Perfume talks about BABYMETAL/Kami Band on:
Perfume talks about BABYMETAL/Kami Band on:
A fan in Los Angeles discusses where BABYMETAL comes from and gives us some thoughts and feelings on what they are about.
OK, I’ll admit it, I like Japanese idol music. A lot. I discovered it in 2009 when I first signed up for a YouTube account, and almost immediately found ºC-ute, followed by Berryz Kobo, Buono!, and the rest of the Hello! Project groups. Soon I also found SCANDAL, Polysics (not really an idol group, but whoa!), Tokyo Girls’ Style, and Perfume, whom I absolutely adore.
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.
And indeed, with the aid of the Internet, the first battles for Europe have been won, and it has now come to the point where the first forays of J-pop onto American soil that aren’t merely for the sake of a comic/gaming/anime convention or a Japanese musical/cultural festival will commence this year.
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: BABYMETAL in 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.
Shortly after Karen Girl’s disbanded, Nakamoto Suzuka joined Sakura Gakuin, Cherry Blossom Academy, as part of its first group of “students” and became a member of its heavy music club, along with Kikuchi Moa and Mizuno Yui, which then spawned BABYMETAL, and the rest is history in the making, which I’m sure you know (if not, it’s all right here at babymetal.net). It is worth noting that during her last year as a member of Sakura Gakuin SU-METAL was class president, and very much loved by all (search YouTube for “Appreciation Party for Suu-chan”, it has English subs). The current school year is the last for both YUIMETAL and MOAMETAL at Sakura Gakuin, and this year Moa is class president and Yui is production chairman.
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!
100% Pure, Raw, No-Apologies Girl Power.
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 NOT be underestimated.
100% Pure, Raw, No-Apologies Girl Power.
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!
Once again, I defer to Du-Enki’s explanation on his translation blog:
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.
The words of the song are:
BABYMETAL des! (repeated 16 times)
B! A! B! Y! M! E! T! A! L!
Des! (repeated 6 times)
Des! (repeated 6 times)
Des! (repeated 6 times)
Des! (repeated 6 times)
WE ARE BABYMETAL!
I AM SU-METAL!
I AM YUIMETAL!
I AM MOAMETAL!
WE ARE BABYMETAL!
What I add by reading between the lines is:
WE ARE here on this stage!
WE ARE here to perform!
WE ARE here to have fun!
WE ARE here to share our Girl Power!
And all that backed by some of the most brutal yet beautiful metal instrumentation I’ve ever heard.
100% Pure, Raw, No-Apologies Girl Power.
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.
100% Pure, Raw, No-Apologies Girl Power.
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.
100% Pure, Raw, No-Apologies Girl Power.
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,
100% Pure, Refined, No-Apologies Girl Power.
Literally: “Song of Four.”
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?
100% Pure, Raw, No-Apologies Girl Power.
Literally: “Crimson Moon.”
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.
100% Pure, Raw, No-Apologies Girl Power.
Literally: “Nightmare’s Rondo.”
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.
100% Pure, Raw, No-Apologies Girl Power.
Catch Me If You Can
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.
100% Pure, Raw, No-Apologies Girl Power.
Doki Doki Morning – A Heartpounding Morning
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.
100% Pure, Raw, No-Apologies Girl Power.
Ii ne! – Good, Isn’t It!
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!
100% Pure, Raw, No-Apologies Girl Power.
Uki Uki Midnight – Cheerful Midnight
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!
Ja mata ne! See you!
Here is a translation from a Japanese interview with Kobametal, the BABYMETAL producer, from the site Nikkel Trendy, please understand we have done our best to translate the text from japanese to english and some mistake may occure. Thank to Thomas Malone and BABYMETAL WORLDWIDE (BMWW)
Trend Focus Why is popular unique metal idol BABYMETAL? Why is this unique Metal Idol band, “Babymetal” so popular? We explore this with its instigator.
Babymetal was formed in 2010 around the concept of “fusing together Idol and Metal”. This unit of 3 main members from the the Idol group, “Sakura Gakuin” have been
carrying out activities under the name of “Juonbu” taking the fight to the warring age taking place in the idol market with their incredible unique presence.
