First Impressions: Neo Stargate

Momoiro Clover Z and I have a long, interesting relationship. I’ve been a fan of the group since their major debut (Ikuze Kaitou Shoujo in 2010), and I’ve enjoyed seeing a group I liked rise to popularity. However, lately I’ve hit a bit of a rough patch in my MomoClo fandom; while their popularity flourishes, I’ve found myself dissatisfied in their music (see my post about how disappointed I was in Otome Sensou). However, Battle and Romance, Momoiro Clover Z’s first album, is quite possibly my all-time favorite idol album, up there with longer term favorites like Matsuura Aya’s T.W.O. So while I’ve had my issues in the past, I’m honestly really excited for Momoiro Clover Z’s 5th Dimension, because their albums are very good.

PV

Seeing a PV for this made me excited; if MomoClo is known for anything, it’s their interesting visual style, and PVs go along with that. This is, in my opinion, a definite step up for their PVs. The production values are really all-around strong, and you can tell that a lot went into the production of the PV. The set is excellent, and I really like the sterile, sci-fi feel. The other actors do a good job (afro scientist is up there as one of my favorite PV extras, along with “Socrates” in Twinklestars’ Dear Mr. Socrates) in portraying the story.

While the set is sometimes a bit bare (though it doesn’t look too bare; it’s just minimalistic, which is fine), the real interesting bit is the costume selection. The fact that a good deal of the PV takes place with MomoClo wearing masks that are downright scary looking is a very bold and interesting choice. I don’t know if they were inspired by anything in particular, but they seem to be horror inspired. None of the costumes are particularly idol-like, which says a lot about the direction MomoClo is going. While their last costumes have their member colors as small accents on their costume, the color palate of this PV is VERY bland and beige, which is unlike the Momoiro Clover of the past. It works here, but I really hope it doesn’t become a trend; one of my earliest/favorite memories of Momoiro Clover was when they performed on the 2010 Music Japan female idol special. Almost every other group was wearing some variation on white, but MomoClo were in their bright, rainbow Ikuze! Kaitou Shoujo costumes.

Unfortunately, while I love the PV as a whole, it gets progressively less interesting and feels at points like more of a well-filmed dance shot. There’s a bit of intrigue at the end where they open the gate (ha!) and move into what looks like the very bare bridge of the starship. But then it just ends. There’s a good section where the girls are just dancing/moving around in their costumes, which works (the choreography for Neo Stargate, while not as interesting as some of their earlier works, is pretty good), but it just feels a bit disappointing. The start of this was SO strong and perfect, that to see the PV go downhill feels like a bit of a let down. Which really, feels like the trajectory of Momoiro Clover Z’s career for me. Because, let’s be honest, this is really good, and Momoiro Clover Z produces VERY high quality stuff; it’s just when they make mistakes, it feels a lot more disappointing.

So, in conclusion, while I like this PV, I think there is definitely room for growth and improvement.

Song

First off, am I the only Stargate fan in the JPop/idol fandom? If so, I kind of wonder how well known it is in Japan. The music at the beginning of the PV (which, at this point, I’m not really sure if it’s a part of the actual, album song?) is actually vaguely reminiscent of some of the music from Stargate. I kind of hoped Richard Dean Anderson would make a cameo or something (though my Stargate of choice was Stargate: Atlantis. Don’t judge me.)

Right away, I liked this song. It has a dark feeling, and reprises the use of choral vocals found in Mugen no Ai, which was a single I really loved. Its heavy drum beat was also really nice; this song already didn’t feel like any other idol group. It feels uniquely Momoiro Clover Z, which is very good. It also feels very fitting of an album opening, and I imagine will fit well as the first track of 5th Dimension.

Then there was the pseudo-dubstep influenced section. While I can tolerate dubstep influenced sound in many idol songs, and it certainly fits here, I was a bit stumped at first listen. It’s a curious addition, but Momoiro Clover has had stranger things mixed together before (i.e. Pinky Jones using both a sitar and bagpipes, or at least digital sounds that sound like a sitar and bagpipes). However, when the song moved even faster, that’s when I hit a bit of a hurdle.

The rest of the song is so unique and pushing the envelope, that the chorus hits really flat with me. It’s a strangely generic sound in the midst of such greatness, that it really feels out of place; the chorus sounds like a very typical idol song, in melody and arrangement, that only the quiet choral voices in the background are there to remind you what song this is.

It’s a bit like Otome Sensou to me, but I’m more positive towards Neo Stargate than I was towards Otome Sensou. There are a lot of great ideas in this song, and it has potential to be better than it is, but is weighed down by its length and everything it puts in. I really like the start (and all parts like it) and the section where they sing “Open the gate, open your soul.” They could have condensed the song to be shorter and made it ultimately a better song, but this song tries to do too much and be too much without excelling at it. I love a good generic idol song, but that’s not what this should be and not what it needs to be. MomoClo has had good songs that do a lot of different things (i.e. Mirai Bowl) but they feel in general like a cohesive song; this doesn’t, which is a bit disappointing.

Ultimately, while I do tentatively like this, there are definitely ways where both the song and PV could be improved. Battle and Romance was SUCH a fantastic, perfect album, that this makes me a little bit worried, but I’ll have to wait and hear the rest of the album to decide more.

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