Tasuku Hatanaka “STAND UP” (Review)

STAND UP” puts Tasuku Hatanaka really close to the title of solo debut of the year. He manages to leave us begging for more with surprising vocal performances and an addictive brand of electronica/dance music.

Title: STAND UP 
Label: Lantis
Release date: 12/07/2017 
Genre: Pop/Dance/R&B

Tracklist:

1- STAND UP
2- Starter
3- エール ~旅立ちの歌~
4- STAND UP (Instrumental)
5- Starter (Instrumental)
6- エール ~旅立ちの歌~ (Instrumental)

Track by track analysis:

1- STAND UP

Progressive saw synths and a dreamy piano melody lead this summery tune. The beat alone is infectious, it has as many retro has it has contemporary dance music influences. You’ll start tapping your feet to the music as soon as press play. The bright lyrics and upbeat mood will certainly make you get up from your seat and put a smile on your face. When all of that is already checked, “STAND UP”  manages to deliver a low-key impressive progressive dance pop song with addictive funky guitar riffs to take you to the dancefloor. The instrumental is made for this season, it’s exciting and groovy. Now onto the vocal performance. Fancy falsetto? Well, it seems that Hatanaka has an impressive one that he doesn’t shy away from showcasing. But if that is not what you’re looking for then his gentle energetic vocals and control will certainly impress you. Hatanaka isn’t kidding around with his solo debut and he shows it well with an all rounded performance on top of an engaging and well crafted dance instrumental.  5/5

2- Starter

Get ready for what is one of the longest songs a rookie solo artist has ever performed. “Starter” mixes elements from various subgenres within dance music. We have the progressive dance elements in the verses with the saw synths and multi layered synth pads, on the other side we find a big break in this song, typical of the music genre, mainly used to hype up the listener, that resorts to heavy dubstep-oriented instrumentalization with wobbly synths and broken down drum beats and hi-hat samples. “Starter” sounds like a party song with its upbeat instrumentalization – especially in the chorus. While we’re not fans of the dubstep break, we have to admit that the simple fact that the song is 6 minutes long helps to spread out all these elements and avoid overcrowding the song. So what about the vocal performance? High notes, check. Falsetto, check. Stable singing, check. Energy, check. Hatanaka even sprinkles this performance with a little bit of vibrato. So what prevents us from awarding this song with top marks? The song’s arrangement is slightly off. For those of you that are so eagerly waiting to listen to his performance, you’ll notice that his vocals are as if burried underneath the excessive synth galore that drives some parts of the song. If only the instrumental’s volume had been slightly lower, we could, for example, have listened clearly to Hatanaka‘s falsetto in the chorus. It kind of ruins the whole listening experience having to dissect the song in order to find the vocals. 4/5

3- エール ~旅立ちの歌~

And this is the moment in which all of us are surprised with a sweet R&B ballad. エール ~旅立ちの歌~ puts aside the party mood we got from the previous two songs and manages to deliver something more meaningful and impressive than any of those songs managed to do. The slow pace envelops the listener as if we’re listening to a lullaby. Pizzicato strings blend with a gentle piano melody, an acoustic guitar work and mellow bass. The instrumental is rich with several layers of instruments making this beautiful song come to life. Hatanaka‘s performance is beyond anything we were expecting from him. He fares insanely well performing a ballad. His falsetto and vocal control came in handy for this song. As you listen to the song, you’ll feel the gentleness in his vocals and, with each high note that he delivers, with each falsetto he adds to the song, you can’t help but to listen to it in awe. We seriously thought that it’d be pretty hard to impress us further but the unexpected happened during the last chorus that not only made us swoon, but also got goosebumps all over us. Hands down the best song on this single. 5/5

Final rating:

STAND UP” is a fairly strong debut single. If we match it with this year’s solo debuts, Hatanaka is currently sharing first place with Soma Saito, another seiyuu with an impressive solo debut single.

