Since the mid-1990’s cute girls as young as twelve have been recruited by the Japanese Talent Agencies to ‘become’ adorable little stars. The Japanese Idol system is all about manufacture, control and profit. Innocent looking actresses are recruited. (They do not necessarily have a background in music.) They are then expected to sweat & toil for their masters before being relentlessly and rigorously promoted.
Babymetal is not a recent phenomenon — the girl-band ‘Speed’ became the most successful female group anywhere in Asia — and that was in 1996. It’s only now that the concept has evolved strong-enough to take in new genres. The Idol subculture has now grown large enough to blend with Metal subculture.
Babymetal’s lead-singer Su-metal started in a band called Karen Girl’s which was formed by a Talent Agency. The Agency deliberately chose school children for their new project. Su was just eleven years old when she started.
The scene is fiercely competitive and this often means that girls are forced to overwork. They receive very little pay whilst with the Agency, they are on fixed-incomes with restrictive contracts, their private lives are strictly controlled and they are placed under constant surveillance.
If you are not a fan of Simon Cowell and Syco music because you do not like artifice and deceit… And you think that Idol factories such as X Factor and Got Talent churn out mass-produced consumer fodder — then it figures that you should not like or support Babymetal either.
But Here are Five Bands that you Should Get to Know and be Proud to Support:
1: Shonen Knife
The first band you should get to know is a pop punk band formed in Osaka Japan, in 1981.
Shonen Knife started out as a tribute band (The Osaka Ramones) and are thought to be one of the first all-female band in Asia.
They avoided the J-Pop movement and embraced the do-it-yourself ethos like their major influences The Ramones and Buzzcocks .
In 1991 Kurt Cobain went to see the band play live in Los Angeles and became a fan. As a result Shonen Knife opened for Nirvana on their Nevermind tour of the UK.
Their recent 1970’s rock inspired album ‘Overdrive’ recalls classic Thin Lizzy and Black Sabbath.
2: Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re
Japanese trio Tsu Shi Ma Mi Re is a punk-noise outfit from Chiba whose main purpose is to shock.
Their multi-layered vocal harmonies are intentionally ironic, with common themes like sex, food, and death explored and routinely corrupted.
Live performances are known for their energy, and all three are established musicians.
The title song from their Pregnant Fantasy album deliberately juxtaposes the stereotype squeaky-clean Japanese-Idol model with the dirty truth … It explores the idea of an unborn child of a pregnant teen-mother who is asking tough questions about existence and morality.
The reigning power metal band in Japan is Cyntia.
Formed in 2011, these girls have put together three superb rock albums (although new disc WOMAN seems to be a departure from their previous metal style.)
Their songs have been used as themes for popular TV dramas and they opened for Kamelot in 2013.
Check their superb performance [Ride on Time] on the video below.
Although they seem to have slowed down slightly over the past months [now on a hiatus] Destrose are a hard working hard rock power metal band at the highest level.
Think Halestorm or Faith No More in style and commitment. These girls can really play!
Their heavier/more solid sound has gained many admirers in Germany and Poland but they are yet to make it huge in English speaking territories.
It would be nice to see Destrose take on Babymetal. (Or at least use the hype-wave which has been created by Babymetal to get their own career motoring.) [If you like Destrose then check-out also Aldious too — you will not be disappointed.]
If you add Gacharic Spin and Fuki together you get DOLL $ BOXX.
We have been listening over-and-over to the incredibly fast Take My Chance complete with death growls and other corrosive influences from the world of heavy metal. There are prog-rock influences in their sound too, as well as (of course) plenty of vocal acrobatics.
And, if you can forgive the girl’s undoubted sensuality — you will find that there is huge potential, incredible talent and unbridled energy in their numbers.
For a great introduction to this sensational band try “Fragrance”.
Words: @neilmach 2015 ©
Images provided by artists or their representatives. Main image: Fuguito
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