Saturday, 8 June 2019

A Theme From Spring - A Look at 'Date Datte' by READY TO KISS (Single Review)

*I am human and I make mistakes. So call me out on everything I make a blunder in, and help me correct those typos, misspellings and mis-translations.

Spring may have passed us by, but READY TO KISS keep the season alive in their most recent single, Date Datte. With four new songs accompanied by their instrumental counterparts, READY TO KISS deliver a whisper of both the vibrant and darker tones that Spring can deliver during its reign.

For their first single of 2019, will Date Datte deliver the tone and style the title creates, or will it leave people desiring more when it comes to sound, vocals and more?


Creative outlets, I have plenty, but my creativity does not always manifest itself in the form of the written word. Whether it is crafting, drawing, brainstorming story ideas or writing out a review, I always fall back on something creative when I need it most. Right now writing is my personal therapy, and for the first time in a long while this blog has become Sanctuary, so I will do my best to make use of this desire to write and review whilst I can.

And hey, let's be honest here; it's not like I've been making use of this space as I should be. I can only hope that I get to some PV Reviews before too long, because I really do miss them.

With that semi-emotional spiel spielled, today's review comes in the form of my latest ear-splitting delight, READY TO KISSES Date Datte, released way back in March of this very year (2019). Featuring eight tracks (including instrumentals), 8 editions and a few squeaky, sub-par vocals, Date Datte will surely deliver an array of sounds for all listeners, and perhaps a few earaches along the way. It depends on how much you can handle in terms of vocal capability, or a lack thereof.

Oof, that is very tongue-in-cheek, isn't it?

Before I go on a mini-rant and lose you completely, let's take a quick History check on the group itself, shall we? Here we go:

Debuting in late 2013, READY TO KISS began their activities with as a 5-member unit under GET CRAZY, with former Houkago Princess members Chiba Sakino, Noda Hitomi, Nagafuji Aoi and Kobayashi Rena - as well as newcomer Ichinose Anju - making up the group in its first phase. The group did not release their first single until January 14th, 2015 however, but were already known amongst underground idol fans for their high-energy performances. In July 2015, READY TO KISS made their major debut under Stand-Up! Records, a subsidary to Universal Music Japan which also housed acts such as Iketeru Hearts, Afilia Saga East and others.

READY TO KISS stayed with Stand-Up! Records throughout 2015, however parted ways with the agency after that. In 2017, the group underwent a major lineup and image change, and had their second major debut under King Records with their second major single (third if you include their indies release). Currently, the group has released six singles as well as a mini-album titled reset.

There are currently 7 members in the group: Chiba Sakino, Uehara Ayuko, Kiyokawa Reina, Amau Kisumi, Sasaki Miho, Makino Hiromi and Harukawa Momona.

And with that all written and overviewed, it's time to get to the review itself. Let's take a little listen, spill a bit of ketchup and crank up that volume (but not by much) because it's time to talk about music, and maybe those vocals as well. Let's discuss, dear readers.

Ready, set... GO!

*This gets pretty candid at the end, because I am inconsistent in my tone. Typical.

Date Datte (Sasaki Miho ver.) (伊達だって)

Release Date: March 6th, 2019
Editions: 8 (Regular Edition, 7x Solo Member Cover Editions)

Track List:
  1. Date Datte (伊達だって)
  2. Blueberry Yoghurt Smoothie (ブルーベリー・ヨーグルト・スムージー)
  3. Zessan Influenza (絶賛インフルエンザ)
  4. Kure nai (呉れない)
  5. Date Datte (Off-Vocal ver.)
  6. Blueberry Yoghurt Smoothie (Off-Vocal ver.)
  7. Zessan Influenza (Off-Vocal ver.)
  8. Kure nai (Off-Vocal ver.)

Date Datte
- Single Review -

1. Date Datte

It should come as no surprise to any of us that the opening track for Date Datte is - le gasp - the title track itself. It should also come as no surprise that this song is, first and foremost, an energetic Spring bop, perfect for the season it was released in and a great way to boost ones emotions for those dreary, blue days we are all likely to have.

When I first heard this song, I was undeniably hooked. I still listen to it a great deal ever since obtaining the single itself, but I won't deny that my intrigue in it has waned just a little. It happens, it's normal, let's not dwell on it. I still enjoy the sound that Date Datte provides, and I certainly enjoy the ease I feel when listening to it. It's catchy, bouncy in sound, and fairly easy to sing along to, but it is most definitely not the best song on tis disc. Regardless, the title track is still a bop. It doesn't hold a candle to Narimasu ni Narimasu, though.

