Babymetal

A Flying Axe Covered in Glitter and Bubblegum

 

Tayla Bosley

5050583

DIGC330

Digital Artefact:

Autoethnographic Essay:

Autoethnography, as stated by Ellis (2011) is “an autobiographical genre of writing that displays multiple layers of consciousness, connecting the personal to the cultural.”

I think this is the absolute best way to summarise autoethnography, and I think I have achieved this in my project. By relaying through self-reflexivity, the multiple accounts of my personal experience with kawaii metal, then critically analysing those experiences and subsequent epiphanies. I hope to have brought a critical understanding of the genre to those that have read my posts, and listened to my podcasts.

As I stated in my blog post ‘Narrative Truth’, my goal has been to walk that knife’s edge “…between rigorous, theoretical, analytical science, and therapeutic, personal, and social experience-writing.” Therefore connecting my personal experience to the culture of kawaii metal, and enabling those who engage with my work to gain a deeper understanding of kawaii metal.

However, I also agree with Foley (2002) in his criticism of the practise of autoethnography. Foley advocated for a more reflexive epistemological and narrative approach to the research methodology. He believes that by doing this, creating more of a story than a research paper, it would make autoethnographies more engaging and a more common genre of research. Which could contribute to bridging the gap between researchers and ordinary people.

I must agree with Foley, I think that the more engaging, and story-like an autoethnographic account is, the more people will understand and relate to it. This alternative method has a higher chance of achieving the goal of autoethnography; relating the personal to the cultural.

Which is why my autoethnographic podcast is filled with anecdotal stories, creative opinion pieces, and the unending stream of kawaii metal songs under my words. I wanted to give the listener every possible narrative understanding of kawaii metal.

Of course this story-like format that I champion comes with its own limitations. For one, as Mendez states, autoethnography in all its forms require honesty, and a willingness to self-disclose from the researcher.

This is especially important for researchers like me, who desire a more story-like experience, as it can be all too easy to slip from story-like into fairy-tale.

As Anderson (2006) fears, “Autoethnography loses its sociological promise when it devolves into self-absorption.” What I’ve learnt is that this is what makes autoethnography so interesting, and yet so difficult. It is again walking that knife’s edge, between relaying your experience of the culture, and relaying yourself to the reader. While each autoethnographic account is through the researcher’s eyes, the focus should never stray from the culture itself.

There are also ethical considerations that must be addressed when using the autoethnographic research method. Many research topics centre around sensitive issues or beliefs in regards to the researcher themselves or the people around them. Due to this, explicit and early consent, and special consideration must be taken into account by the researcher, so as to not offend or impinge upon the privacy of their research volunteers (Wall, 2008, Mendez 2013).

It is also important to note Ellis’ own point about autoethnography, ‘No researcher is an island.’ We all come with our own experiences, our own cultural view point, our biases, and our own understanding. Thus autoethnographic researchers must disclose each aspects of themselves, least their research becomes tainted, and the reader unaware.

Overall though, the autoethnographic method is like any other research tool; it depends on how you use it, and what you want to achieve with it.

Whether it is a clinical recount of events, or your experience of a culture in its entirety. “What matters is the way in which the story enables the reader to enter the subjective world of the teller -to see the world from her or his point of view, even if this world does not ‘match reality’. Another advantage of writing autoethnographically is that it allows the researcher to write first person accounts which enable his or her voice to be heard, and thus provide him or her with a transition from being an outsider to an insider in the research.” (Hitchcock and Hughes, 1995).

Again, it is this need to bring the outsider inside, which drives the autoethnographic research process. It is making the stranger a friend, and making the alien, home, for both researcher, and reader.

As Ellis said, “On the whole, autoethnographers don’t want you to sit back as spectators; they want readers to feel and care and desire”. And I think this is mostly true of those researchers that use this methodology; their main focus is empathy. When using the autoethnographic method the researcher wants you to feel empathy, as they do while in the research process itself. As it is empathy that incites action (Barkhuizen and Wette 2008)

The entire point, limitations and all, of autoethnography, is to make the reader feel like they are already a part of the culture they are reading about. To make them understand all aspects of the culture through meticulous research, and make them feel like they’ve lived with the culture, through poignant storytelling.

It is this ‘lived in’ feeling that makes autoethnography so powerful for both readers and researchers, and I hope that, in my own reflexive narrative, I have created a story that is filled with the knowledge of kawaii metal, as well as the experience of being a cute girl headbanging to thrash metal music.

