Is Japan the Future of Rock?

The holiday issue of Classic Rockwell, you can read. If you don’t like links, the title of this post is the same question they posed.

I think they wanted to be a little bit provocative, and goodness knows how much the Team Rock crew over at Metal Hammer loves them some Babymetal, so they posed a question that’s guaranteed to get their readers all in a lather. Sell some online ad space, establish goodwill with more Japanese talent management, etc. Profit.

But how would that question best be answered? Obviously, the opinion of this website is that Japan and rock have a very interesting relationship right now, and I don’t think that anybody will be shocked to learn that I’m personally a big proponent of the potential of idolcore specifically, with idol metal trailing not far behind, to break through in the West — not as Japanese acts, but as Western acts picking up the model and running with it.

But is Japan the future of rock? In a general sense … look, define that. For every ONE OK ROCK U.S. tour and that weird place between idol and rock that Momoiro Clover Z sometimes occupies (that is, for every seriously Big Deal coming out of the Japanese rock scene), there’s a Maximum the Hormone (not even on this list!) or Man With a Mission or Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas — that is, a legitimately really good Japanese band that has a genre international following — or a Doll$Boxx/Gacharic Spin or BAND-MAID — that is, a very good all-woman hard rock  band that’s a little too uniquely Japanese one way or another to garner more than niche support in North America and Europe despite the fact that they’re way more interesting than 90 percent of what’s on the radio.

Japan has a ton of really interesting rock music happening right now, and it’s all over the musical map and some of it is legitimately awesome and original.

But does that mean that the Japanese scene is the future of rock, period?

I’m honestly interested in your thoughts; this dovetails nicely with last week’s post on the next potential Western breakthrough.


Who’s the Next to Break Through Here?

I’ll be really liberal in what “here” means — I think it’s pretty much everything outside of traditional J-pop markets, so pretty much all of the Americas, Europe, Africa, Australia … even most of Asia.

Anyway, music dissimilarities aside, who’s the next Babymetal? Who has the right combination of sound, production, look and management to genuinely crack the non-otaku market and find themselves with a viral video hit or buzz-worthy festival appearance?

The only other qualifiers for this discussion are:

  • Must be idol. The no-bands rule that applies to the site still applies here.
  • Must be homicidol. Alt groups are fine. Idols that did one kinda-rock song are not.

Here are my personal nominees. Feel free to add your own in the comments among all the rest of the arguing, and we’ll work up a nice pool to vote from.

  • PassCode — Given the success of Skrillex and Prodigy, there’s room for a heavier version of EDM. Plus, PassCode is on a pretty steep uphill trajectory right now, so they could catch on with more of the post-Babymetal-curious crowd and have a single take off. I have to think that regular J-pop fans would give them a lot of support, too.
  • Ladybaby — They’ve already done standalone U.S. shows, and the “Nippon Manjyu” video was kind of a thing there for a while. I think they’re much more likely to burn out than make it, but stranger things have happened, and they’re practically tailor-made for certain people in the hipster set to pretend to like for a minute.
  • BiSH — Just name association gives them a leg up, as they immediately got hold of the ex-BiS fans and aren’t a complete unknown among the non-Japanese. Their sound and rather curious visual presentation would make them a surprise hit at a lot of festivals. It also helps that a few comments I’ve picked up from/through them make me think that WACK does have an eye on at least North America.
  • Fruitpochette — They already got a little bit of attention in the Great Babymetal Excitement of 2014, with Metal Injection and Metal Sucks throwing some blog action their way, but it’s kind of amazing that they haven’t broken through yet on the strength of The Crest of Evil, and they never may. Possibly seen as too weird just by name; what if they went back to Frupoche and let everybody think they were French-Canadian? And, just for what it’s worth, they do that tour-relentlessly thing that can give legs to a small breakthrough.
  • Mugen Regina / Haloperi Doll–I could see either of the Life Is Sweet Music sister groups catch on in Europe in particular, where symphonic/melodic/progressive metal with female vocals are more welcome. Haloperi Doll stands a puncher’s chance in the thrash-and-growl Americas.
  • Osaka Shunkashuto — There’s just something about this all-rock, all-fun group. They dance their asses off, Maina sings like Joan Jett gone idol and they have a ridiculous sense of cinematic drama to help drive the point home; if only Americans weren’t averse to rock music anymore …

As a disclaimer, I had POP as a possibility at first, because “pretty pretty good” struck me as the kind of song that could catch on in clubs and eventually find its way onto the airwaves, even without the raw virality that something like “Gangnam Style” had, but now they’re showing signs of going in a seriously denpacore direction, and while that’s cool, it’s not likely to catch on in the West.

So there are seven nominees! To make the process even more scientific, please begin to argue in the comments or on Facebook, invite your friends to share their ill-informed opinions, and tell me all about why I’m missing the boat on Band Ja Naimon! or UnderBeasty or something. I’ll put together a real-deal voting poll after we get some good results.