Of Wonderful Japanese Music: BABYMETAL

BABYMETAL++PNG+5Many of you probably don’t know this, but before being so passionate about japanese music and lovely groups formed by cute girls and dreamy melodies, I was a pretty hardcore metalhead. From the beautiful and classic tracks of Iron Maiden to the cold and cruel melodies of Norwegian black metal, I spent many years following the metal scene, and I still dedicate some time to this genre even though my heart and ears are now definitely sold to the Japanese industry.

So when I heard there was an “Idol Metal” unit around I was surprised and skeptical at the same time: How can these two completely different genres perfectly collide together to obtain a good musical result? I was a bit hesitant, so I did what I always do when I have doubts: Try.

My first impact with these three girls wasn’t the best: The Doki Doki Morning music video was my entrance ticket to the BABYMETAL world, and what I heard was a pretty simple metal song framed by standard riffs and idol singing, and a music video featuring satanic circles, skeletons and so on: A festival of stereotypes I didn’t like and honestly couldn’t understand.

But judging a group from a single song or video isn’t smart at all, so instead of giving up I tried to gather informations about these three girls and understand this project from an overall point of view. BABYMETAL, formed by SU-METAL, MOA-METAL and YUI-METAL, is a three girls idol group, initially sub-unit of Sakura Gakuin, later became an independent group. After obtaining great results in the indie panorama with two singles, the girls signed to a major label and released their major debut single Ijime, Dame, Zettai. From that moment on their popularity increased drastically, bringing their valid and solid single releases higher on the charts, guaranteeing appearances in summer festivals and one-man lives, including an overseas show in Singapore. A surprisingly fast and successful escalade, but there’s no trick here: Simply put, their music is very good and they’re great performers. 

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After a couple of days from my first disappointing impact with these girls, for pure coincidence the Megitsune PV was released, and I’ve been completely blown away: Powerful riffs, great melody synth and amazing vocal performance by SU-METAL, exactly as the presence of the adorable YUI-METAL and MOA-METAL, whose voices are relevant to the catchiness of the track yet not invasive in the global result; My first negative impression soon turned into total admiration.

For the news, SU is the main voice of the group (impressive vocal skills for a 16 years old girls), while MOA and YUI deliver cuteness and charisma thanks to their main role in the choreographies and back vocals. Musically, they’re valid and accessible even to those who don’t appreciate or never listened to the metal genre, and the production is of high quality as well as the technical level, thanks to many members of various Visual Kei bands and well known session musicians taking care of the instrumental part, while the production is entirely handled by their main producer Kobametal. The songs take elements from many metal sub-genres, from Death to Black and Heavy metal, mixing them together and guaranteeing variety (in the genre itself) and different approaches in the composition, while maintaining a pretty basic verse/chorus/bridge structure in order to not get too far from the pop/catchy zone. The balance between J-pop and Metal is the core philosophy of BABYMETAL, and thanks to the experienced musicians behind the instruments and the ever growing talent of these young girls the result is absolutely valid, something that’s definitely not easy when different genres are fused together, and songs like Megitsune, Headbanger!! and Catch me if you can prove that this team can masterfully handle this hard task.

But BABYMETAL is not only about studio music, and while listening to these girls is surely a valid experience, their live performances are something definitely worth checking out as well: Most of the times their live shows are really live, featuring a full band playing the songs (usually dressed as skeletons, or wearing black metal-like makeup) and SU-METAL singing live, while YUI and MOA literally set the stage on fire thanks to the entertaining choreographies created by MIKIKO (Perfume’s historical choreo director), adding all the amazingness of the live experience in addition to their already solid base of great tracks.

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Last but not least, it’s a duty to recognize the charisma of these girls: Their amazing presence on stage gives a great contribute to the Idol/Metal contrast, and the choreographies are extremely entertaining to watch, for a lively performance that will definitely make you headbang like there’s no tomorrow.

BABYMETAL may be a controversial group for someone, but it’s just another proof of how the japanese industry is way more open minded (from a musical point of view) and brave in proposing new and interesting projects than the western markets; Especially in Europe, where the metal fanbase is probably the biggest, a group like this would be definitely seen as a joke, while the others wouldn’t get the sense in fusing such different musical genres. But the truth is that these girls have lots of talent and a great team behind, and while the J-pop/Metal contrast may seem like a voluntary and funny combination, BABYMETAL is no joke. At all.

To be completely honest, their performances and songs are even better than some of the so called “true” metal bands… Don’t tell the metalheads though. 😉

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♪ BABYMETAL – Ijime, Dame, Zettai (LIVE)

– Alex

P.S. : BABYMETAL’s first album is out today, and believe me when I say it’s absolutely killer. I’ll talk about it properly another time. \m/

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2 thoughts on “Of Wonderful Japanese Music: BABYMETAL

  1. Awesome review! Totally agree with you on the production bit. The idea of combining the two groups was genius, as was the decision to actually incorporate real metal and V-kei/j-rock bands for the production and performance of the music.

    I definitely agree that this group is basically one of the best things, if not *the* best thing, to come out of the idol industry as of late. And people say idols aren’t a form of musical innovation…

    To be fair, I absolutely love idols. The amount of money that I spend supporting AKB and their ilk is something that I’d rather not think about or care to admit. But at the same time, the amount of what I’d call “production innovation” as of late has been rather insane (in a good way!) and I feel that Babymetal is just the latest in this (VERY AWESOME!) trend.

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