If you have never heard of Kawaii Metal (or « Cute » Metal), you probably have heard of it’s biggest name, BabyMetal. This trio of singer comes from a larger group of Idol, the name given to a specific type of pop-stars who are mostly performers but do not write their own material and are selected by talent agencies for their cuteness more than their musical abilities. Despite claims by high profile member of the japanese music industry like Shoo Kusano, president of Shinko Music Publishing Co (McClure, 1996) that the horrific treatment of idols in the 70s is a thing of the past, a headline such as « AKB48 idol begs for fans’ mercy after breaking dating ban » could still be found in 2013 in the Japan Times! Idol culture in Japan is really a world of its own but Kawaii metal is another world inside it. Despite being a creation of the of the talent agency Amuse, BabyMetal have launched a new genre where Metal can mix with Japanese pop without sounding out of place. With this small selection of bands, i intend to display some of the diversity that can be found under the Kawaii metal umbrella, but also what defines it.
Formed of members from pop band Gacharic Spin and power metal band Light Bringer, Doll$boxx is an all-girl Hard rock band who play their own instrument. Although the members of Doll$boxx are not idols, they possess two of the biggest qualities that Kawaii metal band must possess: They play Metal and they all dress up like maids! Maid costumes are used in specialized bars in Japan and also in the Gothic lolita culture where girl enjoy dressing up in fancy and expensive Alice in Wonderland style clothes. Musically, Doll$box plays decent Hard rock without the ironic humor of Steel Panther but with the same attitude.
Formed in 2013, this quatuor of singer is the one out of three that was most likely formed to challenge BabyMetal’s supremacy. Everything in their music is an echo to BabyMetal’s material. Glitchy electronic intro? Check! Cut and paste song structure with a taste for the surreal? Check! The only element that differentiates Deathrabbits from BabyMetal is their militaristic growling frontman dressed like a soldier from cult animated movie Jin-Roh. Although their over the top header on Twitter featuring the mascot with bunnies on his elbows, his presence is still a bit troubling considering also how young each member seems to be.
If you’re looking from the end of level boss of the internet, you have just found him. Founded by Ladybeard, aka Richard Magarey, is a wrestler and a cross dresser. Unlike the hero of the manga Detroit Metal City who front a Metal despite his love for folk music, Magarey is a member of a trio of singer where he mixes his love of Metal with Pop. Although it would be easy to dismiss the whole project as an ironic attempt by a foreigner to make fun of J-Pop, it seems that Magarey is genuinly enjoying growling along to songs about how great Tokyo is to find you favorite brands of make-up or how great convenient store are (imagine, if you will, a band doing a song how great it is to work at Tesco and you would be close to the craziness of it all). Musically, LadyBaby also possess the general attributes of other Kawai Metal acts: Maid costume, Glitchy electronic intro, metal elements mixed with Japanese pop. Despite an absence of guitars, the growls of Ladybeard make it up in Metalness and make you want to sing along (and you can, thanks to the subtitles).