Music / BABYMETAL

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/babymetal_oct_2012_3744.jpg
Your little sister's J-Pop has never looked so brutal. note 

"Leave it to the Japanese to find a way to make fuckin' death metal cute."

Originally a sub-unit of the idol group Sakura Gakuin, BabyMetal (also stylized as BABYMETAL) was formed by the members of the Heavy Music Club (Juonbu) of Sakura Gakuin under the concept of a fusion of heavy metal and idol music, now known as "kawaii metal". They are known for their energetic live shows, which feature intricate yet fun choreography mixed with soaring vocals from lead singer Su-Metal, backed up by a quartet of some of Japan's top metal musicians. Officially, they claim belief in "The Fox God" who brought them to metal and uses them as conduits to spread its message of "love and joy through metal" across the world. Instead of the standard "devil horns", they use a modified "kitsune" sign (seen in the photo at right).

In reality, Kei Kobayashi (known as KobaMetal), a producer at Amuse Inc. and a longtime metalhead with connections in Tokyo's underground metal scene, discovered Suzuka during her time as one of the Karen Girl's. Realizing her potential, he decided to form a group around her once she joined Sakura Gakuin, figuring her unusually powerful voice would be a good fit for metal. Yui and Moa were chosen as backup due to their unique chemistry – the same reason they were often featured together during Sakura Gakuin – and also their smallness, as Koba liked the idea of Su being flanked by two tiny girls.

The very first BabyMetal song, "Doki Doki☆Morning", was recorded in October 2010, first performed in public a month later, and appeared as a track on Sakura Gakuin's 2010 Nendo: Message CD. The music video for the song was released online and as a DVD single in October 2011 and quickly caught the attention of the idol fanbase. During this time, they recorded and premiered their second song, "Ijime, Dame, Zettai". Their first CD single, "BABYMETAL × Kiba of Akiba", came out in March 2012 and reached 3rd place on the Oricon indie charts and number one in the Tower Records Shibuya weekly indie ranking. That July, they released their second single "Headbanger", and the next month made their first appearance at Japan's SummerSonic music festival – at the time, the youngest group to ever perform there. They have performed at the festival every year since.

In March 2013, Suzuka graduated from junior high school, and by extension from Sakura Gakuin. At this point, Babymetal was spun off as an independent group (although Yui and Moa continued to perform with Sakura Gakuin until their own graduations in March 2015). During this period, they released "Ijime, Dame, Zettai" as a single and premiered their first post-Juonbu song, "Megitsune". Near the end of 2013, it was announced that the girls would be performing in future shows with a live bandnote  known as the Kami Band, a group of top-tier musicians who have built up a fanbase in their own right.

On February 25th 2014, Babymetal uploaded the music video Gimme Chocolate!! (using footage from the "Legend 1997" concert at Makuhari Messe). The video went viral, catching the attention of J-pop and metal fans outside Asia, to the point that non-Japanese Mainstream Media picked it up. The next day, they released their first studio album, self-titled. Three days after that, they performed two sold-out shows at the legendary Budokan Arena – the youngest group ever to perform there. At the end of the second day, it was announced that "the latest chapter of the Metal Resistance [was] over" and the band would continue their work overseas. Concert dates in Paris, Cologne, London, and Los Angeles followed, along with a few openings for Lady Gaga. The highlight of this tour, though, was their appearance at SoniSphere 2014 – again the youngest act to perform there – where they got shifted to the Main Stage at the last minute and performed in front of nearly 50,000 skeptical British metalheads. The result, well... The tour went well enough that further shows in New York and Brixton were quickly arranged. At Brixton, they premiered a new song, "Road Of Resistance", the first time they debuted a song outside Japan. The 2014 tour concluded in January 2015 at Saitama Super Arena

2015 was relatively quiet early on as Yui and Moa prepared for their graduation from Sakura Gakuin. Afterwards, the group embarked on another world tour, during which they (at the invitation of British metal group DragonForce, with whom they had collaborated on "Road Of Resistance") played "Gimme Chocolate!" at Download Festival 2015 despite its promoter saying publicly he would never invite them. The tour ended with two sold-out shows at Yokohama Arena, the debut of a new song, "THE ONE", and the announcement of a second studio album.

On March 17th 2016, the music video for "Karate" debuted as the first part of a massive international promotion for their second studio album, Metal Resistance, which was released worldwide on April 1st – hitting #1 on the US Billboard World Chart and becoming the first Japanese act in 53 years to chart on Billboard's Top 40. The next day they performed at Wembley Arena, and three days after that performed "Gimme Chocolate!" on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert before continuing their tour, which ended with two sold-out nights at the 55,000 capacity Tokyo Dome. Towards the end of the year, they opened for the Red Hot Chili Peppers during their UK tour.

