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Airi Suzuki from C-ute, attended to BABYMETAL show "Red Night" at Tokyo Dome to close their fantastic World Tour 2016.
Airi wrote the following blog post after the first show "Red Night" on September 19. Read her impressions and also her reaction about Moa Kikuchi's admiration
towards her! Blog translated below.
Airi Suzuki on BABYMETAL at Tokyo Dome: "I had serious goose bumps from the start"
Airi Suzuki is one of the main members of C-ute. C-ute is a Japanese idol girl group, consisting of five members. C-ute is part of Hello!
Project, produced by Tsunku, who also writes almost all the group's songs. On August 19, it was announced C-ute will be disbanding in June 2017.
Moa Kikuchi mentioned in one of her diaries how much she adores Airi Suzuki, read here.
Airi Suzuki's blog on BABYMETAL at Tokyo Dome Red Night.
Airi DEATH!!! Love love love! (Emoticons)
Hehehe, yes, yesterday!
After the Chisa-ai rehearsal for the events I went to BABYMETAL's live!!
My first BABYMETAL live.
Moreover, Tokyo Dome!!
I can't take BABYMETAL out of my head yet, Airimetal DEATH!! (Laugh)
I felt like I was watching an overseas live.
Su-Metal overwhelming sense of being a Queen. Yuimetal and Moametal overwheling sense of being angels.
An indescribably great balance. I was left open mouth from the beginning to the end. I had serious goose bumps from the start. I was overwhelmed, and they are younger than me. Wasn't used a
MC even once. The way Su-Metal fuels in English, and singing in English... At the place found a lot of fans who came from abroad. All wearing red or black clothes!!! I'm
glad that I was wearing red!
I was looking at the backing band, which is called Kami Band with wide open mouth, I thought that my jaw will departure. The first time I see metal, it's amazing. A fusion of
Metal and Idol. The chemistry which occurs here is great!
The growing of Su-Metal singing voice has become a habit. The YonYon of Yuimetal and Moametal! There is no way to take it out
of my head! (Laughs)
Moametal is Moa Kikuchi chan, I was told that she loves me!
What what what!? Seriously!!
I could not imagine such adorable faces can dance so violently. Were moments even when couldn't tied up the eyes. Blink was absolutely useless.
Yesterday Red Night, tonight Black Night. 2 Days has been made! But can't see them today. BABYMETAL, the best DEATH!!
Their styles vary from jazzy sophisti-pop (Tokyo Girls’ Style) to straight-up & sexy J-pop (ºC-ute & Berryz工房), soft rock (Buono!) to hard rock (SCANDAL), new wave DEVO-esque punk rock (Polysics) to very elegantly crafted and well-performed techno-pop (Perfume), and I absolutely ate it up, to the point where I didn’t care anymore about what the western music industry was churning out, and it didn’t concern me one bit that I didn’t understand the language.
Language barriers in pop don’t bother me because I grew up not just in the cultural melting pot of Los Angeles, but also in Germany, where pop is more international, so hearing songs in Spanish, French, Swedish, Italian, Dutch or some other language I don’t understand well or at all is normal for me. Besides, nowadays there are always hard-core fans who will translate and post the lyrics or subtitle a video for the benefit of the rest of us.
Since I grew up in two cultures and in close proximity to several more, I was very much aware that cultures vary a lot, so it didn’t surprise me at all to discover that they did things differently in Japan; indeed I expected it and was totally open to it. After all, in the end only the music matters, and although it was certainly different, it didn’t seem the least bit weird to me. Instead it was shiny and new, interesting and exciting, and provided an opportunity to learn about yet another culture in a different part of the world.
To be sure, what I found was only the tip of the J-pop iceberg, limited to those groups that either had the foresight to use YouTube to reach a wider international audience (because at the time I couldn’t readily use the former Nico Nico Douga, but the new & improved niconico is very accessible to everyone), or who had a ton of fans who uploaded videos to YouTube on their behalf, never mind how many copyright laws were being broken in the process. This pretty much meant that I had really discovered only the most popular idol groups, which was fine with me, because those were the ones I’d be most likely to have the chance to see in concert when (not if) they finally got big enough to do international tours outside of Asia and risk a crash-landing on the shores of the European and American music scenes.
