Nobuhiko Okamoto goes all out with his new single “Sacramento“. This charismatic single brought out the best in him, even if there were some issues along the way.
Title: サクラメント Label: Kiramune Release date: 09/08/2017 Genre: J-Pop/Rock
1. サクラメント (Sacramento) 2. Knight's Courage (lyrics by: Nobuhiko Okamoto) 3. きっと きっと
Track by track analysis:
Sacramento has the makings of a ballad but it’s not quite it. The song has underlining dramatic tones, much due to the strings and piano’s solemn performances, but it still has a little bit of hope, a bright touch to it. The acoustic guitars and Okamoto‘s vocal performance were responsible for adding that essencial touch to the song. Expect a slow paced song with a beautiful choir in the background and top tier instrumentalization. On top of this Okamoto‘s performance was stellar. His performance was steady, emotional and overall consistent. Sacramento managed to showcase a different side to his sound and we love it. 5/5
2. Knight’s Courage
Knight’s Courage strays a bit away from Sacramento‘s solemn mood. We still find strings in this song to add a dramatic touch but most of the instrumentalization goes towards a more radio friendly danceable pop-rock sound with exciting synths leads, pads and heavy guitar riffs. The instrumental is addictive and exciting the only issue lies with the bridge. Although that section of the song is supposed to build up to the final chorus, its build up was a bit anti-climatic rather, it didn’t feel like a build up neither it felt like a drop, it was just disappointing. The vocal performance displayed once again Okamoto‘s improved steady vocals as he tackled his self composed lyrics. From Japan to the dancefloor, here’s the entertaining Knight’s Courage. 4.5/5
3. きっと きっと
To complete this release we’re met with “きっと きっと“, a bright pop-rock song. If you missed Okamoto‘s preppy self than this music will do the trick. Even though the song sets a bright mood, the instrumental isn’t necessarily overwhelming or too cheesy to the point that you get second hand embarrassment. The verses are led by the rhodes piano and guitar riffs whereas the chorus brings everything to the table – brass, piano, bass, drums and even those small details in the background (samples, minimal piano parts, etc). Okamoto‘s sweet vocals go to waste with this song as we find him, once again, singing in an overly bright tune. If we take into consideration the fact that Okamoto has made his solo career out of this whole preppy mood and upbeat songs, we say that this song a good – by those standards -, but given that we were presented with an extremelly consistent album from the start, this song feels like a downgrade. 4/5
“Sacramento” had the makings of a great release – which it really is – but unfortunately the consistency we got from the title track and “Knight’s Courage” was shaken by the erratic きっと きっと.
What did this single do wrong?
Taking Okamoto back to his preppy sound and asking him to sing in that hyper tone that we love to hate. His vocals have improved over the years and, despite some of his previous releases haven’t done justice to them, this time around we got two songs in which he was showcasing his growth at the same time he showed a different side of himself. If he was riding on momentum after two impecable songs, why change that and take him back to that awful singing tone that isn’t close to his comfortable one? We can’t understand that and that is exactly why this release fails to get top marks. His sweet vocals went to waste with the closing song, a pity because he was sounding great until then.
What did this single improve in comparison with previous releases?
The changes start with Okamoto‘s steady, sweet vocals in “Sacramento” and his energetic, passionate performance in “Knight’s Courage“. It’s nice for a change to listen to him singing in such a tone with such feelings and precision. Nothing about his performance in those two songs was forced, in result the listeners will certainly take those songs more seriously than usual.
The instrumentals suffered some changes as well. The title track brought those “HOLY HOLY” vibes back and we couldn’t help but to grin at such an upgrade we got. “Sacramento” mixes a dramatic instrumental with sweet vocals, the chorus is powerful like anything we’ve heard from him. The ballad touches and the choir took the song to greater heights. A pearl in his repertoire, we dare say it’s his best song to date.
“Knight’s Courage” has a fierce and energetic performance not only with it’s exciting instrumental but also with Okamoto‘s vocals. He went all out for that song’s performance and sounded like one with the beat, especially the whole “勇気胸に強く胸に / 僕はKnight君のKnight / どんな時も盾になることを / 誓おう” part. He was on fire for that performance which is obviously due to the fact that the lyrics do mean something for him (he wrote them). As listeners, we felt and understood the feelings in the lyrics better thanks to his passionate performance.
As a whole, “Sacramento” has shed a good light over him, making us partially forgive him for the disappointing “8piece“, released earlier this year.
“Sacramento” is a charismatic single that brought out the best in Okamoto, a release that has set the bar a little bit higher for any upcoming releases.
“Sacramento” is available for purchase on CDJAPAN for all overseas fans.