Know Your BiStory #6: IDOL

Day 5 of Know Your BiStory features our own community member boans, who’d probably prefer that I intro him with some other association, so click here to actually get his story.

“IDOL” is not only a prototypical heavy idol song, it’s also the most quintessential BiS thing I can think of.

In the lead-up to the single’s release in 2012, the group (then comprised of Pour Lui, Hirano Nozomi and Terashima Yufu) uploaded a music video to their Youtube channel that featured the trio clad in cute maid outfits, cheerfully bopping through choreography for a typical idol pop song. The promotional campaign around the video’s release encouraged fans to “buy the same CD over and over again.”

Screen capture from Japanese idolcore legends BiS's idol parody video "idol"

The whole thing was, of course, a prank. Enter: The real “IDOL.”

After “primal.” and “My Ixxx” [Ed.: MAYBE YOU’LL GET TO LEARN WHAT THOSE ARE!], you can imagine the maid uniforms caused some distress and confusion among BiS’s followers.

In the wake of yet another founding member’s resignation and still months away from the next album’s release, I might not blame you for believing BiS when they announced this disappointing, safe, new direction. But today, with the fullness of time and the notorious anti-idol unit’s entire lifecycle behind us, it seems so obvious: BiS and their management were not above pulling pranks. God knows BiS manager Junnosuke Watanabe likes a good stunt every now and then.

They’d go to any length — in this case, producing an entire music video and staging a false release — to torment the pop idol industry and its fans, including (or especially) their own. There was a hint of GG Allin in the way those girls antagonized the men who paid to shake their hands. Pour Lui and her band of miscreants constructed a subversive, sadistic, perfect genre parody. And you totally fell for it, you miserable wota!

Musically, “IDOL” is one of BiS’s heaviest songs. It opens and closes with the members letting out guttural screams (I mean, relatively guttural … for an idol, anyway). It appears on an album that also explores trancecore and garage-punk sounds; that willingness to experiment makes BiS a very exciting group, and “IDOL” was the song that first really piqued my interest.

I can’t speak Japanese, so all I had to go on was the visuals and the musicality, and the melodic heavy metal sound certainly didn’t hurt. Keep in mind, Babymetal and their purpose-built brand of idol metal were still getting established in 2012, but BiS was already firing on all cylinders, blurring the lines between rock, noise and infectious idol pop.

BiS’s members all have genuine attitudes and personalities. Their antics on social media did a lot to humanize them when I was first starting to geek out on their music. While so many other pop idols merely look like dull puppets of their PR staff, BiS’s image was shameless and frank. I’d never cared much about pop groups before discovering BiS, and now I was Google translating their tweets.

I accidentally became an avant-idol fan, all thanks to a creepy, metal-inspired J-pop video! Learning the members’ names and personalities gives you a deeper appreciation for their performances. It’s like learning stats for hockey players or something. (Translator’s note: “hockey” is Canadian for “baseball.”) It’s so much more fun to watch a concert video and know why one girl doesn’t seem to smile (in the idol game, they call this a “charm point”), but this other girl is never not smiling. (I guarantee Terashima Yufu is smiling right now. I say this with 100 percent confidence knowing she may even be asleep.)

In 2013, BiS’s equal-and-opposite BFFs in recorded a cover of “IDOL” for a split release that’s either a guilty pleasure or a legit great double-single, depending on how honest you want to be with yourself. With all of BiS’s work to dismantle the idol industrial complex, the “IDOL/Den Den Passion” split single is like a beautiful snake eating its own tail.

There is no dancing in the “IDOL” video, there’s no smiling, there’s barely any color. Even Yuffy is doing her best to suppress her trademark ear-to-ear beaming. Despite the oversized bows on their heads, the girls aren’t trying to look cute or sexy in the video. They’re sporting smeared makeup that looks less like a Kardashian who’s been crying and more like King Diamond or a member of Mayhem. The three twisted sisters are paraded through the street on crosses in a sort of funeral procession. I’m reminded of that quote from the creators of Evangelion where they say they just used Christian imagery “because it looks cool.”

“IDOL” embodies BiS’s anti-idol agenda; there’s even a quick shot of some rather submissive wotas getting smacked in the head, which is as emblematic as anything in a BiS video. The onslaught relents and video ends with the smiling maids engulfed in flames. IDOL IS DEAD.

boans is a knowledge-hungry music nerd with a total disregard for genre boundaries. His fairly recent foray into jpop fandom has ignited an enthusiasm that surprises even him, and irritates his friends who have to hear about it. His calming presence can be felt on various message boards, where you can usually find him asking what’s going on to get some semblance of context for the captivating and often baffling world of Asian music.

He’s happy to talk about music with anyone who will listen, for as long as they can stand it.

14 thoughts on “Know Your BiStory #6: IDOL

  1. I was not following the ‘scene’ at the time Idol was released but they did manage to catch me out later on, not with the original video they did, but with this video I found a few months back when I first started hearing about them:

    See I don’t read a word of Japanese and I thought this was just a live version of Idol by BiS, I mean after all there are six of them and one of them has short blond hair and I’d seen some videos with a BiS lineup like that so it must be the same group, right?! I was extremely confused why BiS seem to have gone all dempa at some point and was questioning is this what happened to them? Luckily I soon forgot about that youtube video and it don’t put me off the band. I discovered it again a few weeks ago and this time knowing things a little better; it only took 30 seconds to work out its bloody doing that cover version of it. It could have killed my alt idol interest right there and then.

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