*Note: Other than the ‘Inazuma’ story all of the translations are my own. (I was unable to find the Japanese source of the Inazuma story and so made use of a translation by an unknown Japanese person.)
This selection of mine naming Nakamoto Suzuka, aka ‘Su-metal’ and Utada Hikaru as the two greatest Japanese woman singers is obviously an almost totally subjective determination. I mean, how could it not be? I am sure there are some more or less objective measures of the skill level of a person’s singing voice such as range of octave, decibel levels, lack of contour errors, pitch accuracy and on and on. That said since I personally have no knowledge or understanding of these units of measurement I, and most likely you as well, can only go on my own personal sense of what constitutes a great singer. It is funny that I originally thought of doing a short 6 or so page post about the 4 greatest Japanese singers which of course started out with Su-metal and Utada and then went on to include Imai Miki and Takeuchi Mariya. However, once I began researching what I wanted to say, first of all, about Su-chan I realized that I would have to trim it down to include only Su and Utada.
There are an almost uncountable number of beautiful phenomena in the world that move one’s heart running from sunsets, flowers, good food and starry night skies. However, for me, the most enthralling ‘thing’ in the world is the sound as well as the performance and all that entails of Japanese women singers.
What is it exactly about Su-metal and Utada that so captivates and touches the hearts and minds of so many people? In the end I would have to say from my perspective, and even following upon a few weeks of considering this question after deciding to write about it, that their attractiveness is an elusive charm that goes beyond verbal or even mental understanding. While I will try to express the possible reasons for their loveliness herein, I will say that I will most likely not be able to do so to a satisfactory degree. Both women visually lie in that realm that lies between, and overlaps into, cuteness and beauty, and without any sense of projected sexiness. They both move with a gliding sense of grace and dignity that seems to be backed up by a hidden power source and yet neither comes off as an overly crafted dancer in spite of the fact that you simply can not take your eyes of them when they move on stage (or off, for that matter). Internally, both are ridiculously confident. In fact, when my students have asked me to sum up Utada with one word, it was always ‘Confident’ that I would respond with. And I mean a confidence that goes beyond just an assumption that they can pull off a good show, but rather a rock solid sense that they almost CAN NOT fail- a confidence that is seemingly divinely gifted. In spite of this, neither of these two women conveys even a hint of arrogance and in fact are extremely humble almost to the point of being self-deprecating. And then there is of course their vocals, their voices. Words can obviously not do them justice and their is no need to try to express the power, the clarity, the cuteness, the at times frailty with which they express lyrics with their voices when a simple listen is all that it takes.
So, to dive in to actually writing about these two giants it is best to get to know their backgrounds a bit even though we may not in fact need to know anything about a singer to be able to enjoy and appreciate their singing. I have often thought, though, what it would be like to listen to Karen Carpenter’s voice without knowing anything about the tragic nature of her life. In fact I am pretty sure that I remember feeling a deep sadness or melancholy in her voice when I listened to the Carpenters on the radio as a little boy, so there may be something inherently in it that evokes sadness. That said, I am certain that knowing about the life and background of a singer affects they way we perceive their vocals.
Nakamoto Suzuka (中元すず香）
Su-chan was born as the 3rd and youngest daughter in 1997, December 20 in Hiroshima. It is said that when she was still only two years old that she would become so absorbed in the background music playing at shops that she would sing and dance so intensely that she would often get separated from her family. It is reported that she was considered to be a prodigy by those who heard her sing when she was still an infant.
She began her childhood modeling career at the age of 5 and won the Grand prize of Bandai cosmetic’s Jewel Drop, ’Image girl’ contest.
This was followed by another Grand prize at the age of 8 Alpark Scholarship Audition which played a huge role in her being able to be granted admission to the Actor’s School of Hiroshima (ASH).
I can not go much farther in chronicling her early history and achievements as it would go on for several pages and have been recorded both in English and, to a much more detailed extent in Japanese elsewhere. I will just say that she apparently went on to win basically every contest that she entered either solely or with her sister, Himeka, with the exception of one where they most likely basically bowed out because of a scheduling difficulty and yet still took runners up place.
Here are some of her early vocals prior to and following that fateful occurrence of being one of the three members of the iconic, ‘Karen Girl’s’ group that led directly into the formation of Sakura Gakuin to ‘Juonbun’ or as what we now know as ‘BABYMETAL’.
And my personal favorite…
Two of Su-chan’s most recognizable characteristics are evidently revealed in a short interview with her and her Karen Girl’s co-members, Mutou Ayami and Shima Yuika before they embark on their stage at the Animelo Summer Live 2008 – CHALLENGE, (Saitama Super Arena). What are those characteristics? One is Su’s constant scanning, constant taking in of what is happening in her surroundings. This characteristic of one’s eyes actively scanning one’s surroundings and of not letting the eyes settle into a ‘dead stare’ is something we often see with not only Su-chan but also of such mysterious intellectuals and mystics such as Krishnamurti
and contained in the teachings of Takuan Osho,
a zen master who taught the mental side of sword fighting to Yagyu Munenori and I would include the way my favorite fictional character of ‘Sugishita Keibu from the incredibly popular and long running Japanese TV series, ‘Aibou’
uses his eyes in constantly scanning any situation for clues. While this is often looked upon at least in the West as a sign of deceptiveness or an unsettled state of mind, it is more correctly seen as a sign of intelligence and wakefulness, at least in certain individuals. Of course I would include Su-chan in this latter category. There is something truly wonderful and actually quite rare going on with her as she does this and is something that I believe the reader can verify for themselves right now. See how you feel when you do not let you eyesight rest on a single item in your line of sight for more than a fraction of second before you move on to the next, the next and then the next object as compared with letting your eyes kind of rest on a single point. I believe you will see the almost animalistic sense of aliveness that this flitting of the eyes conveys.
Now, not to go too off into wild ramblings, I want to focus on the what could be called ‘Vacant mind’ of Su-chan as compared with ‘Su-metal’. And not to draw the comparison with one of my favorites, the aforementioned, Krishnamurti, a person who is well known to have a side to himself that was best summed up as ‘Vacant’, to the point of over embellishment, I would like to draw attention to this, what could derogatorily be referred to as sign of below par intelligence that is often pointed out in reference to Su-chan, this aspect of her character that is, I would say, rather a sign of exceptional and in fact genius level intelligence. We know of Su from the countless anecdotal stories that exist (often from Su-chan herself) that:
[Please remember that most of these were either 1 time, or limited in frequency, occurrences that happened early in Su-chan’s life. They are glimpses into her unique make-up and not on-going (I would assume) characteristics. Anyway, here are some of them.]
‘Su can not tie her shoe laces by herself’
‘She is unable to make a sound with a whistle as she blows on it holding it upside-down’
‘Su-chan has been known to walk along with her shoes on the wrong feet not noticing until someone points it out to her’.
‘Su has apparently, at least once, when singing ‘Megitsune’, mistakenly sung ‘Joyuu yo’ <actress> with ‘Kyonyuu’ <big breasts>’.
‘In order to collect <Bell Mark> stamps <stamps that schoolchildren collect from various products to exchange for school related goods>, Su-chan would cut the stamps out of her older sisters’ notebooks, for which she was of course scolded by her sisters.’
‘Su-chan would often leave her family in bewilderment as she ripped off <Bell Marks> from their Sesame oil bottles.’
‘There were numerous occasions where Su-chan would be left behind yelling, ‘Hey, wait for me!’, as the filming crew would move from location to location.’
‘Su-chan would occasionally (OK, so at least once) show up for lessons only to find that she still had her pajamas on under her long skirt.’
‘Su-chan was happy to have moved from the 12-member Sakura Gakuin format to the 3-member BABYMETAL one because it reduced the need to fight for staff boxed lunches by 9.’
‘As her self-selected research assignment during summer vacation when she was in the 1st grade of Jr. High, Su-chan chose to do a joint research project with her sister, Himeka, into <The secret behind how pudding solidifies>.’
‘Her big ears that are tilted rather forward are great for hearing sounds in the front of her, but she has a difficult time hearing what people are saying when they are speaking in hushed tones behind her.’
‘She enjoys joking around with e-mails to herself where she does both the <Boke> and the <Tsukokomi> roles. Note: You will have to look these up for yourself as it would take too long to explain. In other words, she does a kind of 2-person comedy skit, ‘Manzai’ with herself in her e-mails’.
‘A question from Himetan’s blog! Where does a snake’s tail begin. This was
the topic of discussion amongst our family.’
* Mama: Where does a snake’s tail begin?
* Himeka: A snake doesn’t have a tail.
* Suzuka: Snakes have hands, don’t they? Maa, if they do or don’t who cares?
* Anyway, Mama wants to know the borderline between a snake’s body and it’s tail. If you happen to know please let me know.’
