Skeptical would be the word I would use when describing my first thoughts upon hearing about BABYMETAL, a musical concept group that mixes heavy metal, J-Pop melodies, insanely trendy Harajuku fashion and Japanese Kawaii which are images used to promote positive feelings. Sort of like Death Metal meets My Little Pony and has a flaming, leather clad, Pikachu kid that can rock.
With lasers. Sure. Put me down for two tickets.
But the reality of the phenomenon that has already taken Japan by storm, just finished a world tour that added a sold out date in New York City of all places, is that this group is mesmerizing. Frightening, amusing, confusing, inspiring, and enchanting, but most of all mesmerizing.
And the music is good. Give Me Chocolate might be the finest example of Heavy Metal music embracing the goodness of eating chocolate ever made.
Put together in 2010 as a three girl group fronting a metal band, Suzaka Nakamoto, Yui Mizuno, and Moa Kikuchi were organized by producer and longtime metal fan Key Kobayashi to embrace metal’s most enduring and endearing characteristics — fantasy, escapism, theatrics, bombast and sheer volume. He then added a skillful musicians to play a metal foundation that cleverly grounded J-pop at it’s most manic, an overtly cute Kawaii message and a Manga themed storyline. Key is quoted in Metal Hammer magazine:
“As a longtime metal fan, I always used to say ‘That’s not real metal so I’m not listening to it!’ I’m a metal purist too, to be honest. But I realized that the scene isn’t really getting any bigger. All the old-school metal bands are still around and there’s still a fanbase, but it’s all getting smaller. So to bring Japanese metal around the world, it has to be something different and original.”
Giving a nod to The Ramones, the members are now know as Su-metal, Yuimetal and Moametal. Even Key is now Kobametal.
BABYMETAL. OK. Leather-clad warrior chicks fronting a death-metal band.
With lasers and sh*t. I'm in. pic.twitter.com/ezUFQkh9dB
— Andrew Lopata (@androozbrane) November 22, 2014
But anyone can put out a music video with enough editing and special effects. Just look at almost all hip-hop. But how is BABYMETAL live in concert?
“The joint was packed to the gills and the whole crowd was pogoing, waving glowsticks and generally having a whale of the time. I passed by teenage girls in Sailor Moon costumes, young professional types, small children, groups of high school kids in anime shirts, a couple grandmas, and, unexpectedly, a lot of bald spots.” and “Su-metal and the girls had the entire venue wrapped around their Lilliputian fingers from the moment they bounced onstage, and as I made my way out, I overheard tons of excited fans swearing tonight had been the best night of their lives.”
Su-Metal being the lead singer and the one Kobametal designed the group around. Of her singing, Kelly said:
“the girl’s got one hell of a powerful voice for someone of her age and stature. She even busted out a cape at one point, so you know she takes this sh*t seriously.
I was fortunate enough to get a few minutes of Kelly’s time this past weekend and asked about her thoughts regarding their potential success here in The States .
“They sold out the Hammerstein Ballroom as a headlining act with no support bands, so I think they’re already quite a bit too big for club venues or bar shows. I would hazard a guess that we’ll start seeing them pop up on big American festivals and festival tours, and they definitely won’t be opening.”
And about the perceived controversy with hard core metal fans and their reactions toward the girls:
“As far as purists go, there is no reason for them (us, really) to be bothered either way. The more open-minded metal fans may or may not give them a shot, but the less adventurous types won’t.”
So maybe we all should all get off our musical high horses and enjoy BABYMETAL for what they are and not what they are not. Fans of One Direction or other currently fabulous pop bands just might spontaneously combust if they attended a live performance by the Japanese phenomenon, but if BABYMETAL could be a gateway to a greater appreciation of metal and Japanese music by the younger generation then more power to the girls.
(UPDATE) 11/24/14 BABYMETAL announes they will headlines a January 10, 2015 New Years Legends concert at the massive 30,000 seat Saitama Super Arena in Tokyo, Japan. Tickets are being held back for non-citizens and are available online only.