BABYMETAL: Japan’s Way of Redefining Heavy Metal Music

  • If you listen to metal, then you probably know bands like Metallica, Anthrax, Slayer and Megadeath; and you’ve probably heard some of their songs. Metal is one of the more popular genres in music having a large and loyal following amongst their fans. The origins of metal music started in the late 1960s to the early 1970s in the United Kingdom and the United States with blues rock and psychedelic rock as its roots. Bands that are classified as Metal bands create a thick sound amplified by distortion, guitar solos and overall loudness. Now, when you add Japan to that equation, what do we get? A kawaii-metal group known as BABYMETAL.

    Who is BABYMETAL?

    If there is a Japanese group making headlines more so overseas than in Japan, it’s definitely BABYMETAL. BABYMETAL is a Japanese metal idol band managed by the Amuse Talent Agency. The group consists of three girls; SUMETAL (Nakamoto Suzuka), YUIMETAL (Mizuno Yui) and MOAMETAL (Kikuchi). Before BABYMETAL debuted as a band, the girls were originally from a larger girl group under the same agency known as Sakura Gakuin, which holds a graduation system in which in the members leave the group once they reach a certain age, or in this case, they leave the group when they graduate from junior high school. Presently, all the girls have graduated from Sakura Gakuin.

    BABYMETAL was initially formed as the sub-unit of Sakura Gakuin with the goal of combining metal and idol music (Fun Fact: No one among the three girls knew what metal music was before this!!). The name BABYMETAL came from KOBAMETAL (Babymetal’s Producer) as a play on the words “heavy metal” with “baby” rhyming with “heavy”. The term “baby” may connote cuteness, while “metal” connotes intensity. It has been described that BABYMETAL is interpreted as newborn metal and that’s what the “baby” in BABYMETAL stood for.

    BABYMETAL’s Rise from the Ashes
    BABYMETAL and Perfume, an older group from their talent agency, AMUSE

    BABYMETAL first made their live appearance when they performed back in 2010 during Sakura Gakuin’s concert. Their first song uploaded to youtube was “Doki Doki Morning”, which only attracted a handful amount of fans from Japan. It wasn’t until a month later before they were noticed overseas by fans primarily from North America, Sweden, Finland and Russia. Then, in July of 2011 they released a second song called “Ijime, Dame, Zettai” (translated as No More Bullying) which would later become a single in 2013. BABYMETAL’s first CD release was a collaboration with a band called Kiba of Akiba and ranked high on the Oricon Weekly Indie Charts.

    And this was only the beginning of their rise.

    It was only in January of 2013 when they made a major debut with their single “Ijime, Dame, Zettai” and later released another single in June titled “Megitsune. It was in 2013 when BABYMETAL began its metal adventure when they first took part in Summer Sonic Festival in both Tokyo and Osaka; where it was reported that Metallica went to see them perform. Later in October 2013, they performed during the heavy music festival Loud Park. On March 1 and 2 of 2014, they became the youngest female act to perform at Budokan, with an age average of 14.7. During their concert in Budokan, a European tour was announced.

    BABYMETAL and Jeff Walker from Carcass

    In 2014, BABYMETAL performed at the SONISPHERE Festival 2014 in the United Kingdom, which marked their debut there. During the Sonisphere Festival, they performed on the main stage along with famous acts like Iron Maiden and Deftones. Throughout the rest of the year, they performed at various music festivals alongside acts like Metallica, Slayer and Megadeath. BABYMETAL also served as the opening act of five of Lady Gaga’s concerts for her “ArtRave: The Artpop Ball”. Since then, BABYMETAL has done more performances between the United Kingdom and the United States, even having a collaboration with Sam Totman and Herman Li of Dragonforce; in which they worked on a song called “Road to Resistance”.

    BABYMETAL’s Unique Musical Style
    BABYMETAL and Lady Gaga in Salt Lake City

    The band has described their music to be a new genre called “kawaii metal” and is defined as a mix of J-Pop Idol Music and heavy metal. Normally the group has been described by the public as their genre leaning towards death metal, heavy metal and J-Pop. However, some of their songs can be considered as symphonic death metal or melodic death metal and melodic speed metal. Critics and the media have praised BABYMETAL’s music as energetic and headbang-inducing. The band’s lyrical themes look into real-world issues concerning idol and teen topics such as bullying and weight issues, and BABYMETAL actually encourages the public to stand up for themselves which is an idea that strays from the usual lyrics that metal music actually gives.

    Baby Metal Japan
    Amuse Talent Agency

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