Babymetal, the Dark Knights, the Kitsune Warriors, the Dark Princesses of Heavy Metal, are no strangers to this site or the cool and good people who frequent it. But maybe you, personally, just now saw them on Late Night with Stephen Colbert or the APMAs, or maybe you’ve heard them on the radio now that “KARATE” has gone into regular circulation. And you’re intrigued.
Who are these girls? What’s this weird band? Why do those guys look like ghosts? What’s with the dancing? You’ve got questions. We’ve got answers.
There’s a lot more information, including history, on their site profile page; this is a handy reference version.
Su-metal, Nakamoto Suzuka, is the lead singer, but to simply call her that is to understate her importance; despite not yet being old enough to vote in her home country, Su-metal is already one of the top singers in rock music.
Yuimetal and Moametal are linchpins of Babymetal’s performance and personality; it wouldn’t be Babymetal without them.
They look like babies!
Su-metal is 18. Moametal and Yuimetal are both …
And how did this come together?
All three members are graduates of the tween/teen idol group Sakura Gakuin, a training ground for top talent of Amuse Inc. Su-metal was already a chart-topping star at age 10 with her pre-SG group Karen Girl’s; Moametal and Yuimetal were both part of the kids’ modeling/acting team Ciao (think Mickey Mouse Club).
Babymetal began as a subunit of Sakura Gakuin, but rapidly became the most popular thing about Sakura Gakuin. Once their restraints were removed, their popularity soared; they officially became a thing in the West on the strength of the viral video for “Gimme Chocolate!!”
Which you just saw live!
So they’re, like, a corporate thing?
More or less, yes, but don’t let the fact that they were put together by a talent agency give you the impression that they had this handed to them — deep in the bowels of YouTube are probably still lurking the videos from when they did things like perform in front of shopping malls. They spent five years working their asses off on their way to their big 2015 breakout.
And that was planned?
Yes and no. Kobametal, their manager/producer/creative mastermind, pitched the idea to Amuse management, and they agreed to give it a shot. But it’s highly doubtful that anybody predicted this.
They look like they’re having a blast.
That’s part of the charm, honestly. They dance their brains out, they sing with absolute conviction, and they’re just the most charming people when off the stage. They are very good at being metal one minute and idol the next.
You keep using that word.
See the FAQs for a workaround definition of what an idol is. The short version is that an idol is a do-it-all performer who can be anything — actor, model, singer, dancer, personality — at any time. That isn’t uniquely Japanese, but the sum total of an idol is.
They must really love metal.
Actually … they’ve learned to like it. Much to the dismay/chagrin/joy of the tr00 metalheads who never miss a chance to bag on them, not one of the members knew the first thing about metal when they joined up; as idols, they were told to sing and dance, so sing and dance they did. But Kobametal is a true old-school fan, and he’s taken every opportunity to educate the members as to who’s who and what’s what.
It’s been uneven. That Yuimetal loves Cannibal Corpse is something of a running joke among fans at this point, but it’s also true that Cannibal Corpse’s windmill headbanging inspired her, a dancer at heart, to request that it be worked into a dance routine, and so it was:
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But they are learning. Su-metal is a notoriously ardent student (her aspiration was to be a singer/songwriter), and she at least knows how to work with the tropes and elements of metal to have a commanding on-stage presence. Moametal is said to be a passable guitarist. They’ve met and spoken fondly of everybody from KISS to Marmozets to Slayer, and they’re legitimately big fans of Metallica (whether the band members and/or the music remains to be seen).
What they do love, honestly, is performing and connecting with fans and exploring the world.
You keep talking about the girls. What about the band?
And now we get into the complicated stuff. You can stop with the next paragraph if you’re just kind of interested; if you think that this is something you might want to really learn about, keep reading.
The band isn’t part of Babymetal. They’re a band without a band. Or, super-technically, they’re a band unto themselves that has a band of gods to aid them on stage. They’re called the Kami Band, and they always consist of a God of Drums, a God of Bass and two Gods of Guitar. Others — keyboardists, violinists, mixers — have been part of the thing, but not Kami Band (except for this one time there was a God of Violin, but ne’er was she seen again).
