Soma Saito bids goodbye to a chapter in his career with “Rakuen” as he rides off into the sunset, leaving fans with more questions than answers about this unexpectedly dark and nostalgic song.
Title: 楽園 Release date: 30/06/2022 Label: SACRA MUSIC Genre: Alternative rock/Acoustic Ballad
1 - 楽園
Track by track analysis:
1 – 楽園 (Rakuen)
To celebrate his 5th anniversary as a solo artist, singer-songwriter extraordinaire Soma Saito takes the stage with “Rakuen”.
Embracing the theme of “paradise” is something that sounds contradictory by Saito’s standards, at least on a quick approach. Certainly, this paradise is a guise for hell or you’ll be in for a ride that will sink your heart by the end of it.
A dramatic cello leads the way as a melancholic piano melody embellishes the background, looping in the background, painting it with nostalgia.
If you dive deeper, everything starts making sense, and the sound starts to get darker and feel final.
This is actually the end of a chapter and the beginning of a new one.
This is a march to the end.
It feels final although the tone should be celebratory.
In a way, this song reminds me of Radiohead’s “Creep”, especially in the way that Saito is performing the first part of the 1st verse (and a tiny bit of the intro melody on the cello is eerily similar). Instrumental-wise it has shades of The Killers’ “exitlude”. There is drama, nostalgia, and melancholy all in the same quantity in this song from the instrumental to the performance.
A guitar and mandolin slowly add depth to this song, being joined by a viola and cello as the song gets closer to the chorus. The chorus brings a dramatic trombone and violins to form an emotional strings quartet with the viola and cello.
The drums march their way through the song as the bassline punches its way to freedom in quite an intense way. On top of it all, the piano and accordion both greet and send you off to the next journey.
It feels weird and it shouldn’t but then again, it’s Soma Saito I’m talking about so… if it feels weird, that’s because it is meant to feel weird.
The performance in the verses is deliberately gentle and measured in a way that it feels like a lullaby however what awaits you in the chorus will make you drop to your knees.
The lullabyish tone in which Saito is performing in the verses is no more. Tension rises, he powers his way through his gentle mid-tones until… the chorus kicks in and Saito goes all out with showcasing his vocal range and technique in the chorus completely performing it in head voice.
As a result, he brought a clarity and beauty to this performance that comes as unexpected. It’s almost as if “Genjitsu” married “Waltz” but the end sound is all about capturing the vibe that “Epilogue” has.
It is hauntingly beautiful and genius of Saito with the nods to past songs as well as bringing things he’s mentioned many times he wanted to incorporate in his music – the banjo/mandolin and the accordion – while hinting at the future (or being really obvious about this being the end of a fantastic chapter in his career that includes the critically acclaimed CDs “in bloom” and “my beautiful valentine”).
When “Rakuen” wraps up, you’re left wondering what is that paradise he is talking about.
Is this “paradise” just a guise for a “dream”, concept that was prominent in the past two CDs?
Or what awaits us in his next album? Maybe the era that is being left behind?
One thing is for sure, this song feels more like a funeral – the figurative “burying a part of me” gimmick – more so than a celebration, a delight over something really pleasant. There is still a tiny bit of surrealism left in the instrumental, remnants of “my beautiful valentine” but the nods to the past are something that throws me off in terms of interpreting this song beyond what is expressed in its lyrics.
The voice tone is far off alluding to “paradise”, and the music is not even there to begin with.
So there is a deeper meaning to this song, one that will only make sense when the next CD is released and we get to know whether this was the end of something or just an intermission chapter in a solo career that is being pretty much flawless up until now.
Only Soma Saito to celebrate an anniversary as a solo artist with a song that sounds like a funeral, a farewell, a march towards something completely new. The unknown.
And only him to pull off such a thing in a way that listeners are left with plenty of questions left to answer while extremely delighted to be satiated with new music by the multi-talented singer-songwriter.
“Rakuen” closes a chapter and leaves the door open for what seems to be a new adventure and I honestly can’t wait to know where that new adventure will take us all.
“Rakuen” is available for streaming on Spotify.
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