Tetsuya Kakihara’s “Waratte ite…” not only leaves you with a broad and proud smile but also invokes tears and goosebumps.
Title: 笑っていて··· (Waratte ite...) Release date: 19/07/2023 Label: Kiramune Genre: Rock / Pop / Funk / Ballad
1 - コト・モノ・トキ 2 - sunset in tiny land 3 - Cheer up on the Radio 4 - Best wishes 5 - Summer Time Love 6 - 道
Track by track analysis:
1 – コト・モノ・トキ (Koto Mono Toki)
The curtains open to “Koto Mono Toki”, song that brings a grandiose composition in its tow.
Starting with distant guitar riffs, much in a post-rock fashion, slowly, the song brings chants and timpani to the song.
This build-up slowly takes you to the first verse in this song, one that is careful and gentle as soon as Tetsuya Kakihara is on the mic.
Slowly, pizzicato strings indicate that the composition is changing its dynamics, welcoming the grandiose chorus waiting for you. Strings join in, Kakihara’s voice is gentle and background vocals add a lot of emotion to the performance.
The second verse brings legato strings as a main feature, with the timpani still being responsible for fleshing out the wide and hopeful soundscape in front of you.
The bridge puts the spotlight on the piano, leading up to an amazing toms-centric drums solo. Then, the composition grows quiet, putting the spotlight on Kakihara as he delivers an emotional performance.
The outro brings out those children’s chants from the intro, slowly leaving elements in the composition behind until they fade away.
What a beautiful opening to this mini-album!
2 – sunset in tiny land
Acoustic guitars and a simple beat welcome you to the chill vibes of “sunset in tiny land“.
The composition for this song is a bit different than usual for Kakihara. You go through this song and notice that, by 1:40 there is still no chorus. You get an intro and dual verses, slowly building up the tension in this song.
Although starting simple and stripped down, the song evolves as the song progresses, bringing toms-centric drums, synths, a dramatic piano, and a smooth bassline.
And there is still no chorus on the horizon.
While you will find this song to be odd in its composition – it certainly is unusual -, the fact that it defies your expectations while sticking to its relaxed concept makes it a worthwhile listen.
Don’t expect a catchy hook – there isn’t one – or a soaring bridge – there isn’t one – but the experience you go by in this song will leave a mark.
When it comes to the vocals, Tetsuya Kakihara adds a lot of emotion to his performance just like the instrumental, he starts off gently, slowly building up those emotions until he unleashes them by the end of the song.
Unique song with an unexpected composition format and a stunning yet laidback performance on top.
3 – Cheer up on the Radio
“Cheer up on the radio” changes things around, bringing a jolly rock sound with pop influences to the singing style.
With a massive bassline leading the way – later complemented by the snary drums -, “Cheer up on the radio” has a really groovy core that will make you want to dance along to this tune.
In the background, you have an organ, piano, funky guitar riffs, and brass.
The chorus is less flashy than what I expected but it is quite enjoyable to listen to. In this part, Kakihara shows a bit of his technique and range.
The song features an uptempo bridge featuring piano and guitar solos. These lead up to Kakihara’s call and response part, one that will shine in a live setting.
As the song reaches the final chorus you’re left with the punchy instrumental, good vibes, and big smile on your face.
4 – Best wishes
“Best Wishes” goes all out on the summer vibes, bringing atmospheric synths and piano accents to create a beautiful and wide soundscape.
However, there is a big surprise to this tune. Soon after the intro kicks in, the instrumental closes that soundscape and gets close to you, keeping a tight beat as funky guitar riffs and punchy bassline lead the way.
The groovy instrumental is made to the dancefloor, culminating in a massive chorus in which the cozy, relaxing summer vibes are big.
The instrumental is addictive and quite danceable, pairing up perfectly with Kakihara’s fancy performance in which sweet midtones and falsetto are big features.
Expect a fancy bridge with a stylish piano solo + a guitar solo building up from those funky riffs in the verses. The duality of this section is a delight to experience, building up the tension to the final laid-back chorus.
I love the vocal direction in the chorus, matching the synth stabs while sounding so groovy.
The mix between a tip-toeing singing style and the clean, legato Kakihara style in the verses is also something that made me repeat this song more than once just to take in just how simple yet amazing those little details are.
“Best wishes” is easily the highlight of this mini-album.
5 – Summer Time Love
The sound of waves opens the wide, beautiful soundscape of “Summer Time Love” to you.
Slowly yet groovily, the instrumental brings atmospheric synths and a danceable beat into the mix. As the song progresses, you are taken to the chorus, with the piano making itself known before we get to the chorus.
