song, just translated. They’re not, and not only are they not, they’re not even trying to be. Simple & Clean is a completely different song to Hikari, and nothing about them are related. Hikari was written, with input from the Kingdom Hearts creative team, and while it’s a very nice love song with very little of anything to say, it at least can be said to relate to the themes of Kingdom Hearts.

Simple & Clean is however, a completely different song, translated when Kingdom Hearts was, performed in English and translated by Utada, and it’s about, according to Utada, ‘a deepening relationship with her boyfriend.’ It’s a song about an existing relationship asking questions before it becomes deeper, and it was not made to relate to Kingdom Hearts.

And so, here are two love songs, where one of them is pretty much unrelated to the work, and it shows, as ever always, that everything Kingdom Hearts related seems to be needlessly convoluted.

Here’s the lyrics to Hikari, and here’s the lyrics to Simple & Clean.