Thursday, August 14, 2014

My case against Babymetal.

So the most "controversial" metal band in 2014 is a trio of young Japanese teenagers who sing J-pop.

Oh wait, not this.

I meant this. This is Babymetal.


By now I'm assuming everyone reading this has heard Babymetal, which as much as I can tell is the brainchild of a pop music producer ("Kobametal", according to wikipedia ) who thought he was creating a new subgenre of metal by combining "cute Japanese girls" with angry metal music. The result being Babymetal, and their musical product is unfortunately less original than I think he intended.

Add some J-pop vocals and guitars, and you basically have the themes from Street Fighter 2.

By now it's probably obvious that I am not a fan, and even if Jeff Walker and Bill Steer from Carcass give Babymetal their blessing, that doesn't mean I have to embrace it. However, my disapproval of the band doesn't necessarily come from a metal purist perspective, at least not entirely.

I do confess to disliking the fact that the girls hadn't even heard metal music before being recruited to this band. This particular circumstance doesn't jibe with my idea of what metal is, which to say an authentic form of musical expression by angry, ugly people for angry, ugly people. I appreciate the desire to cross boundaries and redefine what metal can be, but it just seems that every time a band reaches for something commercial (even if it means "commercial in Japan") or "happy" sounding, I feel like it utterly sucks. Babymetal is no exception.

This isn't to say that I'm completely opposed to schtick or gimmicks in metal. Immortal is a freaking meme. King Diamond has been doing the facepaint thing since Mercyful Fate. Ghost, who was the most debated band prior to Babymetal, certainly has gotten mileage out of their quasi-religious imagery and hidden identities. 

Because Immortal never gets old. Just kvlt. And grym. And tr00.

Perhaps Ghost is a great point of comparison. Yes, Ghost is heavy on image, and their music is often derivative of  Deep Purple, Mercyful Fate, and metal of the late 70's. But ultimately, Ghost has also written memorable songs like "Ritual" and "Year Zero". And the whole "Satan" thing, while tongue in cheek, is definitely not commercial in the sense that "Gimme Chocolate" is (because who gets offended by teenagers who want chocolate?)

Nothing sells records like this guy!

Not to mention every song sounds like "Gimme Chocolate". Do you really want to hear this over and over again? It stops being ironic or funny after the second time.

I think that's the biggest problem I have, actually. It's not that they are a gimmick, or that they perform a style of music that I'm not particularly into. It's that everything is the gimmick, and beneath the gimmick there is nothing of substance. Yeah, it's got a slick production, impeccable musicianship by the hired guns, and the girls are choreographed, but do you remember any of their songs the moment they're done? Are we even talking about this band this time next year?

My guess is no.