metal

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 lead me to any epiphanies.

Definition of Kawaii Metal

One definition of kawaii metal is (cute metal), 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.

 

Advertisements

Discovering Kawaii Metal

This is my podcast narrative of my first real discovery of kawaii metal (cute metal music).

Note: The reason that I pause the video and then talk is because the program wouldn’t turn down the music when I spoke.

Also the video version was removed due to copyright.

Funny Anecodote: After an hour of rerecording this due to the dodgy program, I got in my car only to hear BabyMetal’s Karate on Triple J, after months of not hearing it play, seems that the gods of Kawaii metal enjoyed my experience too.

I also noticed, after hearing this song in my car, that I had forgotten that it also has a badass female vocalist, and fairly punk clothing, yet another expectation that I had gotten wrong.

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.

It’s More Like J-Metal…

For this week’s blogging task, I chose to focus on the Japanese electronic-infused metal band Crossfaith, a band on the peripheral of the vast Japanese music world. Crossfaith have taken the metal music world by storm, and for good reason. They’ve jumped out of Japan to take on the world, and have been able to do so through taking advantage of digital media giants like YouTube to release music video after music video which has helped them gain attention worldwide.

They have continued to appeal to fans and viewers because of their high-energy live performances, and their fast-tempo, electronically influenced brand of metal, which they’ve particularly showcased in music videos like ‘We Are the Future’ (2013), in which they appear to be playing on a deserted planet in a futuristic time.

Their highest viewed videos like ‘Omen’ and ‘Monolith’ both have over 1.5 million views respectively, so they’ve been successful in capturing a particular part of the market of the heavy world. Coming from a place like Japan, where the J-pop scene is much more prominent than the heavy scene, Crossfaith have had to work hard on social media like Facebook and Twitter to really push their name and music to the forefront, but they haven’t lost sight of their cultural heritage either. They blend the traditionally heard Western metalcore sound with synthesised and electronic Asian style melodies creating a mixture of cultures that works to set them apart from other big metalcore names.

Coming from a heavy music background myself, I took a quick liking to Crossfaith and the way they showcase themselves through YouTube, both in live performance videos and music videos. It’s easy to see why they’ve managed to capture the attention of a new generation of metal enthusiasts with their blend of Eastern and Western styles. Listening to the songs, the lyrics are a little harder for me to relate to, but I very much enjoyed the instrumental aspects to their tracks.

References:

1. Crossfaith Official Website. 2014. Crossfaith Official Website. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.crossfaith.jp/en/. [Accessed 26 August 2014].

2. Crossfaith (JAP) – discography, line-up, biography, interviews, photos. 2014. Crossfaith (JAP) – discography, line-up, biography, interviews, photos. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.spirit-of-metal.com/groupe-groupe-Crossfaith_%28JAP%29-l-en.html. [Accessed 26 August 2014].

3. CrossfaithOfficial – YouTube. 2014. CrossfaithOfficial – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/user/CrossfaithOfficial/videos. [Accessed 26 August 2014].

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].