The uncomfortable mindfuck.
I’m a little bit glad that I waited to write this profile for Ladybaby to get a bit more of their stuff together, because relying on nothing more a little bit of info and this song wouldn’t have made for very much:
There isn’t a group in the homicidol pantheon that got a bigger, more enthusiastic rub from the Babymetal phenomenon than Ladybaby. Basically thrown together in 2015, this bizarre trio has been the subject of a surprising amount of buzz from Day One.
The first thing that people notice is the lineup: This isn’t just an idol trio doing death pop; Ladybaby has its more regulation idols in the form of Rei and Rie (I hope that was deliberate), plus the mutli-platform performer at-large, Ladybeard.
And who is Ladybeard? Why, just your standard-issue Anglo-Australian bodybuilding death metal pro wrestler who dresses like a kawaiidol. In fact, Ladybeard identifies as a five-year-old girl.
I won’t knock that. Ladybeard was working within the character for a good while before Clearstone (a costume company) came calling with the idea to put together a death pop unit with Ladybeard at the center. It was that idol-as-wrestler-and-screamer that was attractive to Clearstone in the first place.
Ladybeard is flanked by “real” idols, on the other hand. Rie has been idoling around for a little while now; Rei is already pretty accomplished first as the singer of the idol rock band BRATS (who, as a band, aren’t a subject of this site), and both of them were the 2015 winners of the MissID idol fan contest. In a vacuum, good for them! In reality, please read this post for why Rei’s position in this group isn’t just the story of a talented young woman, and why that’s a problem.
I won’t belabor it here, though, for this is a profile and the point is the music. Just please read it.
And what is that music? It’s death pop. Period. Punctuation mark.
Is it good? I’ll let you decide whether you think it’s good. The whole Anglophone idol world has treated Ladybaby as if they’ve accomplished anything from the second they went kind of viral with “Nippon Manjyu,” with the kind of excitement that even well-established groups have a hard time garnering. Personally, I’m a no.
“This is not a good song.” —Maniac in completely unobjective blogger mode
But Ladybaby is in a unique position. In the past, if a group shot that hard out of the gate, they’d typically burn out in a few months; instead, Ladybaby management is treating the interest with a mix of strategies that look to be designed to really catch on with Westerners now that Babymetal broke down that wall while keeping the local Japanese burn at a slower-than-usual pace. The fact that they went on a U.S./Europe tour with nothing but a single actual song, a TBD second single and a few covers testifies to that (and the fact that they could actually draw a crowd, especially when in Europe, testifies to the relative degree of success).
How much of that is due to people genuinely liking their music, liking them, liking Ladybeard, etc., remains to be seen. I will say this: This is a very well-managed group. They’re definitely geared toward the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, to take advantage of international interest in the country and its culture, and they’re already all over the music media, Asian cultural events, social media, etc. Smart.
As of this writing, Ladybaby had only just released that second single, “Age-Age Money,” and are somewhere in the process of putting together a full debut album, so keep an eye on them. The next big crossover group may already be here.
I will do things even more embarrassing than that dude who broke down crying at Babymetal’s success if Ladybaby outsells somebody like BiSH or PassCode in North America.
What they sound like
As with Deathrabbits, it’s death pop. Ladybaby, though, employs a bit of denpa style. The whole thing is meant to be a big ball of fun, and it is, especially if you can shut off your brain.
You’ll like them if
You like death pop in general, you like Deathrabbits, you like Babymetal, you like denpa and also metal. This isn’t well-charted territory.
Entries on the Ultimate Homicidol Playlist:
Just “Nippon Manjyu.” I’m not a death pop aficionado, but it’s entirely possible that more will make the cut.
“Nippon Manjyu” (single)
“Age-age Money” (single)