Now, I’m sure a lot of you will object and say I’m wrong, that this or that idol group performed here or there in America at such-and-such an event, and yes, of course they did, and believe me I’m very happy about that, even if I couldn’t attend. The playing-a-con-or-fest thing has been going on for many years, but it’s usually by invitation and comes with a built-in audience, and is therefore quite low-risk for the idol group, especially since the event organizers usually pay them an honorarium for attending.
But how many idol groups have come here of their own volition to headline their own shows not organized by anyone else at their own artistic and financial risk? I Googled it, spending most of one of my precious Sundays trying to find such an idol group, and maybe I just didn’t think of the right search terms and someone out there will enlighten me, but I couldn’t find a single one.
But all that’s about to change. We are about to witness a trio of actual headliner concerts in the New World put on by two very popular Japanese idol groups. I am beyond pleased to say that I am fortunate enough to be the holder of tickets to both of them as they pass through Los Angeles this year: BABYMETALin late July and Perfume in early November.
Wait, BABYMETAL? That name wasn’t listed in the opening paragraph, and what do babies have to do with metal?
Well, yeah, I didn’t list them because they didn’t exist back then, although I’ve obviously found them in the mean time, as well as several others. And of course BABYMETAL‘s got nothing to do with babies, but rather it is meant to indicate the birth of a new genre of music that mixes idol music with heavy metal: Kawaii Metal.
And they’ve become quite the international sensation, much to everyone’s surprise and delight. So, where did this phenomenon come from?
Before BABYMETAL, there was Sakura Gakuin, and before that there was Karen Girl’s (yes, with an apparently misused apostrophe), whom I also discovered early on, but was disappointed to find were very short-lived and had already disbanded because they were put together solely for the sake of producing the themes of the anime Zettai Karen Children, which translates to Absolutely Lovely Children. When the anime ends, the group dissolves. Yet this is where our dark heroine SU-METAL had her beginnings as the youngest member of this three-girl group.
Even in that short time, Karen Girl’s apparently garnered a great deal of popularity. Search YouTube for “Zettai Karen Children OP” and you’ll find a video of them singing their hearts out to their hit “Over the Future” in front of a huge audience packed into an enormous venue. [Edit: The original video I had linked here was deleted due to copyright claim, so I replaced it with the PV for the song.] At the time she was only 11 years old, but already the soon-to-be SU-METAL was no stranger to singing in front of a crowd so big that most singers and musicians can only dream about it. And if you search YouTube for “Yui&Moa Sakura Gakuin Entrance Exam” you’ll see that the soon-to-be YUIMETAL and MOAMETAL danced “Over the Future” together as part of their audition for Sakura Gakuin.
Then at BABYMETAL’s“Legend ‘D’” performance on December 20, 2012, at Akasaka BLITZ, we come full circle as YUIMETAL and MOAMETAL perform a metal version of “Over the Future” with former Karen Girl’s member and now BABYMETAL lead singer SU-METAL, fulfilling Yui’s greatest dream: to perform with the Karen Girl’s, whom she has often admitted to idolizing. So you can’t have a discussion about where BABYMETAL comes from and what they are about without at least giving a nod to Karen Girl’s.
Even with all of the aforementioned Japanese idol groups that I say I liked so much, believe it or not, BABYMETAL‘s eponymous debut album was the first physical CD I ever bought from Japan. Before that it was always iTunes or some other less savory means, but for some reason I was driven to get the best quality sound I could this time around. Now why would that be, I asked myself? I’m not a CD collector, and as a rule I never buy swag, so what gives?
Well, after doing my bit of research to find out what the songs were about and listening to the album a few dozen times, it finally hit me: this album was absolutely brimming over with Girl Power.
Now I know you purists out there will come at me and say, “But the Kami Band and BabyBone are all men, how can there be any Girl Power at all, let alone enough to drip from their album, if they aren’t at least backed by a female band? And the girls don’t seem to be espousing any kind of message along those lines, on stage or off. And besides that, the whole industry is dominated by male executives, producers, lyricists, composers, etc.”
