Fifteen Burning Questions We Have About Babymetal
Inspired by Babymetal’s long-awaited New York City debut last night, here are fifteen questions about Japan’s latest musical export and America’s new obsession to which we’re absolutely dying to know the answers.
1. Are they the best thing ever?
They’re close, but they’re not quite there yet. Everyone I spoke to after the show seemed to agree that while the performance was riveting and amazing in a number of ways, it wasn’t quite GREAT. At least not yet — they’re clearly still getting their footing as a performing act, which I think we can chalk up to experience; they’re still super-new at this! Comparing Babymetal to Maximum the Hormone might seem lazy, but since we just saw the latter last week and both are Japanese bands that rarely come to the US it seems poignant: the Maximum the Hormone show just edged out Babymetal in terms of how mind-boggling captivating it was.
2. Was the show freakin’ amazing anyway?
Definitely. It’s a full-on spectacle complete with a video backdrop that narrates a storyline in English (something about heavy meal fox gods saving the earth?), tons of lights, a platform with stairs, pyro (!) and of course lots of choreographed dancing and adorable costumes.
3. How come they don’t seem to sweat at all?
It’s remarkable! I’d have the stage under an inch of water if I ran and danced around the way they do. The only explanation we can come up with is that they have handlers who blow-dry their hair every time they go backstage for costume changes. It seems crazy, but don’t rule it out!
4. Are they lip-synching?
The answer appears to be yes, sometimes. When Su-Metal takes her leads it’s clear that her mic is hot, but when the girls are doing some of their more involved dance routines it gets dubious, especially with Yui-Metal and Moa-Metal’s headset mics. At the very least, all sorts of backing vocals are absolutely being piped in — there were harmonies coming through the PA even when Su-Metal was the sole girl on stage. No lip-synching in this one:
5. Is the backing band legit?
Abso-fucking-lutely. Dudes RIP, all of them. No surprise Marty Friedman chose guitarist Takayoshi Ohmura for his own band. Not only does the Babymetal backing band a joy to watch in the back, but they get their own share of the limelight, too; the band stepped to the front and entertained the audiences during several interludes in the set.
6. Who the hell ARE all these people in the audience??
Just who are all these people that filled the 3,500-seat Hammerstein Ballroom nearly to capacity after just discovering this band in the past six months? The audience was one of the most diverse I’ve ever seen at a metal show. It’s clear that Babymetal draw fans from all sorts of interests — fans of Japanese music and culture, comic/anime nerds, all sorts of metalheads and people just there for the spectacle– and the audience is appropriately diverse across lines of age, race and gender.
7. Why the hell is Grim Kim here?!
Researching a piece she’s working on for Noisey, apparently. I genuinely cannot wait to read it and all the massively stangry reactions it will surely inspire from IMNs! [UPDATE: Her article is now live! Read it here. -Ed]
8. Are real metalheads into Babymetal?
Absolutely, the metal crowd was out in full force. And like the audience as a whole, they were incredibly diverse: we saw tough guy biker dudes with Megadeth backpatches, garden variety metalheads in Metallica, Children of Bodom and Amon Amarth shirts, guys and gals repping more “indie”(for lack of a better word) metal bands like Kvelertak and Asphyx, and everything in between. Despite their pop formula, Babymetal are getting the seal of approval from all swaths of the metal community, at least for now.
9. Should I feel bad/dirty about young children being exploited for the sake of entertainment?
It’s easy to dismiss young entertainers as “basically like adults” when you’re watching them on a screen, but when I got within a few rows of the front last night and saw Moa-Metal and Yui-Metal up close and in person… holy shit, these are really young girls! It’s hard not to wonder what their school schedule is like, and how they have time for anything outside of Babymetal with all the rehearsing such an elaborate presentation much entail. Sure, kid groups aren’t anything new, but we all know how so many child stars end up later in life.
10. Will the band’s handlers swap in new members Menudo-style once the current girls get too old?
Unclear, but it seems likely. These girls already look so much older than they did in promo shots and videos taken just two years ago, and it’s hard to see the whole “cuteness” sell working when they’re much beyond 18.
11. Are Babymetal going to sign a ginormous U.S. album deal?
It would appear that way. All sorts of label brass were in the house, and I have it on good authority that they’re working on something with a major label similar to what Unlocking the Truth got. Unlocking the Truth were in attendance, by the way… so take that for whatever you think it’s worth. Future label-mates, or just friends (who can’t communicate with one another)?
12. How many albums are they capable of selling?
Industry vets I talked to seemed to agree that 50k was a fair estimate for total sales for one album.
13. How far do they plan to take this and what’s the ceiling?
It’ll be interesting to see how the marketing around Babymetal develops on their next album. Will their label push them as a metal band, or will they try and go the Disney route to appeal to kids? I could see it going either way, although I have a hard time believing kids will be able to relate to music so heavy, even if adorable Japanese girls in tu-tus are peddling it.
14. How much money did this guy outside the venue make selling bootleg Babymetal posters for $5 each?
A helluva lot — they were selling like hotcakes!
15. How long before Babymetal hysteria dies down?
You’re gonna be waiting a while. We saw a Fox 5 news team filming last night, and we’re sure they weren’t the only ones there — the mainstream press is just now catching on.