Babymetal, English and ‘The One’: Does It Matter?

Everybody’s favorite followers of the Fox God (that’s Babymetal) were recently interviewed by Fuse, and that interview included a bit on why “The One,” their thematic anthem about unity that closes Metal Resistance and presumably many a giant concert in the future.

Trouble? Look on Fuse’s website.

If you’re on the site and somehow don’t know the song, or if you do in fact live under a rock, or if you have not looked at the video, or if you are just a bot and if you are please go away, the international release of “The One” is sung entirely in English. Su-metal says, “We learned that our music is capable of bringing people together, breaking borders and genres.”

That’s very true! From the humblest of beginnings, they’ve managed to outgrow every “natural” limit placed on their popularity, first in Japan and now outside of it. They’ve played on three continents and will likely add at least two more to that list in the not-too-distant future. They do it because people of all languages and cultures all over the world, people who love metal and people who hate metal and people who love pop and people who hate pop and hipsters and soccer moms and weirdos with websites love their music and love them.

And until very recently, like 99 percent of the non-Japanese fans fell in love despite the music being entirely in a language that they cannot read, write or understand.

So that’s why this business with “The One” is actually so weird to me. We literally don’t care. Here’s the “official” version:

Other than lyrical tidbits, Japanese. “KARATE,” the song that was put out to be the lead for Metal Resistance, is entirely in Japanese. They are Japanese people. They should sing in Japanese.

That said, I almost understand the broader point to “The One” being in English: Regardless of that move’s actual resultant importance, English probably is the closest thing to a common language among Babymetal fans at least, if not the international rock community in total. But the last thing Babymetal’s ever-expanding fan base needs is a common language; our common language has always been “Babymetal.”

Like, that’s the thing about music — it has universal qualities that language, spoken or written, even poetry, does not. “Megitsune” was my first song, and I got the message despite at the time not even being able to remember “konnichiwa” or “arigatou.”

Tell me if either of these songs says nothing to you:

Babymetal needs English like a fish needs a bicycle. Most of us get that, and I think even management gets that. That’s why “The One” in English feels like pointless pandering to what you might call the Global North, which is doubly pointless because that’s where the rough majority of their international fans already live, and they’ve been perfectly fine with Japanese until now.

If you want a real unity song, include English lyrics, but include the languages of others you’ve touched as well. Malay, Chinese, Tagalog, Spanish, German, Portugese. Arabic. Hindi. Make a real international statement.

And then do an official live video of “Tales of the Destinies” because it’s amazing.

18 thoughts on “Babymetal, English and ‘The One’: Does It Matter?

  1. Blimey who rattled your cage.
    I would imagine they thought seeing as the majority of their foreign fans speak English it would be nice to record an English version of one of their songs. And I for one rather like it. I like the Japanese version as well and I listen to both.
    I personally appreciate that they would put the work in to make an English version of the song, and to do interviews in English. So if when you say “pandering” you mean doing things that their fans appreciate then that’s perfectly alright with me.
    And suggesting that they shouldn’t have bothered coz we were all happy with Japanese is a bit silly eh? Perhaps they shouldn’t have bothered to make a second album coz we were all really happy with the first one.
    Also if Japan had a second language it would undoubtedly be English which goes a fair way to explaining why they didn’t record it in Hindi.
    G’day from the “Global South”

    • I’m like, I don’t disagree with you, I just see it as ultimately unnecessary. It’d be like if (this is a terrible comparison) Ultimate English Metal Band Iron Maiden got breakthrough success in India by doing straight-up NWOBM stuff, and their next step was to record something brutally thrashy and in Hindi. Yeah, a billion people speak it and even more if you consider the rough intelligibility between that and Urdu, so that’s big and a nice nod, but does it even matter?

      I probably did a crappy job of answering that question that way in the article, but that’s really what I’m getting at. And it’s not like I’m not kind of jazzed (personally) that they’re becoming English-capable — OMG MY GIRLS CAN SAY WORDS THAT I UNDERSTAND! I just feel like a whole lot is being made of something that’s ultimately inconsequential.

      • Yeah, I see what you’re getting at.

        It seems that they (and “they” here can mean the band, the producers, or both) thought they should “overcome” the language barrier in order to connect with their fans abroad, and while the song is a “cute” nod to the English-speaking fans, it wasn’t *really* necessary: as their success worldwide prior to the release of the second album attest, they already HAD connected with their fans, even though singing only in Japanese.

        This song is unlikely to increase this feeling, honestly, not to mention the fact that it’s not that cohesive lyricswise (the Japanese version is just a little bit more so), and, although her enunciation is good, and she’s improving it, it still doesn’t quite sound as natural English. I tend to skip it now when listening to the album, and when I don’t, I usually listen to the Japanese version, and essentially for the Japanese bits.

  2. Oh, and it’s not like a lot of other Japanese groups don’t have a lot of their lyrics in English, either. And I often don’t realise. Eg/ half of Lolisyn’s lyrics are English but I didn’t know until someone else pointed out to me and I saw the lyric booklet for The Mirror World. And sometimes when I do realise I get it wrong, eg/ I thought Zekkyou’s “Only Place We Can Cry” was “Only Place We Can Fly”… for the longest time, until they put it out as a CD… (and no, I didn’t watch the Babymetal interview you posted >_< )

    • I often hear English where there isn’t any because the two languages sound similar to me, so I get this, entirely, on the flipside. Often, like when I found out that BiS’s “Hide Out Cut” was almost all English, I just get sad.

  3. To tell you the truth, my enjoyment of a BM song has never been increased by knowing what the lyrics meant, with the possible exception of Sis Anger. That’s especially true of The One, because, although it is one of my favourite tracks on the album, the English lyrics just aren’t very good.

    Besides that I completely agree with you that it’s unnecessary. They have gotten this far without English lyrics and their momentum isn’t slowing down just yet. Maybe management is trying to break into the mainstream American market, which is a lot les accepting of foreign language songs than us Europeans I hear. But a shorter, more radio friendly song might have been more suitable for that purpose. I don’t know, it just doesn’t seem to make any sense.

  4. Yeah, let’s not have an English song because experimenting with the music they make is clearly not Babymetal’s thing.


    Japanese band’s have been doing this for decades; bands that weren’t even expaning into the west at the time.

    The fact that at the recent Japanese shows they actually did the English version of the song speaks for itself. It’s not a translation thing that’s pandering to different audiences, it just sounds good. And to cry about them using it is just daft. It’s pretty hypocritical for fans who didn’t care that they sang in Japanese to then conversely cry like babies when they themselves want to approach their music across a language barrier.

    • Your comment makes no sense, friend. I asked the question: Does it matter? And I answered: No, it does not matter, and it’s rather pointless, and they should stick to what they do best.

    • That’s kind of funny. Marty-san would have a different insight, of course. I think, honestly, they could probably do whatever they want lyrically and get away with it; I just don’t think they need to, nor should it be a big deal that/if they do.

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