2017 marked a shift as the group spent the first half of the year as the opening act for various larger bands, including Metallica in Seoul – the first time the girls visited Korea – Guns N' Roses in Japan, and RHCP again along with Korn in the USA. In between opening gigs, they played one headline concert (sold out, of course) at the Hollywood Palladium. After that, they returned to Japan and held a series of "Fox Festival" shows in Tokyo, Nagoya, Saitama, and Osaka. They gave no interviews at all during the yearnote  – a stark contrast to 2015 and 2016 – which made it feel like the group had gone dark despite their extensive touring. As of this edit, two special concerts, dubbed "Legend S - Baptism XX" are planned for early December 2017 at Hiroshima's Green Arena to celebrate Su's 20th birthday – she becomes a legal adult in Japan later in the month (this is far from the first time she's had a birthday concert, but it is the first time Babymetal will perform in her hometown).

The group also provides the theme song for the Unikitty! cartoon.

As to what the future holds for Babymetal? Well, Only The Fox-God Knows!

Compare and contrast to Kyary Pamyu Pamyu for a similar Internet phenomenon. Has an entry on The Other Wiki.

Discography

Singles

  • "Doki Doki Morning" (2011)
  • "BABYMETAL × Kiba of Akiba" (2012)
  • "Headbangeeeeerrrrr!!!!!" (2012)
  • "Ijime, Dame, Zettai" (2013, the group's first major release)
  • "Megitsune" (2013)
  • "Road of Resistance" (2015)
  • "Gimme Chocolate!!" (2016)
  • "Karate" (2016)

Albums

  • BABYMETAL (2014)
  • Metal Resistance (2016)

Tropes da o!

