Arashi spent much of 2017 experimenting with their sound. Whether it was the swing-inspired “I’ll Be There“, the symphonic and trap breakdowns of “Mikan“, or the eleven-and-a-half minute song suite that marked the climax of their 16th studio album, Japan’s biggest male group proved that their sense of adventure was not going to slow down with age. Now though, “Natsu Hayate” arrives with a more classic touch, swelling on timeless pop melody.
“Natsu Hayate”’s robust arrangement reminds me of Bullet Train’s “Yell“, which is still one of my favorite J-pop singles of the last few years. Like that song, “Natsu Hayate” is a deceiving kind of catchy. The first time through, you’re likely to be charmed by its bright melody and delicate instrumentation, but it’s not the kind of track that knocks you out straight away. It has what I like to call a snowballing structure, building more and more until it hits melodic crescendos that feel truly earned. In an age of simplified choruses designed to go viral, “Natsu Hayate”’s extended refrain is incredibly refreshing,
Kicking off with an orchestral touch, “Natsu Hayate”’s mix of strings, piano, and gentle percussion paints a hazy sort of summer atmosphere, devoid of trendy tropical elements. Instead, the song has a nostalgic appeal, feeling as if it could have been composed and performed in any decade without much change to its general sound. Arashi’s inimitable vocal blend works especially well on tracks like this, and “Natsu Hayate”’s soaring hooks are at their best when the group delivers them in unison. It may not be one of their most striking singles, but what it lacks in bombast it more than makes up for in sentiment.