Greetings, Citizens of the Universe, and welcome back to 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.
Given the impact BABYMETAL (especially them) and BiS had, it was inevitable that there’d be those inspired by them. (In a case with a certain group, one can argue that they’re a copycat that initially had a gimmick, a “johnny-come-lately on an overdone genre.”) This week will be dedicated to a group formed in the aftermath of the rise of this scene.
Even if it’s a “copycat” group, there’s a certain… sincerity to the group. While it took years for me to actually check out the group’s music, LADYBABY was always a group I had immense interest in (thanks to Kame and his consistent coverage of them!). Maybe it’s the unique of their initial concept (which freaked out many Westerners… yet I wasn’t that flipped out about it. Maybe it’s because I’m used to crossdressers, wrestlers, and overall quirkiness. I am a Hello! Project fan after all) or what have you….
Regardless (especially after the numerous lineup changes that have both warmed and cooled people to the group), LADYBABY is certainly one group on my watch list and I’ve been waiting to talk about them for months.
First, some basic history:
LADYBABY was formed in 2015 as a PR unit for costume and party goods company Clearstone, sporting an equally memorable original lineup: LADYBEARD (an Australian-born crossdressing pro-wrestler who’s made his mark in Hong Kong and was trying (and succeeding) to do so in Japan), Kaneko Rie (not that one, though it would’ve been awesome to see a former H!P Kenshuusei join an idol group as unique as this one; this one is a Miss iD2015 Grand Prix winner), and Kuromiya Rei (a Miss iD2015 winner who also has a sweet gig as part of the band BRATS).
The MV for their first release, Nippon Manju, became a viral sensation that garnered discussion, admiration, and unavoidable criticism for anything from the group’s name to the concept of a crossdressing man dancing with two teenage girls. (I mean, I get it. It can be an acquired taste.) Two singles followed (which came after a long year of touring for the fledgling group) before the inevitable lineup change occurred.
On July 31, 2016, LADYBEARD left LADYBABY. A day later, the group’s major debut was announced, along with a name change to “The Idol Formerly Known As LADYBABY.” This lineup would release three major singles before Kuromiya Rei would depart from the group in November 2017, leaving Kaneko Rie (not that one) as its sole remaining OG member. (All of these “eras” also have a particular album attached to them.)
The group has recently not only reverted to their old name, but even recruited some new members! This lineup even released a single of their own (which we’ll get to).
In any case, let’s dig into some LADYBABY and explore this.