If I’m being honest, I’ve not been a fan of the English-language reworkings (or English-language originals) released by Arashi over the past few months. I appreciate their goal of global outreach during this final lap of their career, but after building decades of goodwill across hundreds of J-pop tracks, it feels odd to cap it off with retreads of musical touchstones more closely associated with Western pop music. With In The Summer, I don’t think Arashi’s attempt at modern trends worked at all. So, with new single Whenever You Call, it’s refreshing to hear them tackle a sound that was popular during their own debut era.
In some ways, Whenever You Call comes off like the kind of self-aware parody you might see in a movie or comedy sketch. But, the guys deliver the song’s mile-a-minute clichés with utter sincerity. I guess there’s a certain charm to that, especially given Arashi’s sense of humor. Lyrics aside (they’re universally awful), the song itself is a pleasant synth ballad, filled with the kind of over-emoting familiar to any fan of late-90’s boy groups like ‘Nsync and Backstreet Boys.
However, there’s a reason why so many of those millennial singles have stood the test of time. This kind of lilting pop nostalgia thrives on melody, and Whenever You Call’s melodies are sturdy. They’re utterly predictable, but that’s part of the appeal. This is pop music as comfort food, inoffensive and familiar. Arashi fit the style well, especially at this stage of their career. Like July’s Kite, Whenever You Call is a solid showcase for their vocals and ability to drive a song home. Had it been performed in Japanese, I think this could have even stood as a late career highlight. Instead, it’s a charming bit of gawkiness. It’ll find fans among a certain demographic who crave a simpler pop sound. For everyone else, I imagine it’ll just be confusing!