I would like to think that my childhood was a unique medley of music and pop culture. My father owned a plethora of CD’s, everything ranging from ABBA to ZZ Top. And on top of that, I grew up in an era of prominent import of Japanese animation in children’s television (being born in ’94). I consumed shows like Yu Yu Hakusho and Inuyasha like they were candy. Needless to say, this combination of upbringing made me an easy convert to the Japanese band BABYMETAL.
BABYMETAL is a Japanese band that combines metal and J-Pop influences into sweet, spunky songs. Formed initially in 2010, Suzuka Nakamoto, Yui Mizuno, and Moa Kikuchi released their first full-length album in early 2014 (more on their history here). Their style is of a new genre, which is dubbed “kawaii metal.” Kawaii means “cute,” and it denotes an essence of their sound. Their songs are not solely cute, lighthearted J-Pop songs, but also contain heavy guitar rifts, which are then balanced by their bubbly choruses. They also included different elements into certain songs, such as “Iine!” having a rap section, or “Megitsune” having more of a traditional Japenese instrumentation vibe. Notable songs from this album include “Gimme Chocolate!,” “Iine!,” and “Doki Doki Morning.”
Their second album, Metal Resistance, debuted earlier this month, and I can honestly say that their sound has improved greatly. Where as songs from their previous album seemed to bounce around between metal and J-Pop, this album does well in blending the two together. Compare “Doki Doki Morning” from their first album to “Karate” from their latest one:
Their sound is no longer clunky, but streamlined. Sure, there are obligatory songs on Metal Resistance that are more J-Pop than metal, such as “Meta Taro” and “Awadama Fever,” but these are surprisingly refreshing while listening to the album as a whole. It aids in the album not being one continuous stream of bubblegum teen angst. Another thing to note is that their whole sound has matured greatly. This is mostly due to aging and maturity in their voices. Their songs, too, feel more crafted and purposeful overall.
Likewise, their image has changed for the better in my opinion. Yes, they are still cute, young Japanese girls headbanging to speed metal, but it no longer feels like they are putting on this part. This is no longer a kitschy, ironic band that will fade away, but the birth of a new genre. Their image is also more cohesive now and they seem more genuine in their work. “Sumetal,” “Yuimetal,” and “Moametal” are not pretending to be metal enthusiasts. They are the reigning queens of kawaii metal.