Beginning with an energetic pop-rock style in the instrumentals opening bars, Date Datte quickly proves itself to be yet another catchy (and undeniably recognisable) sound within READY TO KISSES discography, and if you listen to the instrumental alone, you will find the song to have its dulcet moments, as well as its spike in energy, creating a rather atmospheric piece that feels both light and heavy on the drums and guitar rifts. But let's be real here: there's more to an idol song than the instrumental, right? So, let's talk vocals.

Vocally this song is lacking, and I don't say that to be mean. Truthfully speaking, this has to be one of the worst songs for the group when it comes to their singing technique. With a good chunk of the lines being handed to Kisumi, Reina and Sakino, I can't deny that there has been a slight downgrade in how the leading track sounds. High-pitched to the point where it hurts to listen, heavily edited in post to make the girls sound semi-decent, and certainly lacking in good singers, this song simply hurts my ears when I listen to it. I swear, I have to turn the volume down bit-by-bit just to save my ears.

Let's get one thing straight: Sakino and Reina can sing fairly decently most of the time, and both Hiromi and Momona are far better, more capable singers than the three who were given most of the lines in this song, but I think it's the style, the pitch and whatever else that is really screwing with Sakino and Reina this time around. I mean, there are times in Date Datte where Reina sounds downright delightful, and moments where she just sounds like a cat in heat. So, I fully blame whoever decided to mix this song in post and choose Kisumi, Sakino and Reina to lead it. Yeah, yeah, they're the Big Three in the group right now, but none of them can handle this song that well, and it only cheapens the prettiness of it all.

Buuuuut, I still like the song. Because idols, catchy tunes and pretty things (and hey, they don't really have to know how to sing, because idols).


The music video itself was everything I never expected it to be. Given the title being about a date (I think), I felt like we would be given an 'idol date' type of video, with the members doing date-like cute things to the camera and making the viewer feel like they were on their own virtual date with the members. Well, I wwas taken by surprise to see that this video instead incorperated a refreshing, spring-like activity within Japan that fits the song perfectly. I mean, what's more refreshing and warming than going to a bath house and being treated by cute idols?

It's an enjoyable video, one that showcases a traditional and modern theme for the latest READY TO KISS single. I enjoy how the director incorperated their idol personas into this and tied together the dance shot scenes with performance clips of the girls on a small stage in the bath house as an extra treat for the guest. I love how the promotional outfits somehow tie into the traditional bath house attire, and I enjoy the colour scheme that creates a warm, romantic style that feels both new and traditional.

Oh, and the outdoor scenes are really pretty, too. I love the warmth in this images and the dusk feel they create.

Both the song and the video fit together really well, but I do want to stress that this song is not the best when it comes to the leading vocals. For anyone who does not like a squeaky, high-pitched idol track, please do steer clear of this one. Granted, I enjoy Date Datte myself, but I have a high tolerance for vocally-inept idols. Besides, I can't deny that I like most idols who can't sing anyway.

In short: It's a pretty song, but the vocals are terrible. Kisumi, please don't lead a track again.

2. Blueberry Yoghurt Smoothie

Ever since READY TO KISS the single was released, the group has followed a pattern in which one song on the coupling tracks has to be food or drinks related, and Date Datte is no exception to this rule. Thankfully, like its food/drink related predeccessor songs before it, Blueberry Yoghurt Smoothie proves to be a better track than its corresponding A-side and - yes - I am in love with it.

Funnily enough, I hate blueberries. There's a random piece of trivia thrown in there for you.

Blueberry Yoghurt Smoothie is a fun song, upping the energy and cuteness a fair bit this time around, but also showcasing better vocals this time around. This style of song truly befits READY TO KISS and its members a lot better, because whilst the vocals may not be much better for some, I can at least hear that the members are able to hit the pitch this time around, allowing for the song to sound prettier, and a lot more bearable.

I do wish they would give Momona more lines, however. She really does have a pretty voice.

There is no point in denying that this is one of my favourite tracks. It feels like a sweet summer song, one that is perfect for the beach. Honestly, I wouldn't have been surprised if this song had been on the Thai ni Iki Tai track list, because it gives me summer and Thai ni Iki Tai vibes all around, but it's here, on a Spring track list. I'm not mad about that, though.

