Monday, May 2, 2016

Baby Metal is the Ultimate Corporate Musical Act

Baby Metal is not a "Metal Band" in the way we think of most metal bands; High school dropouts in need of a shower and haircut who listened to too much Metallica and AC/DC in school and then one day got together in their dad's garage to make head-banging screaming noise. 

No. Baby Metal is better. Baby Metal is three girls, who never listened to metal music, who were put together as the result of a Japanese record label business meeting where executives plotted in a smoky backroom to decide what kind new Japanese Idol group they were going to create and sell. And they would do so attempting to emulate the quality production evident in many Korean Pop projects.

In my most probably confused opinion, there is not much difference between your average Japanese Idol group and the next. I also don't think there is much difference between Baby Metal and the more immensely popular (at least in Japan) Japanese Idol group AKB48 excepting uniforms, dance steps and that decision by those back room executives as to the "type" of music that would accompany these projects.

Of course I wasn't at any of these Baby Metal meetings but I can guess that: 1) None of the 3 girls in Baby Metal had any input as to the musical direction of this project; 2) None of the Baby Metal girls write or compose any of the songs. 

Generally, speaking, I think many music fans in Japan don't care if their favorite artist writes their own music or not; the average Japanese music fan likes image over substance any day. Then there are those negative nellies who like it when artists write and perform their own music. They claim that an artist making their own songs is more "real." Can you imagine? I wish Justin Bieber would get someone else to write his songs for him; that would make him even better than he is now!

Alas, Japanese Idol singers don't write their own music... So does that make their music "fake"?

Perhaps. But it's not any more or less fake than 99% of the other crap you hear on your standard run-of-the-mill FM radio Hit Parade of Hell countdown program.

"The Japanese Pop Music industry is all that the pop music industry in the west aspires to be: Conveyor belt produced corporate schlock shoved down the throats of the unsuspecting masses." - Me

It really astounds me that people in the west like Baby Metal. I don't know any music fans in Japan who like them (there must be some.) I do know many so-called "serious" music fans in Japan (folks who work at record stores, "Music is my life" types, etc.) who absolutely hate Baby Metal.

I think most of us in Japan scratch our heads when we hear that people in the west like Baby Metal. I don't really care for Baby Metal just like I basically don't really care for all Japanese pop idol groups; I think they are the same thing. Just like I think Justin Bieber and New Direction are the same thing; but most of the fans of one or the other will surely protest.

Baby Metal is a Japanese Idol Pop outfit. It is "metal" with some Japanese "schoolgirls" "singing" over the top (Lolita Complex is strong in this one) with plenty of autotune, all created artificially by some record company so they can flog it to the Western version of "otaku." 

NOTE: ("Otaku" translates into "geeks" or "nerds" but there is a fundamental difference between Japanese otaku and geeks or nerds in the west. Japanese otaku are generally perceived as overweight guys, with a zero love life who read too many comic books and watch too many anime and spend far too much time gaming. Western geeks and nerds, might play games and watch too many anime too, but geeks and nerds in the west are generally considered intelligent. I mean, geeks and nerds in the west are the types who are president of the science or math club in high school... In Japan? otaku, well, otaku play too many games and read/watch too many cartoons and comics.)

Classic Baby Metal lyrics such as these are sure to invoke strong emotions:

C! I! O! Chocolate! Chocolate!
Cho, cho, cho,
Is it OK?
But, you know, recently I worry about my weight 

Deep! Bobby Dy----lan! Move over! You've met your match! It don't get much better than this!

Some might say the lyrics are atrociously bad. Not me. Baby Metal and AKB48 are all a sales pitch. And the public are buying, right? So what's the problem? Perfect!