We have a lot to say about this debut. Unlike most seiyuu debuting in the music business, Hatanaka embraced a youthful sound for his debut single. Not the preppy, cheesy type of youthful that has plagged Japanese pop culture but a trendy, westernized youthful sound that will satisfy both domestic and overseas fans. Just the fact that he strayed away from the ridiculous moe/kawai kind of pop/dance music – that seiyuu are often stuck singing – is a relief. Hatanaka is a talented individual. He’s a fairly good seiyuu with lots to prove and an even better singer with much more to prove, especially when, with each passing day, more seiyuu make their debuts with well developed vocals up their sleeves.

If you mix Irino Miyu‘s singing tone with Genki Okawa‘s singing quirks (especially the way he sings the notes with a slightly mix of nasal and chest voice) and Toshiyuki Toyonaga‘s falsetto and high note hitting proficiency and you get Hatanaka‘s vocals. We’re not kidding when we say that he sounds like an upgraded version of “debut Irino Miyu“. If you listen to Miyu‘s debut single you’ll notice that the similarities in their singing tones are uncanny. Despite the fact that, right now, he’s nowhere close to Miyu and Toyonaga‘s unrivaled powerhouse vocals, if he manages to further develop his skills, he’ll be as deadly as both of them. Right now Hatanaka is on par with Yuma Uchida, Soma Saito, Makoto Furukawa, Junta Terashima, Daiki Yamashita and Shunichi Toki, talented singers on the rise (as solo artists or with a group)

If we had a say in who could be successful in the music business we’d definitely give him all the means for a successful career. Hatanaka is not making a debut just to get his name on the map or cash in easy money – even if those are some of the reasons that lead to a seiyuu makes a solo debut -; his vocals show that he’s far from being kidding or that he’s doing this leisurely. He’s got real talent, good vocals to back up his debut and he showcased them proudly through these three songs.

STAND UP” is one of the most interesting debut songs to be released during 2017. In a year that most seiyuu are diving into rock and pop-rock, he embraces electronica/dance. At first glance, when a seiyuu is performing a dance track it usually means: a talentless or unskilled singer tries to mask that obvious fact with overwhelming synths and noisy leads in hopes no one notices it, all that while trying to cash in as much money as they can. We know the drill (there might be some exceptions but this tends to be the usual drill). Thankfully, the reality is much sweeter and satisfying. Despite of the fact that “STAND UP is a dance track, Hatanaka delivers a stunning vocal performance that is rather surprising coming from someone with so little singing experience under his belt. This song is a fantastic greeting card for his solo career.

Starter” was a nice addition to this release. It’s a dance song just like the title track but it has a different flavor that makes it fairly easy to set apart from the other. Sadly, there’s some hiccups with the song arrangement that, if solved, could take the song to another level. Putting that aside, “Starter” is an exciting song with a bright, upbeat vibe fit for this summer.

When  エール ~旅立ちの歌~ starts playing, we realize that he is much more talented than expected. An R&B ballad is usually tricky to perform, it requires melodic vocals, good control and often something that will impress the listener. Because of that most seiyuu avoid the genre during their debut days and only – if comfortable – will delve on it on later stages of their careers. Hatanaka didn’t shy away from it and managed to not only awe us, but also make us crave for more, raising the bar for any upcoming releases.

Get your groove on with fresh dance tunes and prepare yourself for an emotional rollercoaster at the same time because “STAND UP” is a complete release ready to shake your core, a strong contender for single of the year and debut of the year.

STAND UP” is available for purchase on CDJAPAN for all overseas fans.

Stand Up / Tasuku Hatanaka
Tasuku Hatanaka
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Author: midorin

The Hand That Feeds HQ founder and music reviewer writing about Japanese music since 2010. Currently based in Macau SAR. Mamoru Miyano's "Orpheus" was the catalyst to completely dedicate herself to writing about male seiyuu music.