Review | Soma Saito “Summerholic!”

Soma Saito Petrichor

Soma Saito brings out his surfer-rocker vibes to deliver a fun, upbeat summer holiday tune in Summerholic!.

Title: Summerholic!
Label: SACRA MUSIC / Sony Music Japan 
Release date: 19/08/2020
Genre: Alternative Rock / Pop-Punk

Tracklist:

1 - Summerholic!

Track analysis:

1 – Summerholic!

Summerholic! is the 2nd entry in the in bloom series, a series that is 100% focused on capturing the vibe of seasons or, if you look it in another way, be a soundtrack to those seasons.

For Summerholic! we ditch the melancholy of the rainy season that was in Petrichor and embrace fun, laidback Summer days.

The track kicks off with playful, surfer rock guitar riffs and playful drums, clearly taking the listener through a fun, summery trip to the beach.

The soundscape is pretty obvious, much thanks to the instrumental being a mix between textbook surfer rock and 90s pop-punk, 2 sub-genres that usually are tied to and give off summer / careless fun vibes.

While rather simple, the verses are dynamic, with a big focus on its bass sound being the driving gear for it.

There is also some brevity in the verses, but those are still entertaining, carrying a mid-to-fast tempo in the drums, building up the excitement for the fast paced upbeat chorus that gives off the illusion of going for longer than the verses.

This is yet another point in which Summerholic! goes the complete opposite route to the previous entry in the in bloom series – Petrichor – : the speed.

This is an energetic song that goes by pretty fast, not one that slows time down – made to be enjoyed in a completely different way -, which further enhances the brevity of summer, especially for those that are having fun.


On the vocal end, Soma Saito goes for a rather unique performance, capitalizing on his strengths but creating peculiar dynamics in his performance.

I am not a big fan of the compression / final mixing of the vocals in this track.

It sounds as if too much sound was caught with Saito’s vocals, as if there was no sound isolation at all in the recording booth. Or Saito was singing far from the mic. Or the performance was not wet enough. Can’t quite pinpoint what is the reason but I leave you with my guesses.

He’s also locked at center and much farther from the listener than in previous songs, something that makes, alongside the mixing in the vocals, sound like he is singing rather quietly in comparison with the loud instrumental.

Still, you can look at this from another prism and say that it adds to the rawness of the track.

His performance is filled with falsetto, contrasting heavily with the pop-punk / surfer vibe in this track.

He then adds a couple of quirky yells/shouts here and there – reminiscing of KISHOW’s iconic ones (if you’re a GRANRODEO fan you know what I mean) -, smooth flourishes here and there, and goes for brief, insanely fast rap parts that perfectly glue everything together.

His singing is on a slightly higher key than usual, something that is easily noticeable, especially when you compare to his performance in Petrichor, in which he was obviously tapping into his deeper vocal register to make the song sound purposely alluring.

This time, he went the opposite direction and, even though surfer rock / pop-punk sort of demand solid mid-tones with a bit of flavor in them, it is quite interesting that Saito went this route vocally and it still worked pretty well.

This is quite the unique performance, especially when you look at Saito’s repertoire and notice that:

  • pop-punk and surfer rock are music genres he’s never experimented with prior to Summerholic! release;
  • he’s previously experimented with rap parts in his songs, but he’s never gone THIS fast (and with such a clear and clean diction on top of all that speed).

By now, it is clear that Saito is trying to deliver colorful performances that tap into different parts of his vocal register as well as challenging himself in the process, trying to ascertain how much he can push himself.

He showed that he is a versatile performer – also singer-songwriter – by pulling off songs in a wide variety of music genres.

He’s showed that he does have great control over his range: going lower or higher in his singing range at will, and being insanely consistent on both ends of his register.

He’s showed that he can dominate in almost any tempo vocally.

If he goes slower, he does go lower in his register – not a requirement but he has made sure it happens whenever he tackles a slow tempo track – ; if he goes faster, he can tap into his tenor range and really go for those high notes or he can rap pretty fast in his mid-tones.

You know what we are missing, don’t you?

A ballad.

This series would be complete with a full-fledged ballad (regardless if it is piano only, a quiet one or a power ballad).

That is something Saito has also never tackled in his career as a solo artist. He sure has added some elements to his songs but he has never went full-fledged ballad singer.

Which makes me think… If he is experimenting this much with his sound and his voice, will we ever hear him tackle a ballad? He sure does have the range and the control over his vocals that is required to pull it off.

But does he want to branch out and add ballads to his repertoire? He’s mentioned before that he does not have much skill writing romantic stuff so you can scrap a romantic ballad off the ideas board, but, we may have a heart wrenching one – even slightly darker – in the upcoming entry. Remember, Saito mentioned the next entry is more “emotional”.

At least, I sure hope so. I could be dead wrong though.


Why the constant comparisons to Petrichor in this review?

Let’s not forget that Petrichor and Summerholic! are part of the same series that has the same main theme at their core: changing seasons.

Starting from the point the songs are inserted in the same series and follow one connecting thread, it is expected that, when the in bloom series is complete, we will have a trio of songs that has to play/fit well in sequence.

Therefore, there are points / elements that carry over between tracks and others that won’t – in which the focus will be in going the opposite direction to try to capture the feel of a season. Therefore, my focus was on highlighting those differences.

Capture the feel of a season?

Yeah, it’s quite complicated but, so far, Soma Saito has managed to pull it off either through his music (the instrumental primarily gives off the Summer vibe) – in Summerholic! – or through the lyrics (the lyrics best give off that rainy season vibe, which then, the instrumental complements) – in Petrichor.


All in all, Summerholic! is not necessarily an upgrade to Petrichor but, as a 1st ever experiment with such an unusual upbeat sound – when Saito is best known for a darker, more introspective sound when he is composing -, it sounds pretty fun and never out of place in his repertoire, that has a major focus on rock as of late.

It might take a couple of listens to sink in that Saito is, indeed, performing a happy song with no twisted lyrics filled with double entendres but, other than that, it is a pretty good song.

After 2 unexpected – yet befitting – takes on both the Rainy season and Summer, what awaits us is Fall in his 3rd and final entry in the in bloom series, Palette.

Looking back at these two singles, it is safe to say that it will be impossible to pinpoint exactly which route Soma Saito will go for that entry. My bet is still on a ballad but us, fans, could get a completely different thing.

One thing we can all be certain, he’ll capture once again the feel of the season in question, perhaps in line with the melancholy in Petrichor, although more emotional than it. How emotional? We’ll have to wait.

Make your bets!

See you on the 3rd entry in Saito‘s in bloom series!


A note that Summerholic! has soared on iTunes’ Alternative and Music Charts.


REVIEW OVERVIEW
Summerholic!
The Hand That Feeds HQ founder and music reviewer writing about Japanese music since 2010. A year later, I stumbled upon Mamoru Miyano's "Orpheus". Since then I have been writing about male seiyuu music. You may find me writing almost essays whenever music is really good (not limited to, but it happens a lot with Soma Saito's music). I also host the male seiyuu-centric podcast, SEIYUU LOUNGE (see Spotify link in this profile).

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