If there’s something true in this world, is that some Japanese mind came out with this crazy idea with few chances to actually work, both commercially and musically, and pushed to make it happen. Because, who would have thought that a pop sung by Japanese girls could be mixed with extreme metal music? No one. And no one would have thought it would have gone as far as it has.
The original idea was of the producer of the entertainment company known as Kobametal, Kei Kobayashi, an avid metal fan. He decided to try his luck creating a mix between heavy metal and J Pop. He looked for candidates and his prayers were answered: Suzuka Nakamoto, the singer and leader known as Su-Metal, and later Yui Mizuno and Moa Kikuchi, who would become Yuimetal and Moametal respectively.
Babymetal started back in 2010 as a subgroup within the formation of Japanese Idol Pop Sakura Gakuin, made up of girls under 15, and it was the opportunity to get out of the box and start something beyond ordinary. In 2012, they included the band Kamiband, which would give an instrumental base of true metal to the sweet and innocent virginal voices of the singers. It wasn’t as simple as using a heavy metal music base, they adopted a whole extreme style, with aggressive guitars and blunt drums, with sounds close to death metal. In fact, many death metal fans proclaim themselves fans of the band.
The fascination with Babymetal goes deep, a true surprise, considering that the metal audience is often too reluctant to change and faithful to the classics. But beyond curiosity, the important thing is that music works. On one hand, the strength of metal gives strength to the songs; but, at the same time, the J pop arrangements are melodic and the lyrics are epic, catchy and can be easily sung by large audiences. The odd formula turned out to be a success.
In 2014, before they had perform for the advertising of the Metallica film and some metal festivals in Japan, they released their self-titled album, which reached the top charts in the US according to Billboard magazine. It was also number one on iTunes, and Metal Hammer magazine came to crown the album as the best of the genre. Their curious videoclips became viral and the band began to go on tour at festivals in Europe and the United States.
The meticulous aesthetics of the girls and musicians, as well as the stage design of the shows, is also part of Babymetal’s success. The musicians appear on a full body paint, while the singers adopt the gothic lolita style. Their choreography and dances come directly from the Japanese Idol Pop. The scenography shows Gothic references, such as statues of the Virgin Mary and large crucifixes presiding over the stage.
All this is part of the theatricality and irreverence of the staging of the band, their performances are worthy of comparison with great artists of exaggeration and theatricality on stage as Alice Cooper, in their presentations can be seen an irreverent staging, as for example in their presentations where they pretend crucifixions. Everything is for art. The truth is that Babymetal has ceased to be a YouTube geek curiosity. It became a movement that supposes a breath of fresh air in the contemporary musical scene, and in which the originality and the good work stand out. After several years of successful career, this phenomenon can no longer be considered a simple fashion, but a group that can continue to give a lot of talk.