J-Pop Sunday – Super Update Special!

Hello all! Welcome to a slightly different edition of J-Pop Sunday! Today, rather than introduce you to a new artist, we’re instead going to have a quick look back to some of the artists we’ve covered over the past six months and check out what they’ve been up to since they were featured. I swear, this is totally not like when the writing team of a sitcom have run out of ideas and decide to do a clip show episode. Honestly. And the editor lady said it was ok.

First up, remember Kyary Pamyu Pamyu? Of course you do, we mentioned her back in February. The young fashionista has continued her campaign towards global domination by hosting live performances around the world – including here in the UK –appearing in adverts for literally anything back home in Japan – including KFC, Suzuki, and most recently a part time work recruitment agency – and of course she’s still releasing music. A new album “Nanda Collection” was released in June and two singles from the album have also appeared. “Invader Invader” (which – I’ll be honest – I thought was a bit pants) and “Ninjyaribanban” which mixes together Kyary’s familiar style with an old timey Japan theme.

Ahhhh, LiSA. Gosh, she’s still pretty. She’s also released a new single since we last saw her. It’s called “Träumerei” (which translates from German as “Dreaming”) and yet again it’s being used to plug an anime series. Come on LiSA, you don’t need to do this anymore! You’re more than good enough to stand on your own two feet! All it leads to are weird NicoNico (a Japanese video sharing site; it’s like YouTube but full of Miku Hatsune videos) and YouTube comments…

Most surprisingly, BABYMETAL still exist. I wasn’t originally planning on including them in this update round-up…thing, but their newest single “Megitsune” (Female Fox) is actually pretty awesome. They also performed at Japan’s “Summer Sonic” rock festival earlier this month.

90’s throwbacks Access (or AXS if you prefer) have a new single and are on tour once again. Sadly, I haven’t been able to find the video for “JOY TRAIN” – yes ,that really is the name of the single – so we’re going to have to make do with the advert for it which – according to TBO Editor-in-Chief, Robyn – is “like the 80s vomited rainbows onto YouTube”.

In very slightly more sane news POLYSICS and the telephones join forces next month to embark on a joint European tour! (Get hype, people!) The bands will visit France, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium and the UK this September. POLYSICS’ official English language site had all the info for dates and venues. Under normal circumstances I would be very excited at the prospect of seeing my favourite band performing live, but, as current plans go, I will be out of the country when they are in the UK. This makes me rather angry at myself and at one git who is currently in Canada. As such I think we should leave it there for now.

I need a cup of tea to calm myself down. UNTIL NEXT TIME, PEOPLE! There will be new content. I swear.

J-Pop Sunday – BABYMETAL

A few weeks back we took a look at our first “Idol Group” act Morning Musume. Now, let’s face it; idol groups like Morning Musume are not everyone’s cup of tea. For example, you may have been reading through the Morning Musume piece thinking “Well…Their stuff is all right, but what it’s really missing is some SPEED METAL, YEAAAAAAAHHHH!!!!!” and then you might have done that rock and roll hand salute thing followed by a wave of your tongue in a vain attempt to channel the spirit of Gene Simmons. If that was an accurate description of yourself then I’m about to make you a very happy bunny. Meet BABYMETAL: An idol group off shoot, with a twist!

Rock on, lil’ Japanese girls!

Quick Guide
Suzuka Nakamoto (中元すず香) A.K.A “SU-METAL” – Lead vocals
Moa Kikuchi (菊地最愛) A.K.A “MOAMETAL” – Additional vocals
Yui Mizuno (水野由結) A.K.A “YUIMETAL” – Additional vocals
Years Active: 2010 – Present
Genre: A strange mix of Idol Pop and Metal. I call it “Kawaii Metal”.
Notable Tracks: “Doki Doki* Morning” (ウ・キ・ウ・キ★ミッドナイト) (2010), “Headbanger!!” (ヘドバンギャー!!) (2012), “Ijime, Dame, Zettai” (イジメ、ダメ、ゼッタイ/”No More Bullying”) (2013)
*Doki doki is the Japanese onomatopoeia for the sound of a heartbeat.

BABYMETAL is a spin off from Sakura Gakuin (さくら学院/Cheery Blossom Academy), a by the numbers idol pop act featuring a gaggle of sickly sweet, all-singing, all-dancing Japanese teenage girls. All three members of BABYMETAL are current or former members of Sakura Gakuin; One day in 2010 someone at the group’s record label “Toy’s Factory” saw a gap in the market for an idol group that was a little bit different. As such, Suzuka, Moa and Yui were plucked from the main group, given a makeover and rebranded as SU-METAL, MOAMETAL and YUMETAL of BABYMETAL.

Before BABYMETAL: Suzuka (top left), Yui (Bottom row, second from right) and Moa (Bottom right) along with other members of the group “Sakura Gakuin”

As you can probably tell, I’m a little cynical of the way record companies work and it’s all too easy to spout off remarks such as “Bah! They’re not a real band! They’re just a bunch of pretty faces scouted by a talent agency!” However, as true as they might be, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and this bizarre fusion of music styles might make a delectable dish. With that in mind, let’s have a taste of their first single; 2010’s “Doki Doki Morning”.

With its cheerful dance routines, the video for “Doki Doki Morning” doesn’t stray far from the group’s Idol roots.

Well, it’s a song that will stick in your head, that’s for sure. Let’s move on. “Headbanger!!” from 2012 has a noticeable change in tone, less cheery idol shenanigans, more…Well, head banging! A good move in my opinion: Distancing themselves from the traditional idol routine helps them stand out from the currently crowded idol market.

There’s probably some subtext in the video for “Headbanger!!” that’s gone right over my head.

The latest release from BABYMETAL, “Ijime, Dame, Zettai” continues the march away from Idol-hood and towards the realm of heavy metal tropes. I mean, look at the video: Flaming guitar tombstones, a dude in a leather jacket who looks like Rubeus Hagrid and Dave Grohl’s secret love child, hooded robes, a forbidding landscape and even folks running around with flags! It’s got everything! The girls even pretend to play the guitar at one point!

It’s so metal it hurts! Naysayers can get lost! They might not be a “Real” band. They might not be “True” metal, but they’re a damn fine substitution and ideal for a bit of silliness!