All of these examples that are mostly well known amongst the vast
BABYMETAL lore all show a side of a girl who walks to the beat of
a different drummer. Now don’t get me wrong, this side of Su-chan makes
her all the more charming and enchanting and is a property that I personally
absolutely adore along with probably all BABYMETAL fans. This property is
called, ‘Tennen’ in Japan and said for the most part as an enduring, if not
almost admirable characteristics usually found in girls and women.
So lets now shift gears and focus on the other side of the equation that is Nakamoto Suzuka, Su-chan, Su-metal, which is that side of this enigmatic person that is so incredibly talented, creative, skilled and captivating that it kind of exceeds the power of words to describe.
First of all is her high work standard and stoicism. She is one who has a high degree of professionalism and has determined to herself that she will never cry on stage, no matter what the circumstances. Virtually all of her singing on stage is done live and since these lives performances go on to be recorded products for sale as is, there is absolutely no room for errors to be made.
Himeka wrote in her blog that she often goes to Karaoke with Su-chan where they will sing for 7-hours straight at times. Upon writing this she was so swamped by questions about what goes on in these Karaoke sessions with Su that she has vowed to steer away from writing about her sister in the future.
Nakamoto Suzuka is an interesting blend: she is not able to do some things that we mere mortals can do easily, but is able on the other hand to do things easily (or make them seem easy) that we can’t begin to dream of. There is no denying it; she is a very unique person.
Babymetal’s choreographer, Mikiko-sensei said this about Nakamoto-san’s work ethic and abilities as a professional singer, ’Su-chan memorizes the lyrics to new songs faster than anyone else in Sakura Gakuin or BABYMETAL.’ She also conveyed in an interview that while Su-chan is not as naturally gifted as a dancer as the other two members of the trio, Mizuno Yui and Kikuchi Moa, she will work on the choreography until she masters it and invariably surprises even Mikiko-sensei with how she has done so and even added a little something uniquely hers to the movements. Apparently she does not dance in accordance with a count as most dancer do, but rather subjectively adjusts herself to the song itself. It is even said that she sees the song/dance in a kind of color code that makes sense to her. Mikiko-sensei also has said that she is amazed at how she approaches regular rehearsals with the same all-out energy and concentration that most artists tend to save for ‘the show’ – to the extent that after rehearsals she is often scolded by the make-up artists because she has sweated so profusely that her make-up gets totally messed up. We even know that she broke a cardboard guitar that was made for the ‘Graduation Toss’ MV due to moving around so aggressively.
Quote from Mikiko-sensei
Su-metal as seen by Mikiko-metal
‘She is so full of natural, in born performance related talent that it is as if the word genius was created just for this girl. She undergoes a transformation on the stage that you could not imagine based on who she is in daily life. It is not to say that she is particularly good at dancing a particular dance movement exactly as set up, but rather she makes the movements her own to the point that her expressive abilities overpower the song. And so if she is required to simply extend her arms out in front of her she will do it in a way that emotionally moves those watching it. I think it is the non-sense concerned passion that she has within her that makes this possible. Up until recently I felt that whatever she sang had a uniform, ‘Su-metal’ feel to it, but recently she has become able to lay on a wide variety of emotions in her performances and is able to control or regulate herself song by song. Her English pronunciation has also dramatically improved.’
Quote from Su-chan’s ‘homeroom teacher’, Mori Hayashi-sensei at her
graduation ceremony from Sakura Gakuin
‘Last year, THOSE three graduated, and now…This girl, Nakamoto…she who is unable to deal properly with others is now the Student Council President?! I was filled with worry. But now she is able to make a speech and is able to touch the hearts of the listeners to an amazing degree. In the past it would have been a miracle for her to say ‘My name is Nakamoto Suzuka’. I have the feeling that she has kind of turned into a totally separate person. No, but really, this girl called Nakamoto is an extremely stoic person. I think that her ability to stand on this stage today like this is due to the efforts she has made outside of the view of all of us. Anyway, that is how she has carried out so many achievements since she was in Elementary school to the present day. But, regardless, since she is still in the 3rd grade of Jr. High school I am sure that in this entertainment world that she will encounter times when she could not exhibit her best. And while Nakamoto’s stoic nature is a wonderful thing, I hope that she will be able to find a place within herself that forgives herself when things don’t go well. But, really, honestly speaking, when Nakamoto …makes a mistake or messes up on something…even then I think everyone here thinks of her as a lovable girl. I feel that that also is a part of her attractiveness.As her teacher I hope that she will put great value on this side of herself as she grows as well.
As for her talent as a singer, there is nothing better than for the reader to listen to any song, perhaps especially the solo ones of ‘Akatsuki’, ‘Akumu no Rhondo’, ‘Amore’, and ‘No Rain, No Rainbow’. And we must never forget that she is truly singing a totally new genre, one that mixes Idol with Heavy Metal and thus there are demands on her voice that literally no one has ever experienced before and that alone commands our total respect.
This is an interesting audio track that has been manipulated to take the musical components out of a performance of ‘Akatsuki’ leaving only Su-metal’s voice. If this doesn’t blow you away, nothing will.
‘Tamashii no Rufuran’
Before I move into and then close out with the side of Su-metal/Su-chan that I find the most fascinating, I want to add one of the cutest stories I have ever come across about Su-chan as well as Yui and Moa.
This is one of my favorite stories about Babymetal ever. There is something very touching and yet profound about it.
The picture here is called “The Coronation” by Hirokazu Sato.
Many have seen it and there are many stories associated with it. This is one of my favorites. It’s about the grasshopper. If you zoom in close on the left, next to the toad, you’ll see the grasshopper. Here’s the grasshopper story….enjoy.
It comes from the comments on Twitter posted by Mr. Kenta suzuki who is an announcer of MBS TV. Inazuma Rock 2013 was the first big stage for three girls at that time (around 20,000 attendance) and many Japnese BM fans were worried about how the show would go.
“BABYMETAL-san, this was their second appearance at Inazuma Rock Festival with the Metal Idols performing using live-singing and a live band. They put on a magnificent performance on the main stage! However, in the backstage area before the show, Yui-chan and Moa-chan were chasing grasshoppers together in harmony, and Su-chan quietly watched over them with a smile like a female bodhisattva, I saw that and was very healed.”
“A continuation of the previous tweet… A grasshopper was caught by Moa-chan but managed to escape (since Moa grabbed it too gently). Then, Moa-chan said to it “Bye-bye” waving her hands… I would say once more… she bade it good-bye waving her hands… (It’s so adorable that) I was nearly floored.”
The most amazing thing to me about Nakamoto Suzuka though is the uncanny and virtually inexplicable transformation that takes place whenever she steps on the stage. It is well known in the BABYMETAL world that Yuimetal and Moametal also talk of this phenomena where they don’t remember what has happened on stage due to the ‘Kourin’ <divine descent or intertwining of a god or spirit> of the Fox god. Now this of course may be, and probably is a gimmick to make BABYMETAL more fun and interesting, but at least, or especially with Su-chan/Su-metal, I don’t think we can write it off so easily. There really does seem to be something bordering on the miraculous that takes place. Using the aforementioned Krishnamurti as an example, he reported throughout his life the presence at times of what he called ‘the other’. This ‘other’ was strong presence that would appear invisibly and yet tangibly and intertwine with him bringing his mind to state that he reported could be ‘untouched by thought’ for long stretches of time. Could it be that something like this happens with Su-chan as well? Well, it is best to let her state it in her own words (translated by yours truly, actually).
Su-chan speaking on Su-metal:
‘Particularly in recent shows I have come to be aware of the moment when the Fox God descends into me. There are more and more instances where I feel as if someone inside of me is taking me by the hand and leading me making it so I can sing and express myself just exactly as I wish to do. So, more than saying I am making use of self control it is more like there is someone inside of me doing it for me (laughs).’
‘I really feel this way. And that is that I feel like I am a totally different personality on the stage. When I exit the stage I immediately feel like something has gone away from me. And so I think that there is a separate personality that is assisting me. When I am in good condition for a live show, it feels like there is a someone or something taking me by the hand and leading me along so that all goes well. So, I feel a high sense of pride when on stage. It is as if I must carry out a mission to mysteriously be really cool on stage.
It is like when I am singing and I think I will sing in a certain way and the voice that I thought would come out comes out exactly as I hoped. And when I am dancing I think this is how I want to dance in a cool manner and as I think that I am able to pull it off exactly as I had hoped. It is as if I am 1 or 2 seconds ahead in time watching
At that time, I realized that there is a ‘me’ who is different from the normal, day to day, ‘me’. From that point on I started to look upon a Babymetal ‘me’ that is different from my everyday self. That feeling has not changed from that point to now, and now there is a ‘me’ that enjoys performing as that separate personality. At times I am able to view myself from a 3rd person perspective and my usual self is kind of able to design my other self you could say to do things in a more interesting manner. Doing things like this I am able to enjoy things from my side of things. Since I am now of the understanding that there are things that ‘this me’ can do there are things that most likely only this created version of myself can do. I would not go so far as to say it is a manga like character but I do at times feel that this version of myself will be completely fine with whatever she does. And so I feel that there is nothing I can not do in a live performance.’
