Hey Metalheads, Don’t Be Ashamed of Liking Babymetal!

BABYMETAL and Marty Friedman
BABYMETAL and Marty Friedman

by Raizel Liebler and Keidra Chaney

Hey, metalheads! Are you listening to BABYMETAL under cover of darkness? We at TLF want to you throw off that cloak of shame; we don’t think you should be ashamed of liking Babymetal.

The fact is, metal is a big tent. A BIG tent. It includes everything from Slayer to Amon Amarth to Misery Index to Faith No More to Whitechapel. Now in the age of super-specific subgenres, some bands that were classified as metal at the time have been “demoted” to hard rock. (I heard a teenager refer to old Sepultura as “hard rock” the other day and I was like “WTF”?! – kdc) But we at TLF are old enough to absolutely not give a !@#$ about that sort of thing.  Metal is a large enough house to contain the heaviest stuff through thrash to the kawaii-ness that is Babymetal.

Yes, we at TLF are nostalgic for the time where the house of metal was big enough to contain a bit of everything. Alice in Chains, Anthrax, Def Leppard, Faith No More, Guns n Roses, Pantera, Poison, Living Colour, Megadeth, Metallica, Mötley Crüe, Queensrÿche, and Sepultura were all played on the same goddamn show and if you didn’t like it you just left the room or turned the channel until you liked it again. A Dio fan wasn’t likely going to be into Sepultura or vise versa, but they also weren’t going to try to reclassify what they were listening to either. We miss that time. We consider all of these bands metal — and are are glad that there’s room for people to like Asking Alexandria or Five Finger Death Punch or any of that stuff we don’t listen to.  We don’t have to like it to defend someone else’s right to call it metal. Because it is. It’s not like extreme metal cred pays student loan bills.

So what is the reason that so many want to exclude Babymetal? Part is the need to exclude everything except for extreme metal from the exalted heights of METAL. One reason is because whole “no clean vocals” trend, which honestly is limiting. Instead, the vocals are much more like what you would expect from an adolescent girl used to singing ballads. Metal fans accepted that Pantera used to be a hair metal band, so Babymetal should be given the same opportunity to be whatever they are.

Another possible reason for not considering Babymetal metal is because … girl cooties from girl cuties. The band is manufactured by a label and they are very young — their vocals are much more like the ballads that serve as anime theme songs than traditional metal vocals. Perhaps it is also the cute outfits and that two of the “singers” are really just backup dancers. Yes, it’s schticky but so is Ghost B.C. and everyone loves them.

But it is also due to the masculinist aspects of the reasons why some metalheads seek out metal — it is an angry genre performed mostly by men. So kawaii-ness somehow makes the music seem less metal. And … we get that. So much of popular music these days is caught up in aesthetics and perfectly manicured feelings. Not wanting cute in metal is understandable. There’s got to be room for ugly, for anger, for harshness somewhere.  But … whatever. Shaking things up is exciting and the sameness of contemporary metal can get kinda dull, your mileage may vary. So if you like metal and Babymetal, good for you! And if you like metal and you don’t like Babymetal, good for you. See you in the pit either way, you’re both welcome.

Comments (6)

I stopped listening to metal when this whole growling thing became popular. I love heave metal guitar and drums but the vocals are a huge turn off.

Babymetal may have been manufactured in a talent agency board room, but it is still fun. Why does metal have to be about pain and anger all the time?

Well, I’m 21 and nobody around my age actually refers to music with “growling” in it as metal. But to answer your question.. it’s because the genre has become defined by its speaking out. Against what? Anything. Any particular religion, any particular political view point, sexism, violence, abuse, you name it. It’s not just meant to be a song you go “Huh. Sounds cool” it’s meant to make you think, and be music that has a purpose and meaning.

Since when do metalheads care what anybody thinks? We had to be open-minded to listen to metal in the first place. I love me some Babymetal. I listen to them alongside Carcass and Exodus and they hold up just fine. If this were the cassette era I’d have worn the print off the tape by now. I’m listening to Babymetal daily. I don’t give a damn what anybody thinks.

Hell yeah with the Metal Resistance! \v/>.<\v/

I knew it was just a matter of time before you wrote about Babymetal! I love them with every fibre of my body. I used to be into metal in the eighties, mainly European stuff like Accept, Judas Priest and Venom. You know, masculine, testosterone-driven metal, not the floofy-haired, lipstick-wearing FALSE metal bands. I wanted my metal performed by real men, like Rob Halford. He’s a man’s man, I thought. And he sure was.

Anyway, I also love J-pop. Anything from Shibuya-kei to picopop to the idol-factories that Babymetal is a part of. Granted, I wasn’t hugely into their mothergroup Sakura Gakuin, I had mostly seen them when they happened to appear on the same shows as my favourites (Hello!Project and AKB48). But as all idol-groups work by carpet bombing the market, they finally scored a bulls-eye with Babymetal.

Sorry if this counts as mansplaining, but here I go with yet another rambling comment:
Any idol group will typically have several subgroups or splinter groups, performing vastly different songs. A group of 15 girls doing general pop may have a four-girl subgroup doing hi-NRG techno, one soloist singing traditional enka ballads, a duo doing childrens songs, a five-girl subgroup doing R’n’B, where two girls are from another band on the same label, etc etc.

It is almost impossible to say how many members there are of AKB48, for instance. It’s like there is a Heisenberg Idol Uncertainty Principle, where the mere act of counting them might cause them to splinter off or recruit a new generation. They started off with 20 members, now they have at least 300, in several countries. I seriously think that even a veteran CIA analyst couldn’t accurately tell how many members they have.

AKB even had a fictitious member for a while, who was a composite of the most popular girls. Japan will never cease to amaze me.

I know K-pop is becoming mainstream popular in the west. Personally, I don’t like K-pop at all, as I find it to be too slickly produced, both musically and on a individual basis. The charm of J-pop is that you can start listening to a group, find your favourite member, see her grow from a deer-in-the-headlights newbie with no personality, and over the years turn into someone completely different. My favourite member of Morning Musume, Tsuji Nozomi, went from a rambunctious, over-eating twelve-year-old, to a mother-of-three, voted “the celebrity I’d most want as my parent” by schoolchildren. This, to me, is more fun to watch than the career trajectory of a Britney Spears, Whitney Houston or whatever the K-pop equivalent is.

Girls aren’t selected for their beauty in J-pop, they seem to be selected for “interesting personality” more than anything else. Or perhaps more accurately, “potential for improvement”. Perfection isn’t interesting, it is much more rewarding seeing someone mediocre trying really hard. Some are even bad at everything (singing, dancing, being pretty), but have some endearing quality like studiousness or pathological shyness.

Aaaaanyway, the point I was originally going to make is that metal needs Babymetal more than Babymetal needs metal, and should embrace them with open arms (figuratively). The inherent conservatism of any sufficiently nerdy subculture will be its downfall. Cheers to OldDude and everyone else in the comments above (seeing the words “cassette” and “Exodus” near each other makes me nostalgic), from another old dude who tries to embrace new things.

[…] The Learned Fangirl Hey, metalheads! Are you listening to BABYMETAL under cover of darkness? We at TLF want to you throw off that cloak of shame; we don’t think you should be ashamed of liking Babymetal. Hey Metalheads, Don’t Be Ashamed of Liking Babymetal! […]

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