Prologue: To the Metal Resistance
Many reactions, reviews and news have been issued about BABYMETAL. Many of those referred to their forming as an Idol unit, their ignorance of Heavy Metal before the beginning, their going viral with Gimme Chocolate MV, and their successful performance at a main stage of Sonisphere festival.
But how many people know what happened between these moments? Everything has a chain of cause-and-result cycles. The same does to BABYMETAL. Here reviews a series of five critical moments from its birth to date that became causes/results made them what they are now.
1. Kobametal the producer found the way to shine Suzuka Nakamoto aka Su-metal, the talented lead vocalist most
Suzuka Nakamoto has been in show biz over 10 years even she’s 16 now. She’s said to have been always recognized as special talent and had already proved her powerful and distinctive voice and live performance skill when she was ten as a member of Karen Girl’s, one-year-only idol group act. They fired up an arena with 10,000 audiences by their performance. When the group disbanded as planned in 2009, her bright future was promised as an idol singer in Japan.
But her voice and dance was just out of standard from Japanese idol, even too powerful and straight. The fact that her office Amuse didn’t promote her like that was the proof of it. Here was the one who worked at the office. His name was Key Kobayashi – future Kobametal the producer.
Key was decades-long fan of Heavy Metal, had experience on PR and an administrative job of some rock bands back then. He thought carefully about the best way for Suzuka to make full potential of her unique talent of singing and dancing out to the world. He saw her as a limitless type of performer. She said by herself that she didn’t remember anything when she’s in the zone on stage. And everyone saw her hit unexpected quality in singing and dancing.
An idea finally hit the man that a speed and loudness of Heavy Metal was the answer that could bring chemistry with Suzuka’s full power. At the same time he went to Lollapalooza festival in Chicago, US to see Japanese Metal band X Japan performing. He saw many people there finally jumping around here and there along with its Japanese-lyrics song with their X-shaped arms high up to the sky, even hard-looking reggae guy.
He felt confident in these jumping clouds that Japanese heavy music could transcend a border of languages, nationalities and music preferences to touch and move people who even didn’t understand Japanese at all.
So he was sure he could make it by blending two powerful weapons together – one was Suzuka Nakamoto the quality-proven performer and the other was heavy music, his lifetime devotion and profession.
2. BABYMETAL was formed with twins-like enchanting girls Yui Mizuno and Moa Kikuchi with Suzuka
Suzuka was a powerful asset but she’s so distinctive by any means. Also in Japan a solo idol became out of fashion. So he thought to add partners to her but at the same time standard girls’ group format didn’t seem to work. In the recruiting period, he wanted a feel of little twins dancing around of Suzuka like former famous twins idol The Peanuts signing for Mothra, and finally Yui and Moa caught his eye.
Both of them were eleven years old, almost identical outfit like twins also had years of experience of CMs, fashion shows and stages at the time. The miracle was that those twins-like two girls were in the same office along with Suzuka. The two are becoming less identical now but they kept almost identical like twins in years.
Both of them easily cleared average qualities in performing, but each of them have different strong points. Yui is good at dancing and more modest and Moa is good at charming and communicative type. And Suzuka is also well known as gno-brainerh type of person at her own pace. They are capable also professional, synchronized also complementary like a stable triangle.
3. BABYMETAL came with a unique and quality coupling of Heavy Metal sound, J-pop melody, dynamic dance and Idol appearance by their debut song Doki Doki Morning
Doki Doki Morning was released on 2011/10/24 from Juuonbu Records label that was just built for BABYMETAL only. Juuonbu means a heavy music club that is a name of a subsidiary of Sakura Gakuin that is an idol academy in their office, Amuse Inc. The song is catchy J-Pop number with cute choreography of three little girls, but once you listen to its instrumental version you’ll find how heavy its sound really is. It uses some of PANTERA drum sounds (how many other girls’ groups use sounds from PANTERA?)
It didn’t become a big hit but it could make BABYMETAL survive, and it set the tone of its sound since then – brutality of Heavy Metal and catchiness of J-Music with complexity of Idol song. Japanese Idol song is even chaotic. It can allow almost anything under the name of Kawaii girls. Many music talents from other genres have come to the genre and create vast range of songs, and it became like a meta-genre that holds a lot of genres underneath because it would be said that music industry has been shrunken much in Japan and Idol is now the only genre that generates enough sales to be able to sustain Japanese music industry.
