Tasuku Hatanaka brings an interesting mix of joyful glee and twisted darkness with his 2nd album “REAL”.
Title: REAL Release date: 17/08/2022 Label: Lantis Genre: Pop/Rock/EDM/Synthwave/Ballad
1 - Realized Unreal (Instrumental) 2 - Feel the Real 3 - not GAME 4 - まだあなたを描いてる 5 - TWISTED HEARTS 6 - DYING WISH 7 - Solid 8 - HISTORY 9 - Promise for the future 10 - UnReal 11 - 君とのdestiny 12- sur-real (Instrumental)
Track by track analysis:
1 – Realized Unreal (Instrumental)
Spaced bright piano melodies and an atmospheric synth create a dreamy, spacy soundscape. Slowly, strings and summery synths join in, creating a sense of urgency at the same time as giving this intro an energy boost carrying over to “Feel the Real”.
2 – Feel the Real
“Feel the Real” brings loud, big synths to the spotlight for its intro, carrying over from the intro.
Smoothly, the verses quiet down enough for Tasuku Hatanaka to lead the way with his vocals.
During this part, the bassy beat and distant, reverbed piano melody create a beautiful soundscape that leads the listener to the intense chorus waiting for you.
The chorus is all about its dance sound, with pulsing synths leading the way as atmospheric ones give you a sense of a big, wide soundscape. On top, you have a comfortable simple bass beat and dirty synths.
Leading the way is Tasuku Hatanaka with a performance that taps a whole lot into his tenor vocal range. This is a performance that brings a lot of head voice into the mix, with the chorus being particularly remarkable due to that.
Strong introduction to this album.
3 – not GAME
[As previously reviewed] not GAME brings to the table a new sonority, mixing ethereal dance elements with electrifying guitars and imposing drums. This is one of those songs in which the highlight can be found in the verses as opposed to the well-known “the chorus is the highlight” talk.
It’s in the verses that we find the groove, it is the way the verses were arranged and the instruments tweaked that we can feel that this song is fresh.
The groovy bass line and melodic guitar solo, the tasteful synth melodies, all build up to the chorus that lacks a bit in execution.
Too much is going on in the early stages of the chorus – which eases as we get closer to its tie-up with the following verses -, making the chorus sound completely out of place both in sonority, pacing, and vibe.
On the vocal end, Hatanaka is his usual self.
His performance is marked by control, consistency and quality, even if it was not showy or excessively technical as past entries of his were.
4 – まだあなたを描いてる
A delicate piano melody and longing strings slowly set the scene for you in “Mada anata o Egaiteru“.
The verses are nostalgic, with a piano following alongside Tasuku Hatanaka’s sweet tenor vocals. While these are controlled and slow-paced, the emotional range he shows in those parts is enough to grab your attention.
Now, where Tasuku Hatanaka absolutely kills it is in the chorus. The technicality in this section is well worth pointing out.
Hatanaka shifts from his comfortable mid-tones, raspy vocals, slowly rise on the scale and when he gets to the chorus he is performing in the sweetest of head voices I’ve ever heard.
He is clear as day, with more than enough air available for flourishes, however, he keeps his performance to the simplest, and what you get is something that will make chills run down your spine.
While this is not a demanding power ballad, what Hatanaka shows in this song is more than enough to impress. Fantastic display of technique and emotional range.
5 – TWISTED HEARTS
[As previously reviewed] Solemn strings slowly open the curtains for “TWISTED HEARTS” song that explores something I wasn’t expecting at all: 80s synthpop is at the core of this song. And it’s beyond awesome.
The verses are quiet and introspective, with cello melodies on top of a bare instrumental in which Tasuku Hatanaka’s raspy vocals shine.
There’s drama to this track that is added by the solemn strings and a certain melancholy that comes for the hard-hitting 80s beat and synths.
Those elements, together with the funky electric guitars and fast dramatic piano melodies create what I consider to be one of the best instrumentals released in 2021 so far. The balance in this song as well as the powerful drums had me going.
