I have recently stumbled upon this particular song by Babymetal, which may have become one of my all time favorite songs and/or pieces of all time. And that’s saying something considering I have a classical background and also rank Rachmaninoff’s piano concerto #3 as one of my favorite pieces of all time.
The Japanese are in a very real way not very innovative. There is little that has come out of their country or culture that they can truly say originated there. True, there are a few things, and they are wonderful things indeed, but until now I thought that the Japanese strength was taking things from other cultures and making them their own.
After listening to this, I came to realize that I have it entirely backwards.
I had thought that this was a western metal song with a Japanese twist, but it is not. It is a Japanese song, I mean truly and completely Japanese, which borrows heavily from western genres. That’s a subtle distinction, but extremely important.
We in the west tend to think that Japan appropriates Western culture as its own, improves upon it, and returns it back in better shape than they found it. But the Japanese don’t assimilate. They never have and I don’t think they ever will. What they do instead is use modes of expression that they borrow from other cultures to express something that is completely Japanese and very difficult to quantify.
They took a genre, deconstructed it, put it back together in a completely unique way, and then made a production out of it in a way that I don’t think would ever occur to a western music producer. I mean, who in the west would have possibly thought to put a heavy metal band together with three cute teenage girls and have it actually work?
The answer is simple. In the west, it wouldn’t have worked. We aren’t Japanese. The energy would have been different. We couldn’t find a way to harmonize those disparate things because we could never get past seeing them as separate. But for them – why not? It just makes a whole that is far more interesting than the parts. And that is what makes the Japanese, well, Japanese.
I read that many metal fans think it’s kind of a watered-down metal that only hipsters would like, but that’s missing the whole point. It’s not metal. It’s not pop, either. It’s kawaii metal. It’s Japanese. It’s what they do.