But, really, western music fan, if you are going to go bananas over Baby Metal, then you should be a hardcore fan of AKB48 too. They are, de facto, the same thing (excepting AKB48 videos are more akin to softcore porn). Check it out. Here's an AKB48 video that has almost 100 million views: (You must watch for at least 1 minute or you get penalized!): 

This is the same thing as Baby Metal, excepting, as I said, dance steps, uniforms (and the AKB48 girls are much prettier and much more famous) and the style of music that was decided in the backroom of some record company by some cigar smoking executives....  a decision, of which, these girls played absolutely no part in. Cool, eh? A perfect pop formula.

Baby Metal and AKB48 are manufactured music projects from the get go. 

I think I can say in the defense of Baby Metal is that (if you do consider them metal - I don't) is that "Metal" has always been absurd, over the top pretentious and ridiculous....That is what Heavy Metal has always been. 

Just ask Spinal Tap… 

And finally, one last thing in their defense: the success and acceptance of Baby Metal by westerners shows us one thing if nothing else: The Monkees were waaaay ahead of their time.

Pop music really is just one big joke. So is metal music.... 

But I figured in the case of metal music, westerners had always known that.... 

Maybe not, eh?

- Thanks to Apryl Peredo


Anonymous said...

The Monkees were offered to record "Sugar, Sugar" but they thought it was too childish for them. They got replaced by the cartoon Archies. Maybe when Baby Metal get older, they will start taking themselves seriously.... then write, produce and fail with their own "Head", and be forgotten.

Anonymous said...

You got a lot of points right. Most all of you thesis are right. But there is one thing you forget. Music is emotions. Babymetal seem to hit the right strings to make people happy. Their producer team gets it done right. I see the romantic point that an artist should compose its own music. But with this project it would not work. So, there would be a world without Babymetal then. Would it be a better world? See Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. He is one of the most respected musical geniuses of the world. He always wrote his own stuff which is great but he also wanted to write hits. His goal was to be in the charts, in the system. He was and is a very naive guy and did the best stuff with this attitude. He did not want to change the system when he started. Does it makes his music of that time less worth? Later on he changed and did other stuff which is great stuff, too, but he needed about 5 or six years which means about 10 records then to get there from the little naive guy he was in the beginning. In tearms of today he would need even more time to go there. On the other hand you have people who have a different attitude. They want to write their own song, maybe change the world, whatever. Create something new. Fine. The 1% who is good will always find the audience. Also in Japan. But 99% of it isnt that good either. The vision of one man or a group is sometimes limited. Not so many people are geniuses like Brian Wilson, in or out of the system. Let's go back to Babymetal. They have just started. 2 Albums in the can. They already brought tens of thousands of people in the west to take a closer look at Japan. It widens the horizon. A good thing. Most of the people in the west are aware that the idol system kinda sucks. Still they like their persona, their songs and the way it is presented, they like the japanese weirdess or whatever. The fans don't have the feel that Kobametal and his team are exploiting them girls. Hopefully that is right in certain terms that obviously exist in Japan. But don't make Babymetal responsible for the whole Japanese system that obviously exists for a long time. It is not Babymetals fault. They are using the system but might give some impulse, like in their lyrics today about for example no bullying. It could be more, yes, but let's see. The metal background gives a chance they could be more encouraging for young people to be individualistic or such. You don't know yet. Beat the systm from inbetween. You might laugh at this. maybe you are right. But isnt it better to have that clean Babymetal fun instead of even more sexualized dance-pop idol stuff? There is some other outsider idol stuff getting popular now like BiSH. Without Babymetal that might not have happenend. So, where is the bad influence of Babymetal other than that they are not breaking all the rules? What kind of music or system is the alternative you are thinking of? There is a lot of creative people involved in Babymetal and they all get payed. The producer, the songwriters, the choreographers and more. Why should they not team up together to get that unique thing called Babymetal created? Who is harmed by that? Why should westerners not listen to this? It's like an orchestra. It sounds better with 20 instruments than just with 3 or 4. Do you know how bad that formula radio in the West is? How bad most of the stuff is that companies try to sell here? How bad most of the stuff is, that independent musicians produce here? Babymetal delivers and it seems they are nice people. They can have my money.

Anonymous said...