They are acquiring a fan base that lies outside of the typical idol fan by crossing stereotypical expectations with the gap they have created between a heavy metal sound
contrasted with idol-like performances and with their firm grip on points that “Metal fans appreciate” with their music and performance style. Through the introduction
of their music on Youtube they have come to garner support from fans that reside not only in Japan but throughout the world.
We talked with Amuse’s KOBAMETAL, a music consultant for “Juonbu records” and the chief instigator of Babymetal about the background and formation of Babymetal and the
role idols are to play in the music scene.
Q: Babymetal has brought a unique flair to the vast assortment of idol groups such as AKB48 and Momoiro Kuroba. What spurred you to come up with the idea of fusing
together Metal with Idol?
Kobametal: I guess the simple answer is that I like both Metal and Idol.
For example, we are all well aware of the success of Perfume combining Techno with Idol. I felt that if I were to make a new genre there could be nothing better than to
fuse Idol with Metal, and it was at this time that I met Babymetal’s main vocalist, Su-metal (Nakamoto Suzuka of Sakura Gakuin). At this time I was able to listen to her
very unaffected and natural singing voice, and I had the feeling that it would be interesting to have her express her talent based on an image of, “a girl’s chorus group
singing a song in a metalistic fashion”. While I like Idol music I am originally a big fan of Metal, it was the creation of Babymetal that brought about a new type of Idol unit that incorporates a love and passion for Metal. To achieve this I thought of having a “Metal unit that would take on the guise of an Idol group” and that would then go on to grow into a dark heroine type of existence within the Idol world.
With Babymetal I want to emphasize the gap between the cuteness of the 3 members with the excitement and power of Metal. The concept of naming the band Babymetal came
from a divine message it also makes use of the cuteness of “Baby” with the easy to understand roughness of “Metal” while also signifying the “birth of a type of Metal”.
Q: Attempting to fuse together Metal with Idol, what do you take into consideration when actually creating music and songs?
Kobametal: When composing songs and when producing live concerts I would like to pay homage and respect to the predecessors of the past Metal scene and arrange things so
that the members of Babymetal can perform so as not to destroy what has come before. While there have been some Idol songs that have had a Metalistic feel to them before
now, Babymetal is build on the idea of Idol songs that are really based on a full-fledged Metal sound.
Metal is a very diversified genre and it is thus very difficult to sum it up with a simple definition. In common parlance it has an image of long haired musicians
wrapped up in leather attire shouting out “Gyaaa!” with piercing guitar riffs. However, here in Japan there exist a wide variety of Metal types including traditional
metal bands that fall in line with Iron Maiden, bands that mix core metal with originality like Maxim the Hormone, bands the combine punk with hard core Metal such as
Emo Screamo bands and visual bands work to incorporate the visual aspects of Metal.
Since these different approaches all differ in their world view of these various types of metal genres it is not so easy to change the type of music performed once the
band has been formed. In this regard, since Babymetal is going from the concept of approaching Metal from an Idol perspective it is fairly easy to develop a rich basket
of variations. I feel that this also makes it possible to draw out the best aspects of each of the members when creating and performing songs.
Q: Before we go too far, just how were the members selected for Babymetal?
Kobametal: Babymetal is positioned in the Juonbu section of Sakura Gakuin and the planning starting Babymetal itself came about around 2009 when “Karen Girls” of which
the main vocalist, Su-metal (Nakamoto Suzuka), disbanded.
I started looking around for the other two members with Su-metal as the center role of the band. Since Su-metal possesses such a unique presence I thought it would be a
good idea to add a totally new character onto her. I then thought it would be wonderful to have 2 girls who resembled angels to be dancing around her and asked to have
Yuimetal (Mizuno Yui) and Moametal (Kikuchi Moa) join the band.
People talk a lot about Babymetal incorporating death voices and screamo as well as breakdown parts into Idol songs and it is good to know that this is only possible
because of the potential that was there in the girls. There is no way that these kinds of outrageous songs and performances could be carried out smoothly unless the
girls had the vocal ability and stamina needed along with a perfect balance existing between the 3 members.
Q: The song “Headbanga!” which was released in July was composed by Narasaki-san who is of course well known in the Metal world for “Coaltar of the Deepers”. How do you go about creating songs?