In fact, there have been a lot of songs of Idols with heavy taste and Heavy Metal bands with cute girls in Japan. But the genius of Key and greatness of the girls are that they never accept BABYMETAL to stay just a taste but challenge to be a real thing. Their Heavy Metal sound is real. So is their Pop melody, choreography, Idol charisma, Suzuka’s voice and Yui and Moa’s cuteness, too. That makes the difference. You can tell by yourselves and those who came to see them live left their comments that even metalheads in decades really enjoyed their performance, held their breaths away by Su-metal’s voice and melt their hearts by Yui and Moa’s cuteness. And to our surprise their performances seem to keep improving from comments and reviews.
4. BABYMETAL made a successful first appearance to a big rock festival, Summer Sonic with the youngest performer record
Summer Sonic is a big rock festival in Japan with a long history since 2000 which now hosts over 120,000 audiences in two days. Its headliners were big names like Green Day, Marilyn Manson, Guns N’ Roses, Oasis, Linkin Park, Metallica, Stevie Wonder and more.
BABYMETAL appeared there in 2012 by invitation from its host which saw BABYMETAL as something new with potential though they had only 5 songs, released only 3 singles and no album and little appearance on TV and magazine back then. They played at sub stage rather small. But it was their first exposure to many non-Idol fans, musicians and persons in music industry and media of broader music genres.
The band got into the second level from the performance. They didn’t play at small event space anymore, held first solo live with 1,300 audiences and did first performance abroad in Singapore. And these lead them to their major debut and to their back band, Kami Band.
5. BABYMETAL acquired authentic Heavy Metal feel with their major debut song Ijime, Dame, Zettai and introduced Kami Band as a back band in their live
And early in 2013 their major debut came with Ijime, Dame, Zettai. It was actually their second song, but it was their fourth single. It might be that Kobametal kept waiting for the release until the time came. It was a straight and strong power metal number with well-structured melody line that could maximize power of Su-metal’s power with impressive shredding guitar solo and endless twin bass drum roams.
Kobametal said that he “thought it’s time for a fast ball hard enough to surprise metalheads,” and they won the bet. He “finally got some credit to talk with metalheads,” and it earned “pretty good sales figure. The CD sales kept its moment long in the front of stores.”
And at the same time, he made a decision to introduce live back band into their stage performances. BABYMETAL had played with pre-recorded track till the period. Despite of financial and temporal cost, the back band could improve their live performance a lot. And it needs mentioning to the quality of these band players.
It’s named as Kami Band. Kami is a word that refers to god. All the member deserve the name because every one of them is regarded as top notch musician in Japan. But why these best of the best join to this three-piece idol girls’ unit? They are the ones who never be pressed for good offers. More money? Maybe. A pressure of big music agency? Maybe.
But some of them said playing in BABYMETAL behind of these hard-working talented girls and trying different types of well-produced music are just so much fun also challenging. Also they said they felt confident that BABYMETAL was going to be something before it became as it is now. They even said these girls were so professional enough to respect as a musician. They are all top notch performers. Both the girls and the band. And here would be chemistry between them. So is there any reason that BABYMETAL is NOT going to be a real thing in the world?
Epilogue: The Metal Resistance is going on
So these are critical moments that BABYMETAL has had until it became the Internet viral with Gimme Chocolate. Maybe many of you know what happened after the song. And I want to say. The song IS – or was – viral. It is watched over 17,000,000 times from last April on YouTube. Some said it’s another WTF thing from Japan. Yes it’s very different from American or Europian Pop, Heavy Metal or any other music. It might have surprised tons of people in the world in various senses.
But is BABYMETAL itself just a viral in the Internet? Three months later when BABYMETAL appeared into curios eyes from 60,000 people and left from a main stage of Sonisphere with great amount of applause under the opening-up UK sky on July 5, audiences there and so many other people in the world who watched it via YouTube later would have felt that BABYMETAL was something in the real world. Or anything different with potential to the future.
Now they just closed the Metal Resistance Episode II with live performances in Japan, Germany, France, UK and US. Audiences and media people from various countries felt their performance live by their own eyes, ears and hearts. They must have felt BABYMETAL was not another WTF from Japan but something new that can deliver quality experiences that can trancend borders of languages, nationalities and music preferences to touch and move people who even didn’t understand Japanese at all. And BABYMETAL declared the beginning of Metal Resistance Episode III from O2 Academy, Brixton in UK.
We don’t know what it is yet. But whatever it will be we already know this will come next year with quality. It will come. We will see it before long.