Nakamoto Suzuka is at once and at times, beautiful, cute, playful, fierce, as well as silly, down right badass, mesmerizing, totally down to earth, but most of all she is someone you literally can not take your eyes off of.
And one more final point. I will be truly exciting to see how her English speaking and comprehension improves over the next few years. I am amazed at how much she has already progressed in just a couple of years. When I am writing or translating often my wife sits on the other side of the table and is unable to see the computer screen. The other day I was going through videos of Su preparing for this. When I was listening to a compilation of Su-chan’s English interviews my wife blurted out, ‘Is that Su-metal!? Her English is so wonderful!’. (The other time she has responded so enthusiastically to the way someone speaks English was when she heard Brian Cox <the scientist> speaking)
Su, Su, Su…. the amazing Nakamoto Suzuka…..and remember she has been crucified 4 times and yet is still going strong.
EPSON scanner image
Utada. That is the name I know her by and the name I use. Utada-Hikaru (宇多田ヒカル)。Think about it, her name is うた…だ。That name itself means ‘Song’. While the Kanji is different, the wording is the same…Uta Da. Now, you may say, ‘OK, that must be a stage name’. Actually her name comes from her father’s family name of ‘宇多田’ and is just by chance, or by fate, her family name.
Utada Hikaru (宇多田ヒカル)
Now matter how you slice it Utada Hikaru is one of the greatest artists in the history of Japanese music. Just take a look at her stats:
Records 1999 – First Love: Best-Selling Album in Japan
2001 – Distance: 4th Best-Selling Album in Japan (All Times)
2nd Best-Selling Album by a Female Artist in Japan
2002 – Deep River: 4th Best-Selling Album by a Female Artist in Japan (All Times)
Distance: Best-Selling Album of 2001
‘Can you keep a secret’ was the best selling single in 2001
In the top 10 of overall sales in Japanese history ‘First love’ is still the number 1 seller of all time
The blockbuster, mega musician/producer, Komuro Tetsuya
said of Utada, ‘I felt that it was Hikaru who finished me off’. I am sure that he meant that he could not go on to compete or compare with what Utada brought to the Japanese music scene in 1999. He also reportedly said, ‘It was Utada Hikaru and the iPod that revolutionized the music (Japanese) scene’.
There was also this amazing quote by someone high up in the music industry made on the 15th anniversary of the release of ‘Automatic’.
‘It would not be an exaggeration to say that Utada Hikaru’s debut was like nothing that had ever occurred in the Japanese music world and she went on to be genuine social phenomena’.
‘Utada Hikaru has a music sense that is so complete unto itself and so unique that it makes all the western songs and artists that have been popular up until this point all look like complete fakes’.
Utada was not born in Japan, but rather in New York in 1983 to Utada Teruzane and Fuji Keiko (more about her famous mother later) . Her father, along with being a musician in his own right, worked as the manager of Utada’s mother, Fuji Keiko – a singer of such great renown as to be hard to explain in words. To put things simply, she was a thoroughbred from the start. So in spite of being a full blooded Japanese she grew up for the first 15 years of her life living in New York where she debuted with a cover of The Carpenter’s ‘Close to you’ in 1998 under the name of ‘Cubic U’, a play on her being the 3rd factor of the ‘Utada’ family.
Stating that Utada is a true thoroughbred refers to what she received from her renowned mother, Fuji Keiko who may not be well known to people of the present time, but she was undoubtedly one of the greatest Japanese singers in the ‘70s. One only need to listen to her sing for a brief minute to appreciate what an amazing singer she was.
‘Shinjuku no Onna’
It is so tragic and so mysteriously uncanny that she took her own life in 2013, jumping from a building in Shinjuku.
Nature or nurture, or nuture and nature, there is no doubt that Utada is who she is to an unmeasurable degree because of her mother. And it seems to go beyond that as we can see that their lives are uncannily almost mirror images of each other (at least to a point).
First of all, there is the obvious remarkable similarity in the way they sing as well as their looks and the way they hold themselves.
And looking at their respective histories we see:
Fuji Keiko got married in 1971 (to Maekawa Kiyoshi) at the age of 20.
They divorced in 1972.
Utada got married in 2002 (to Kiriya Kazuaki) at the age of 20.
They divorced in 2007.
Fuji Keiko suddenly and unexpectedly announced her retirement at the age of 28 in 1979 and then moved to America.
Utada also suddenly and unexpectedly announced her retirement at the age of 27 and then moved to the UK.
Fuji Keiko got remarried (to Utada Teruzane) in 1982 when she was 31 and gave birth to Utada Hikaru the following year.
Utada got remarried to an Italian man in 2014 when she was 31 and gave birth to a baby boy the next year.
I don’t honestly think there is any real supernatural or unexplainable factor that led to this string of coincidences, but it is interesting nonetheless. What can not be denied is that Utada Hikaru is the inheritor of some very outstanding genes. Adding to that, growing up under the influence of her incredibly talented mother and a father that was/is so steeped in the musical industry surely played a major factor as well. There is one more interesting but not really significant point I would like to make in this vein. In one of her fabulous ‘Kuma Power Hour’ radio shows….
[let me go off tangent for a minute as I want to tell you that this series of, I believe, 8 one-hour shows titled ‘Kuma Power Hour’ is something that you really must take a listen to. Utada talks a fair deal about herself as well as her mother, as well as displaying a vast amount of knowledge about the music scene both in and outside of Japan. The most interesting thing about the series is is that Utada speaks 50% of the time in fluent English and 50% of the time in fluent Japanese and it is a great deal of fun to listen to both versions of her talks back to back. As far as I know, Utada Hikaru is the only artist in the world that can truly be considered genuinely fluent in both Japanese and English. That in itself makes her a special presence in the music world. I know at times when she had just made her debut in Japan and her Japanese was not perfectly in mesh with the way Japanese girls would speak who had lived their lives only in domestic Japan, I got the feeling that that was rather stressful and difficult for her at times. She is a unique figure in that way in that she doesn’t really fit perfectly into ‘America’ and she also in a sense doesn’t fit perfectly into ‘Japan’ either-kind of an outsider. I know the feeling well having lived half of my life in the States and half here in Japan.]
…….Utada spoke about about her mother’s way of singing resembling very closely that of Patsy Cline’s. And it is true if you compare them back to back they do have the same feel. Patsy Cline also, it seems to me, implemented in some of her songs a kind of ‘Kobushi’ (tremelo) effect similar to that used in Enka. Sadly, she met a tragic end when she died in a car crash when she was just 30 years old which also seems to echo a bit with Fuji Keiko.
Obviously when someone asks who Utada is, the answer would be that she is a first class singer, but she needs to be equally praised for her songwriting. I love everything she has written (and sung) and it is interesting to see just how different she comes across when you compare her songs written in English with those in Japanese. Lets explore first of all one of her songs written in English, ‘Me Meuro’. The way she paints a picture of a young woman being totally devastated when her boyfriend leaves her is, well, it is a masterpiece of lyrical expression.
Please follow along using the following Youtube videos:
Me Muero (This is the One 2009)
‘Everyday my life’s in shambles
Since you took your love away
I got nothing left to gamble
I’ve thrown it all away’
<She starts out saying there is nothing left in her life. She has obviously given all she has to this man that she is in love with. Well, to start out it is perhaps typical of countless ‘love’ songs written and sung over the ages. But to start out like this in itself is atypical, I would say.>
‘Now and then I’m suicidal
Flirting with a new temptation
Happiness inside a bottle is what I need today’
<So we are seeing that she is herself most likely an alcoholic as who other than an alcoholic would find love inside a bottle. And she is professing to be considering killing herself over the loss of this boyfriend. Do you see how Utada has just added a layer of paint to this canvas? I personally begin to picture a young girl in perhaps a hotel room in a cheap hotel in Mexico (being that the title is in Spanish) talking with herself on how to live after her love has left her.>
‘Oh, my lover’s gone away, gone to Istanbul
Light as a feather
I lie in my bed and flip through TV channels
I’m smoking my days away reading old emails
In my old pajamas
What a day, me muero, muero, muero’
<And now Utada really starts to stack on the images, giving us more details about the state this girl is in. Her playboy lover has flittered off to Istanbul without a care for her. And she is left to lie on her bed trying to kill time flipping through TV shows and eating Godiva chocolate. Next, we get an image of her puffing away on cigarettes, reading old emails from her boyfriend without even bothering to change into new pajamas much less into proper clothes. Are you beginning to see the genius behind Utada’s lyrics?>
<And forget for a moment the big picture of her being thrown away by her boyfriend and focus on how she little by little adds to the image of what is going on with her, this young woman.>
‘Loneliness makes its arrival
Depression starts to settle in
Should I go Wynona Ryder?
And do some crazy things.’