On the vocal end, Tasuku Hatanaka powers his way through the song to deliver a strong performance riding on his robust mid-tones, gentle vibrato, and ethereal falsetto. Masterful performance in what is Hatanaka’s best song to date.
6 – DYING WISH
[As previously reviewed] Strings in crescendo light the way for DYING WISH with a whole orchestra behind in the intro. As the song progresses, the timpani beat goes EDM, blending in with strings and choir hits.
The changes between verses and chorus are dramatic and a bit anticlimactic but it’s the chorus that really doesn’t sit well with me.
The EDM-meets-orchestra mix is nothing new – quite enjoyable when done right – but the progression in the chorus is odd and doesn’t sound well, not even after a couple of listens.
Instead of keeping the same key for the whole chorus and, perhaps, one of the instruments changing the key, the whole instrumental is raised in the pitch – which takes all instruments as a bundle to an octave higher –, something that not only threw me off but also completely messed up the progression and dynamics in the chorus.
As the instruments were taken an octave higher when the pitch was raised, there were elements that started sounding off-key and off-tempo in the chorus, which, ultimately, is a big mess on the production side of this track.
I am aware this may have been a question of composition/production style but if the intention was to raise the tension in the song, there were other – effective and more subtle – ways to enhance tension in the song. Pretty unusual stylistic changes in the chorus.
The beat for this song – the sample – is also as generic as you can get which is, once again, weird.
Tasuku Hatanaka’s songs usually have good quality and are far from using common, low-quality elements that, let’s say, you could find as a “stock option” in a music-producing software library.
The vocals however are on point. Tasuku Hatanaka is not shy about using his gentle falsetto and vibrato to give a lot of flair to his performance.
All in all, not the most inspired song by Hatanaka.
7 – Solid
Dreamy synths paint a fun, bubbly soundscape with city pop influences. The intro kicks off in a jaunty way, taking you by the hand to the fancy danceable verses.
“Solid” has a ridiculously addictive chorus made for the summer. The vibe is laidback and the bassline is punchy and the beat is a blast to listen to, slowly pounding its way through the jaunty piano melody.
The 2nd verse picks up the pace and goes even stronger on the bass grooviness. You’ll find yourself dancing along to this song in no time. When the second chorus kicks in you’ll be enveloped in these fun, laid-back vibes, enjoying the sweet vocals and taking in everything that is happening.
This song comes with a dance break close to the end of the track, something that makes me quite curious about how it will be fleshed out live.
When “Solid” wraps up, you’re left jamming to an outstanding song in this release, the best one on this album.
8 – HISTORY
[As previously reviewed] HISTORY is an uplifting electro-pop tune with some R&B touches on it. Listeners are welcomed with a cheerful piano melody that leads the way into the vast, dreamy soundscape created by a mix of atmospheric, pulsing, and poly-synths.
This synths mix was done in a way that is not overwhelming for the listener and, at the same time, does not take away the listener’s attention from Hatanaka’s sweet vocals.
A minimalistic dance beat and a deep bass line add a massive groove to this track, wrapping everything up nicely.
Tasuku Hatanaka goes for a gentle performance, resorting a lot to his trademark falsetto while adding an extra bit of flair with a powerful vibrato.
He made sure to go the extra mile for his performance, with this song having a whole lot of flourishes. I must add that I love whenever Hatanaka belts those high notes and adds a bit of vibrato on top. That is something that I’ve come to expect from his performances since his debut release.
It is as if this HISTORY is made to impress the “person” the song is intended for (it can be the listener).
All in all, this is a simple, summery track with a gentleness that stays with you after listening to it.
9 – Promise for the future
[As previously reviewed] Uptempo synths, exciting guitar riffs, and bassy drums lead the way for “Promise for the future“.
For fans of old-school sentai music, this one will certainly be a treat.
Although the leading synth is quite modern, all other instruments are playing melodies that you’d find easily in my music from the late 80s, and early 90s. You even have a keytar solo and classic synth stabs throughout the track.
The chorus is a textbook superhero soundtrack, with the guitars taking the lead while the vocals rise in tension.
