A cresting drumbeat and soft but searing vocals are ready to come undone shortly after pressing play on the new single “Overwhelming” from rock artist Riku, but while the chemistry they have in this intro to the song is quite stirring, I would be lying if I said it eclipsed that of the lyrical and instrumental substance that await listeners in the next four minutes that follow. Riku has been making a name for himself through the inventiveness of his songwriting, but in this specific single, I like that he isn’t getting too ambitious with the black and whites of the structure. This is guitar-driven, all about big harmonies, and starts with as much intensity as it winds up whipping us with at its conclusion.
As far as the hook is concerned, Riku was careful to avoid recycling anything too retro, likely for fear of sounding like a lot of the classic rock revivalists who have been making noise in the west lately. His is such an anthemic strain of hard rock that it would be too easily lumped in with the retro sounds of his contemporaries in my opinion, and while he’s living in his own corner of the indie circuit right now aesthetically speaking, I don’t know that this isn’t a good thing for his long-term goals. If you’re going to be an icon, you can’t ride on the same trail everyone else is, and the artistry he’s presenting us with in “Overwhelming” certainly isn’t that of a trend follower at all.
Lyrically, this single doesn’t need translation to feel the emotional weight of Riku’s every verse. Through tonal shaping that happens as much through his singing as it does his management of the discord unfolding behind him, he’s able to give us all of the catharsis his words would reference without having to subtitle the lyrics for English-speaking listeners – many of whom have become the source of the critical acclaim “Overwhelming” is getting this fall (myself included). There’s something transcendent about the message he’s producing in this song, and while I don’t know that it wouldn’t sound more beautiful were I familiar with the actual language it’s being performed in, I can say now that this track sounds quite effective just as it is, no matter the lens through which we break it down.
“Overwhelming” isn’t just an awesome way to bring this player’s summer to a close; it’s an addition to his discography that gives us another dimension of his artistic abilities without concealing the possibilities that still sit on the horizon. He’s constantly getting better in the studio, a little tougher as a singer, a lot more mature as an arranger and lyricist, and to me, Riku is one of the more important players that music fans need to be paying attention to as 2021 comes into its fourth quarter. “Overwhelming” is a hot treat, and perhaps the best sample of what this man can cut when all of the pressure to make something incredible is on his back.