  • The Ace
    • Suzuka for singing. Key Kobayashi had been looking for some years for someone to train up as a metal idol. Then he saw Suzuka performing in Karen Girl's (aged 10-11) and the rest is history.
    • Yui for dancing. Although the other two are no slouches either.
    • Moa for crowd engagement.
  • Animal Motif: Foxes.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling:
    • Suzuka can be this to her older sister, Himeka (of Nogizaka46). In particular, Su has a habit of raiding Himeka's wardrobe whenever she feels like it. Photographs exist of Su doing model shots wearing Hime-tan's clothes.
    • On occasion, Yui's younger brother – On a radio program, Yui's choice of 'death metal scream' consisted of "Get up, you lazy piiiiig!" - ending on a pitch that could stun bats.
  • Ascended Extra: They're even more popular than their parent group, Sakura Gakuin.
  • Audience Participation Song: Judging by bootleg videos on Youtube, many songs during concerts have audience participation segments. Oh, and festival performances of "Ijime, Dame, Zettai" and "Road of Resistance" encourage a Wall Of Death.
    • Which songs have audience participation varies by concert (and set length). Sometimes Su encourages it during "Karate"; sometimes she'll do a call-&-response during "Gimme Chocolate!"; if "Road of Resistance" is performed, it will have a part near the end where the audience is expected to sing. Su also likes to ask the audience to form circle pits during certain songs at festivals, and encourages jumping during key sections of "Karate" and "Megitsune".
  • Badass Adorable: A large part of the appeal.
  • Badass Cape: During live performances of "Akatsuki" (a Suzuka solo).
    • For all three members in performances of "THE ONE"
  • Bilingual Bonus: Many songs contain the occasional English word or phrase, but the most notable example is their concert opener, "Babymetal Death" - a deliberate bilingual pun, since what they're actually shouting is Babymetal Desu (I am Babymetal), but the pronunciation of "Desu" is similar to the English "Death" - a fact not lost on the promoters.
    • "The One" has more English in it than Japanese.
      • The international edition of the song is entirely in English. This is now the version performed even in Japan. The original bilingual cut is only on Youtube and the domestic (Japan) release of Metal Resistance.
  • But Now I Must Go: Averted. Sakura Gakuin only accepts members through 9th grade (15 years old), and when the current members reach this age, they must graduate. Once Suzuka hit this age, she left the main group, but the management spun BabyMetal off as a separate unit, thus allowing it to continue. Yui and Moa graduated in 2015, so now all members are independent of Sakura Gakuin.
  • Catch-Phrase: "Only the Fox God knows", or OTFGK in forums.
  • Child Prodigy: Arguably.
    • Suzuka has been singing since she was at least 8 (she joined ASH in 2006), became at 10 the youngest Karen Girl's – the trio that sang the opening theme to Zettai Karen Children, and as part of Babymetal was many times the youngest frontwoman to headline [insert venue here].
    • Yui and Moa were talented enough to join Sakura Gakuin as 5th graders (most SG girls don't get in until 6th or 7th grade) and join Su on Doki Doki☆Morning a few months later. Being able to keep up with Suzuka is a feat in itself.
      • Moa, having a birthday two weeks after Yui's, holds the record as the youngest person ever to perform at SummerSonic (13), the Budokan (14), SoniSphere (14), O2 Arena (15), Wembley (16), etc.
      • Yui acted in commercials prior to joining Sakura Gakuin, and is known to those around her for her intelligence. On the rare occasions she speaks in interviews, she'll often have something profound to say, usually taking the other two by surprise.
  • The Chosen One: By the Fox God.
  • Creepy Cool Crosses: They use it a lot. Special mention goes to Suzuka's 16th birthday, when she was crucified.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to other idol groups.
  • Drum And Bass: "Awadama Fever" is this.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Their first song, "Doki Doki☆Morning", has a more distinct "idol-like" sound than their following songs.
    • Doki Doki☆Morning appeared to have a very low budget (and most of that probably went to the music). The costumes used in the video were made up from a combination of the girl's clothes (and some from a staff member for Suzuka). The next video (as uploaded to Youtube) for "Iine!" shows them in the same costumes. The third video for Headbangeeeeerrrrr!!!!! sees them use the costumes that are recognizably related to their established look.
  • Excited Song Title!: Their song "Iine!".
    • Also "Headbangeeeeerrrrr!!!!!"
    • "Gimme Chocolate!!"
  • Four Is Death: The Black Babymetal song "Song 4", which uses a lot of wordplay surrounding the readings of "4" in Japanese, seems to refute this with a line in the chorus stating that 4 is not synonymous with death.
  • Genre Roulette: Fairly uniquely for a pop-metal band, the actual metal isn't tethered to a specific subgenre. It varies from Black Metal, to Melodic Death Metal, to Djent.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Moa's and Yui's usual hairstyle. Suzuka started out having these too.
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: The musicians during the early years wore skeleton costumes in the music videos and while appearing in public. Except in the "Megitsune" MV, where they wear long black wigs and masks. In reality, they were just faking playing to a backing track.
    • He Who Must Not Be Heard: When the musicians themselves (especially the producer) get on-camera interviews, all they do is mumble and subtitles of what they're actually trying to say are shown.
    • Averted in concerts from 2013 onwards - they now have a live band wearing white robes and facepaint, composed of members of Japanese metal groups. There's a semi-regular lineup, although members can be swapped out if they have availability issues. Every fan knows who they are, though the members are not allowed to talk about their work with Babymetal (BOH has broken this command at least once to praise the girls).
  • Hime Cut: When they let down their hair, it resembles this style and, given their genre of Heavy Metal, it makes quite the contrast with the trope's usual connotations of tradition and elegance. Suzuka plays it the straightest (figuratively given her leaderness and literally too), and she's done so in certain music videos such as "Megitsune".
  • "I Am" Song: "Babymetal Death" is an extreme example, since pretty much the only lyrics are the group introducing themselves. The word "death" is a homophone of the Japanese desu which in this context means "I am".
  • Iconic Outfit: Their outfits deriving from the video for "Ijime, Dame, Zettai", featured in the picture to the right. An updated version is used in most live concerts.