Babymetal is METAL and end of the story :)

Matt Rudd said...

You don't know crap about music and Babymetal is METAL! What you post on your blog makes no sense at all and is a moron. Everybody around the world will disagree with you :)

mike in tokyo rogers said...

Everyone is a music critic! Matt Rudd's comments were hilarious! Thanks! That's the level of discourse I'd expect from someone who likes Japanese Idol music. Rudd! Oh, and as far as not knowing crap about music, please check my bio). Anon, appreciate your comments. Thanks. As an anarchist, you can spend your music on whatever you want. I don't care.

mike in tokyo rogers said...

Oh, by the way, Anon, I gather that you are completely out of the loop on music publishing and why it matters who writes the music. A girl's group named "Wink" sold tens of millions of albums in the eighties. Where are they now? Not too sure but do know that one of them works at a clothes store in Shimokitazawa to try to make ends meet. BabyMetal is no different from AKB48 in that sense... Soon these girls will be 40 years old and, if they can't transition to a new career, they will get zero royalties. Baby Metal is an idol product, like the rest of them. Morning Musume and AKB48 change members as they go.... To think Baby Metal will be different is delusional. Oh, and one more point, you comment about "artists" (key words here) writing their own music. But then you add, "With this project it would not work." Logical rationale please for this statement. What is the analytical thought process for this subjective reasoning, please?

mike in tokyo rogers said...

Thanks! I laughed at this. I laughed at Spinal Tap and Aerosmith too! Keep up the good work. Carry on!

Mike Read said...

I cannot agree with some of this authors “mike in tokyo rogers” opinions, firstly the girls have wrote at least one song "Song 4" lists its credits for lyrics and music as Black Babymetal, the stage name for the duo of Yuimetal and Moametal without Su-metal. Some say Elvis Presley was the greatest Male singer of all time, how many of his hits did he write?
The Author says he doesn’t know any music fans in Japan who likes Babymetal, How come they can sell out Nippon Budokan at least twice, and are playing the Tokyo Dome in September this year. I’m sure the Tokyo Dome Management wouldn’t let any old band play there only half filling it or less.
He says AKB48 are more famous, well this is completely wrong, and how come Baby metal are the top selling Japanese band outside Japan in the world. On 2 April 2016, Babymetal became the first Japanese act to headline the Wembely Arena and set the record for the Arena's highest ever merchandise sales. They are on tour in the U.S.A and Europe this year with some concerts sold out or nearly sold out. Where are AKB48 touring this year?
The author says all Japanese Idol bands are the same, Babymetal are completely different to all the other idol bands. They are original, with their own sound; this is why they have made the cross over from Idol music to metal music. Metal bands and artist like them, Brian May siad” if Freddie Murcury was still alive he would have loved to perform with them” Dragon have played with them.
Whats the difference between all the crap groups that Simon Cowell, American Idol, & X factor produce, these groups are around for 5 minutes then another group appear. These are product of what music fans want in the west!!! Fans in the west are tired of this manufactured pop.
These girls in Babymetal have been performing together since 2010, that’s 7 years so far, One Direction lasted 3 years.

mike in tokyo rogers said...

WRONG! One Direction was formed in 2010. Just like Baby Metal. Get your facts straight, you are talking to a professional in the music industry for over 30 years.

Oh, and I'm not impressed when you compare Baby Metal to another corporate musical act.

mike in tokyo rogers said...

But thanks for writing! Like I said, Corporate Musical Act. One Direction, Baby Metal, AKB48... Different flavors of McDonald's ice cream. Have at it! There are lots of people who like McDonald's.

I am trying to find out anywhere in my article where I directly slagged off Baby Metal... Why you guys so touchy? Or are you ashamed of your guilty pleasures?

Oh, and another fact, AKB48 sales dwarf those of Baby Metal (Wikipedia): "As of December 2015 the group has sold over 41 million records, including over 36 million singles and over 5 million albums." Go look up how many Baby Metal has sold and if you can find over a few million, please post. I can't find that information. I can only find (Wikipedia): "It reached the 4th place on Oricon Weekly Charts and sold 37,463 copies during the first week."

mike in tokyo rogers said...