Kobametal: With all of our songs I start out first with the concept for the music first and then approach the songwriter in question. When I approach the songwriter and
request a song to be written I have already prepared the song’s concept, the atmosphere for the lyrics, the melody, the choreography, the form of the live performance
and the reaction I expect from the audience. For “Headbanga!” I made a request based on the theme of “Headbanging”.
As for my personal image for this song I felt that I wanted to provide simultaneously a passion for the visual Metal scene together with a sense of strangeness, a kind
of, “What the heck is this?!”. To those ends I deliberately used lingo such as “Saku (bloom)”, “Dosen (center of stage)”, “Gyakudai” and other similar terms used by female fans known as “Bangers” and even paid homage to “the GazettE” by incorporating the “Dogeza Hedoban (kneeling down and bowing to the floor) performed by their fans.
Certainly not limited to “Headbanga!” I am careful to carry out song creating by speaking in detail with with those involved in writing lyrics, creating music, mixing
the music and crafting choreography. With Narasaki-san as well we went through repeated back and forths countless times, I consulted with him about very minute details
such as “I would like to place the cymbals here-what do you think?” and other similar detailed issues.
For the bridge melody I like to lay out a rhythm similar to “PPPF handclapping” (impossible to translate-sorry) that is so familiar to Idol fans. I also consulted with
Narasaki-san about this when we were arranging the music and he advised using a double bass drum to get a more Metalistic feel.
Q: Do you explain in detail the intent lying behind the creation of the songs to the 3 members?
Kobametal: I feel that I want to make the most of the characters of each of the members and so choose to not lay out step by step the process and thinking that lies on
the production side.
For example, in “Headbanga!” I wanted to strongly emphasize that Su-metal would be turning 15 that year and used the motif of “Banger”. Showing this concisely is the
lyrics of “15 (Ichigo) no yoru”, which is overlaid with the overall tone of the lyrics reflecting the sense possessed and shared by people of this age that “just want to
plow ahead into the future without thinking about the consequences” with the figure of Bangers who are totally into and devoted to the band they are following. However,
I did not explain all of this to the girls.
I am often talking about placing great importance on the individuality and freedom of thought of each of the members with Mikiko-san who is in charge of choreography.
There are times when the girls are moving their bodies as they listen to and practice the movements for a new song that Mikiko will say to herself, “this movement is
really interesting” and incorporate it into the song’s choreography. The movement in the chorus of “Headbanga!” where Yuimetal and Moametal raise up their ponytails with
both (twin tails) was incorporated when she saw them doing this movement spontaneously when practicing.
Q: Do you play Heavy Metal music to the girls, or teach them about Heavy Metal?
Kobametal: Basically speaking, I do not. Previously for media events the girls were often asked “What is your favorite Metal band?” so I taught them the names of a
number of bands but it appears they did their own research on this anyway.
The Kitsune sign that is so associated with Babymetal came about when I was teaching the Devil’s sign to the members and they started playing around making shadow
figures on the wall in form of foxes. I thought it was really funny and interesting and decided to keep it. When all is said, the girls take whatever songs we provide
them with and they take them and think about what new aspect they can draw out even as they ponder, “what is the world is Metal anyway?”.
Q: There are many “Homages that are appreciated by Metal fans” such as the Kitsune sign. What are some examples of similar items?
Kobametal: In “Ijime, Dame, Zettai” to be released in January of next year, there is the “Dame Jump” where the girls jump with their arms crossed over and there is the
“Wall of Death” where Yuimetal and Moametal run past each other right to left in the intro section of this song.
The provision of a corsette with the first limited edition of “Headbanga!” and the performance of the release event for that song being held at the Mecca of Japanese
Metal, a live house in known as Meguro Rockmaykan were homages to the Japanese Metal scene.
Q: Not only do you pay attention to small performance details, I also get the feeling that you place a great deal of importance on producing a world view at the live
Kobametal: In contrast with the current trend in the Idol world of Idols being just kind of an extension of one’s daily life, with Babymetal we really want to provide a
“sense of the uncommon”. For that reason I aim to create a world that is as removed from one’s daily space and time as is possible at the live performances. An example
of this is that we attempt to spin a story that runs from the opening to the closing by not including MC talk and by effectively combining together movies, songs and
However, I think the thing that really provides a sense of the uncommon is the incredible energy that the girls blast out in the live shows. This energy transfers to the
audience and brings life to the Mosshushu and call and response actions so familiar at Babymetal performances.