References

Songs In Podcast

Aldious: Dominator

BABYMETAL: Doki Doki Morning

BABYMETAL: Gimme chocolate!!

BABYMETAL: Iine!

BABYMETAL: Ijime, Dame, Zettai

BABYMETAL: Karate

BABYMETAL: Megitsune

BABYMETAL: Only the fox god knows audio

Band-Maid: Choose Me

Band-Maid: Real Existence

Band-Maid: Thrill

Bridear: Light in the Dark

Doll$boxx: Loud Twin Stars

Doll$boxx: Take My Chance

Ladybaby: Age Age Money

Ladybaby: Nippon Manju

Websites

Chaisson, J. (2017). This Is A Thing: Kawaii Metal. [online] Geeklyinc.com. Available at: https://geeklyinc.com/this-is-a-thing-kawaii-metal/ [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Crook, L. and Ransom, D. (2014). Babymetal’s fusion of Japanese teen pop and death metal is the greatest thing you’ll see today. [online] The Daily Dot. Available at: https://www.dailydot.com/unclick/babymetal-metal-japanese-pop/ [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Grace, K. (2016). BABYMETAL. [online] Digital Asia. Available at: https://digc330.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/babymetal/ [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Grace, K. (2016). Baby who?. [online] Digital Asia. Available at: https://digc330.wordpress.com/2016/09/14/baby-who/ [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Grace, K. (2014). BABYMETAL- the return. [online] Digital Asia. Available at: https://digc330.wordpress.com/2016/09/22/babymetal-the-return/ [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Articles

Barbier, E. (2017). A beginner’s guide to Kawaii metal – The Concordian. [online] The Concordian. Available at: http://theconcordian.com/2017/03/a-beginners-guide-to-kawaii-metal/ [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Burns, M. (2015). A New Sub-genre of Music Is Growing in Japan. [online] Anitay.kinja.com. Available at: http://anitay.kinja.com/a-new-sub-genre-of-music-is-growing-in-japan-1678920805 [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Nash, R. (2016). BabyMetal: Japan’s heavy metal girl-band sensation. [online] The Sydney Morning Herald. Available at: http://www.smh.com.au/good-weekend/babymetal-japans-heavy-metal-girl-band-sensation-20160526-gp4pl2.html [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Threads/Youtube

BABYMETAL. (2017). BABYMETAL. [online] Available at: http://www.babymetal.com/biography/ [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Kluseba (2017). Kawaii metal thread. [online] Encyclopaedia Metallum: The Metal Archives. Available at: https://www.metal-archives.com/board/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=119301 [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Hoshiya, Y. (2015). Inside the world of “Kawaii metal”. [online] Kawaii-B. Available at: http://kawaiibuk.blogspot.com.au/2015/12/inside-world-of-kawaii-metal.html [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

YouTube. (2017). BABYMETALofficial. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/user/BABYMETALofficial [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

YouTube. (2017). LADYBABY. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKlfTlx0oY6BiCH7Qvabrhg [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

YouTube. (2017). BANDMAID. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/user/BANDMAID [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Kikuchi, D. (2016). Spotify finally launches in Japan, a nation where other music streaming services have struggled | The Japan Times. [online] The Japan Times. Available at: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/09/29/business/tech/spotify-launches-japan-nation-streamers-struggled/#.We07G2iCzIU [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Definitions

Oxford Dictionaries | English. (2017). cute | Definition of cute in English by Oxford Dictionaries. [online] Available at: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/cute [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

En.wikipedia.org. (2017). Cuteness. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuteness [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

En.wikipedia.org. (2017). Kawaii. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kawaii#History

Journal Articles

Anderson, L. (2006). Analytic autoethnography. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 35,373-395.

Barkhuizen, G., & Wette, R. (2008). Narrative frames for investigating the experiences of language teachers. System, 36, 372-387.

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095 [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Foley, D. (2002). Critical ethnography: The reflexive turn. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 15(4), pp.469-490.

Hitchcock, G., & Hughes, D. (1995). Research and the teacher. (2 ed.) London: Routledge.

Méndez, M. (2014). Autoethnography as a research method: Advantages, limitations and criticisms. Colombian Applied Linguistics Journal, 15(2), p.279.

Wall, S. (2008). Easier said than done: Writing an autoethnography. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 7, 38-53.