And let me tell you, when you get to this chorus, you’ll be all out ready to hit the dancefloor. The vibes are groovy, with a massive bassline leading the way as 80s-style synth stabs add the perfect contrast to this song.
The song is by no means technical on the vocal but then again it doesn’t need to be when the instrumental and vibes are this good. Kakihara was all about those groovy vibes, adding a lot of energy to his performance.
As “Summer time love” wraps up, you’re left with nostalgia for a summer you haven’t lived and hell yeah, you will be hitting that replay button for more summer vibes.
6 – 道 (Michi)
Wrapping up this release is “Michi”. This song brings a melancholic piano melody as the background to Tetsuya Kakihara’s sweet vocals.
The tempo is slow and the tone is melancholic – with a tinge of sadness to itself – in the verses. In this section, Kakihara does play around with tempo on the vocal end, having some interesting breaks in the tempo itself by elongating or cramming up various words. This adds a different twist to his legato style of singing.
As the song progresses and gets to the chorus, you will notice the tension building. While it would be amazing that this was a stripped-down piano-led ballad, Kakihara brought into the mix electric guitars, drums, and bass from the 2nd verse onwards.
The addition of those elements changed the dynamics of this song, opening the soundscape and adding more intensity instead of going for a tearjerker.
Kakihara leads the way in a masterful way. He is confident in his skills and now has complete control over his range and technique. This enables him to power through a ballad such as this one in a way that the emotions he pours on this will put you close to crying.
His legato in the outro is the perfect way to wrap up this song, introducing the solemn piano melody before bringing back a choir and the rest of the band for what is a spine-chilling section. And the mini-album comes full circle, starting and ending on the same note.
Beautiful. Beautiful. Simply beautiful
Tetsuya Kakihara is back and so is good music with laid-back vibes and technical performances!
This time around, the concept for Kakihara’s “Waratte ite…” is to make his fans or listeners happy, feel good, loved, and appreciated.
He accomplishes that across a set of 6 songs that bring chants, choirs, unusual compositions that defy traditional patterns or formulas, groovy tunes, and ballads that will bring chills down your spine.
It is impressive how Kakihara has managed to keep up his momentum in the past 5 years, releasing high-quality music and performances that can put some respect to his name when it comes to mentioning who are the best singers among male seiyuu.
For me, after this series of amazing CD releases, culminating in “Waratte ite…”, Kakihara has easily solidified his place within the top 10 best singers among male seiyuu.
It is unreal just how much he has evolved as a singer and how much he keeps on pushing himself towards delivering fancy performances that will one moment make you dance, the other will rip your heart apart.
How technical and controlled is his singing right now? A lot. I dare say he is now fully in control of his singing and knows very well what he can do on the vocal end.
His unique singing style and cadence paired with a mature approach to his pop-rock sound are doing wonders for Kakihara’s music.
As you listen to songs like “Koto Mono Toki”, “Best wishes” or “Michi”, you get a good grasp of how good of a singer he is. The technicality of his performance, those little details in the tempo, the confidence in tackling tricky falsetto parts, and even down to the way he uses his emotional range, all show signs of a mature performer who knows exactly what they are doing. And when this happens, amazing performances happen.
Highlight-worthy performances happen. Just listen to “Michi”. That outro is a thing of beauty. As I am writing this section, I still have goosebumps because of it. It reminds me of the first time I listened to “Samidare”. It is THAT good.
Vocals aside, the continuity in this mini-album is worth mentioning. The album starts and ends on the same note, even using similar elements to give you a sense of a start and an ending. You know for sure that the story, the concept in this mini-album was executed to perfection, leaving no place for wonders, doubts, or open endings.
The message was passed, and the concept was fully fleshed out. Kakihara went all out to guarantee you, the listener, got to review yourself in his feelings and in the stories he was telling.
When “Waratte ite…” wraps up, you’re not only left with a big smile on your face but also a couple of tears and goosebumps all over.
While this may be – as Kakihara’s CDs tend to be – an entry that will go under the radar for many fans of male seiyuu, I thoroughly welcome you to listen to it. If you love rock or even bassline-driven dance tunes, he has them, if you’re more of a fan of technical performances, he delivers those. If you want to go on a musical journey with a concise concept, this is the mini-album for you.
Give a chance to Tetsuya Kakihara’s “Waratte ite…” and allow yourself a chance to smile wide and proud.
“Waratte ite…” is available for purchase at CDJAPAN.
“Waratte ite…” is available for streaming on Spotify.
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