Points taken and noted, but it has to start somewhere. Change is best made slowly from within, from the bottom up, and effecting change isn’t necessarily always a conscious decision. Sometimes the collective consciousness of a society acts on its own to achieve change without anyone openly driving the movement. Besides, you don’t get very far by being in-your-face about your objections to the male hegemony prevalent in the industry; they’ll just laugh at you, and if you persist too much, they’ll bury you, or at least try to.
Instead it’s better to use the system against itself in subtle ways, each new idol group building upon the successes and accomplishments of the last, until you eventually have a breakthrough, and everyone is forced to take notice, and is probably shocked that they completely missed it coming toward them at such breakneck speed. I mean, what do you think all those other idol groups I listed at the beginning, not to mention the many, many more that I didn’t, were busy doing all this time, even if they didn’t realize it? Using the mechanisms of YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other international social media they were building the momentum for that one idol group that would inevitably break through to and be accepted by the outside world, thus opening the gates for the rest of them to flood through as well.
Actually, given their history of success after success, even getting a big nod from Disney at one point, I was pretty much convinced that this breakthrough honor would fall upon Perfume, and indeed they are coming. But thanks in no small measure to Lady Gaga inviting them to open for her on five of her southwestern U.S. tour dates, BABYMETAL has beaten them to it, at least in America. Since they have to clear customs in Los Angeles anyway, they took the opportunity to add another headliner date to their own world tour. When I saw that, my jaw dropped. It was as though I’d been sucker-punched, baited by one fist and then hit by the other out of nowhere. Not that I mind in the least.
BABYMETAL took everyone by surprise. Even they themselves and their management admit they are taken aback by their almost overnight world-wide popularity and overwhelming success. It certainly caught me off guard, and it also made me deliriously happy. A fusion of idol music and heavy metal, two of my favorites genres? And without all the dark, brooding, depressing, violent, I-hate-my-life, the-world-sucks, screw-the-establishment lyrics? A metal album full of fun, heaps of cuteness, and a whole lot of sass? Not to mention a couple of strong, positive messages for good measure?
HELL, YEAH! I’m totally down with that! Let the age of Kawaii Metal commence!
So now that I’ve painted the background picture on this topic and you know where to look for more information if you so desire, we come to the main theme of this article.
Song by song, in the order of my own choosing to help me make my point, I will discuss why this album is absolutely overflowing with Girl Power.
This song is pretty straightforward. Paraphrased translated lyrics with repetitions removed are of benefit here, and pretty much make my point for me:
With the traditional long black hair,
disheveled and scattering gorgeously; (while headbanging)
Blooming like crazy, this flower
will soon disappear fruitlessly. (my coming-of-age year will soon be over)
Now the time has come, I no longer hesitate,
I hold on tightly to my discount railway tickets.
Today again I rush to the front center stage,
Standing up still, leaning back, jumping toward the stage,
Leaning over the fence, rolling over the mob,
And then we all deeply headbang.
This special night of my 15[th year] I’ll never forget;
All you crybabies get out of here!
It will never come back, and it’s such a short time,
So I etch into my heart this special night of my 15.
I jump lightly and dance in the air.
In other words:
Tonight is MY special night, and you will NOT ruin it for me, so if you can’t handle it and insist upon being all EMO, then just GET THE HELL OUT!
This one will take some explaining, so bear with me.
Megitsune means vixen, a female fox. As explained on Du-Enki’s translation blog, in Japanese folklore foxes can change into anything and thus deceive people. So a man who thinks he has been tricked by a charming woman feels that he has been deceived by a vixen, and calls her “megitsune”, meaning “she is as cunning as a vixen”.
Men often misunderstand the intentions of women, and being blinded by love, they get caught up in their fantasies about what the relationships means to each of them. Then when a man’s vision clears up he may find that he had it all wrong, and naturally blames the woman, because there’s no way it could be his own fault, right? But it isn’t her fault there was a disconnect between them; he’s the one who allowed himself to be charmed by her and to gloss over her true intentions, which more than likely she probably outright told him, with his fantasies.
The line “Kitsune ja nai, Kitsune ja nai, Otome na megitsune.” translates to “We’re not foxes, We’re not deceivers, but maiden-like female foxes.” This means, assuming the song writer’s intentions have been properly understood, “We’re not deceiving you, but we’re so charming that you may fall into a sweet illusion about us.” The qualifier “maiden-like” is important to show that there are no ill intentions, because maidens are presumably too young to have learned to be that cunning.