 

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Analysing Kawaii Metal

Introduction

In this post I will use the autoethnographic methodology to analyse my experience of Kawaii Metal, as related in the week 5 podcast ‘Discovering Kawaii Metal’.

The main methodology used will be personal narrative, which will be accompanied with further research on the topic of Kawaii Metal. Using this research, I will critically analyse my experience, in terms of my own personal context, and how the experience changed myself, or led me to any epiphanies.

Definition of Kawaii Metal

One definition of kawaii metal (cute metal), is a genre which blends elements of heavy metal and J-Pop. This is done by combining the music of heavy metal, such as heavy electric guitar, and a powerful drum beat with J-Pop melodies, and a Japanese idol aesthetic.

A Japanese idol usually refers to the young stars of J-Pop, that are marketed specifically for their cuteness, good public image, and role model ability.

Nothing that relates to grungy, drinking and smoking, tattoos and violence that is often associated with metal, heavy metal, or death metal music, either in Asia or elsewhere.

The ‘cuteness’ of the main singers often lead their lyrics to be less hostile or depressing as those of other heavy metal genres.

Background Research of Kawaii Metal

Babymetal are credited with the invention of the kawaii metal genre. This is something that I was entirely unaware of until this research. Perhaps if I had known that my first engagement with kawaii metal was with the inventors of it, it would have shaped my perception of the experience differently.

Their first album was only released in Feburary 2014, so this is a genre that is still barely getting started, one that only began in my last year of high school even.

But since then the genre has grown to include bands such as Aldious, BiS, Deadlift Lolita, Doll$Boxx and Ladybaby.

Which is especially interesting as I did not listen to any of these artists’ songs. The YouTube mix that I chose was clearly off a bit, but going off what I do know about the genre, I will continue with the belief that what I did listen to was ‘kawaii metal’, especially Band-Maid.

My Cultural Background

My cultural background is about as Australia as you can get. My family goes back 4 or 5 generations of Australians before I can trace back to being most likely, England and other European countries.

I have been overseas only once, and it was only 2 months ago, and I only went to European countries. So I have never been to Asia, or specifically Japan, although I do wish to go.

Before this experience I had only listened to Babymetal’s Karate on Triple J a handful of times. I have never heard any other J-Pop or other Japanese music, although I am familiar with K-Pop.

My taste in music focuses on alternative rock, with a specific focus on 90s- mid 2000s rock, mainly Australian, American, and British.

This means I went into this experience with almost no understanding of the genre, or knowledge of what I would be hearing.

Obviously a lot of people are also unfamiliar with the genre.

Analysis

It is clear from the podcast that I was not expecting the diversity of the genre of kawaii metal. With such limited experience with it, I was expecting a recreation of the one song I had heard of the genre.

This was obviously a failed assumption.

I was also not prepared, and thus confused, for how much a few of the songs sounded like the early 2000s rock that I enjoy listening to so much already.

This connection to my own personal past and understanding was quite shocking, and has definitely led to my new perception of the genre.

Upon reflection, as I had narrowed down the scope of music possible I was not expecting to enjoy the music that much. I am now aware of how edgy, rocky, punky, and gothy the genre can be, all the while still firmly being kawaii metal.

But since it brought up so many connections to my own favourite genres, my initial assumption was proven wrong, and as you can hear throughout the podcast, I quite thoroughly enjoy listening to the music presented to me.

Epiphanies

The only real epiphany I can attest to in this experience, was an epiphany of my own limited assumptions. I discovered the diversity of kawaii metal, and more importantly, I discovered that it was something that I liked listening to, despite not understanding the words or context.

Thus I am set further to investigate this genre, and discover exactly what it means, and what it can offer.

Conclusion

Overall I would consider my experience a success. The only thing I would change would be researching specific kawaii metal bands first, then listening to their songs, rather than the YouTube mix. Also I hope to find further secondary research on the genre, but as it is so new, I am not particularly hopeful.

