Dear readers of my blog!
Many metal fans laughed when Babymetal gained international recognition for its quirky mixture of heavy and extreme metal riffs, pop melodies and Japanese idol culture about five years ago. A lot of people expected the band to split up sooner than later as it is often the case in idol groups where band members eventually get replaced when they get too old or want to move on in their careers. Several people said Babymetal was just a short-living phenomenon. Others claimed that such a band would never be accepted in the metal community.
More than five years later, it turns out that all the naysayers were wrong. Babymetal is still around, has released two very successful studio records and is playing in front of massive sold-out crowds in Europe and North America. Famous metal musicians and singers, such as Rob Halford and Herman Li, have even collaborated with the band while others defend the band's style and describe it as innovative, powerful and refreshing. The band members haven't been replaced but rather inspired other bands to follow their lead and this genre movement isn't about to slow down or even stop.
This has led to the creation of the so-called kawaii metal genre. It means cute metal in English and it perfectly summarizes everything its stage presence, lyrics and music are about.
The bands of this genre often involve one or several female singers in their teenage years or young adult years who are backed up by professional metal musicians. The bands often have visually stunning concepts for costumes, music videos and stage decorations. Some bands dress like pupils or maids, others present Japan's quirky culture or the upsides and downsides of being an idol in their video clips and a few bands use stage decorations recalling fantasy stories or a workout room. The bands use amusing catch phrases, perform complex dance choreographies, use the most sophistiacted light and sound techniques, are quite active on social media networks and have clever marketing strategies to sell a multitude of products.
If compared to regular metal bands, the lyrics of kawaii metal bands often deal with topics younger audiences care about: being afraid of eating too much chocolate and gaining too much weight, dreaming of becoming famous, rich and successful or having a first romantic relationship are some examples. Some lyrics can however also deal with more serious topics: dealing with bullying at school, facing exhausting mental and phsyical challenges in a very demanding society or showing the downsides of always being in the spotlight are among the best examples. Lyrics from these bands often express what teenagers feel but can sometimes also apply to young adults. Even if you are younger or older than the target audience, the lyrics are an interesting way to understand the lives of Generation Z.
The music is just as diversified as the constantly evolving lives of Generation Z in times of information overload. Death metal vocals in the energetic verses meet saccharine pop vocals in the catchy choruses. Metalcore breakdowns are followed by dubstep elements. A dreamy piano ballad evolves into vivid power metal song with numerous guitar solos. These changes occuring within a single song are what makes kawaii metal diversified, dynamic and surprising. Fans will praise this original mixture of genres while more conservative mind might claim the music is all over the place. No matter what your opinion is, kawaii metal is everything but boring and this is exactly what I like about it.
Where do the restrictions of such a diversified genre end? It's quite simple: as soon as one of the three key elements being stage presence, lyrics and music isn't respected, it isn't kawaii metal anymore. Aldious and Mary's Blood might have distinguished stage presences but their music is straight heavy and power metal and the lyrics aren't overtly related to the world of Generation Z. Asriel and Sound Horizon mix electronic pop elements and symphonic metal and have complex costumes and sophistiacted stage decorations but the lyrical topics are limited to simple fairy tales as it's the case for many regular symphonic power metal bands. Versailles and X Japan are visual kei bands which means that they also have creative concepts, costumes and decorations as well as a mixture of heavy and mellow sounds but their emotional fantasy lyrics aren't related to Generation Z issues plus most members of these bands are older males.
As you can read, kawaii metal is indeed a very distinguished genre and should be accepted as a metal subgenre, Japanese pop subgenre and idol scene subgenre. In oder to exemplify what kawaii metal stands for, here are my twelve favorite kawaii metal songs. I tried to pick twelve different groups with quite diferent styles that show the extents and limits of the genre.
Babymetal - Gimme Chocolate!!
Deathrabbits - Season of Love
Ladybaby - Nippon Manju
Deadlift Lolita - Pump Up Japan
Fruitpochette - CleverDick
Band-Maid - Thrill
Doll$Boxx - Take My Chance
Shiori Tomita feat. Ladybeard - Valentine Kiss
Light Bringer - Upstream Children
PassCode - Asterisk
BiS - Hi
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