Babymetal has the concept ingrained in it that “Kami flows into and transforms into the shape of Su-metal, Yuimetal and Moametal” and in actuality the girls say that
they have almost no memory of the events of the live performances. It is true that the girls carry out very active performances and probably get something like a
runner’s high inducing something like a trance state. I think perhaps the audience takes in a lot of that passion and heat and brings about a real sense of unity,
bordering on a type of possession between the girls and the audience.
Q: What kind of numbers do you get for live performances? Also, what is the core composition of Babymetal’s fan base?
Kobametal: At the October 6, Shibuya O-East show we had an total audience of 2,600 spread over 2 shows. Our next live show is at Akasaka Blitz which has a capacity of
1,500. Generally speaking, Babymetal has a policy of putting on “all standing” concerts. It will be a joy to see how far the popularity of Babymetal spreads here on out
into the future.
The core makeup of the fans who actually come to live performances is composed mainly of male Idol fans in their 20s to 40s. However, the atmosphere of the concerts
differs slightly from those of Sakura Gakuin in that with Babymetal there seems to be more people who are looking for a more unifying and exciting experience more in
line with a major band’s live performance.
Additionally, some of the fans are people who appreciate sub-culture and/or Metal. Recently, we have seen the emergence of more and more female fans, and there are now
numerous “Odottemita” (I danced it myself) videos featuring girls and women dressed up in Babymetal cosplay appearing on the internet made by fans of Visual bands from
both within and outside of Japan.
Q: Preceding “Headbanga!”, “Doki Doki Morning” was released in 2011 and “iine!” was released in March of 2012. “Doki Doki Morning” seemed to have the most pronounced
Idol feel to it.
Kobametal: If you take just the chorus section of “Doki Doki Morning” you could definitely listen to it as an Idol song and it is surely Babymetal’s most pop sounding
song. This debut song was first performed at a Sakura Gakuin live show and this was probably behind why we chose such a catchy, pop sounding song. I’m sure Metal fans
would say to themselves that it is too popish and that “it is not really Metal at all”, but I am perfectly fine with that.
From the git-go many Babymetal songs are created using a sort of mash-up like technique. This means we take the different melody lines from various songs, extract
certain parts and then mix them all together. Because of this there are several composers taking part in creating “Doki Doki Morning”.
Q: Isn’t it rather unusual to put so much time into creating an Idol song?
Kobametal: Myself personally I have never heard of anyone making an Idol song in a similar fashion. When involved in creating the sound source it is not like we have
just one composer sit down and work on it alone, rather it is much more like we get everyone in the studio where everyone is allowed to express their opinion and so
there is a bit of a different mental energy involved than the usual approach. That said, since it takes so much time to create a single song that results in us have a
more limited number of songs.
For “iine!” we worked with a Metal sound that belongs to the genre known as “Screamo Pikorimo”. And since we used a mash-up approach with it as well it features a Death
Metal feel mixed in with a Hip Hop taste in the middle.
Q: “iine!” was released as a split CD with “Kiba of Akiba”. Could you fill us in on the background surrounding this?
Kobametal: To begin with, since Babymetal belongs to the indies record label of “Juonbu records” we felt that it would be appropriate to implement the indies culture and
tradition of new bands or bands that work well together releasing a split CD.
Once we decided this approach and we were looking around for a new band we came upon Kiba of Akiba. Babymetal felt a sense of kinship with them in their similar stance
of approaching the Otaku culture from the Metal scene side of things and felt certain that a joint work would result in something interesting.
Q: I understand that you are working to implement a wide variety of Metal aspects in Babymetal, but I would like to hear more about the favorable responses you have
gotten from Metal fans.
Kobametal: I get either extreme-either a big “Yes”, or a big “No”. Having been a major Metal fan in the past I know that people who really love Metal may see them as a
very annoying presence. From the outset we can not say that Babymetal was ever an authentic Metal band and have rather suddenly introduced a totally new style of Metal
and so there is nothing I can say about that and so feel that it will take a great deal of time to really reach deeply into their sphere of interest.
