After revisiting Babymetal (or BABYMETAL as the band scribes) since my initial encounter, I have begun to delve deeper into the origin of the band and have looked into their significance on the global music scene. So far I’ve learnt that the group has come together in the same fashion as other ‘idol’ bands such as One Direction and 5 Seconds of Summer, and similarly to these young, vibrant, formulated pop groups, Babymetal has reached immense success not only in their home country of Japan, but appealing to both metal and non-metal fans worldwide. The band defines its style of music as an original genre known as “kawaii metal”, “kawaii” meaning cute in Japanese, and cute (as mentioned in my previous blog) is definitely an accurate description of this band. It is the creative mash up of J-Pop and heavy metal that creates this unique sound. I also found it really funny to learn that the girls in this band barely knew what metal was prior to the formation of this band- but hey, in the media these days when does anyone let the truth get in the way of a good story?
It is an obvious challenge to conduct rigorous autoethnogrpahic research about a culture from the opposite side of the world, however due to the ever-growing (and somewhat terrifying) realms of the World Wide Web, I have been able to grasp a deeper understanding of how Babymetal have evolved and why they are so popular. There are thousands upon thousands of posts on Reddit regarding Babymetal, and while there is immense support from Japanese fans, it appears that their fandom is equally as extensive with fans from the US and UK. There are fan clubs devoted to the band left, right, and centre, and the fan-base is collectively known as “The One”. The fan-base is a mixture of ‘metal heads’ who love the musical aspect of the band, and J-Pop lovers who are crazy about their costumes and style. I found it really interesting to find many pages on Reddit dedicated solely to Babymetal ‘memes’ which transcend both Japanese and Western culture. In my previous post I also noted the humour behind the song “Gimme Chocolate,” however I’ve learned thus far that the lyrical themes found in many of Babymetal’s songs reflect real-world issues, particularly aimed towards young girls. Ideas such as encouraging young teens to accept and stand up for themselves, as well as rejecting the idea that the “ideal women” has to be thin (hence the song about eating chocolate), allows this band to be a role model for young Japanese girls. No wonder they are so popular with the Japanese youth.
I also looked at how Japanese fans access music, and while Babymetal are popular on American music streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music, I found that Spotify is not used in Japan and Apple Music and still very new there, instead, Japanese music streaming app Line Music is the most popular media used to listen to Babymetal. Youtube also remains to be a very popular tool used to consume the work of Babymetal as the costuming and theatrics are a leading part of the band’s success.
In order to conduct further autoethnographic research and begin to make sense of Babymetal, it is important that I look back at my initial encounter with the band and determine what the defining factors were which allowed me to make sense of the music I was listening to. In my previous blog, I noted that it took me a while to even realise that the song I was listening to was not in English. I believe this may have been the case because as I have mentioned, I am not a fan of heavy metal, so upon hearing the loud, heavy sounds of the drums and electric guitar, it is likely that I simply tuned out as normally this is not the kind of music I pay attention to or enjoy. Also, the fact that what I heard was on an Australian national radio station contributed to the element of surprise as I was certainly not expecting to hear a Japanese metal band in the early hours of a Wednesday night. The rarity of hearing a Japanese song on the radio added to my interest
The culture and context of my initial autoethnographic experience significantly impacted my understanding of the band and the music at hand. I inevitably viewed Babymetal through an Australian/Western cultural lens, therefore my way of understanding the music I was listening to was by comparing it to other metal music that I was aware of. I compared Babymetal to Australian ‘metalcore’ band Amity Affliction as I could draw similarities between the two bands as I find that while the music of Amity Affliction is considered metal, I don’t consider it as heavy as other bands in that genre and find that some of their songs have catchy choruses and hooks. I feel like this is the kind of metal that gets more airplay on the radio, therefore I could relate to Babymetal in this way.
This is only the beginning of my autoethnographic research into this unique group, however it has been fascinating to learn of the band’s popularity due to their individuality, and their role as a model for young women. I’m really excited to learn more and construct my independent research project.