    • Also the Babybones' skeleton costumes and the loose white robes & corpsepaint of the Kami Band.
  • Idol Singer: They all started out as this. Whether they still count is up to interpretation.
  • It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": Word of God says the correct pronunciation is "beh-BEE-me-TAL", rhyming with "heavy metal". Su-metal was visibly annoyed when an interviewer mentioned most people still pronounced it "bay-BEE-me-TAL". Ironically, the English narrators of their interlude videos tend to use the latter.
  • Kawaiiko: Moa and Yui.
  • Kitsune: The main theme of "Megitsune" (literal translation: female fox)
    • The theme of the group itself, with its fox sign. They're always seen doing it, such as in the image above.
  • The Leader: Suzuka. Also the Face of the Band.
  • Lighter and Softer: Than most heavy metal bands. To wit, one of Amon Amarth's songs was about the fated clash to the death between Thor and the World Serpent ("Twilight of the Thunder God"), one of Judas Priest's songs was about the circumstances that lead people into a life of crime ("Breaking the Law"). What is Babymetal's most popular song about? Chocolate.note 
  • Loudness War: Their music is all brickwalled and almost pure clipping from start to finish. This may be an intended effect though...
    • The production of the second album Metal Resistance is better than the first, although the dynamic range is similar.
    • The live albums Live at Budokan: Red Night and Live at Budokan: Black Night, mastered by Ted Jensen (longtime collaborator with Yoko Kanno), are quite reasonable by modern standards.
  • Lucky Charms Title: Doki Doki☆Morning, Uki Uki ★ Midnight.
  • Mind Screw: What this idol-fusion group is to metal purists. Though many of them somehow like the group.
    • Stephen Colbert probably put it best when introducing them.
      "I'm not sure what I'm about to see. …But I'm pretty excited about it!"
  • Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Has increased over the (currently) seven years of the group's existence.
    • Most of their Self-Titled Album is, on average, a hard 6 to a soft 7, though "Megitsune" is a borderline 8.
      • "Babymetal DEATH" seems to go as far as a 9, with most of the vocals being death growls and metal screams and having nearly none of the super-happy cuteness factor a lot of their other songs have.
    • The second album Metal Resistance goes up to 9 in several tracks.
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Combines the hardness and energy of heavy metal with the catchiness and appeal of J-pop and a Visual Kei-influenced sensibility.
  • Nerves of Steel
    • Karen Girl's did their final live performance at an anime festival at the Saitama Super Arenanote . Several years later, the other two members – Ayami Muto and Yuika Shima – related that they were both extremely nervous before their performance. Meanwhile, Suzuka was snoozing in the dressing room and had to be woken up in time to perform.
    • You would expect most teenage Japanese girls to be more than a bit nervous when facing 50,000 skeptical British metalheads at their first appearance in the UKnote . If they were it was not at all obvious...
      • Averted as, in later interviews, at least two of the girls admitted they were terrified. This is entirely justified as SoniSphere attendees are known to throw bottles at bands they don't like.
    • There are clips of Suzuka casually walking out to greet 55,000 screaming fans at Tokyo Dome.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "Ijime, Damé, Zettai" (officially: "No More Bullying, Forever") is a strange example.
  • Punny Name: The band name plays on the Japanese pronunciations of the words baby (beibi) and heavy (hebi).
  • Rated M for Manly: The inversion of this trope is the whole point of this band.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Moa and Yui to a certain extent - Moa Red, Yui Blue.
    • "Catch Me If You Can" is about the girls hiding from very hungry oni who want to eat them.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: One of the themes in "Megitsune".
  • Song Style Shift: "Iine!" has a Trap break near the middle complete with hoodies, Gratuitous English, and Kanye West sunglasses. We are completely serious. Apparently it's done as a Take That! to Swag Rap.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": "Iine!" faces the same problem as "Ievan Polkka". Three guesses on what that problem is and the first two don't count.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: At the beginning of the group, Koba was trying to teach the girls the heavy metal horns gesture. They misinterpreted the description and made a 'kitsune sign' instead. The whole Fox God mythology of the group probably stems from this.
  • That Syncing Feeling: An unusual entry for a group now known for doing nearly everything live. But this wasn't always the case.
    • Early live shows were mostly lipsynced, with some live vocals blended in (quite common for idol performances). Later on, Suzuka did more and more live, followed by Yui and Moa. The production of the LIVE AT BUDOKAN albums (2015) makes it very easy to hear that the backing vocals are confined to a few parts of the Black Babymetal songs – mostly parts with strenuous choreography.
      • The very first Juonbu performance from November 2010 sounds double-tracked – Su is singing live over her own backing vocals a few times.
      • Su also has a weird tendency to invert this. She has a history of mouthing lyrics even when she isn't meant to be singing. The full-group dance of "Motteke! Sailor Fuku" from that same 2010 show is a good example, as is her duet with Rob Halford six years later where she mimed his part of "Breaking The Law".
    • Many fans complained that the dubstep remix of "Headbanger" at Legend 1997 was playback. However, it is the only part of that entire 80-minute concert where Su didn't sing live (not counting death screams), and she sang the song live later that same concert.
    • The official videos on the band's Youtube channel using concert footage give off this vibe, as oftentimes the studio track replaces the original live vocals. "Gimme Chocolate!" is a good example, so is "THE ONE".
    • Inverted for the Wembley Arena concert. Yui had problems with her microphone throughout the set, so the CD/Video release replaces her live vocals with studio recording. Like all other examples, the fact that Babymetal songs are matched to tight choreography that leaves almost zero room for improvisation makes it much easier to swap out a poor live with a studio stem.
  • Title Scream/Metal Scream: "HEADBANGEEEEERRRRR!!!!!"
  • Tomboyish Ponytail: Suzuka's usual hairstyle since about 2012.
  • Widget Musicians: Three Idol Singers mix pop music with Heavy Metal. It works and it's... it's totally awesome. Oh, Japan...
  • Zettai Ryouiki: Grade B when wearing socks. Averted in 2013 when the uniform used stockings, apparently again for 2016.

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