A Labor for Love: Restless Life of Momoiro Clover Z in the 5th Dimension
A look at the work put into the Japanese idol group’s ambitious second album
Momoiro Clover Z got a hell of a gig. Weekend heroines, the idol group call their official title, and their main goal as stated in their debut single “Ikuze! Kaito Shojo” (“Let’s Go! Thief Girls”) is to possess the group’s crown jewel: your undying love and devotion. While the job reads simple as idol business goes, their second record 5th Dimension reveals it to be one Herculean task. The group traverse through one wild pop genre to another as their grand search takes them from galaxy to galaxy. By the very end, wearing a bright smile throughout their exhausting campaign proves to be one impressive feat in itself.
5th Dimension ups the stakes of the journey plotted on their previous record, Battle and Romance, quite literally to an astronomical scale. For the relocation to the vast wilderness that is outer space, Momoiro Clover Z bring a set of adventurous music to match. The audacious opening sample of “O Fortuna” expresses just how large of a scale they’re working with. And they provide range as much as volume, shifting between musical styles like outfit changes. Prog-rock riffs go up and down the fret in one song. Horns blast over hip-hop drums in another. From there, the idols jump into a full-on synth-pop frenzy few tracks down. Though the styles might be leagues away from one another, the group’s enthusiasm to tackle whatever comes their way help to ease the disparate qualities to fit into one seamless set list.
The intensity fueling the search makes obvious the crown jewel of Momoiro Clover Z is not a mere craving but a vital need. “Nothing is stronger than love,” they declare in the intro track “Neo Stargate,” and they spend the rest of the album singing about its importance in all different angles. The group takes a hand at rap in “5 the Power” to promote self-belief as a source of invincibility. The following blast of brass “Roudou Sanka” applies that rallied strength now as inspiration to the daily grind: “Let’s work! Let’s work! It’s proof that we’re alive.”
Momoiro Clover Z sings about love in 5th Dimension as a source of energy like they do in “Roudou Sanaka” consistently enough to draw a clear point: more than a destination at the end of their course, love serves as the center of their universe — the almighty force they orbit around. They almost cease to exist without it, and so they hustle to earn whatever they can. “Roudou Shanka” doubles as a pep talk by the group to inspire themselves to get back on stage. The pros brought up in their cheer, reminders about the thrill as well as the hard-earned pay, point to a harsh reality that their gig as idols is a noble service as much as it is hard labor for love.
And the labor ends up costing a part of their life. “Ikuze!” already peeked into their sacrifice to entertain “spring, summer, fall, winter, nonstop,” and “Otome Senso” continues to find the group juggle between work and life. Each member tries to get excused their school-club absences which piled up from being too busy preventing world destruction. While the single plays out fun and tongue-in-cheek, the chorus tucks in a bittersweet aside in regards to their after-class activities: “I want to spend more time in my youth.” They want to take more photos and daydream about their crush. More than touring to tend to bigger matters, they want to be regular schoolgirls for a moment.
The move from Earth to space in 5th Dimension only dim the possibility to realize that daydream. The galactic expansion stretches the end to Momoiro Clover Z’s path into one unfathomable distance. Staring down their road full of musical twists and turns, the actual search looks as an incredibly daunting endeavor. The scale as well as the precision at which the groups pulls off every intense maneuver in 5th Dimension is awe-inspiring, like witnessing a well-oiled, skyscraper-tall machine operate multiple tasks at top speed. But breathtaking as their stunts, the restlessness driving the music can also take a toll on the body.
“How many million light years away, it doesn’t matter,” they might assure in “Moretsu Uchuu Koukyoukyku Dai Nana Gakushou ‘Mugen no Ai’” about eventually reaching the finish line. While their words comfort somewhat, the sprawling music beating behind them says otherwise. The sheer density can knock the wind out of any casual bystander. Not to mention the spectacle of it stimulating an overwhelming amount to run the emotions dry. And this whiplash felt from the jam-packed songs to the drastic transitions between them continues throughout the album to varying degrees.
The disorientation of 5th Dimension is more than a side effect of a turbulent ride. The experience goes to recreate the demanding lifestyle behind the idol-pop operation, and it weighs heavy on both performer and fan. The former sign away their life to put the well-being of others before theirs. The latter are constantly fought over to give their undivided, uninterrupted attention. “I’ll give you my everything,” Momoiro Clover Z sing in “Moretsu” before doing whatever they can to give you the world. Such a show of affection have never sounded so unsettling.