During BABYMETAL‘s second interview on Hotwave SU-METAL talked about one of the themes of the song, “Women are actresses”. People may think women are always disguising themselves, for instance with makeup, and so are pretending to be something they really aren’t. But she loves the lyrics “Smiling at face, crying at heart”, and said that to her the ideal adult women is so cool that she never shows any hints of her own suffering, but instead does her best to act normally, especially during difficult times, and she hopes to be like that as well.
Thus the ideal adult woman is actually very strong, able to hold things together for her family if she has one, for her juniors if she’s the class president, for her co-workers if she’s the team leader or manager, or whatever the case may be, and in any situation she may face.
And indeed SU-METAL seems to be well on her way to reaching that ideal. During her graduation ceremony from Sakura Gakuin, while a very upset Moa gives her graduation message, tears flowing freely and barely holding herself together well enough just to be able to stumble over the words, at 0:25 you can see Suzuka swallow her own tears, determined to maintain her composure no matter what, to be the good senpai, the good senior, and set the best example that she can possibly muster.
And finally we have the scene in the PV at 3:13 where the music stops, and it’s just her breaking the 4th wall and telling us in no uncertain terms as she draws a dagger from the handle of her mic:
“Otome wa nametara ikan zeyo.” Maidens should NOTbe underestimated.
This song is usually just seen as being the introduction to the album, or the opening song of the show. An anthem, if you will. It doesn’t have much in the way of lyrics, just a bunch of chanting “DEATH”, the three girls introducing themselves and the group, and twice a deep, loud roaring and screaming of “BABY! METAL! DEEEEEAAAAATHHHHH!”
Well, you already know what I’m going to tell you: wrong!
The Japanese word “desu” is a copula meaning “to be”. The Eastern Japanese, particularly in the Tokyo region, essentially drop the “u” sound at the end of this word, so it is then pronounced “des”, which to the untrained ear may sound like “death”, and somewhere along the line someone started writing “DEATH” instead of “desu”.
Du-Enki further explains: I’m not sure of its origin, but a long time ago I saw a character such as a vampire or a death metal singer in a manga, and all of his “desu” were replaced with “DEATH” to emphasize his character. With such an air, it will work well. Without it, it won’t work.
BABYMETAL does not have such an air. The title “BABYMETAL DEATH” means only “We are BABYMETAL”. I’m sure none of us would wish death upon them anyway.
“Desu” can also be translated as “I AM” or “WE ARE”.
If you are at all spiritual you should be aware of the power behind those simple words. If you aren’t, then listen up anyway.
Literally: “Bullying, No Good, Absolutely.” Phrased properly, “Bullying is Absolutely No Good.”
Bullying is a problem all over the world. I experienced more than a bit of it back in school, though in retrospect I suppose I was lucky I was never physically beaten up; it was mostly verbal. It seems, though, that in recent years bullying in Japan has on a few occasions become particularly extreme, even if it was just verbal, and drove several children to commit suicide, and this happened often enough that some of them made it into the news and caused quite a stir, as you’d expect it to. To be sure, it’s also happened elsewhere in the world, and we’ve all heard about cyberbullying as well. I’m not going to go into detail about this topic, Google is available to you if you really want to know, but this song is obviously meant to speak out against this universal problem.
This song is rather lyrically complicated, and there’s isn’t much repetition outside of the chorus, so it’s quite long as well. As Du-Enki explains for us, taking no less than seven paragraphs to do it, just sorting out who the “I” and “You” are in this song takes some doing, and I’m not quite sure I follow his explanation. Not that it really matters, because the intent of the song comes through quite clearly without having to worry about such details.
Simply put: Whether you’re the victim, the perpetrator, or the bystander, everyone is hurt by bullying.
Just speaking out about this issue takes some courage; doing it so publicly, on stage, in a six minute long song, backed by some of the most melodic metal I’ve ever come across, that’s just plain friggin’ awesome.
This is the smash hit that’s had 12 million YouTube views and still counting, and put BABYMETAL on the international map. But in spite of all its bravado, lyrically it’s one of the simpler songs, and therein lies its genius.
To quote Albert Einstein:
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.”