 

BABYMETAL- the return

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After revisiting Babymetal (or BABYMETAL as the band scribes) since my initial encounter, I have begun to delve deeper into the origin of the band and have looked into their significance on the global music scene. So far I’ve learnt that the group has come together in the same fashion as other ‘idol’ bands such as One Direction and 5 Seconds of Summer, and similarly to these young, vibrant, formulated pop groups, Babymetal has reached immense success not only in their home country of Japan, but appealing to both metal and non-metal fans worldwide. The band defines its style of music as an original genre known as “kawaii metal”, “kawaii” meaning cute in Japanese, and cute (as mentioned in my previous blog) is definitely an accurate description of this band. It is the creative mash up of J-Pop and heavy metal that creates this unique sound. I also found it really funny to learn that the girls in this band barely knew what metal was prior to the formation of this band- but hey, in the media these days when does anyone let the truth get in the way of a good story?

It is an obvious challenge to conduct rigorous autoethnogrpahic research about a culture from the opposite side of the world, however due to the ever-growing (and somewhat terrifying) realms of the World Wide Web, I have been able to grasp a deeper understanding of how Babymetal have evolved and why they are so popular. There are thousands upon thousands of posts on Reddit regarding Babymetal, and while there is immense support from Japanese fans, it appears that their fandom is equally as extensive with fans from the US and UK. There are fan clubs devoted to the band left, right, and centre, and the fan-base is collectively known as “The One”. The fan-base is a mixture of ‘metal heads’ who love the musical aspect of the band, and J-Pop lovers who are crazy about their costumes and style. I found it really interesting to find many pages on Reddit dedicated solely to Babymetal ‘memes’ which transcend both Japanese and Western culture. In my previous post I also noted the humour behind the song “Gimme Chocolate,” however I’ve learned thus far that the lyrical themes found in many of Babymetal’s songs reflect real-world issues, particularly aimed towards young girls. Ideas such as encouraging young teens to accept and stand up for themselves, as well as rejecting the idea that the “ideal women” has to be thin (hence the song about eating chocolate), allows this band to be a role model for young Japanese girls. No wonder they are so popular with the Japanese youth.b1b781c1e80256f61b16a25034dc5038

I also looked at how Japanese fans access music, and while Babymetal are popular on American music streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music, I found that Spotify is not used in Japan and Apple Music and still very new there, instead, Japanese music streaming app Line Music is the most popular media used to listen to Babymetal. Youtube also remains to be a very popular tool used to consume the work of Babymetal as the costuming and theatrics are a leading part of the band’s success.

In order to conduct further autoethnographic research and begin to make sense of Babymetal, it is important that I look back at my initial encounter with the band and determine what the defining factors were which allowed me to make sense of the music I was listening to. In my previous blog, I noted that it took me a while to even realise that the song I was listening to was not in English. I believe this may have been the case because as I have mentioned, I am not a fan of heavy metal, so upon hearing the loud, heavy sounds of the drums and electric guitar, it is likely that I simply tuned out as normally this is not the kind of music I pay attention to or enjoy. Also, the fact that what I heard was on an Australian national radio station contributed to the element of surprise as I was certainly not expecting to hear a Japanese metal band in the early hours of a Wednesday night. The rarity of hearing a Japanese song on the radio added to my interest

The culture and context of my initial autoethnographic experience significantly impacted my understanding of the band and the music at hand. I inevitably viewed Babymetal through an Australian/Western cultural lens, therefore my way of understanding the music I was listening to was by comparing it to other metal music that I was aware of. I compared Babymetal to Australian ‘metalcore’ band Amity Affliction as I could draw similarities between the two bands as I find that while the music of Amity Affliction is considered metal, I don’t consider it as heavy as other bands in that genre and find that some of their songs have catchy choruses and hooks. I feel like this is the kind of metal that gets more airplay on the radio, therefore I could relate to Babymetal in this way.

This is only the beginning of my autoethnographic research into this unique group, however it has been fascinating to learn of the band’s popularity due to their individuality, and their role as a model for young women. I’m really excited to learn more and construct my independent research project.

 

Baby who?

For my individual autoethnographic research project, the focus of my investigation will be on the adorable Japanese metal band, Babymetal. The genre of music is a cross between Japanese Pop (J-Pop) and metal, and the effeminate voices of the three girls which make up Babymetal bring a refreshing change to the rock/metal genre.
I was first introduced to the band around six months ago. I love music and have been a fan of alternate styles of music for as long as I can remember, (however I must admit heavy metal has never been a preference of mine). One day as I was listening to Triple J on my apprehensive drive to work, I came across a song that I was unfamiliar with, a song that was both funky, yet heavy to a certain degree. I found myself really enjoying it even though metal is not my thing at all, and it was extremely evident that the music wasn’t stereotypical metal, more a combination of a few different genres.

