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Meet Babymetal: The Japanese Band That Is Breaking Grounds For Women In Heavy Metal

Sexism is, unfortunately, all over the place. Therefore, the music industry is not an exception and neither is heavy metal. Many metal musicians and fans see femininity as a weakness to be overcome, especially when it comes to vocals, and women are not very welcomed to lend their voice to this subgenre of rock. If you don’t believe me, take Amy Lee, the vocalist of the metal band Evanescence, as an example: she made clear for News.com.au that they were forced to include male vocals in Bring Me To Life, one of their best singles, if they really wanted their work to be somehow recognized. “At least according to all the rules of radio that I don’t agree with or understand”, she said. 

However, even if it’s not the ideal for us yet, things are changing. Women are feeling more encouraged to give their talent for rock a shot and sexism an opponent willing to resist it. Babymetal, a very notorious Japanese-metal band is one the greatest examples we could have nowadays. Since their first and biggest success Gimme Chocolate!! – which made celebrities such as Lady Gaga notice them — to their last work, collaboration in Bring Me The Horizon’s last EP, the song “Kingslayer”, these girls are breaking grounds and giving the rock a female voice in a brilliant way. But, after all, who is Babymetal and why are they considered to be global superstars?

Early days and concept

One of the most important things to understand is the meaning behind the name chosen for the band. The first thing that can come to mind is a contrast between sweetness (baby) and power (metal) — and that’s also right! It actually has three different interpretations, according to the band’s manager, Kobametal, but the most used one is: Babymetal is the birth of a new kind of metal. Why? Because the band was nothing less than the creator of the metal genre known as kawaii (cute) metal, that consists in mixing j-pop with, well, metal. They also replaced the devil hand sign used in the rock scene for an animal gesture: the fox. It represents the “Fox God”, the divine entity responsible for giving birth to the band, according to Babymetal’s mythology. Now, you may be wondering: how did it all start?

Back in Japan in 2010, Nakamoto Suzuka, Mizuno Yui, and Kikuchi Moa were three young girls, from 10 to 12 years old, part of a school-concept musical group called Sakura Gakuin (Cherry Blossom Academy, in English). The idol group, which performs mostly j-pop, has different “classes”, which work as its subunits. In this context, Kobametal chose those three girls to experiment mixing different styles of music, creating a new sub-unit called “Babymetal”. That’s how Sumetal, Yuimetal, and Moametal were born, the first being the lead vocalist and the two others, the main dancers. 

At first, they only performed in Sakura Gakuin’s concerts, but since their first song and music video called “Do・Ki・Do・Ki☆MORNING”, released in October 2011, the subgroup started gaining attention in the industry. The single was an explosive YouTube success, not just in Japan, but also overseas. It was only some years ahead, in 2013, that they debuted as a major record label band with the song “Ijime, Dame, Zettai”, which transmits a strong message against bullying. In the same year, Metallica even got to watch their performance at the Summer Sonic Festival. The well-respected band seemed to like it, giving the fact that Babymetal was responsible for a Japanese promotion video of “Through the Never”, Metallica’s film. Unfortunately, in 2018, Yuimetal left the band due to health issues, leaving Sumetal and Moametal as a duo until nowadays. 

The motivation behind the band is also very strong. According to Sumetal, they meant to give young girls like them a model they can look forward to in metal and heavy songs they can relate to, since there’s little representation for women in the scene, especially for the teenagers. They also hope that they can be the artists to introduce those girls to metal music in the first place. That’s why their lyrical concept is based on themes directed to this target audience, such as the psychological pressure related to body aesthetic women need to go through, the horrible female stereotypes, the prejudice against what’s different, and how we should always fight against it, among other social critics. 

Self-titled (2014)

Until now, Babymetal has three albums with different concepts, but with the same kawaii metal essence. The first one, released in 2014, is a self-titled album and, according to what Moametal said during a 2016 Billboard interview, it “was an introductory album which explained who we are as Babymetal — and she couldn’t be more right about it. The album contains their first song, as well as their first single and the track’s lyrics stick perfectly with the themes the band is known for, making teenage girls relate to them. 

However, what really got the attention of the public and introduced Babymetal officially to an international audience was “Gimme Chocolate!!”, the song behind their first and biggest blow-up. The official music video is the most-watched on their YouTube channel, reaching the mark of 139 million views to this day. “When Babymetal first started, we wanted to give the impression of like, ‘What the heck?!’”, said Sumetal in a 2019 Billboard interview. That’s exactly what the song provoked in the listener, especially with the performance. Three girls dancing and singing to a dilemma of eating chocolate or not was something people were (or even are) used to, but it worked just as well as planned: they became viral for that! The fame began to take proportions they never dreamt of.

Metal Resistance (2016)

A couple of years later, in 2016, the second album, “Metal Resistance”, came to the public. The name is self-explanatory: the concept of this one consists of anger, power, and fighting for ourselves and our values, no matter how exhausting that can be. In Babymetal’s case: “the resistance is for a fixed idea of metal or pop music”, as answered by the band for New Noise Magazine. The most famous track is “Road of Resistance”, which announces the end of dark times and the beginning of a bright future they need to conquer by resisting and remaining on justice’s side. 

They also challenged themselves due to their universal fame and recorded a song entirely in English called “The One”. The track talks about their unity with their fans worldwide, who decided to embrace them even though the language boundaries — it is a “thank you very much” and that can be concluded by the emotional lyrics: “This is our song / This is our dream / Please take us to the land of dreams”. In the 2016 Billboard interview, the former member Yuimetal gave her impressions of what the process for this album was like: “We tried different music genres and also an English song for the first time. Each song is very deep and powerful this time. We are proud of this album”.

Metal Galaxy (2019)

Finally, their most recent album, “Metal Galaxy”, was released in 2019. As Sumetal explained: “Kawaii and metal are kind of polar opposites, and one big theme of this album is sun and moon — so it’s a complete duality.”. The album tries to put us, listeners, through a long and adventurous journey in the “Metal Galaxy”, through the light and the dark side of it. They explore an even wider range of music styles this time and also bring great collaborations. “Pa Pa Ya!!” sought to experiment with metal and rap together, featuring the Thai rapper F.Hero, and became the most popular song of the album. “BxMxC” was one of the most loved ones too by mixing trap, electronic and metal music in the same tune and, although it didn’t have any collabs, it has a great music video. Another interesting collaboration was the one with Joakim Brodén, vocalist of the Swedish band Sabaton, who helped Babymetal create an amazing and interesting folk-metal song called “Oh! MAJINAI!”. 

For JRock News, Moametal once said: “Rather than focusing on the differences between territories, I think people react to our music differently on an individual level and so I love seeing these differences when I perform. It is absolutely gratifying to see people enjoying themselves and that is what I perform for as it is the source of my energy”. Basically, if we could sum it all up, that’s what Babymetal is all about: breaking boundaries. They work hard to cause any kind of emotion in the audience. From estrangement to delight, it doesn’t matter as long as they can take some reaction from you. And what do they do best? Proving that women can enjoy and perform any music style they want and that being cute doesn’t make anyone less tough or strong. So, even if you didn’t like them at all, I hope this article made you feel and think something new. Feel free to stan these amazing girls, though! 

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The article above was edited by Julia Queiroz.

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Catharina Pinheiro

Casper Libero '24

A journalism student in love with literature and music. :) 
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