This song is a true spirit lifter, and though it is certainly less than original in its sound - so very READY TO KISS - it's one of my undeniable favourites. The instrumental is also undeniably pretty, easy to get into and catchy. I could dance to the instrumental alone, actually, I just love it so much. Also, the instrumental break is super fun to listen to. I suggest giving this one a go, both with the vocals and without, because it's very enjoyable both ways (plus you will discover more of its charm when you hear the instrumental itself).

Blueberry Yoghurt Smoothie is super cute, super fun to listen to, and super happy. This is an all around bop.

In short: Yo, I like it. But now I want a smoothie, minus the blueberries. Thanks.

3. Zessan Influenza

Zessan Influenza has a rather intriguing title, only because Influenza is... well, it's the flu, and somehow I find the title itself intriguing, especially when you compare it to the cuteness of the first two song titles on this track list. It feels ever so slightly out of place, and because of that I am intrigued.

But heck, if this isn't a bop, then I don't know what is. Maybe it's titled Zessan Influenza because of how catchy it is, similar to how quickly you can catch the flu? Who knows.

Random thoughts about the title aside, I really enjoy this song. It's such an enjoyable, fun listen, and I really do think that has become my favourite the song only because the more I listen to it, the more I want to hear it and the better it gets each time. It's such an energetic, entertaining piece, the opposite of actual influenza, and I really can't shake the thought I have that this is a damn good track.

Oh, and as luck would have it, the vocals fit the song well here, too. So, no bleeding ear drums today, READY TO KISS. Thanks for saving us all from another round of Hellish screeching courtesy of favouritism.

Regarding the vocals, there's actually a nice sound all around here, only because the song is mostly comprised of group lines, until we get to the bridge where each member is given a line, or so I believe. Still, it's nice to have a group effort styled song here, because that's where READY TO KISSES strength lies more than anything. Their abilities when singing together, though not the best, are better than when they have certain members sing solo all the time. So, yeah; points for sharing and caring evenly, R2K.

Instrumental wise, this song isn't anything special, but even in its purest form it is catchy, cute and fun. The drums and guitars are back - wait, was that a wind chime, or perhaps a triangle? I will never know - and there's that dulcet beat again, creating a pleasentness to balance out that energy and spring-like sound Zessan Influenza holds.

... And now I have realised all these songs are very Spring-like in their titles, too. Good grief, they really know how to tie together the titles, don't they? Clever buggers.

Okay, this is a great song. I like it, and I like the instrumental too. I love it when idols make a group effort when it comes to singing, especially when they sound like crap individually sometimes. Huzzah for group efforts!

In short: This is the only influenza I want to catch.

4. Kure Nai

Having listened to this single a fair few times already, I can safely say that Kure Nai is my least favourite song. With that said, this is the undeniable stand-out in the entire track list thanks to its dark, moody tone and almost pessimistic sound.

This is also the track that I could totally see Houkago Princess singing, because it is 100% a moody B-side track by HouPri. Heck, I can even hear Odagiri Nana, and I don't even have to try imagining her voice there. She would fit this song perfectly.

HouPri-vibes asides, Kure Nai kind of comes out of nowhere, sound wise. Where the other three songs were bubbly, cute and vibrant in sound, Kure Nai takes on a darker, much more heady tone that will probably intrigue a lot of listeners, and even impress a few who may not have been impressed by the previous tracks. Sure, it may not be my cup of tea, but there's no denying that Kure Nai is an invigorating song to listen to. It's unique for READY TO KISS, a style that I haven't heard them tackle as a group thus far, but it undeniably suits them.

I won't say that the vocals are the best - there's a slight dip once again thanks to Kisumi - but they are certainly better than what Date Datte provided in terms of vocal quality, so I have to give this song props for besting the title track.

I don't hate this song, mind, I just don't like listening to it as much as the others. Perhaps it's because of how drastically different it is in tone and mood to the other three tracks, or perhaps it's because I'm not in the mood to listen to something so pessimistic in tone right now. Either way, this track is very left-field for the single as a whole, and though I can hear and understand why it's such a strong track, as well as understand why it's better than the others in a way, I can't get over how much I feel the need to skip it when it comes on.

Kure Nai is a damn cool track with a moody, dark vibe and a heavier sound, but it definitely sticks out like a sore thumb against the sparkling idol charm of the previous three tracks. This is certainly the black sheep of the track list, but with a name that translates to 'I can not fall in love', I shouldn't have expected anything less.

In short: For a really happy-go-lucky sounding single, this song really dampens the mood. But sometimes, we need a reality check; not everything is rainbows, and this certainly emphasises the idea of 'Springtime Blues'.