This year’s top five selling acts, and their total gross for the year (in yen) are as follows:
Total Sales 2015:
1) Arashi (¥14,328,000,000)
2) AKB48 (¥11,291,000,000)
3) Sandaime J Soul Brothers (¥6,856,000,000)
4) Kis-My-Ft2 (¥5,777,000,000)
5) Kanjani8 (¥5,471,000,000)

Below the sales raking according to Oricon Style Charts of the BABYMETAL items released during the Year 2015.
Oricon Albums Chart -
142 - BABYMETAL "Live At Budokan - Red Night" (Live CD) - 34.454 copies sold
160 - BABYMETAL Album - 30.469 copies sold
289 - BABYMETAL Album Import - 16.772 copies sold

VWKombi said...

Hi Mike, I greatly appreciate your posts. Love the music clips, in a sort of OMG,WTF is this. I'd probably never find such gems as Baby Metal and IKB48 without your dedication to foist these groups upon the west.

Keep it up.

Warren in New Zealand

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with your article/blog post Mike. The guitarists who do all the music for Babymetal, one of them named Leda I know him from a band he was in previously called Deluhi which disbanded, and I think it's a waste of talent that he is contributing to Babymetal since he gets no recognition for his guitar playing since all of the recongition from fans goes to the 3 little girls who can't play an instrument or even sing. Leda plays guitar like a boss but he is wasting his skills. I wonder how much they pay the actual musicians who play the music for babymetal versus the 3 little girls in babymetal and the music company itself. I agree that it is basically like AKB48, just a young-girl fetish manufactured talentless image to please guys who have a thing for little girls who can't sing or make music, just dance around looking "cute" . I hope Babymetal disbands or fades into oblivion soon and that Leda and the other musicians who waste their talent to help some pop image out all go back to real rock bands.

silentlennie said...

While at first glance you'd think Babymetal is a corporate idea, it turns out when you look deeper it probably isn't.

And I would definitely not put them in the AKB48 section, I'll call that idol scene.

The producer that is the driving force behind Babymetal did not come from the idol side of the Japanese music industry.

He worked on garage bands and indie music groups and he's a metalhead himself and if I'm not mistake played guitar a garage metal band himself.

An other part of the idea behind Babymetal came from Perfume. That other successful girl group from Amuse that sort of came from the idol scene but isn't really part of the idol scene, at the least not anymore. They also do a kind of fusion of genres or styles. And girls didn't get replaced. Before you point it out: yes, one did leave in the beginning. The current formation has been this way for over 10 years.

The last but maybe most important piece is: Suzuka Nakamoto. The producer thought was: she is a good singer & dancer, with a clear voice, but when she performs, she gets in the zone and she always does everything at a 110%. Which means when she is in a group, she won't be in sync, she'll stand out. For example she sing to loud. So maybe loud music is where she belongs.

Now set the metal scene, metal music has become a bit stale. Lots of bands are stuck in silos of subgenres, most seem to be afraid to alienate there fans so they stay there.

This producer with a love of metal and other music comes along and gets song writers who have done fusions of (metal) music for years to write the songs. They make catchy fusion heavy metal music that is actually complicated and not some half-arsed attempt by some corporate suits.

Actually corporate suits didn't want to get involved and because of that the budget of Babymetal at the start did not exist, it was a risky idea (metal music isn't a big money maker in Japan or anywhere else in the world as I understand it) and thus was done as part of Sakura Gakuin.

They get some attention from the idol scene and people outside of Japan who are into Japanese stuff and they are able to grow the budget.

After that the gimmick of the girls gets the attention of people in the west and the metal scene, especially through Youtube and when Babymetal releases an album outside of Japan it gets in the charts. And it became a 'reverse import' as it got more attention in Japan.