Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

Babymetal – Karate

It’s “We Like Guitars” Day!


Ryo Miyauchi: Though they first seemed to fail to read the room, Babymetal in 2016 weren’t naive or out of touch. They understood people these days took far more losses than wins. More than a cheerleader, Su-Metal rallies in “Karate” like a captain leading an army in a losing war: she knows she first has to get people back up before they can fight. Sure, they may ring too idealistic in a year that needed real, tangible solutions. But if there was anyone who led by example to go against all odds in 2016, it was Babymetal. Here was a pop act from maybe the number-five nation in Western pop coverage; who’s not taken serious by either metal or pop; whose root sound of riffs is declared powerless by a synth-filled culture; and out globally spreading the message that “love can save the world” in 2016, the year of lost hope. The results? A score of US magazine covers. Metal icons not only embracing but also defending them against purists. A bigger mark made overseas than in their own country. But even not counting their hard work, their powerful conviction in their own mission made their sentiment believable even for a few minutes.

Katie Gill: I adore Babymetal. I adore them so much that I can’t even pretend to be objective and give this review nuanced commentary about genre mixing, the backlash Babymetal’s gotten from “real metal fans” (aka: whiny men), or the way the band navigates both idol culture as well as metal culture. I just can’t do that. I love this group way too much, and they perfectly hit my aesthetic and my musical tastes. The only reason it’s not a ten is because it’s not “Gimme Chocolate.”

Iain Mew: I’ve been down on Babymetal here before and expressed surprise they made it to 18 months, which goes to show what I know, as here they are several years on and with a much wider, still-growing following. The way they’ve managed to evolve beyond novelty while still keeping that basic appeal has been genuinely impressive, and even if “Karate”‘s slam and soar alternation still isn’t fun or powerful enough for me to go for, their breakthrough in the West is a bit pleasing.

Will Adams: The trio of opening sections are presented in quick succession at the start, each one finding a different way to let you know this is METAL: a brash riff, then double time antics, then chromatic verse melody. But “Karate” seems to care primarily about its major-key chorus. Which, fair enough, it soars wonderfully, but by the end it’s all but taken over, leaving the other sections to the wayside.

Brad Shoup: Metal… in timbre, maybe. I think it’s more #ezcrab? The chorus staffs the pop-punk defenses; martial drums and millennial whoops bash together during the bridge. They’re not betting the house on brutality, which is likely a sign of good confidence.

Jonathan Bradley: Clattering and spirited, with a fevered hook exactly as pop as metal should be. An idol group whose commitment to concept proved durable enough to attract an audience outside Japan and amongst a subculture usually suspicious of concessions to the mainstream, Babymetal demonstrate how much of the metal creed lies within its adherence to aesthetic. That makes sense: between its grinding racket and its codified subject matter, imagery is vital to metal. The hold-outs might have correctly recognized that, beyond the specific motifs of its costumes and sets, Babymetal have more in common with other objects of Akiba adoration than it does your average Ozzfest line-up, but they’ve missed out on how much metal is costumes and sets. Better to believe this is as authentic as the next black leather guitar growler than to miss out on this fun.

Olivia Rafferty: How much does one have to look into the way that a song or a band is produced in order to dislike the music just on principle? It’s no secret that Babymetal come from an industry that manufactures its bands on an assembly line, and the girls themselves weren’t into metal before being brought together as the group. So there’s a degree of falsehood, one could argue. But if you’re really into sitting behind your computer and arguing about the integrity of music, you’re kinda missing out on the massive dance party that everyone’s having to this banger.

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3 Responses to “Babymetal – Karate”

  1. fun fact: Babymetal Funko pops are a thing that exists. I saw all three girls at my local FYE and am really tempted to go back and purchase myself a tiny little Moametal to hang out on my desk at work.

  2. and the girls themselves weren’t into metal before being brought together as the group

    This is one of the most fascinating things I love about Jpop, of how the session musicianship is among the best in the world, but the idols themselves are more often than not going in blind to the contexts, and how that changes their interpretations on the melodies, and inherently renders even straight takes in arrangements on genres into hybrids in the full package.
    This same trait sometimes also renders things more sincere than some “more authentic” artists’ tributes and covers. Jpop manages to release new Christmas songs that don’t feel so half-assed and/or soulless, for example.

  3. Katie, a friend gifted me all three and I absolutely love them!