What the hell is Babymetal?
Metal as a genre transcends all parts of the world and breaks all cultural and language barriers, from North and South America, to Europe and even Asia. From the early days of metal, and Judas Priest's classic 1979 live album Unleashed in the East (recorded in Tokyo), the music has always been popular throughout Asia. Many popular metal and rock bands originated from the continent over the years, including bands like Loudness and X-Japan.
But in 2010 a new breed of metal music surfaced with a group known as Babymetal. A rising trio of famous teenage Japanese female models, this act has a foundation of "J-Pop," -- a fast, upbeat style of pop/dance music more suitable for clubs playing Britney Spears and other teen idols than dive bars blasting Pantera and Behemoth. But the vocalists are backed by a band of musicians that merge the heavy sounds of Slayer, System of a Down, Slipknot, Ministry and Lamb of God with traditional pop/dance music replete with hints of techno and hip-hop, skillfully blending the genres into a cohesive force that leaves many new listeners confused yet curious. It may have started in Japan, but look out...the evil is spreading.
Babymetal's sound is something that most fans of heavy-metal music in America have not yet been exposed to. It is a phenomenon that has not yet reached the masses in America, but has already gained millions of other fans worldwide through music videos, singles, an album and tours in Asia.
Babymetal's lyrics are sung in Japanese, and the group was formed in 2010 as a side project of the Japanese Female Idol singers, Sakura Gakuin, which translates as "Cherry Blossom Academy." This musical group has a rotating lineup of female singers in junior high and high school. Babymetal's members are SuMetal, Moametal, and Yuimetal, with a backing band of rotating and anonymous musicians who perform in full black with skulls painted as faces.
During live performances, the singers, who are all between the ages of fourteen and seventeen, dance around the stage in a mix of club-dancing and slam-dancing, which can set the crowd off in a frenzy of swinging, dancing head-banging and fist-pumping. This image of young, skinny Japanese pop singers with the heavy, brutal music leaves many new listeners perplexed. The strangest part is that before forming the band, the singers had no prior knowledge of heavy-metal music. Many people often note the sharp contrast in both sound and aesthetics of the sweet, innocent-looking female singers and the singing you'd be more likely to hear at dance club with the heaviness of the music, can make you want to jump into a mosh pit.
Though many wonder whether Babymetal will ever cross over to fans outside of Asia, the cultural phenomenon of the group cannot be denied. Lately, Babymetal has been getting a lot of exposure and new fans, having released several singles and videos that have gone viral. The band has played shows throughout Asia to thousands of screaming fans, including the Summer Sonic Festival in Osaka, Japan, becoming the youngest artists ever to perform at the three-day music fest. In late 2013, the band even released a promo trailer for Metallica's film Through The Never. Babymetal's debut self-titled album was released in February of this year and contains the single "Gimme Chocolate," "Headbanger" and others.
It was just announced that the band would make its live U.K. debut at this summer's Soinsphere Festival, alongside metal's legendary bands such as Iron Maiden and Metallica. "I am so honored that we are confirmed to play Sonisphere Festival U.K.," said Sumetal in an official press release from the festival's website announcing the band's appearance.
"There are so many different types of artists playing this festival, but I hope to deliver a one and only, unique style, even to those who will see us for the very first time. This will be our very first time in the U.K., which makes us nervous yet excited."
Things are blowing up big for Babymetal, and the band's exposure in the U.S. and all over the world is growing rapidly with appearances on the Web, and in press outlets ranging from USA Today and the New York Times, to countless music and guitar magazines and radio stations worldwide. Videos on Youtube and other sites have gotten more than 5 million views, and the band's social-media pages also attract thousands of fans daily.
Still, only time will tell if Babymetal can translate this success to the States. Fans hope for the band to perform here, but no plans yet have been announced.
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