Review: ’1st Date’ with Watanabe Entertainment’s D☆DATE [Music]




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by Elizabeth Chan | staff writer

D☆DATE

D☆DATE is a pop music super unit put together by Watanabe Entertainment that pulls boys from their group of young male actors, known as D-BOYS, that formed in 2010.  The four original members of D-BOYS selected to be in the group were Kouji Seto (Kamen Rider Kiva; Otomen), Junji Igarashi (Ultraman Moebius), Hirofumi Araki (Jyuuken Sentai Gekiranger), and Yuuichi Nakamura (Kamen Rider Hibiki; Kamen Rider Den-O).  After that, a 5th member was selected from a huge audition process of 30,000 young men, where Arata Horii was picked as the winner out of 6 finalists.  Since then they have released 5 singles, and didn’t release their first album 1st Date until 2012, which will be the focus of this review.

It should be noted that by the time of the release of the album, however, Nakamura left the group due to back problems in 2011.  Despite his departure, tracks that he participated in are still included in the album as the album is somewhat a “best of” album — predominantly including songs from their singles with only two new songs out of the 14 tracks.

Musically, most of the album is of the typical pop boy band fare, but there are a few pretty interesting things about the tracks here and there.  For instance, the lyrics to three of the songs were written by the group’s leader, Hirofumi Araki, while two of the tracks from their first single, Ato 1 cm no Mirai, have lyrical credits given to the whole group, and “Omoi” is specifically credited to Kouji Seto and Yuuichi Nakamura.

A very important note on the history of the album and song, “Omoi” was also previously released on a compilation album put together by their label, Universal Music, to gather funds for charity after the 2011 Touhoku earthquake and tsunami.  The song itself is a very upbeat and uplifting piece, but the lyrics speak of sending a message from the heart up to the endless sky, which under normal circumstances would probably be viewed as a song about youth and the experiences between friends and love interests, but in the context of the charity album, it turns into a bittersweet sentiment of trying to remember and include those who were lost that fateful day.

Many music aficionados will also recognize how dance music is center stage in the global music industry now, and the producers of D☆DATE also seem to recognize this as the newer songs on the album and the songs from the newer singles are electronic dance tracks.  ”CATCH A TRAIN” (new song) and “Love Heaven” (4th single) specifically are literally K-pop tracks written by Korean composers and are similar to the kind of sound you might hear from a band with SM Entertainment.  ”JOKER,” “Your Magic” (both from the 5th single), and “Blue Dahlia” are Japanese compositions, but definitely follow the dance trend.

“Zutto…” is the only ballad on the album and lyrically paints the story of a winter themed date and confession.  The rest of the tracks are pretty standard J-pop boy band songs where they talk about pushing forward to some unforeseen future or what can be done now to ensure the fulfillment of dreams, but with that special someone there as support.  ”DAY BY DAY” and “Hello Hello” have a bit of a rock feel to it while “Dear My Story” and “Ato 1cm no Mirai” incorporate the sound of an acoustic guitar.

Thematically, the collection of songs matches D☆DATE’s audience really well.  Most of the boys have a background in tokusatsu shows where, yes, the predominant audience is small children. However, actor and actress selection tends to draw selection on the older siblings or even the parents watching the show with the child.  Given that, the stories painted in the lyrics of the songs range from spice of life school yard romance like in “Dear My Story” to complex adult relationships in “JOKER,” which simply strikes me as something similar to a reply to Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” from a male perspective.

The physical CD came in two versions with a limited edition version and a regular edition version.  The limited edition version came with a DVD of a re-edited documentary episode of the previously broadcast TV special on MUSIC ON! TV, “Micchaku D☆DATE” (Total Coverage D☆DATE).  The album art is pretty and is edited to look like the boys are posing with and dancing around in water while the photos of the group inside show layered stills of their dance moves and one group shot.  The beginning part of the booklet has pages that are of a lighter blue-ish hue that matches the background of the insert photography and then about half way through they mysteriously decided to put all of the lyrics and credits over black with white text.

Overall, the album is a decent collection of listening entertainment, but probably won’t be appreciated by anyone who isn’t a fan of one of the members already from their respective acting careers.  The dance tracks are catchy and I can definitely appreciate the move to make songs that are competitive with the global music industry, but it doesn’t really deliver something that is so remarkable that fans of acts like KAT-TUN, Arashi,  SHINee, or Super Junior will drop everything to start following them.

Official Website:  http://mv.avex.jp/d-date/

Official Blog:  http://ameblo.jp/d-date-official/

Official Twitter:  https://twitter.com/Ddatedirect

Label Website:  http://www.universal-music.co.jp/d-date/

D-BOYS Project Official Website:  http://www.d-boys.com/db_project/index.html

[NOTE: The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the SPJA.]

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