However, I do not think that it is bad to have controversy about the merits and demerits of Babymetal’s presence. In the Metal scene everytime a new style appears it
gets criticized but inevitably leads to the formation of new genres. Even when the infamous band of Metalicalla appeared on the scene it was showered with criticism at
first. This was the same with Slipknot in the 90s. So I feel that the more a band is hammered down the more it actually proves to have a great potential for change and
greatness and thus the “Strangeness factor” that can not fit within the Metal nor the Idol sphere is actually something that I constantly treat as a great treasure.
Q: Since “Doki Doki Morning” was released on YouTube in October of 2011 to the present time it has had over 1 million views. It appears that there are an inordinate amount of comments from overseas viewers. Did you have the overseas market in your scopes from the outset?
Kobametal: I had a hunch that it might stir up some interest but I honestly had no inkling that it would become the object of so much attention.
Because we made the video on a very low budget we had to have our staff play all the performance roles. Considering that I am quite surprised with the result. That said,
the comments reflect both favorable as well as not so favorable impressions.
Q: What region of the world seems to be responding most strongly. Are you planning any overseas events for Babymetal in the future?
Kobametal: We are definitely seeing more and more interest coming from the countries of Northern Europe and America that possess a heavy core Metal culture influence but
are also seeing this happening in South Asia and the rest of Europe as well. We received an offer from a Metal Festival in America this year but were unable to attend
due to scheduling conflicts. But we certainly want to pursue overseas activities herein out.
The girls are deeply moved when they see that fans overseas are vigorously watching their videos and offering supportive comments and are looking forward to performing
live in front of their fans outside of Japan.
There are quite a lot of people overseas uploading videos featuring dance cover performances. On Facebook about 80 to 90% of the “likes” we get come from people outside
of Japan, and these come from a wide variety of nationalities. I seems that Babymetal is most probably being seen as a “uniquely Japanese style of entertainment” much in
the manner of Visual bands, Idols, Hatsune Miku and Anime.
Q: Bringing the talk back to the domestic scene, at Summer Sonic in August where Babymetal appeared as the youngest band the twitter and other similar SNS mediums were buzzing with news and reactions from listeners other than the usual Idol fan base. What led up to their out of the blue appearance there?
Kobametal: The sponsors of the event evaluated Babymetal as being an epoch making band and approached me about a booking at quite an early stage.
It was quite difficult to juggle the scheduling because it conflicted with a Sakura Gakuin event but the person in charge had also come to see the July 21st Meguro Rockmaykan performance and I guess he was impressed because he repeatedly
pressured me asking, “there must be some slot of timing that would make a booking possible”, and in the end we ended up with kind of a rush job with a kind of, “it’s alright you can just show up once the Sakura Gakuin event is over and do the show without going through rehearsals”.
There are a lot of people in the music world who are very interested in Babymetal. The other day a member of some Visual band twitted the word “Headbanga!” on Twitter which led one of there fans to do a google search which ended up
leading her to Babymetal.
Q: It has become common scene these days to see anything new on the Idol scene being propagated over a variety of SNS such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and the like and it seems quite unusual to people who lie outside of the standard Idol fan base. Are there any other things that come to mind when you take a look at the listeners of Babymetal?
Kobametal: At this point in time amongst those people who would be considered to be Idol fans there seems to be an increase in the number of people who originally enjoyed going to concerts but who have now come to like Idols and Idol
concerts as well. We are even seeing people show up to Babymetal concerts wearing Metallica or Las Vegas band T-shirts.
In this current era called in Japan the “Idol Sengoku Jidai” (Era of the warring Idol bands), many Idols and Idol bands are playing with any and all kinds of ideas in the quest for a stroke of originality and uniqueness. What we once saw
in the Rock band scene where a vast variety of bands were popping up and fighting for popularity we are now seeing with a bubbling sense of excitement taking place in the current Idol world.
In the recent Rock band world there seems to be a lack in the heat or power necessary to take something uncommon and change it into something that can be appreciated by a large number of people. In one way of looking at it, I would say that the Rock scene is now largely populated by “honor students” (kind of boring, but proficient). With people in the music business world I often get into conversations where we are all convinced that the current Idol scene is just starting to heat up with a power that we “can’t put a finger on, but feel things are getting exciting” much like the Indies boom in the Rock band world of the 80s and 90s. I really feel this at Babymetal live performances as well, and many people who were involved in the Rock band boom of that era, myself included, are now working in the Idol scene.
