I first heard of BABYMETAL around this time last year when stumbling across their music video for メギツネ (MEGITSUNE) on YouTube. At this point it already had over 2 million views (It’s currently on over 5 Million) and BABYMETAL were already establishing a fan base across the globe virally via the internet.
So who are these three super kawaii maidens with a killer backing band throwing down catchy guitar riffs and thunderous drum beats?
In Japan, idol groups are huge. Imagine how most people are in the UK when it comes to football, well idol culture is equally as huge in Japan. So many kinds of people go to idol converts for different reasons; to join in with the dance moves, to sing along, to blow off steam after a long day at the office, to enjoy music with friends, to support their favourite idol, the list is endless. But trust me on this one, I’ve witnessed it first hand in Akihabara, it’s huge.
BABYMETAL – ド・キ・ド・キ☆モーニング (Doki Doki Morning)
With such a huge culture of idol groups forming on a daily basis, it becomes increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd. The general formula of an idol group consists of a small group of girls, dancing and singing, it’s that simple. We see it all the time in the West with huge shows like “America/Britain’s got talent” and “X-Factor” churning out pop groups year in, year out. But in Japan it’s a little different, there’s an independent scene of thousands of these groups trying to break it into the big time to join the ranks of groups such as Purfume or AKB48.
Sakura Gakuin さくら学院 – Song for Smiling
This is where the origins of BABYMETAL start. Sakura Gakuin (さくら学院) (Cherry Blossom Academy) is a Japanese idol girl group formed in 2010 by the Amuse talent agency. It is essentially a fake high school which runs along side the girl’s real studies. When a girl graduates from high school, they also graduate from Sakura Gakujin, and new members are inducted. It’s a great formula to keep the group fresh, and able to continually generate money. While at the school, all of the girls belong to “sub-groups” or “clubs” and these are as follows; Baton Club, Heavy Music Club, Cooking Club. Go Home Club, Newspaper Club, Tennis Club, Science Club. All of which have their sub groups, to which BABYMETAL belong to the Heavy Music Club.
BABYMETAL are; SU-METAL (16) (Suzuka Nakamoto), YUIMETAL (14) (Yui Mizuno), MOAMETAL (14) (Moa Kikuchi) with support from their “Kami Band” who are Takayoshi Ohmura (guitar), Leda (guitar), BOH (bass) and Aoyama Hideki (drums). If you’re under any doubt about their musicianship, please search YouTube for their names, watching BOH play the 6-string bass is a sight to behold.
So why have BABYMETAL become such a huge hit in such a short space of time since their formation, while other more established bands remain unknown outside of Japan? It’s basically because someone decided to fuse the huge idol culture with heavy metal. It’s that simple. It hadn’t been thought of, and someone put it together.
From there, two huge crowds of people are instantly merged into one, coming together for the appreciation for a J-Idol group, a heavy metal band, and of course the “quirky” Japanese novelty. You hear it all the time attached to sensationalist articles on the latest craze in Japan; “Oh Japan!” or “Only in Japan!” but not this time, as BABYMETAL are breaking out and have already announced a world tour…
When I saw that BABYMETAL were playing UK rock festival Sonisphere, I was a little concerned, as every year at UK festivals, there’s one “stand-out” artist which people love to berate and throw bottles at. We all remember Daphne and Celeste at Reading 2000 (Search YouTube if you don’t remember) and I was worried about any small minded idiots doing the same. So imagine my sheer amazement when I discovered BABYMETAL were actually playing Sonisphere by request, and then to top that, people weren’t happy with them being pushed onto the side-stage and campaigned to have them perform on the main stage!
I think it’s safe to say that there’s something in BABYMETAL for everyone. If you listen to their album you will find something from all genres. Besides the obvious J-Pop and Metal, there are lashings of Rap, Rap Metal, Hip-Hop, Dubstep, Trance, Dance and Reggae (Yes, you read the last one correctly)
You’ll often see the girls putting up an unusual hand sign, very similar to the “metal horns” you see at most rock concerts. But don’t be quick to mock the girls for not doing the sign correctly, this is their own sign. The sign of the fox god whom prophesied the birth of BABYMETAL… Yeah.
Their lyrical content ranges from serious to comical, with such tracks as ギミチョコ!! “Gimmi Choco!!” in which the girls have a desire to eat chocolate and worry about becoming fat (I’ve seen equally bizarre lyrics in System of a Down tracks) however there are tracks such as イジメ、ダメ、ゼッタイ ” IJIME, DAME, ZETTAI” which tell people to stop bullying.
How long this will last is really up in the air. People have a habit of latching on to the latest craze and then dropping it a few months later after becoming tired of the same material. You only have to look at Korean pop star PSY who had already established a fan base in Korea, and went on to worldwide success for a short while. However people soon grew tired of hearing the same track, and even the follow up track “Gentleman”. So will BABYMETAL suffer the same fate? It’s hard to say, but I think with them being such a young age and the group being new and exciting, they will only grow even more (Literally)… BABYMETAL! がんばって!