Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Momoiro Clover Z – “AMARANTHUS” and “Hakkin no Yoake” (白金の夜明け)
"AMARANTHUS" (left) and "Hakkin no Yoake" (right)
Today is a big day for any Momoiro Clover Z (ももいろクローバーZ) fan out there, as the girls are releasing their 3th and 4th albums, “AMARANTHUS” and “Hakkin no Yoake”, simultaneously.
I’ve already listened to both albums a couple of times, and, as anything in life, they have both positive and negative things. The main aspect that kept me thinking, though, was how the new Momoclo isn’t that wild and crazy Momoclo we were used to around 2012. Nowadays, their sound is more standard aidoru-pop than ever.
Yeah, Momoclo’s unpredictable energy cooled down a little bit, and, in all honesty, I don’t find it a bad thing. Sure, they have less stellar songs like “Mouretsu Uchuu...” (猛烈宇宙交響曲・第七楽章「無限の愛」) or “Saraba, Itoshiki Kanashimi-tachi yo” (サラバ、愛しき悲しみたちよ), but, at the same time, awkward experimentalisms such as “Neo STARGATE” and “BIRTH BIRTH” (BIRTH Ø BIRTH) are not in our way anymore.
The thing is, the girls have achieved an important, but questionable, balance in the long run, which is the ability to maintain a reasonable level of quality... to the prejudice of more experimental or unusual sounds, of course. In other words, they started recording fun pop songs without the attention-grabbing elements they were known in the past. Or they sold their souls, if you prefer.
Now, for the music, I wanted to highlight three songs that are somehow being used to promote the albums. They all have official music videos, but, unfortunately, two of them are just short versions (I hate short versions, but it became a thing in Japan since 2014. It’s funny how conservative and obtuse the Japanese music industry is towards YouTube).
“Maholo Vacation” (マホロバケーション) is easily my favorite song from both albums (it can be found in “Hakkin no Yoake”), and it’s not hard to understand why: the song is funky and the fat bassline is just perfetct. To crown it, I’m in love with the catchy chorus.
This adds to my thesis that Momoclo is keeping things simple, but fun. Also, it’s no mystery how the vocals are one of the weakest points of the group, so songs like “Maholo Vacation”, that don’t require high or overcomplicated notes, are just perfect for them. If you take a look at past songs “Neo STARGATE” and “BIRTH BIRTH”, you’ll easily notice how painfully annoying their voices could get at some parts. Momoclo is an outstanding performance group with charismatic girls, but they have to work properly with their weaknesses. To a world with more “Maholo Vacation”!
“WE ARE BORN” was the first song from the new albums I listened to, besides the singles, of course. As the lead song of “AMARANTHUS”, it instantly got me pumped with the more pop-rock vibe, and is probably the nearest Momoclo gets to their old selves with its quirky and silly nature. Also, the chorus has the right ammount of drama, in a way “Neo STARGATE” and “BIRTH BIRTH” tried to deliver in the past, but failed badly because of uncomfortable vocal choices.
Yeah, “Hakkin no Yoake” is a ballad. Not only, it’s a ballad coming from Momoclo. That said, it had all the elements to be a bad song, but it turned out quite good.
“Hakkin no Yoake” starts slow with minimal elements in the arrangement until it gets to the emotive and melodic chorus. After that, the song becomes a little fuller with a proper beat and synth details in the background. The strings, which were beautifully introduced in the first chorus, also continues to make appearances through the song, which is always a good thing. Even the vocals are not that bad (they still fail sometimes, I know), and, although it can sound like a cheesy AKB48 ballad at times, I forgive Momoclo and congratulate them for such effort. Also, the video is a gorgeous collection of phases from Momoclo’s career, which, coupled with the song, probably softened my heart a little bit.
Now, wrapping things up, I read the entire post and realised how I talked good about the new songs and bashed both “Neo STARGATE” and “BIRTH BIRTH”, which, coincidentally or not, were the promotional songs to Momoclo’s last album “5TH DIMENSION”. The thing is, “Maholo Vacation”, “WE ARE BORN” and “Hakkin no Yoake” are also promotional songs, so they’re exactly what the two aforementioned past songs should have been back in 2013, but, in my opinion, failed. In other words, they were very ambitious songs that didn't work well with the girls' vocal limitations. This mistake was finally solved with the songs in "AMARANTHUS" and "Hakkin no Yoake", though. Momoclo has redeemed themselves.
Also, this somewhat comparative work wasn’t my true intention when I started writing this post, but, well... it just happened. With that in mind, let’s say the new Momoiro Clover Z evolved in a dubious way: their singles have been lackluster, but they compensated with fun and solid album songs that, even though far from the group’s peak, are able to indicate a new horizon or path to them.
“AMARANTHUS” and “Hakkin no Yoake” were released together in February 2016. Lyrics for “WE ARE BORN” were written by Naoko Fujibayashi (藤林直子), while music and arrangement were done by tatsuo. As for “Hakkin no Yoake”, lyrics were written by Takahiro Maeda (前田たかひろ), while music and arrangement were done by Katsu Yokoyama (横山克). Finally, lyrics for were written by Sumiyo Mutsumi (六ツ見純代), while music and arrangement were done by invisible manners.