On it’s surface this song is about a girl who loves chocolate, but is concerned about gaining weight, as girls in their teens tend to be. So she simultaneously tries to justify having some, and yet disciplines herself into putting it off for a while. In the end, she says she’s worked hard, so show me a little heart and give me some chocolate as a reward, punctuating her desperately emphatic request with a huge yet polite PLEASE!
Underneath the surface, she’s a girl who knows what she really likes, but has the self-discipline to do what’s best for herself, namely to take care of business/homework before pleasure, and then allow herself an appropriate reward, secure in the knowledge that she honestly deserves it. She’s excited to have it, may even seem to be begging for it, but she keeps her head well enough to remember to at least be reasonably polite about it.
To cap it off, this song is something of a tongue twister. Chokoreeto, chotto matte, cho cho cho. (Chocolate, wait a moment, wait wait wait.) They all sound very similar, and SU-METAL is singing it FAST to a very hard metal beat. Respect.
Literally: “Begging Operation,” or more to the point, “Beg-Dad-For-It Operation.”
Du-Enki provides a lot of notes on this one, but basically it’s about a young girl who uses her cuteness, bright smile, soft voice, flattery, pouting, sulking, and any other means at her disposal to manipulate her father into giving her stuff and money.
Well, that’s certainly the power of a cute little girl, isn’t it? It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so serious.
The problem here is on a spiritual level. Anyone who truly understands how the energy of the universe works can readily see how any girl (or boy for that matter) who does this sort of thing is setting herself up for a world full of problems later on. But I’m not here to use this article as a spiritual soapbox.
Instead I’ll choose to see it like this: she’s giving it 100%; it’s pure because she probably doesn’t realize what she’s doing to herself on a karmic level; I can’t say it’s raw because she’s clearly refined her manipulation skills to a very high degree; it’s certainly unapologetic; and it’s a power that most if not all girls can wield, should they choose to. So, whether I like it or not,
According to the album’s liner notes, this song was written by YUIMETAL and MOAMETAL. I can’t find a reference to confirm the story behind this (someone help me out with an English language link?), but according to Du-Enki’s blog for this song some magazines reported that they wrote it while traveling for BABYMETAL‘s Singapore show on 28 December, 2013, and they kept singing it until the staff eventually complained about it.
I also can’t find any details about how it then came to be a song on the album, whether it was the staff complaints that got the attention of their management, or if they submitted it on their own, or by some other means. However it happened, it had to be pretty quick, because there were only 8 weeks between their Singapore concert and the release of the album on 26 February, 2014. In any case it’s quite catchy, and speaks out about a particular Japanese superstition.
In Japanese culture the number 4 is considered to be unlucky, similarly to the number 13 in western society. There are two ways to pronounce it: the native “Yottsu”, in modern times shortened to “yon” or “yo”, and “shi” from ancient Chinese. Most Japanese associate the number 4 with death because both are read as “shi”, and so they tend to avoid it wherever they can. To counter this the song endeavors to associate the number 4 with good things rather than bad.
To do this they begin with the obvious, pointing out in a very cute way that you can’t even count without the number 4. Being one of the basic digits, you simply can’t avoid it. Then using a series of puns, which just don’t translate well or at all, they further their point. One of these puns is “bitamin no shi”, where “bitamin” is how the Japanese pronounce “vitamin”, and “shi” sounds like “C”. So literally translated, “4(C) of vitamins”.
For more details regarding the puns and other tidbits, check out Du-Enki’s blog.
Writing your own songs is always cool, and so is speaking out about things that make no logical sense. I mean, I’m sure they have their reasons, and this probably makes me sound naive, but looking at it from outside it would seem that you could solve the problem with the number 4 by always using “yon” and just allowing “shi” to become archaic. Then again, if they’d done that, we wouldn’t have this song, would we?
This one is a ballad sung by SU-METAL as a solo. Looking over the lyrics translation provided by Du-Enki, it’s clearly a love song apparently involving either a tragedy or a breakup, and she vows to remember this love in that certain way that only young people can who don’t yet have a lot of experience in matters of the heart.