<And now the depression and loneliness really shows itself. How many days have passed? We don’t know. But if you are really listening, her desperation and sadness really starts to show itself to you. This use of ‘Wynona Ryder’ as a verb is absolute brilliance. The way she phrases it not as, ‘Should I do something crazy like Wynona Ryder?’ but rather as ‘Wynona Ryder’ as a something that you can do is only a sensitivity that someone like Utada could conjure up.>
The rest of the song more or less echoes these themes and images, but I would guess that you will appreciate why I feel this girl is so damn skilled at painting a picture, be it suicidal levels or depression or…..the way to deal with these feelings as we find in the, what I feel, is the greatest song she ever wrote, ‘Show me Love (not a dream)’- this time in Japanese.
Show me Love (not a dream) (Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol. 2 2011)
This is an extremely deep song that speaks about dealing with psychological pain in such a poetic and concise manner that I feel I get more out of this one song than could be found after reading tomes of psychological/philosophical books. It is as if Utada has condensed the deepest thoughts of say, Krishnamurti or the Buddha into a little pill that all one has to do is swallow. And because it is done so artistically it is a pleasant tasting one to boot.
It was released as the theme song for the film version of ‘Ashita no Jo-‘ in early 2011 and was performed at her final 2 shows in the Yokohama Arena where she laid down her microphone and went into retirement at the ridiculously young age of 28 (more on that later).
–I have tried to suppress this feeling (psychological pain) but it
won’t fade away, it sinks slowly once again to the bottom of a lake
<This is such lovely, poetic way to describe the way most of us try to deal with psychological pain or feelings. We think we can push them aside to some place unconnected to us, but they almost always reappear.>
–If you chase after two things at once, you end up with neither
My heart and mind grow heavy as I become totally fatigued with
all the contradictions
<That first line is well known parable or saying in Japan and needs no explanation except to say that it is very good in expressing one of the factors of psychological pain-that trying for two opposing things and the contradictions and fatigue such efforts produce.>
(Inside my lavender dreams)
–I thought I understood that running away from this pain (feeling)
only makes it more terrifying
I know that almost certainly there will never come a day where
I will be free from worry
<This is such a profound understanding-that you only make your problems worse by running away from them. They will come back bigger and more terrifying the more you escape from them.>
私の内なるパッセージ Show me love
内なるパッセージ Baby show me love
It’s all in my head Can you show me love
It’s all in my head Not a dream
–If I give into my lack of confidence I will
never be able to take this journey inside myself
Show me love
This journey within
Baby show me love
It’s all in my head Can you show me love
It’s all in my head Not a dream
<She is now expressing (I believe) that she knows the way
to deal with her psychological pain is to go within and face it
directly. I can’t correlate the ‘Show me love’ with the way I am
interpreting the lyrics so I may be off base, but….
And the ‘It’s all in my head’ is the realization that all of her (our)
psychological suffering is something that we ourselves have created or
prolonged through our own thought processes. This is so Krishnamurtian.>
–A purple signal flashes and my mind goes completely quiet
Only the unease and trepidations continue on
<I used to do a weekly podcast for about 3 years, where I interviewed scientists, writers, professors, etc and I tried unsuccessfully to get Utada on as a guest. If I had succeeded this was the number one thing I wanted to ask her, ‘What in the world is this ‘purple signal’?!>
(Inside my lavender dreams)
–I am weak. But, that is not something
that I particularly ashamed of.
痛みの元を辿って Show me love
元を辿って Baby show me love
It’s all in my head Can you show me love
It’s all in my head Not a dream
–In fact, each and everyone of us should
embrace some kind of deep darkness
At times in sickness we need to struggle, to scream
and shout and go right to the source of our pain
Show me love
It’s all in my head Can you show me love
It’s all in my head Not a dream
<It is hard to tell if she means we need to at times get sick and
go through it and get to the source of pain to deal with it, or if she
means ‘at times of sickness’ we need to do so. Either way, when you see her perform this, you really get the feeling that she personally KNOWS that you must go all out, get kind of raw and tenaciously trace the pain to its roots. Deep stuff.>
自分を認めるcourage Show me love
認めるcourage Baby show me love
–Lets forget all the theories that we have built up
Whatever goes up, must come down
In actual fact, no love is perfect no matter how deep it is
Only I can have the courage to be able to accept myself
Show me love
The courage to accept myself
Show me love
It’s all in my head
It’s all in my head
–After all it was only when I realized that I had just
been dreaming it all that I was able to
take my first steps under my own power
This journey within
The journey within
It’s all in my head
It’s all in my head
<I love how she brings this to a conclusion with the
profound realization that all of her (our) problems are nothing
more than dream stuff and that realization sets one free to
really start living.>
Following are some shorts clips from various songs highlighting her lyrical genius.
Workout (Exodus 2002)
I was talking with a born-again Christian
“So what’s it like to start life all over?”
He said “Amen,
I feel like I’ve been rediscovering the tomb of Tutankhamen.”
<I am not sure what it actually means, but it certainly makes you stop and think>
Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence – FYI (This is the One 2009)
Like Captain Picard
I’m chillin’ and flossin’
It’s seven o’clock
I issue you the warning
That’s right, we’re stealing this show
Damn right, letting him know
We’re sipping Chardonnay on 2 PM on our working day
<I love the utter brashness of this song. And it is such a tragedy that this album, ‘This is the One’ didn’t get the attention nor sales it deserves. I mean EVERY song on it is a masterpiece.>
Take 5 (Heart Station 2008)
–Take off your coat and come inside
There is no beginning nor ending
I want to live this day true to who I am
Deep River (DEEP RIVER 2002)
–This sword was not entrusted with the task of
clashing with other swords.
With contradictions like this just who can you protect?
<Kind of hard to translate but I think she is saying that if this sword is
used for fighting, for battle, it is not fulfilling its true purpose which is to
protect and defend. If, in other words, we go on the attack and battle we
are actually losing the ability to defend and protect those whom we are entrusted
to defend and that is the contradiction>
Prisoner of Love (Heart Station 2008)
–The blues, the sadness that is created by desiring after things
one can never attain
Everyone is looking for some kind of tranquility
We fight and steal in spite of fact that we have everything
We are all chasing after a shadow of love
<This rant on the world is so spot on and the feeling behind it really comes across in ‘Wild Life’>
Utada went into retirement from late 2010, in fact, I would imagine that you could say it started when she laid down her microphone in the manner of Yamaguchi Momoe at the conclusion of her 2nd night show at the Yokohama Arena. It is truly amazing that an artist of her stature could suddenly announce that she was going into retirement for 「人間活動に専念するため」<in order to devote herself to human activities>, or to live a life as an ordinary person. She stated several times that she felt strange that she knew nothing of how to balance a family budget or indeed do any of the daily tasks that most of us take for granted. She also stated, in all sincerity, that she would be happy to work as a cashier at a 7-11 (I don’t think that ever panned out). So, she gave it all up with no intention or set date for a return. That is some pretty heavy fortitude I would say. Now, of course, we know that she returned to the music world in the spring of 2016 after getting married and having a baby boy. I would love to add to this blog entry sometime in the near future when I have more to say on the fabulous album, ‘Fantome’.
I will sign off on this for now with a quote from Utada’s thoroughly enjoyable book, ‘Sen’.
I believe she wrote this when she was 18 and it really gives insight into how she approaches singing and performing.
I could have sworn I was reading one of Tohei-sensei’s books when I ran across this comment written by the loveliest singer/songwriter to ever grace this planet-Utada Hikaru. Pure Aikido is this.
A lot of people say, “It must be tough to strengthen your abdominal muscles”. As for myself, Utada Hikaru, I am not thinking anything when I sing! And I certainly do not put tension in my abdomen (laughs). To the contrary, I release all the tension from every part of my body and sing with every part of my body from the top of my head to my mouth, throat, lungs, wind pipe, stomach, intestines to the tips of my toes as one single connected musical instrument. I feel that concentrating, and digging in by filling your body with tension are TOTALLY different animals. So, when I sing I don’t get tired at all. I could sing all day without my voice giving out. In fact talking and laughing tire me out way more than singing.
The host of the show is Nakai Masahiro who is extremely famous in Japan as a member of SMAP which disbanded last year. He is well know as baseball fanatic and is highly regarded as a skilled MC of quiz/talk shows and the like. He is also known for his utter lack in singing skills.
Sawabe Yuu is a comedian who was (is?) 1/2 of the comedy duo ‘Haraichi’ and is sought after for his skills in Aizuchi and keeping the flow of talk shows running smoothly with his friendly, self deprecating manner. You may know him as the co-host of the TV show, ‘Keyakizaka tte kakenai?’.
Watanabe Mayu (Mayuyu) is an extremely famous member of AKB48 as well as for acting appearances in TV dramas. She is also apparently a big fan of BABYMETAL.
Yokosawa Natsuko is a comedian and member of Yoshimoto Kougyou.
We have the ‘Kari Band’ 6-string bassist, BOH-san here to talk freely about this band that has spanned the entire world with its dynamic sound.
The session unit ‘Kari Band’ composed of Fujioka Mikio (guitar), BOH (bass) and Maeda Yuuya (drums) which was launched in November of 2015 has at long last released its first mini album titled, ‘Kari Ongen -DEMO’.