I was so focused on the instrumentals of this track that, admittedly, it took me around two minutes to realise that the song I was listening to wasn’t actually in English, and that’s what intrigued me the most. Triple J considers itself a radio station for ‘alternate’ music, but in reality the music played is very westernised and it’s rare to hear a song in a different language or from a different cultural background. When the song finished the presenter announced that the artist was a Japanese metal band named Babymetal and that this ‘new’ group was taking the world by storm. I legitimately could not think of another Japanese artist that I know of or have heard on the radio, so I was quick to look up a bit about the band and what they were about. It was from this day, when I heard a Japanese metal band amongst the acoustic sounds of Chet Faker and the electronic vibes of Tame Impala, that I discovered a new found liking towards metal, and a new found respect for Triple J for exposing this diverse sound to Australian audiences.

DIGC330 is allowing me to revisit my affinity towards this band, and learn more about the style of music and culture in both an analytical and emotional way. Through autoethnographic practices such as ‘discerning patterns of cultural experience evidenced by field notes and/or artifacts, and then describing these patterns using facets of storytelling’ (Ellis, 2011) , I will obtain a deeper understanding of the band and their global reception, and aim to answer the question- what is Baybymetal?
I’ve only had a few brief encounters with Babymetal since I was first introduced to the band and I still know very little of their origin and style, so I am eager to begin my autoethnographic research. As if have not yet conducted research into the history of the band and their relevance in Japan (and the rest of the world) I decided to watch a couple of video clips produced by the band and note my observations prior to my research:

Video 1: KARATE- BABYMETAL | 20,522,673 views

• The song that I heard and seemingly the only song that gets played on Australian radio
• Eerie costumes- gothic skull like, yet feminine in the sense that they’re white and glowing
• Use of karate movements and poses as form of dance
• Powerful/thrilling graphics – gothic
• Costuming a significant part of the video – represents different sides to the narrative
• Although the music is ‘hardcore’, their voices remain feminine
• Catchy chorus
• Genre is metal but not as hardcore as traditional metal
• Even though they’re dressed in scary/gothic clothing and accompanied by loud drumbs and electric guitar, I can’t help but think how cute they are
• Use of Japanese tradition – catching fly with hand
• Style of music reminds me of Amity Affliction – heavy but still mainstream
• Refreshing to hear a female voice in this genre
• Don’t usually like this genre but actually really enjoy this song

Video 2: BABYMETAL – ギミチョコ!!- Gimme chocolate!! (OFFICIAL) 59,191,425 views


• Haven’t heard this song before but chose to watch this one because it had the most views
• Costumes significant- gothic yet feminine
• Drums heavy and loud
• Live performance video
• Dancing is succinct and a huge part of the performance
• Cute playful dancing
• Pitch remains high
• Don’t understand the lyrics but appear playful and ironic- “gimme chocolate” innocent and childlike juxtaposed to the heavy music and gothic costumes
• Red and black tutu with leather jacket- irony
• Clearly don’t take themselves too seriously- often seen giggling throughout the performance
• Some sing about loss and heart break, these girls sing about chocolate
• Remain to have cheeky smiles on their face
• VERY big crowd watching

Once I utilise sites such as Reddit and YouTube as field sites for my autoethnographic research, along with other means of research online, my next blog will revisit my initial observations and decipher what was significant to me and why. The use of epiphanies through my research will build the basis of my digital artifact and contribute to my understanding of the significance of Babymetal.

A Research Week – Babymetal

I wanted to incorporate into my Prezi presentation some background research about each of the groups I am focussing on, with a particular focus on Babymetal, as I wanted to really try and understand how a group of three young Japanese girls could come together to build a career around performing full on metal music across the world, and why I, along with the rest of the world, found their style and music to be so interesting and attention capturing.

I am going to be incorporating a lot of my research into my Prezi presentation but I wanted to note down a few of the things I have learned about Babymetal so far;

Babymetal formed in 2010 as a subunit of the Japanese idol craze with the aim that it would try and channel fusion metal and idol-styled music in what would become a “newborn” genre of metal. It features three girls – Su-Metal (16) as the lead vocalist, and Yuimetal (15) and Moametal (15) as the two back up dancers and singers. In their short career, Babymetal have already played a number of huge metal festival, including being the youngest act ever to play at the metal festival Loud Park in Japan alongside Bring Me the Horizon and Trivium among others.