Why are they gods?
Babymetal’s official history, distilled into something short and digestible, is this: A spiritual force / group of forces called the Great Idol / Great Power Idols wanted to take over music and pop culture and destroy heavy metal, but the Fox God, “who is in charge of the metal,” sent three girls to fight back, and sent the Kami Band to help them when they struggled.
That’s what’s known as the Legend, and versions of it have played out as video vignettes at Babymetal’s biggest stage shows (all called “Legend something“). Part of the story is that Su-metal embodies this goddess figure who must sacrifice herself and be born again, which is why she’s been crucified on stage a few times.
That’s metal as hell.
And now you get why people love this stuff. Yes, the band is three teenage girls who probably still first look at themselves as performers doing a performance and then consider themselves part of this whole metal community, and they dress in armored tu-tus and dance around, but don’t let that fool you; as isn’t an uncommon expression on the Babymetal subreddit, Babymetal is best metal.
And the rest of their music is good?
As long as you like rock music, Babymetal has you covered. But a very large percentage of their sound is metal+something else, from J-pop to dubsteb to reggae. Their very first song is one of the best-ever examples of death pop:
Songs that really put Su-metal’s voice forward as the main attraction tend toward power metal:
And, as befits an idol group, Babymetal has a subunit — BLACK BABYMETAL — consisting of Yuimetal and Moametal doing basically a bunch of everything:
That’s pretty fun. Isn’t metal supposed to be dark and stuff?
It sure is, and it sure is. A big part of Babymetal’s success is that they’ve worked with some of the best in the business to write for them, but that writing has always had to be relevant to the band, which includes being aware of their age and gender. Hence, their first kind-of hit was the anti-bullying anthem “Ijime,Dame,Zettai” (usually referred to as “IDZ”); “Megitsune” is a complicated contemplation of a woman’s strength and where she might fit between traditional expectations and how she really feels; and “Gimme Chocolate!!” is, at its heart, a song that says “just eat the damn chocolate and stop worrying about your weight.”
From the new album, Metal Resistance, we have “KARATE” about fighting through adversity, “The One” about unifying together, “No Rain, No Rainbow” about cliches (I kid, I kid) … and “Awadama Fever,” which is literally about bubble gum, but whatever. “Sis.Anger” is the most brutal song they’ve ever done, and it’s a BLACK BABYMETAL joint about fighting with your friend/sister. And, of course, there’s the album’s kickoff anthem, “Road of Resistance,” which is about fighting back against people/things that try to hurt you AND is really intertwined with the whole Legend thing.
I … I kind of love this.
Welcome to the club. I’ll warn you, you’re going to experience a strong desire to buy a ton of merchandise, travel even to other continents to see them perform, get a tattoo and become excruciatingly well-immersed in their DVDs (I recommend “Live Legend 99 ~ 97 Apocalypse” for many reasons).
So now what?
Well, first, go buy Metal Resistance. Then go watch everything on the official YouTube channel. Then try some creative searches on YouTube, Dailymotion, Rutube and other video sites for super bootleg video from their Sakura Gakuin days and/or rips from the DVDs. Find other fans online. Agree that Yuimetal is best metal. You’ll be good to go.
What else is there?
You have come to the right place! Babymetal is just one of many, many hard and heavy and alternative idol groups tearing it up right now. Almost none of them will ever come to the West, but that’s what makes technology so great — you can explore and learn and love without needing to leave home.
If metal is your thing, try here. If you’re more into punk, here. There’s a whole “idolcore” thing that blends a lot of stuff together and makes it all awesome. Scary alt-idols. Death pop. Straight up rock ‘n’ roll.
This site tries to be a home for all of it and a place where people who love it can talk (and argue) about music together. If you don’t learn from the content, you’ll learn a lot from the comments. Hell, if you want nothing more than to dip in your toe, just review the first round of the recently completed 2016 Homicidols Corenament for some of the best stuff and most passionate fans in the business.
I’m the Homicidol Maniac. If you have any questions, hit me up.