From live houses with a scale where the venue is filled by a few dozen fans to the arenas and stadiums that are considered to be the largest venues on the planet…… This band featuring some of the most talented artists in the world has experienced all this and all in between and has released their heart filled album featuring their original songs putting them up for an evaluation of their worth. ‘Kari Ongen -DEMO’ composed of these members who have garnered attention because of their virtual Heavy Metal god inspired performances along with guest artists such as Calmera, Nishiwaki Tatsuya, ISAO as well as rapidly up and coming pianist, Kuwahara Ai is certain to be met with enthusiastic approval from Jazz Fusion fans around the world.
Our ‘Music Magazine’’s May features the interview that we carried out with the Kari Band, but here we would like to provide you with our solo interview with BOH-san. Coincidentally we were both born in the year of the dog and both come from Asahikawa city in Hokkaido so we felt like friends right from the git-go. I was so thrilled and happy to have received an instant approval to do another interview at another time centering on Jazz/Fusion and our shared home town.
BOH-san, when you were a student where were you purchasing musical instruments and CDs and so on? When I (Harada) was a student the only place selling musical instruments in my home town of Asahikawa was Machii Gakki (closed in 1997). And for records there was really only ‘Kokuhara’ (closed in 2008) located in the building that housed the ramen shop, ‘Baikouken’, or ‘Gyokkoudou’ (since relocated in the suburbs) located in the basement of the department store ‘OKUNO’.
Mostly I made use of Gyokkoudou’ and Shimamura Gakki (Musical instruments).
Did you like music from an early age?
Actually, in fact it would be better to say that I didn’t like music (laughs). My mother worked as a music teacher at an elementary while my father worked in the market and served as the conductor of the Asahikawa city choir as a way to be of benefit to the community. When I was a little boy I was made to go to the city youth choir club as well as music school and so I came to hate music. Of course I did – it is not ‘wild’, you know. Growing up in Asahikawa it was just a natural progression of things that I would want to become a member of the Self Defense Force.
That is because the 7th division of the Japanese Imperial Army was located in Asahikawa in the past. About 1/2 of my classmates from elementary school were children of Self Defense Force members.
Yes, in summer vacation I would head out into the mountains and stay there for like a full week with only a supply of rice. I was always doing things like that as I wanted to get into that feeling of being in survival mode. However, there was this time that I went to a culture festival in Jr. High where my Senpai were performing and the girl I had gone there with said to me, ‘BOH-chan, do you play some kind of instrument?’. At the time I didn’t play anything so could only answer honestly that I was not able to play an instrument, to which she responded, ‘Oh, that is so uncool.’. The fact that she wasn’t even a cute girl just made me even more angry at her reaction. If that had been said to me by a cute girl I would have been shocked but since it was her I felt more anger than shock. Kind of the sense of, ‘Fine, I will transform myself into someone who is not uncool’, I went over to my friend’s house to give a guitar a try. Doing so, I felt this instrument with 6 stings and the way you had to work to make the chords was really off-putting. The bass, on the other hand, had only 4 strings, it was easier to play and you could look and sound good even with its monophonic sounds. Soon I was pumped up thinking, ‘I am simply the best!’ and from that point on I just got more and more into playing the bass.
I am pretty sure that I was at first playing a score of Luna Sea that I had bought, and that was their ‘True Blue’ (released in 1994). My trip on this path started with me thinking, ‘I have just bought a bass but I am already almost as good as the professionals. This certainly means that the music gods are telling me to <become a bass player>’. I was interested in Western music and expanded my adventures into MR. BIG and came to like Billy Sheehan and that interest in the bass led me to be impressed with Victor Wooten, who I thought was amazing, and that further led me to ‘wonder how Marcus Miller was able to produce such amazing sounds. This furthered pursuit gradually led me in my high school years to listen to more jazz and fusion music. Also, at this time, my younger brother was into Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple and other bands from the 60’s and 70’s and so I was also influenced by these bands as well.
What was the first work by Victor Wooten that you got your hands on?
That was a VHS of ‘Live at Bass Day’
When I was wondering if there was another ridiculously talented bassist out there after being so moved by Bill Sheehan, I was lucky enough to find this video in a video section of a music shop. The way he has his hands placed on the bass in the picture on the jacket is so obviously strange, you know. This got me interested in finding out just what he was doing. That is the reason I bought that album. As far as his albums go, I really like ‘Show of Hands’ (1997).
The first band I heard with Billy Sheehan was ‘Talas’. I was labeled using his name in Katakana, ’ビリーシーハン’ <Billy Sheehan>.
Counting back from MR. BIG’s best album (1996), I was also listening to performances from Talas and the David Lee Roth Band. I did not know of anyone else who was able to do such interesting phrasing as a rock bassist. It was extremely interesting to hear his different approach when he played rock in such endeavors as when he teamed up with Dennis Chambers in the fusion band, Niacin. The first bassist for me to carry out phrase analysis on was the bass player, Billy Sheehan.
What other fusion type of bassists did you listen to?
I was totally blown away by ‘Jaco Pastorius’s Word of mouth’. I couldn’t believe that these were sounds made by a bass. I also liked Stanley Clarke, Jeff Berlin, Stuart Hamm and Nathan East. I was also later very drawn by the approaches taken by the guitar work of Brian Bromberg and I thought the vocals of Richard Bona were also wonderful. Added to that I was moved by the artist that it would not be an exaggeration to say created the 6-string bass, Anthony Jackson. He personally calls it the contrabass however. And his trio with Michel Camilo and Horacio Hernandez was absolutely outstanding. I got hints about performing slap playing mostly from Marcus Miller
Not from Victor Wooten?
Wooten has kind of an acrobatic approach to slapping. The way he does slapping I feel is not the usual way one thinks about it where he kind of scratches the strings will all of his fingers. Marcus’ way of slapping is more of a building up of a foundation for the sound and his ‘backing’ is also fantastic.
To return to your story…after you so impressed by Victor Wooten and Billy Sheehan, you made your way to Tokyo at last.
From the time I was in High school I was saying that ‘in the future I will go to Tokyo and debut in a band’. My mother however felt that, ‘if you go to Tokyo and try to get into music while doing part time jobs will just play around with nothing to show for it’, and suggested that I enroll in a music school. I took her up on that and entered the Human Academy Music College in Aoyama, Tokyo. It is no longer in existence however. Upon entering I found out that there a lot of really good players (laughs). Most of the teachers were studio musicians and it was then that I learned that there are other ways to go about making a living at music other than debuting in a band and that led me think that I wanted to be a musician who could work doing sessions and as a back band performer. It was a 2-year program but I went on to be an instructor there after I graduated. After that I started to get a lot of offers from outside the school of people asking me, ‘hey, could you play for us?’, and it was during this time that I met DAITA-san, the guitarist for Siam Shade. At the beginning, I worked as a supporting bassist for the unit BINECKS that DAITA-san and KEITA had formed but later they said to me, ‘we are going to make our major debut and would like you to join as a member’. So, I became a member of BINECKS toward the end of 2007. I had no interest in making a major debut but they were my Senpai and all that, so I couldn’t really turn them down (laughs).
When did you start playing mainly on a 6-string bass?
When I had first arrived in Tokyo I was of course playing a 4-string bass, but this extremely bothersome and rather scary teacher at the music school said to me, ‘Omae, your going to have to play a 6-string bass’. After summer vacation had finished and classes had started up again I still did not have a 6-string bass and that teacher got really angry at me – ‘Why do you not do as I tell you! I told you to buy a 6-string bass. Get one and bring it here!’. And so, I bought cheap 6-string bass. At the time I couldn’t really play the guitar nor the piano very well as the classes devoted to chords were rather hard to follow. But with the 6-string bass I was able to play the chords, making it easier to follow along with the classes and I was able to digest music theory as well as chord study much more than I had been able to do before. So, I started to think, ‘hmm, this 6-string bass is a good thing’. Additionally, I was told by a cute woman teacher that, ‘since there are very few back band bassists in Japan using mainly a 6-string bass you will be able to become a 6-string representative for Japan if you work at it from right now’ (laughs). From that point on to now I have been playing the 6-string bass. I only have one 4-string bass in my possession at the moment. I have been playing the 6-string for a long time now and am very used to it. It is very interesting to play and I don’t get asked to play a 4-string anyway.
So it is kind of like, ‘If you need a 6-sting bassist, ask BOH-san’?
I think the people in the industry know, ‘if you ask for BOH, you know what you will get’. And I don’t know why it is, but I get asked almost exclusively to perform difficult pieces. It is not that I personally like difficult songs though. The other day when we finished recording ‘Chuku’ in a 13 time/beat (?) as the Kari Band I got an offer to perform in 13 time/beat for another band. I have gotten extremely good at this 13 time/beat so I am sure the day will come when people will say, ‘that guy is incredibly good playing in a 13 time/beat, but for quadruple time…not so much’ (laughs).