Metal has always been a genre renowned for being hard-hitting, fast, heavy and confronting, and a typically male dominated genre. So what does this say about the future of metal if three young Japanese girls have captured the attention of metal fans across the globe? Is the idea of metal changing and being moulded differently? Are Babymetal challenging the genre or encouraging a greater audience of people who typically would avoid metal? Do we find ‘electro-metal’ to be more exciting or modern in today’s musical society? These are the questions I hope to be able to explore within my Prezi presentation, and present why I have personally been drawn to Babymetal, as well as other Japanese metal groups.

I spoke about transitioning through genres in Japanese metal in my last post, and I wanted to leave you with this Babymetal music video that perfectly encapsulates trying to fit as many styles into a song as you possibly can.

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].

BABYMETAL

“BABYMETAL” went viral at the beginning of this year and simply put is a band that has combined J-Pop and metal. When I first saw this video I thought it was amazing and was incredibly intrigued by it because to me it’s such a strange concept; the combination of J-Pop and metal. I think Western cultures have an automatic reaction to Japanese culture as being a bit kooky and weird but I also think this is a lack of understanding and knowledge of the culture. My automatic reaction to this video was along the lines of “why?” why was it necessary to combine these two genres but the more I watched it the more I loved it, it may not be everyone’s taste but I think most people would be able to see the genius of it.

After watching their video for “ギミチョコ!!- Gimme chocolate!!” I wanted to understand why and how BABYMETAL was created thus filling some of the “unexplainable holes in my general understanding”. I was already aware of the fact that in Japan a lot of music groups are “manufactured”, meaning talent agencies create the groups. This was exactly how BABYMETAL was formed, their producer wanted to mix Japanese teen pop with metal.

As with in the lecture where we discussed what the “J” in j-pop stands for; in the case of BABYMETAL the way they emulate Japanese culture is the way they dress (similar to manga and anime characters), their synchronized dance routines and their “kawaii” (or “cute”) vocals. If you were to watch their videos without any sound they would look like most other J-Pop Idol Groups but less preppy, with the sound switched on they’re in a league of their own.

The different sites I used when exploring BABYMETAL was the video itself, which went viral via YouTube, as well as other YouTube videos, which discussed and reacted to BABYMETAL. The second time I came across BABYMETAL was in another YouTube video as part of a series created by YouTubers The Fine Brothers called “YouTubers React to BABYMETAL”. As the name would suggest, in said video various YouTubers react to BABYMETAL for the first time. Watching that video adds a whole new layer to my experience in that it shows people who reacted exactly the same as me or completely differently highlighting a new perspective on the phenomenon that is BABYMETAL.

Pop, Metal, Japan and Me

About six months ago someone shared the YouTube clip below on Facebook with some accompanying confession of guilt over how catchy they found it. The thumbnail and description for the embedded video made it pretty obvious that this was a Japanese pop (J-pop) song and having already acquired a taste for J-pop some years ago I decided to check it out. I think it’s fair to say it wasn’t entirely what I was expecting.

When I saw Babymetal for the first time I was struck with sudden shock and amusement. While the vocals and choreography are undeniably lifted straight from the J-pop handbook, it had been married with the somewhat unlikely partner “metal”. What was more unusual was that it worked despite the fact the heavy metal elements being likely to alienate many J-pop fans and vice versa. But as a fan of both genres I felt like I had found a valuable favourite in the vast music landscape. So I immediately sought out more.

The above song is the one that really won me over and it wasn’t until after a few listens that I realized why. I realized that the melody was an appropriation from a piece of traditional Japanese folk music called Sakura that I had actually been introduced to in my very early childhood by an episode of the Australian children’s program Playschool. Suddenly this simple pop-metal mashup struck another unlikely balance between personal nostalgia for a Caucasian Australian and the traditions of Japanese culture. I do not speak Japanese, so the lingual meanings of the song are completely lost on me. But through my own nostalgia and recollection that Sakura is “the cherry blossom song” I do get a strange sense of meaning from the song, although I am aware that this meaning could be largely unique to me.

But Babymetal taught me something else about modern Japanese music and my own hidden assumptions. I realized that up until this point I had viewed J-pop in relation to the American pop I had grown up with, as if J-pop was merely a flavour of something that America had created. I saw Japanese music as “doing what Westerners do, but better” without really considering that Japanese musicians are also drawing from their own culture and creating something of their own.