Conclusion

As a random tid-bit I never mentioned in the opening paragraphs of this review, the version of the single I own is the Miho Sasaki version, because she's my favourite member as well as my Kami-Oshi. Yes, she surpassed Morning Musume's Ikuta Erina. It happens.

Overall, this single is fine. I enjoy the songs it provides, I enjoy the overall catchy nature of the tracks and I like the Spring theme that all of the titles encompass, and I enjoy how happy some of these songs make me. That said, I can't deny that from both a fan and listener standpoint, this single lacks in the vocal department for most of the songs, even the ones I enjoyed the most. It's just the way it is, and though I can handle vocal-inability most of the time, from a review standpoint it's just not that great.

If READY TO KISS could own the song despite their vocals it would probably translate better, however the girls are given tracks that they sometimes can't handle as well as others and it really does show, and it hurts my ears sometimes, especially in the title track, Date Datte. I understand that these lines are given to popular members to belt out, and there's clearly a direction and vision these songs go in when composed, but damn, couldn't they have just given this one to Momona and Hiromi to sing, and made it a b-side track? As an A-side, Date Datte truly does flop a little, and I can understand why this single might be a pass for a casual listener.

From a fan view however, - as well as a lover of all things idol - I do enjoy the songs and find them extremely catchy and cute, with Kure Nai being the sol exception. I love singing along to and fist-pumping with the beat, I find the little added Hey! Hey's and Fu fu's throughout the songs adorable and perfect for chanting along to, and I think that each song suits the idea of Spring pretty well... unless it's Blueberry Yoghurt Smoothie, which is totally a misplaced summer song.

It feels like I'm becoming conflicted within this review, so let's break it down a little more clearly here:

I want to stress that whilst I personally enjoy it and listen to Date Datte as a whole on a regular basis, it does have its obvious disadvantages as well as its advantages. Where it is fun, catchy and cute for three of its songs, it is also lacking in vocal decency and can feel repetetive of other tunes within the groups song catalogue, too. It's comfortable in its sound style, but for some that can seem tired and outdated, and others it is familiar and welcoming. There is also the sudden shift in tone with the inclusion of Kure Nai, which takes such a turn that it feels quite strange and uncomfortable, especially when the previous three tracks all create an energetic, cute vibe that is typical for READY TO KISS as a group.

That said, Kure Nai is the one track that will probably intrigue a lot of new listeners (and old) to the group, however the change in pace is so whiplash worthy, it feels fairly out of place within the entire single.

To conclude: My feelings for this single are rather balanced, I would say. Mostly I enjoy this single, but I understand its shortcomings and can see why some people would steer clear of it. If you don't personally care about how the vocals sound and just want something fun and cute to listen to, something that is pretty easy and catchy as well, then this is a pretty good pick. For those who can not hack a terrible singer however, just listen to the instrumentals alone - they are hella pretty, and pretty soothing at times too.

Personally I enjoy most of the tracks on here, and though not all are my favourite, I understand their charm enough to appreciate them for what they are. There is something appealing about each of these songs, with or without the vocals attached, and whilst this may not be my favourite single from the group, it's pretty decent and hey, I don't regret buying it at least.

I don't know. I doubt I've sold this one to you, but it's very half / half for me this time around. Still, I would rather not lie, and though I enjoy the single myself when I do listen to it, I doubt it will appeal to a few others.

And here I thought this would be a rave review XD Misjudgement managed.

Favourite Songs: Blueberry Yoghurt Smoothie, Zessan Influenza

SINGLE RATING:


But also...


I freakin' love some of these songs and think they are absolute bops, but on reflection I understand that this single will not appeal to everyone. Even for myself, some of the songs get on my nerves, so yeah... I don't know, but hey, it reminds me of Spring. What else can I say?

I am such a great reviewer not XD 

Are there any READY TO KISS singles you like the most, and if you have a favourite, which one is it? And which food or drink related B-side is your favourite? I really love Emerald Cream Soda myself, but I understandthat songs are subjective to the listener. For those who don't listen to READY TO KISS however, would you like to, or have their songs put you off? I would like to know!

To those who have read my blog, thank you very much! I hope the posts aren't disappointing you, and I thank you for putting up with my reviews and reading them all the way through if you got this far! I appreciate your time, and thank you for everything. I hope you are happy, healthy and having a wonderful day, week or weekend. Until the next post though, please keep on enjoying your idols and music, and stay safe.

I will see you all in the next one. Adieu and goodbye, dear Readers.
Chiima~

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