On the Kari Band’s, ’Kari Ongen – Demo’ album you can really fully enjoy BOH-san’s 6-string bass playing. In addition to ‘Chuku’ that came up in the discussion a bit earlier, the tapping performance in ‘Ninja Groove’ is amazing and the tranquil riff in ‘Snowflakes’ is truly impressive.
The foundation for ‘Snowflakes’ came from a phrase that came to me when I was practicing the bass in my home when I was a student. It is a riff of the Lydian scale (a scale where 4 degrees of the major scale have been raised up a semitone) that came to me due to being really into the guitar of Steve Vai at the time. If you delve into Billy Sheehan you always arrive at Steve Vai. I got really interested in this scale that he used that is kind of hard to determine if it has a good feel to it or actually a kind of bad feel and looking into it I found it was the Lydian scale that he was using. I remembered being really impressed with myself for this really cool phrase that came to me at this snow covered park in Asahikawa. During the recording I was constantly repeating this scale over and over, it is actually really easy. The rest of the parts of this song I left entirely to Fujioka-sensei (Fujioka Mikio). (laughs)
In your Kari Band live shows you do a cover of Mike Stern’s ‘Chatter’ (included on the 2003 album, ‘These Times’), but the songs on this album are all original pieces, right?
The Kari Band is a session band and we started out just bringing together the songs that each of us liked. In the live shows we do quite a bit of cover songs. The inclusion of ‘Chatter’ was the idea of our drummer, Maeda Yuuya.
With 6 songs on the ’Kari Ongen – Demo’ album it is treated as a mini album, but their is a myriad of music and sounds, and the contents are really dense. Also, the jacket is so overpowering.
Yes, it is an instrumental album that has the feel of us the members who all like jazz and fusion getting together and performing what we most want to play at the moment. As for the jacket, right from the outset we said to ourselves, ‘lets go with a real Japanese look’. We have gotten a lot of messages of interest about the release of the album from people overseas as well and so I think this kind of jacket will be met with pleasure by people overseas (laughs). Also, there probably aren’t too many albums with a ‘Japanese style jacket’ in the Jazz/Fusion section of music stores. I am looking forward to the reaction it stirs and how it looks when it hits the record shops.
Be sure to watch the ‘FULL METAL BAND LIVE TOUR 2013 – Trailer’ before you begin reading.
2013 May 18
BABYMETAL DEATH MATCH TOUR – May Revolution – BATTLE -2
ZEPP DiverCity Tokyo
Story 1 –
That was a challenge to exceed oneself, to imagine a totally new self, or, in other words, to go into battle with oneself.
BABYMETAL embarked on a new ordeal that would put them to the test and was to recover the true spirit of Metal that had been taken away by the magical powers of A-KIBA.
Now, together with our like-minded comrades gathered here in this Tokyo town of Odaiba, BABYMETAL will board the [METAL ARK], ‘The Flying V’ as we venture out on this training journey.
Ladies and Gentlemen, is your neck prepared for what is coming?
Now, it is time to lift the curtain on the [May Revolution]!!
As the result of making it through their intensely difficult trials and hardships,
BABYMETAL has acquired the ability of ‘Speed’ in this country known as Japan.
As Himiko said…
‘If you show me True Metal I will give you ‘Romantic’.
Himiko certified BABYMETAL as Metal messengers and entrusted Su-metal with one of her canons.
That canon is known as the scripture of the Lightning that rules the Heavens.
Into this scripture Su-metal inscribed….. this set list that she brought into existence herself! This canon changed into an emblem right before her eyes.
So, just what is the meaning conveyed by this emblem?!
Story 2 –
The Metal Master of ancient Egypt, ‘Cleopatra’ said this to BABYMETAL when she met them….’In order to acquire True Metal it is necessary to make use of prayer’.
Dogeza Hedoban <Hedoban done from a kneeling position>…….
Yuimetal and Moametal did nothing but prayer non-stop and continuously in order to obtain True Metal.
Story 3 –
As the result of making it through their intensely difficult trials and hardships,
BABYMETAL has acquired the power of ‘Prayer’ in this country known as Egypt.
As Cleopatra said…
‘Metal is already dead’.
Cleopatra certified BABYMETAL as Metal messengers and entrusted Yuimetal with one of her canons.
That canon is known as the scripture of the Earth that rules over all creation.
This canon changed into an emblem right before her eyes.
So, just what is the meaning conveyed by this emblem?!
2013 May 19
BABYMETAL DEATH MATCH TOUR – May Revolution – BATTLE -3
ZEPP DiverCity Tokyo
<Same as the 1st paragraph of Story 1>
Story 2 –
The Metal Master of ancient China, ‘Youkihi’ <Yang Kei Fei> said this to BABYMETAL when she met them….’In order to acquire True Metal it is necessary to have Perseverance’.
Yuimetal and Moametal put their backs to one another and did nothing but Oshikura Manju <a game of pushing against others using your backside> non-stop and continuously in order to obtain perseverance.
Story 3 –
As the result of making it through their intensely difficult trials and hardships,
BABYMETAL has acquired ‘Perseverance’ in this country known as China.
As Youkihi said…
‘What is yours is mine’.
Youkihi certified BABYMETAL as Metal messengers and entrusted Moametal with one of her canons.
That canon is known as the scripture of the Goddess that rules over Freedom.
This canon changed into an emblem right before her eyes.
So, just what is the meaning conveyed by this emblem?!
2013 May 21
BABYMETAL DEATH MATCH TOUR – May Revolution – Final Battle
ZEPP DiverCity Tokyo
<Same as the 1st paragraph of Story 1>
Story 2 –
The Metal Master of France, Joan of Arc said this to BABYMETAL when she met them….’In order to acquire True Metal it is necessary to have Pride’.
BABYMETAL raised their hands in the Kitsune sign, formed a circle and danced so vigorously that they created a storm.
Story 3 –
As the result of making it through their intensely difficult trials and hardships,
BABYMETAL has acquired ‘Pride’ in this country known as France.
As Joan of Arc said…
‘You do not necessary have to become No. 1, what you must do is become a truly unique and special entity of which there is Only One.
Joan of Arc certified BABYMETAL as Metal messengers and entrusted Moametal with the final canon.
That canon is known as the Black Album of Kitsune-sama.
With this, at last, the emblems all came together depicting the Metal Master Constellation in the summer night sky, following this the door to this Metal Master was opened.
This leads to making an appearance at the Martial Arts Fighting Competition <BudouKai> where the greatest Metal Masters all gather – Summer Sonic 2013!
There is no way that we could stay silent after being mesmerized by such an overpowering and moving live performance!!
Our comprehensive report on the Metallica&Babymetal Seoul performance.
(Umezawa Naoyuki, Editor of Hedoban)
(Hayashi Kousei, Editing staff member of Hedoban)
‘Hedoban’ Editor’s round table discussion
It is amazing that they could put on such an overwhelming show just with their raw movements. I was totally blown away. (Hayashi)
This was the first time for me to see one of Metallica’s solo shows.
Oh! Is that right? Up to now you have only seen them at Festivals and the like?
The timing of when Metallica came to Japan would always for some reason or other not match with my situation, such as them coming when I was still a child, or something in my private schedule prevented me from going. Because of that I have only seen them at Summer Sonic and a few times at overseas Festivals.
What did you think of your first solo Metallica show?
Oh, well, I was terrifically moved as it exceeded my preconceived ideas of what it would be like. What I mean by that is that in the videos I have seen of Metallica solo shows up to that point featured statues of Maiden goddesses, crumbling stages and other kinds of large scale production effects. That was the image I had of their shows. Even in the stage shown in the movie, ‘Through the Never’, crosses appeared on the theretofore simple stage as well as the assembling suddenly of a Goddess statue.
That is correct.
But, now with this stage all there is is a single drum set and some amps. Other than these items all there is that is set up are 5 gigantic LED screens and nothing else. The stage is totally, radically, simple. However, all they needed to produce an overwhelming presentation was to make use of these high quality visual images and more than anything, their own movements set against this total simplicity. I was in a state of shock.
So this was totally different than the Metallica you had encountered at the Festivals?
Yes, totally different! Of course I thoroughly enjoyed the flavor that only Festivals can provide and the set lists they carried out, but the sense of falling deep into the world of Metallica that came across at this show was truly outstanding. It was like one was witnessing one complete tale.
Since they haven’t come to Japan since the 2013 Summer Sonic I have only seen them at overseas Festivals. This show in Korea was the best show I personally have seen since the shows in the 00’s and, no, actually it is right up there with the best shows I have ever seen by Metallica.
You would evaluate it that highly!
Speaking of myself, I have been a big fan of Metallica ever since I was in Jr. High, so much so in fact that immediately after the ‘Black Album’ was released in 1991 I was so into them that I couldn’t restrain myself and went all the way to England’s Donington Park to see them play at the ‘Monsters of Rock’.
