Babymetal: These Badass Girls Are Going Places
I don’t know exactly how many times I’ve addressed a cultural phenomenon coming out of Japan (their extensive vending machines, Japanese game shows, Mountain Dew flavored Cheetos, and so on) with the thought “Only in Japan…”, but it’s probably a lot. To be clear, I mean that in the nicest way possible.
I can’t be the only one, considering how often people are drawn to things simply because we find them weird or don’t understand them. There’s a lot I don’t understand about how the combination of history and modern culture brewed these moments, but I have come to appreciate them.
This past February, a J-pop girl group called Babymetal released their self-titled debut album. The band stands out from the algorithmic aggregation of J-pop groups by throwing heavy riffs and unrelenting drum rhythms under catchy-as-hell pop tunes sung by three teenage girls. Supposedly none of these girls had heard of metal before getting added to the act. Most of the buzz I’ve seen so far about this group addresses the combination of two seemingly contradictory genres. People can’t stop talking about whether J-pop and metal work or don’t work, whether the integrity of one genre has been compromised by pairing it with the other one, how this strange new band fits into the soundscape produced by the J-pop culture factory. For what it’s worth, I’d say Babymetal’s songs do a good job of drawing equally from both genres, and each half of this group (the pop singers and metal musicians) commit themselves to the project, as strange as it may seem to them. As for whether it actually works or not, I’ll leave up to you.