Entering their final year before indefinite hiatus, Japan’s biggest male idol group set global outreach as one of their goals. This has resulted in English-language re-recordings of their biggest hits, a much greater internet presence, and even a music video or two being available on youtube. Of course, a little thing called “global pandemic” threw a huge wrench in their plans, and it remains to be seen how the ending of this chapter in Arashi history plays out. I, for one, hope it will be stronger and more memorable than In The Summer.
When I consider Arashi, I hear the densely-packed, orchestral arrangements of their more recent material, or the youthful exuberance of their early-00’s work. I don’t imagine a reheated trop-bop with simplistic English lyrics, inert beat drop and embarrassing vocal effects. There’s something to be said for groups stretching their boundaries and trying something new, but most artists will always be at their best when embracing what makes them special and building upon that, rather than jumping on ill-fitting trends.
In fact, to call In The Summer ill-fitting would be putting it mildly. The chorused hook retains some of Arashi’s trademark energy, but even this feels like an atypically rote melody for a group of their stature. On the other hand, Summer’s verses are cringe-inducing. The autotuned effects are a particularly bad match for Arashi’s vocals – the charm of which usually lies in their expressiveness. Summer turns them into J-pop robots – and not in a good way (like 2014’s excellent, vocoder-heavy Asterisk). I guess I can hear what they were striving for, but In The Summer is the wrong approach on almost every level. Luckily, the guys are at a point in their careers where they have nothing to prove to anyone.
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