Bringing the heavy to a slightly different audience

I am a big metal music fan and as a result, the concept of a Japanese band known as ‘Babymetal’, fronted by three teenage Japanese girls from a pop/”idol” background performing heavy metal and metalcore type music really intrigued me. I decided to explore their music through their music videos they have released on YouTube.

My first experiences with the band were quite mixed. Their songs are predominantly sung in Japanese, with a very small amount of English being used. While I don’t understand the Japanese language, and I was drawn in by the high-energy of the girls and how well they have adjusted to performing music with heavy guitars, drums and big synth sounds. I found that the music also blends tradition Asian instruments well with Western styles of guitar playing and drumming which appealed to me from a cultural position as I feel it’s something that isn’t really done in today’s heavy music.

The Babymetal video clips really encouraged me to think about issues of gender within both Japanese and metal culture. These three girls manage to retain the intensity of the heavy music genre, while opening it up to broader audiences with their J-pop influences, completely disregarding the typically male metal presence, which has even led to them being dubbed as “kawaii metal.”

It was easy for me to find information about Babymetal because of how popular they’ve grown over the last year, with their Youtube videos gaining millions of views worldwide. They have an official website, YouTube channel with over 230,000 subscribers, and a Facebook page with nearly half a million likes which all pop up on the first page of my search on Google.

Overall, their music really intrigued me to continue exploring heavy music in an Asian (particularly Japanese) cultural setting. I thought the choruses were big, catchy and exciting, and the blend of traditional Asian instruments and big guitars and drums only served to peak my curiosity. I will continue to delve deeper into this cultural phenomenon.

References:

1. BABYMETAL OFFICIAL WEB SITE. 2014. BABYMETAL OFFICIAL WEB SITE. [ONLINE] Available at: http://en.babymetal.jp/home/. [Accessed 12 August 2014].

2. Japanese teen pop meets death metal in an explosion of awesome. 2014. Japanese teen pop meets death metal in an explosion of awesome. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.dailydot.com/lol/babymetal-metal-japanese-pop/. [Accessed 12 August 2014].

3. BABYMETALofficial – YouTube. 2014. BABYMETALofficial – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/user/BABYMETALofficial/videos. [Accessed 12 August 2014].

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3 comments

  1. Ha ha… these girls are badass! Especially considering they look about 12. I’m not a big fan of metal myself, so I can’t really comment on how this compares to other more mainstream bands, though I like the way they blend in some pop elements, which works well with the singers very ‘cute’ voice.

    I did a little bit of research and found an interesting article that talked about some of the reactions to Babymetal from within the music world. Funny how some people are really warming to their unusual, light-hearted take on this often very serious genre, while others take a more purist approach and can’t really find the humour in it.

    You also might like to check out Himekyun Fruit Can/FruitPochette, I don’t believe that it’s an all girl band, but they have female leads.

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  2. That was cool! I don’t really listen to metal, heavy rock is about as far as I get, but I seriously liked that. They’re so into it, as you said the energy is great and it’s a good sound.
    While watching it I realised that I wasn’t watching it to find out the cultural differences, I was too pre-occupied with just enjoying it for the unknown reasons people like things. Though if I was to analyses my reasons I would say the things that stood out were the girls’ costumes, the drums, and the subtle blending of music genres.
    Also I tend to be bias toward bands that have an organic beginning, however in this instance, even though they were made by a talent agency – the kind of production like this that involves a lot of dancing and theatrics – it seems forgivable.

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  3. I’m so heavily divided when it comes to this baby metal band. When I first heard it, I was so happy with how heavy it was then all of a sudden I was turned away by the upbeat and higher than expected pitch from the singers. Now I really Like metal music so watching this made my ears bleed a bit I won’t lie. However, I am so surprised how big a following this band has gathered from their music. I guess people seem to like this Kawiii style of metal now.

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