On the vocal end, Tasuku Hatanaka goes for a really solid performance that captured the classic sentai theme song type of vocals.
He doesn’t go wild on his falsetto – although he does show it from time to time – and there are few vibrato accents.
Solid performance in a throwback performance.
10 – UnReal
“UnReal” arrives with muffled jazzy piano melodies and guitar melodies hiding a surprisingly bright pop-rock sound.
The verses have darkness underneath that carries over to the dramatic piano-led chorus.
Guitars and piano shine in this song with an emotional display in the chorus, slowly sinking and sinking, subtly grabbing your attention.
The song includes a beautiful jazz piano intermission and a couple of tempo changes in the bridge, preparing the stage for Hatanaka’s head voice and vibrato-filled vocals to blast their way through it.
11 – 君とのdestiny
“Kimi to no destiny” brings poly, washy and atmospheric synths, funky guitar riffs and a dirty club sound to the spotlight, channeling big summer vibes with it.
The intro ends up being too intense and crowded as you’d want, especially given how clean and tasteful the verses are in comparison. The pre-chorus muffles everything and changes the tempo ever-so-slightly before taking the listener to a pulsing synths-driven chorus.
More than the instrumental impressing me, the vocals were the highlight. The clean high notes, the comfortable mid-tones, the ad-libs, it is as of Hatanaka is gliding through this performance.
The instrumental ends up closing the song in the same tone as it opened however I would not rank it as an impressive dance tune by Hatanaka as it gets really bland by the 2nd time the chorus kicks in.
Still good effort and a show of consistency with the album coming full circle thanks to this track.
12- sur-real (Instrumental)
A dramatic piano melody fades in and out before giving way to a beautiful section with washy, legato strings and delicate piano melodies echoing in the background.
This results in a dreamy instrumental in which you want to lose yourself however, it’s time to say goodbye.
Tasuku Hatanaka tried to show a different side of himself as a performer in “Real”.
After listening to this CD, I can recognize that he has grown as a performer, now more daring with dark performances instead of only dance tunes however, there is little in this CD that can attest to that “showcase of the real me”, as the album is very little changes in tone from “FIGHTER“.
This is, of course, my assessment of this album knowing just how much I know every song from the 1st album by heart. So that familiarity made it so that this album only differs from it in tone in a couple of instances.
Don’t get me wrong. That is not a bad thing, “FIGHTER” was amazing, and “Real”, although not on the same level, is still a thoroughly entertaining album that is well worth checking out.
The intro and outro tracks are stunners in my opinion. They create hype for the CD and leave the listener with a nostalgic note, making you unconsciously hit that replay button just so that you can experience it all again.
Out of the new songs, “Feel the Real”, “Solid” and “UnReal” are the most impressive.
“Feel the Real” is a good introduction to this album, summing up the energy that is going on in it.
“Solid” is insanely groovy, and has a stylish retro sound that lends some elements of citypop and synthwave, creating a dreamy tune that stands out as the best song on this CD.
“UnReal” brought a bit of surrealism to this release, something that I wasn’t expecting. While this is not the first time for Hatanaka to try something this bold in terms of tone, this was a subtle take on it and it ended up sounding really good, even if a bit repetitive midway through.
“Mada anata o Egaiteru” is a beautiful display of Hatanaka’s technique and vocal range in one of the simplest ballads in his repertoire and the only one on this album. It is a pity that fans get very few instances in which he showcases his unreal vocal range and technique but still, this song is made to make chills run down your spine.
Out of the old tunes, “TWISTED HEARTS” continues to be THE highlight in this phase in Hatanaka’s solo career. It is regal, it is dark and elegant. It is synthwave at its best with some of the biggest vocals on top. This is is a song that will go down as his best, at least I believe so.
All in all, “Real” encompasses and closes another phase in Tasuku Hatanaka’s solo career, one marked by experimentation and growth both as a performer and singer.
Solid entry in his repertoire and an album well worth checking out if you enjoy energetic pop with a dash of darkness and emotional edge on top.
“REAL” is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.
“REAL” is available for streaming on Spotify.
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