Q: It could be that Idols and Idol bands are a presence that is revolutionizing the music scene. Amidst this backdrop, how to you plan to develop Babymetal from here on out into the future?
Kobametal: The only way to go is to pierce ahead in just the way we have so far without going off track. We may have done some rather “pointy” things early on and most likely as Babymetal gathers more and more attention to itself there may be a realistic tendency to mellow out a bit, but I feel that the 3 girls will continue to sing and dance to a full fledged Metal sound and that we will continue on full speed ahead without losing our way.
Throughout the height of the R&B dance music scene in Japan with such artists as Amuro Namie and Speed I am quite struck by Perfume carving out a corner in this scene where they continued to hold fast to their style of Techno Pop Idol music. Now this may be just my personal opinion but I feel that-and there may have been some twists and turns on the way until they reached their current position in the music world- due precisely to the fact that they did not just go with the flow of the times that they were able to lead the way to a totally new era in music.
Now, while I can not honestly say just how big Babymetal may become, I do feel that if we just pursue the existing form of Idol marketing then Babymetal will develop into nothing much more than a rehashed, lukewarm band. If that is the case, I feel it is much more interesting to go for broke and continue to embark on a totally untraveled path. I’m referring to the potential of the girls, the passion and love the staff has for Metal, the idea of positively making the most of this sense of “strangeness”…..From these factors a new style will be created and I feel we will be able to become an “Only One” existence as a band that no one else can create.
Q: Su-metal will be graduating from Sakura Gakuin in March of 2013. What will become of Babymetal post graduation?
Kobametal: I can’t comment on that at this time, but I can say that how Babymetal may develop will all start to become clear with the “I, D, Z Legend” series of live performances that started in October. No matter how things go I strongly hope that the activities of Babymetal will prove to be a very good experience for the girls.
With Babymetal we approach each and every live show with a great deal of care and I think we will be able to change this small movement into a big one. This will then prove to be a great stimulus to the music industry and I will be happy if it spurs even a few people to “pull their old Metal T-shirt out of the closet”, or cause them to say, “Babymetal was the trigger that got me into listening to Metal”.
Well, Cuca is a Japanese teenage girls who’s doing some very interesting song and dance cover on YouTube and her last effort is our own Megitsune from BABYMETAL.
She’s actually pretty good and you can see her performing as variety of Japanese pop song by artiste such as Perfume, ℃-ute, AKB48, E-girls and even Morning Musume.
Cuca (くーか) is a popular Japanese dancer on the video-sharing website YouTube, where she uploads videos of herself dancing, and sometimes singing along to Hello! Project songs. She is popular amongst many Hello! Project fans.
She has auditioned for Morning Musume’s 11th and 12th generation.
Here is a free translation of her personal blog as she tell us about her preparation for doing Megitsune. Feel free to visite her blog and tell her ho you like her Megitsune cover at this URL: http://cuca2002.blog43.fc2.com/blog-entry-1957.html
Even I also like the other song, but I tried Megitsune^^
The key is very high!!
I’m singing with the throat at first,
Because it was difficult,
As much as possible,
So I concentrate to come out voice with stomach
Behind the skill of「ITO FAMILY」、
「How to get high voice with karaoke」is writen、
The way is「sing while lifting a dumbbell(It’s OK to put some force on hand for people without dumbbell)」、
When I encounter difficulty while singging this song,、
And this come out,
I’ve been thinking : Try to put the force on hand!!
If you put a force on hand,
The hardship will become a little bit better^^
I didn’t know BABYMETAL until now,
But my dad have the DVD of BABYMETAL,
There is an opportunity to show me by saying that「Take a look, it’s cool」.
CUCA’s dad apparently like heavy metal.
Heavy metal・・・I do not understand it very well.
The red fluffy (skirt),
is made by mom for me.
We went to search the cloth together,
and it cost 299 yen.
Yeah it is cheap ~ ~ ~ And I have a mother that genius in searching ^ ^
Thank Ho Choon Shen for the translation.