I’m confused. A friend sent me a link to a video by a band called Baby Metal and it’s mesmerizing. The band includes musicians dressed in full body skeleton costumes resembling extras in an animated film by Tim Burton. They are playing heavy metal music with vocals provided by three young Japanese girls in school uniforms and ponytails. The music is, relatively, heavy and intense, but the vocals are what you would expect from young teenage girls in ponytails: high-pitched and cute. Behind the stage, looming over the scene is an enormous statue of the Virgin Mary. It’s one of the strangest music videos I have even seen and it begs the question:
Do I like Baby Metal?
I am a metal head, so I feel like I should have an opinion about this band. Instrumentally, there is some real heaviness to the sound with big riffs and assertive rhythms. However, they throw in a fair dose of electronica, of which I am not a big fan, and when the girls sing the chorus, the music slides towards dance pop. Visually, it looks like the Hello Kitty company was asked to design the stage for a KISS tour sponsored by the Catholic church. I just don’t know what to make of it. Which begs another question: Why?
Why would you put these elements together? What good can come of it? If a growling Norwegian black metal vocalist in full corpse paint took over vocal duties for George Strait’s band, it wouldn’t be good for country music or heavy metal. At best, a country music fan might discover heavy metal, or vice versa, and decide to explore the respective genre a little further.
After watching the video for “Gimme Chocolate” I felt a need to learn more so I got online and discovered that Baby Metal is an offshoot of the pop music genre associated with Japanese “idol” culture. The idol phenomenon is typified by groups of young, cute girls performing choreographed dance routines while singing cloyingly sweet pop songs. It’s interesting, but I didn’t find much that I really enjoyed about the genre aside from Japanese girls. I like Japanese girls. I even married one.
But Baby Metal is neither “idol pop” or heavy metal. Baby Metal is the musical equivalent of a deep-fried candy bar. At county fairs across America, vendors are offering a variety of unusual comestibles, including battered and fried candy bars. I like deep-fried foods. Deep frying can be done well and in a variety of ways. From beer-battered halibut to kabocha squash tempura to breaded onion rings, deep-frying is a delightful gastronomic adventure.
However, the frying process does nothing to advance candy making. Deep-frying, at its core, is a process for cooking food, not confections. Throwing a Mars bar in the fryolator is unnecessary. Once it has been battered and fried, it is no longer a candy bar. The result is only a symbol of the component parts. It doesn’t make me hungry for deep-fried candy bars, it makes me long for deep-fried food or a candy bar.
So, the answer is, no, I don’t like Baby Metal. Like a deep fried candy bar, Baby Metal is a curiosity, a cheap novelty to be sampled and quickly discarded in favor of something real and substantial. I like heavy metal and I find Japanese culture fascinating, but I don’t have any interest in throwing them into a fryolator to see what happens.