It’s very poetic and beautiful, and the instrumentation with the piano and violins is quite amazing, but what really does it for me is SU-METAL’s clear and crisp soprano voice, with no trace of the crackling most people her age would exhibit. It’s absolutely on key, strong, powerful, and she delivers a very professional performance, making me feel she could even sing opera if she had a mind to and trained her voice for it. The power and energy she puts into singing this song in particular is something you won’t find again very soon on other albums.
This is another ballad also sung by SU-METAL as a solo. Again, looking at the lyric translation provided by Du-Enki, this one lives up to its title, coming across as quite nightmarish. She seems to be running from someone or something, and she knows she can’t escape, but neither is she caught, and like a musical rondo the scenario keeps repeating.
Again, this is a case where SU-METAL’s voice is the standout feature of the song. The instrumentation is much harder in this song than in Akatsuki, and it doesn’t quite have that complexity, but the piano featured in the background sounds quite creepy and macabre, really giving it that nightmarish feel. Nevertheless, it’s that clear and crisp soprano voice, strong and powerful, but this time heavier on the minor notes, that makes this song an amazing listen.
This song is about playing a variation on hide-and-seek, tag and blind man’s bluff, seemingly all rolled up into one. The lyrics are simple and straight forward, and it’s a very cute song to see performed on stage, where SU-METAL plays the “oni”, the ogre or “it” as we’d say it in the west, and YUIMETAL and MOAMETAL dance around her and tease her.
What this song really has going for it, though, is a very heavy driving beat that doesn’t let up at all, and madly screeching guitars throughout, making it seem like the game in progress is really intense and maybe even confusing for the players.
What can I say, it’s always heartwarming to me to see a group of kids just having some good, clean fun, especially if they are all being good sports about it, which SU-METAL certainly is.
This song was their first to be released. It’s a a bundle of fun and excitement all about nothing more than a girl trying to wake up and get herself ready for the day’s events, which in the greater scheme of things aren’t really much at all, but of course are of tremendous importance to her in her own little world, and she often checks her watch for the time. The cuteness factor is over-the-top, and it’s definitely one of my favorite tracks on the album.
Being their first release, it could really be considered as more than a bit experimental. The lyrics are in classic idol music style, and the beat and guitars, while quite hard and certainly metal, are somewhat conservative compared to what they’ve released since then. But evolution is what it’s all about, isn’t it?
Lately idol music in general seems to be going through a phase of trying many new and different things, and let’s face it, being experimental and innovative is how you survive, but there’s always risk inherent in that, and it seems to me that being so bold as to set idol music to metal took a lot of nerve.
In light of its breakaway success, now you could say it was a natural thing to do, but back then I don’t know if I’d want to be the one to pitch the idea to my boss. It’s not a matter of risking money, they do that all the time while trying to find the next big thing, but if I’ve been doing well producing a certain type of music and suddenly want to try something that’s beyond innovative to the point of being radical, I might be risking more than just a bit of money. My reputation may be at stake.
Thank Kitsune-sama it worked, but it wouldn’t have without the right talent to front the whole thing.
With the success of their first release behind them it was time for another one, and this time they cranked up the metal-o-meter quite a bit. The drums are faster and more intense, the guitars are driven much harder, and a couple of surprises have been included. The energy of their performance has been cranked up a few notches as well, and by the time it ends I’m feeling quite good indeed.
Lyrically it’s still very much a classic idol song, this time being about a girl who was left alone and decides she’s going to go out and find a party, and it’s good, isn’t it!
And the success continues with their third single, Headbanger!, released on MOAMETAL’s 13th birthday. This song is the B-side track, and it cranks the metal-o-meter up even more, and again there’s a twist built into it. The energy in their performance keeps getting higher and higher. Any higher and instead of feeling good at the end I might end up just being exhausted.
Lyrically this is also another classic idol song, and once again it’s about having an amazing party.
100% Pure, Raw, No-Apologies Girl Power.
Wow, you actually read all the way through to this point? Kudos to you! I didn’t mean for it to get this long, but hey, that can happen when you’re writing about one of your favorite subjects.
I hope I’ve managed to shed some new light and perspective on the phenomenon that is BABYMETAL. Whether you agree with me or not, you at least have to admit that this is a very high energy idol group that’s put out a great album with amazing international appeal. Why else would you be here reading?
Thanks for sticking around until the end. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us next!