This was the show where AC/DC was the headlining act and Metallica went on before them. I took all the money that we had been saving up for my school excursion and used all the money to go there (laughs). For the 1991 New Year’s Eve show at the Tokyo Dome where Metallica put on a countdown performance, I lined up many times all night outside the Aoyama ticket agency located near the Aoyama cemetery in order to get front row tickets. I was that crazy about Metallica.
You sound like ‘Meat Arai’’s Arai-san, or ‘Metallica information bureau’’s thingy-san!
I felt that Metallica is right now in their utmost prime! (Umezawa)
Something like that. However, there was a period of time when I drifted away from Metallica as well. Metallica put out a video that was a documentary of their arena tour for the ‘Black Album’ called, ‘A year and a half in the life of Metallica’. In the documentary there was a scene of them backstage kind of behaving like they were becoming rich wearing bathrobes, you see.
With that I thought that Metallica had made it to the big time and that they had switched into what we now call Arena Metal. I was quite disappointed.
Just because they were casually wearing bathrobes?! (laughs)
That scene just kind of summed things up for me regarding them at the time (laughs). They were of course playing large scale venues around the time of ‘…And Justice For All’ as well, but it was like they were performing just the way they did at live houses only on larger scale stages. There was a sense of exhilaration that it was ‘us versus Metallica’. To this immature youth that I was at the time seeing them wearing bathrobes and flying around in their private jet made me think, ‘Ah, that is not the Metallica we know. They are now no different from Bon Jovi or Def Leppard!’. And so, I kind of fell out of grace with them for some time. I had kind of lost my passion for this gigantic band that Metallica had grown into.
I see. (laughs)
If I think about it now, I realize that I was kind of a representative of what it is to be a bad fan in that I turned on them just because they had become successful (laughs). And I distanced myself even farther from them when ‘Load’ and ‘Reload’ came out. They came to Japan several times in the ‘90s and I would go the shows just out of pure momentum. I would force myself to put my opinions to the side and just sit down and watch the shows. But, when ‘Saint Anger’ came out and they came to Japan in 2003 I started to once again think that after all is said and done, Metallica is wonderful. This was a revival tour coming on the heels of all the upheaval with Jason Newsted leaving as shown in the video, ‘Some kind of monster’. It was here that I felt Metallica had returned to its original form. After that, I went to see them at Summer Sonic and the ‘Death Magnetic’ tour when they came to Japan to perform, but I wasn’t as let down as I was in the ’90’s. In fact, they seemed to get better each time I went to see them. They would perform their older songs with passion and they didn’t seem to get off kilter. But, even saying that, it did not mean that I was as moved by them as I had been before.
You are saying that they were good at putting on regular live shows, right?
Yes, that’s right. That changed for me when we as the ‘Hedoban’ editing staff went to the 2014 Sonisphere to the cover the Festival and saw Metallica’s show. I am sure the atmosphere of the Festival plays a part in this, but I felt the seriousness, the raw drive of Metallica coming through their performance. There was so much packed into the images they presented on the screen as well. And the fans around us were long time middle aged, devoted fans decked out in old Metallica T-shirts putting their arms around one another’s shoulders singing along with the band. So, including that whole atmosphere and all, Metallica’s performance at Sonisphere was truly fantastic. I hadn’t been moved like that for quite some time. I am sure that the fact that I was now facing Metallica with a more direct, head-on approach than I had long ago also played into this. But, I was more emotionally moved with this Korean show than I was even at Sonisphere. I felt that Metallica is truly at their utmost prime.
One doesn’t get tired even though you are listening to such explosive, such hard music. (Hayashi)
Yes! It seems like the band is heading in a direction in just the way they should be. Further, I was most surprised by how good the sound was.
It was absolutely out of this world! Even the sound coming out of the drum sound check reverberated in every organ in my body, you could say.
There was a wave of excitement amongst the crowd when that kick of the drums resounded out with a response of, ‘What is this?!’. The way that dome is structured allows for a great deal of reverberation. But, I was amazed that in spite of that it was possible to put out such a clear and uncluttered sound. Once that first sound sounded out, I felt that I could give myself entirely to the show, you could say. There was after that no feeling of unease or of this being out of place.
I was watching from the most frontal standing only arena area somewhere near the back left. But, even from this position in this spacious venture I was able to hear each and every sound coming from the guitars with great clarity. And even taking that into consideration, it was possible to hear the edginess of the guitars in full detail. With the impact of this sound discovery, I realized that THIS is the sound of a band that is able to occupy the main position in Festivals all over the world! It goes without saying that Stadium Metal means spending a lot of time and energy to get where it is, but in and above that it means the ability to convey that level of quality of sound to the people in the back as well. That is what signifies ‘True Stadium Metal’. There is no way I could think other than that in the world Metallica is truly the greatest Stadium Metal band after watching this Korean show. The thing that shocked me to my core the most in terms of sound was the first riff set out by James in ‘Battery’. His riff had the sound so amazingly lined up while not losing anything in its power. It was truly amazing.
I don’t know if it was because of the way the system was set up or because the set up was so close to me, but anyway this was the most metallic sound I have ever heard from BABYMETAL. The sound was heavy, big and hard.
That is true. BABYMETAL’s sound was also amazing. It may have been the most METAL sounding BABYMETAL live performance of all time. The bass sounds were also put out amazingly well.
That is so true. That refined and perfected sound of Metallica combined with Metallica’s simple yet strong and solid performance made for a powerful impact. You could say that they are pushing the envelope on what entertainment is. Not only do they not leave a second to be bored, they also hit you will this explosive sound, this unbelievably hard sound and yet you are not worn out by it at all.
With those kinds of sound and those visuals you could easily watch the goings on for hour after hour. I was so happy that they were willing to play their new first and second songs in the live show as their first and second songs and I was also happy that BABYMETAL fans who saw Metallica live were going on to say that they were, ‘Amazing!’ and ‘they were the best!’. I think it is wonderful that more people will see Metallica like this and go on to be Metallica fans. Hayashi-kun, were you able to watch both BABYMETAL and Metallica from a position near the front row?
Yes, I was. I was basically in the front row. The fans were also really wonderful. They participated in the sing alongs and rode along with the points where the excitement peaks and yet they did not out of hand at all.
Was there a Mosh pit going on in the area near the stage?
I was on the stage right side of things and from my point of view I could not see one. However, due to the intense fervor of the crowd there were people who fell down or started to feel bad and there were many of these people who were led away by the security staff. Also, right up near the stage there were young women who would scream out, ‘Kyaaa!’ every time James came near them on the stage. (laughs)
There he is, this middle aged guy in his 50’s dressed in a jean jacket covered in Metal patches and this time he showed up also wearing boots like you might imagine an engineer wears, right?
When I saw him wearing leather pants from where I was near the stage, I was totally blown away!
The only one that could not only look good dressed out like that, but come across as a ridiculously cool Metalhead in his 50’s is none other than James. I can say without fear of overstating it that the ‘Metallica of now’, including their new album is the greatest of all time. Of course there will be those who say that ‘no, it is the Metallica of the 90’s that is the best’, or that their early years were the best and yet now that they are in their 50’s they are at their strongest both mentally and physically and they are at their peak with the sound they are putting out and the presence they bring to the stage. There is no band or even groups of bands that can stand their own against them. They play the key position in major overseas Festivals and sell out solo concerts with crowds of 50 thousand or more people. That speaks mountains as to their strength. Since they have not played in Japan outside of some Festivals for the past few years I feel that the degree of their strength has not been properly conveyed. But, seeing this live performance burned into me the inescapable fact that the ‘Metallica of now’ is stronger than any Metallica in the past.
It is true that no one can stand as their rival.
They are without rivals. They seem to be peaking with each generation. They peaked in their 20’s and then went on to a bigger peak in their 30’s and yet now in their 50’s they are reaching their biggest peak yet.
They are tough. Of course it goes without saying that each time they put out a new release there will be people debating whether it is good or bad, but when you seem them live that all goes out the window, right?
That is so true. (laughs) Whether they bring out an old song or a new one, the crowd will go wild, and that is an amazing accomplishment in and of itself. I really felt that they are overwhelming.
Their ability to raise the excitement of the crowd depending upon whether they know the song being performed or not, of course if they know it they will go all out, but they know that even if the crowd doesn’t know it, with this gigantic screen and hearing the music they will be moved by the song even if they are in their teens. There is no band out there that will move the hearts of so many age groups as does Metallica. And what is more, the members themselves are not swayed by factors such as these in the slightest. They do not break from their hard established stance to any degree.
Even if you were not thrilled by the new songs, you would be totally excited with them seeing this live show. (Umezawa)
This show was so simple, but the set was so firmly set up and in place, James was so metallically suited up and we had the new album behind it all. It seems when you look closely at all of this like we are returning to the roots, the starting point of Metallica. It felt to me that they were doing what they really like and were bringing to life what they really love.
