Over the past year or so, I’ve become something of a fan of Babymetal. This may seem odd to people who know me, because I’m a classically trained musician, and I find most metal to be just people making noise, loudly. But Babymetal has proven to be an exception.
There is a particular characteristic of classical music, in my view: it’s all perfect. As I’ve mentioned, I’m a huge fan of romantic era piano concertos (Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, etc.) and I’ve come to believe that every one of them is perfect, even as they are different, perhaps even vastly so. I cannot conceive of any one of Rachmaninoff’s works, Saint-Saens’ works (except for perhaps his organ symphony), Tchaikovsky’s works, being any different or improved upon, even as not one of them is the same as the other. Even from the same composer, each work is very different, and perfect in its own right.
I don’t quite have the same feeling about Babymetal, but it’s a similar feeling. They cross all sorts of genres, and it seems that none of their music is formulaic, and yet pretty much every song I’ve heard except for Megitsune, I like – and I like for different reasons. I like “Gimme Chocolate” because it’s cute. I like “Road of Resistance” because it’s very flashy – I’d liken it a bit to Tchaikovsky’s first concerto. I like “Karate” because of Suzuka’s vocal solos in a very strange musical mode – I can’t identify it offhand, but I think it’s… phrygian? I like Akatsuki because it allows Suzuka to shine and she really delivers in vocal power. And I like Metataro because of the fact that it really is genre defying – I’d almost think of it as an appropriated Celtic folk song. Morning Musume did the same thing in being genre defying (“Mr. Moonlight” comes to mind), but they didn’t break out of the J-pop mold like Babymetal has. I haven’t heard many more of their works but I’m sure I’ll get exposed to more as time goes on, I’m not seeking it out.
But that’s the thing I think I like most about them – they have the same qualities as classical and romantic composers – each piece they create is nearly perfection for what it is and yet none of them are anywhere near remotely the same. If you don’t like one piece, that’s okay, there will be another one that will blow your socks off. The whole band seems to be built on experimentation and pushing the boundaries, and what comes out, I think, actually (and as I say, for what it is) rivals the great composers of western civilization – Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Schumann, Saint-Saens. It’s not that genre of music, but the spirit is the same, and I think that’s what people pick up about it and what makes them fans. They do things no one has ever even considered doing before, and do it in such a way that, many years down the road, I think they will be seen as one of the more influential musical influences of our time.
And coming from a classically trained musician such as myself, that is high praise indeed. I would not say that about nearly any other metal band. For all of their talent, skill, and even popularity, most of them have never been really good at pushing the envelope. Babymetal broke through it and became something truly transcendental.