Greetings, Citizens of the Universe, and welcome to the first installment of Magic Metal Meteora.
“A celebration of J-idols on the rock,” this series is meant to highlight the alternative idol scene, a particular kind of idol that has struck a chord in a lot of people.
The scene is considered to have two major progenitors, one of which will be spotlighted in the first two installments here: the Sakura Gakuin “Heavy Music Club” (or “Heavy Metal Club,” depending on who you talk to) turned J-pop phenomenon BABYMETAL. (I almost don’t want to refer to them as a “group” but as a “band” because as much as they are “idols,” they have transcended their idol roots and then some at this point.)
Anyway, the group was formed in 2010 (debuting in 2011) with Karen Girls-turned-Sakura Gakuin OG Nakamoto Suzuka (aka SU-METAL) as lead singer and transfer students Mizuno Yui (aka YUIMETAL) and Kikuchi Moa (aka MOAMETAL) on backup. (Officially, SU-METAL is on “vocals and dance” while YUIMETAL and MOAMETAL are on “screams and dance.”) As previously mentioned, given the school motif in Sakura Gakuin, BABYMETAL functioned as a “school club.
One other aspect of Sakura Gakuin was that once members reach high school, they “graduate” from the group/academy. This stipulation was no different for BABYMETAL once it came time for Nakamoto to do so in 2013. However, unlike many “clubs” before it, BABYMETAL continued to exist as a group in its own right, operating outside the Sakura Gakuin umbrella from that point onward. (While they had long spread their wings at this point, it was full-fledged thing when Mizuno and Kikuchi would graduate from Sakura Gakuin in 2015.)
This era would mark the point in which the BABYMETAL hype would build even more momentum, resulting in numerous overseas appearances and world tours.
As such, let’s dig into some BABYMETAL and take a small look at this chocolate phenomenon! Huh… due to the (past) nature of the group, I suppose this technically may make it M3’s first coverage of Sakura Gakuin (if only by proxy).
Doki Doki ☆ Morning
This sweet offering hails from their first ever release, a DVD single that later got a digital release. We begin with a cute, poppy intro before heading into the metal flavor that defines the Heavy Music Club. Even knowing the concept of “kawaii metal,” it’s a bit surreal looking at this, finding this adorable piece to be the start of something big.
Then again, it’s like I brought up in the reviews for Morning Musume’s demo single and major debut: as “quaint” and “small” as these first single sound compared to the blockbuster works that defined them, these songs still played a role in establishing the brand and planted the seed for a reason. Heck, I’ve found myself hearing this song in my head the more I listened to it for this review (even after listening to later stuff).
Never has being sung to about time and waking up seemed so cheery and dancing with skeletons so much fun. Nothing spooky and scary about the skeletons that accompany our girls, who act as the supporting band and backup dancers.
Ah, this piece.
While BABYMETAL has long caught the eye of overseas aficionados, this 2014 MV is one major example of their popularity making like their music and transcending borders. This brought unprecedented attention to the group. (Given its virality, this could very well qualify as a #MemeMusicMonday post if I decide to give a closer look at this catchy piece of cuteness.)
You see, as those in the know (i.e. BABYMETAL fans, rather than newbs like me) would know, this was originally a promo MV for their then-recently released album. As a result of its viral popularity, “Gimme chocolate!!” was released as a single in the UK from the power of its popularity.
This marked the point when BABYMETAL have truly started something worth exploring. It’s no surprise why, from its energetic performance (a quality praised by rock legend Rob Zombie in the face of detractors)
No discussion can be complete without the group’s latest offering: DISTORTION. When this video dropped this past spring, it caused an immense stir, the least because of its direction. In addition, there was a noticeable absence of Yuimetal during the world tour (of which this digital single release coincided with), sparking a lot of discussion.
This release in particular is the band’s showcasing of the “Dark Side,” virtually every release up this point being the “Light Side.”
After having watched and listened… Yeah, I can see it. It’s a harder, harsher sound than what we’re used to, complete with a unique look to match. You can see glimpses of this aesthetic in Nattosoup’s little vlog of the Nashville concert.
As a regular follower of idols for a good chunk of my life now, I had never imagined that we’d get a point where they go on regular world tours (and this is from someone used to the Hallyu Wave making in waves). Heck, with the 48s practically taking over the world, I’m surprised that they haven’t “conquered” as much as this small little subgroup have. In fact, that makes Babymetal even more remarkable, a unique concept that eventually help usher in a new era (and scene) in J-idoldom.
(However, I’m surprised I haven’t seen this coming sooner, me having started Morning Meteora to begin with at a time when a lot of “H!P metalheads” were blogging. They made up a good chunk of the blogosphere surrounding International Wota and (to a smaller extent with the increase of new blood with varied tastes) Idolminded.)
Either way, I hope BABYMETAL can continue to preach the message of the Fox God… until all are The One. Finally got that Transformers gag out of the way…
Tune in next time as we discuss the other “Godmothers of Alternative Idols,” BiS (and their successor/sister group BiSH).
(I suppose that this means it’ll be M3’s first coverage of WACK, which is considered the Hello! Project/48G of alt-idols. Well, it was my intention to cover WACK during a Magic Metal Meteora event (though I know some may feel this is a bad idea) so might as well start with the most well-known one.)
Until then, I’ll leave you with a classic that marked the beginning of BABYMETAL’s post-Sakura Gakuin days, an era marked by expanding growth and influence.
Also, missed opportunity to review this particular one in honor of Kitsune Hawk‘s birthday, which is on a Monday this year…. Oh well, there’s a theming to the events and besides, I highly doubt this’ll be the last time I talk about BABYMETAL (or kawaii metal/alternative idols in general) on the blog.