They are not unnecessarily trying to outdo themselves. They are not shouting out, ‘We are the latest and greatest in Metal!’, or attempting to do something new just for newness sake. There were times in the past where they were experimenting with new things or it seemed they felt they had to do something different from their previous albums, but now they seem to be just going all out with what they have in a nonchalant attitude. Their publicity shots show this attitude as well. Their recent Twitter posts and Instagrams often show them smiling away. I feel that that shows them as ‘the Metallica of the present’.
One gets the distinct feeling that they are having fun at what they are doing.
Yes, yes that is it. Said in a good way, it seems they have leeway in what they are doing. Those who were not too impressed with their new songs and album I am sure changed their feelings when they heard them perform at this show. I am sure that if you are someone who loves Metal that even if you were not thrilled by the new songs, you would be totally excited with them seeing this live show.
The atmosphere of this live show was just oozing with fun that the band members themselves were having.
I think that is true. Metallica is a band that has its high points and its low points. They have had members die on them, they have had members leave, members who go to therapists, they have tried working with orchestras and have do Lou Reed type things. They are a band that has walked an incredibly dramatic path with countless undulations, but the Metallica that they are now is firmly settled and relaxed in what they do.
They are calm and relaxed and yet extremely strong, you could say.
They are at their peak in power. It was like James had grabbed all of us who were pontificating in the manner of ‘this is not the real Metallica’, or Metallica is finished!’ by the neck shouting at us, ‘just stop it with your verbal nonsensical garbage!’. One got the feeling that they were kind of saying, ‘enough of that, just come watch us perform live’. Of all the live shows I have seen of Metallica this one in Korea where I felt the power of ‘the Metallica of the present’ was the one that most reverberated through my whole being. And because of that I hope that they will as soon as possible perform in Japan to reach even one person who will see and experience ‘the Metallica of the present’ which is ‘the greatest stadium Metal’ out there.
There may be hard core fans who want to see Metallica from the very front row, but there are also several thousand fans who have made there way here who want to see BABYMETAL. All that is left is for everyone to go all out in excitement.
I think it would be fair to say that to some degree or another many of the people here are because they want to know more about BABYMETAL
I seemed to recollect that I had heard somewhere that it would be prudent to, ‘be prepared for dealing with winter in Seoul’. That said, the coldness I encountered when I got off the plane following my 2 hour flight to Gimpo International Airport exceeded my imagination. On this outing I ventured out on a path that was separate from the main Hedoban overseas unit wherein I would be going on basically a forced march that got me in and out of the country in less than 24-hours. What is more, I was in the worst of conditions as I did not sleep at all the night before departing. I was somehow able to retain my sanity by getting a bit of sleep as I traveled from place to place.
I got off the subway at Seoul station which is located about 20 minutes from the airport and headed to small, tidy hotel about 10 minutes on foot from the station where I checked in. After unpacking my bags I rushed to track 1 of the subway and got on making my way to the Gocheok Sky Dome where the live show for today was to be performed. Since the subways in Korea were originally built based on technology provided from Japan they are easy for Japanese to use as well. The subway cars themselves were clean and nice in appearance. However, thinking that I could make my way to the venue using one line, I found out that the tracks separated at the Kuuichi station 1 stop before the nearest dome stop making it so I had to backtrack one station. Apparently the subway tracks branch off into differing directions when they reach this station. It is similar to the way things are set up on the Marunouchi line in Japan.
With this mishap and other occurrences I ended up finally reaching the Sky Dome at around 5:30. The periphery of the Dome just prior to opening the gates was filled with people standing in line for merchandise and staff members organizing the crowd with shouts over their megaphones. I am not sure what misunderstanding they may have had, but some booths were even selling penlights. The place was filled with a spirit of welcome for Metallica with flags printed saying Metallica lined up evenly spaced all up the slope and a gigantic Metallica flag plastered up over the main entrance.
I met up with Hedoban’s main unit and as we made our way into the venue we were met with a long winding concourse. It was a familiar and welcome sight to see similar to what we see at a Japanese baseball stadium with food and beverage booths lined up in rows. That said, the aisle was a bit narrow and there were not so many food and beverage booths to choose from. This is probably influenced by the fact that there are around 18,000 seats set up in the Dome.
The stands are much narrower than anything a Japanese person would imagine when thinking of the seating set-up at a dome type of baseball stadium. I am sure that such a close, narrow set up would provide for more enjoyment in watching a baseball game. With those thoughts in mind I descended to the ground floor using a short flight of stairs that were perhaps about half the length of those of the stairs on 1st floor of the Tokyo Dome. The artificial turf was covered with protective sheets to prevent it getting all messed up, but this was done in a very haphazard manner with areas where the sheets had already been pushed up exposing the turf underneath. Things used to be like this in Japan as well a long time ago.
I let myself relax and have a look around once I arrived more or less at the center of the standing area. It seems to me that there are not so many fans in attendance. It called to mind the way things were at the London Red Chili Peppers’ performance. The only difference is is that today’s show was not a sold-out event. I was pretty sure that even when Metallica’s show began that the stands would not be filled up.
People began to sing out in a totally instinctive way here and there. There is no way that one could film what was happening in front of us and remain calm doing so.
Even considering that though, one could not simply feel that this was an away from home show for BABYMETAL. The time schedule had been announced beforehand and so fans who were not interested in the girl’s performance would have no problem simply showing up later. And so one could only surmise that the fans showing up now were those who were more or less interested in BABYMETAL. And certainly there must be some Metallica fans who wanted to watch the show standing in the very front row. Regardless, there were many thousands of people here who came to see BABYMETAL. The remainder were here to just mosh out. The curtain on BABYMETAL’s 5th performance in Asia spread out over the 4 countries of Singapore, Indonesia, Taiwan and now Korea was now about to be lifted.
The highlight of the show was of course, ‘Karate’. The overpowering sound with the unparalleled vocals and dance overwhelmed the Sky Dome.
Amidst a rush of people that surpassed our expectations swarming toward the standing only floor moved by the power of BABYMETAL’s vocals, we were able to witness the familiar storyline taking place for the first time on Korean soil. The wave of excitement in the dome ramped up a degree or two.
The highlight of the show was of course, ‘Karate’. The overpowering sound with the unparalleled vocals and dance overwhelmed the Sky Dome. I was heretofore of the feeling that the Korean crowd was rather docile, but once things got going I was witness to the amazing, fervent excitement of the Koreans. As soon as the members appeared on the stage there were smartphones being raised all around the crowd as people struggled to get images of their first glimpse of BABYMETAL.
The first song was ‘BABYMETAL DEATH’. One was unable to not let out a ‘Ohhhh!’ of excitement due to the loudness of the performance sound. It was an explosion of sound that was clearness itself. I can not comment on how things were at the back of the dome, but at least in the arena area I can say that the state of affairs was of the optimal condition. The people who were raising their smartphones for pictures were now raising their fists in approval. Many of the people were well acquainted with the songs and were moving in accordance with the music. Other than these people there were those spread out over the audience who were calling out in excitement instinctively with the show. There is no way that anyone could be calming trying to film this performance in light of what was going on on stage.
What was interesting about this was that the people in charge of filming the show had obviously not done any kind of preliminary research and were totally unable to deal with what they were showing on the screen (speaking in detailed terms, I am referring to the persons in charge of switching the camera views). It was a total mess with them showing Yuimetal when Moametal was singing and vice versa Moametal when Yuimetal was singing.
But, this is something that can not be avoided perhaps. Before the performance of ‘Catch me if you can’ was the traditional Kami band solo. However, with the Bass Kami being covered by another musician for the day there was a bit of a strange feeling about the performance, but that was most likely just because I was not used to it and the 4 members went on to lay out a wonderful, new groove.
I felt the 3 girls put on a performance that exhibited a sense of leeway in their expressions. And that is not too surprising. But, that is just so, they have now learned so much about the meaning of, and their roles, in performing as opening acts for these big artists by accompanying the Red Hot Chili Peppers in heir UK tour. Their performances were even more stately and dignified than ever before.
Su-metal enticed the crowd to, ‘Show me a big circle pit’ along with Yuimetal and Moametal depicting the image of a large circle with their hands and arms. It was here that there was a bit of a mistake. Su-metal mistook the take in to the last chorus of ‘Oni-san Kochira’ and was 4 beats off. In the interim between songs the girls realized, ‘Ah, we screwed up!’ and their grimaced faces were truly cute. However, the 3 girls did not drag this mistake along with themselves. The vocals in ‘Megitsune’ were fantastically clear and far reaching and they went on to totally mesmerize the audience with heretofore untold levels of cute smiles and amazing performance with ‘Gimme Choco!’. They were unwavering in their performance.
The highlight of the show was of course, ‘Karate’. The overpowering sound with the unparalleled vocals and dance overwhelmed the Sky Dome.The unification of the people in the venue in the call and response section was of the highest level and fans were going wild raising their voice in exhilaration responding to the song.
Metallica was as to be expected even more amazing than this.
Each note of the final song, ‘Road of Resistance’ stimulated the venue as we headed into the end of the performance bringing those of us in the standing area to an ever deeper state of enthusiasm. The dignified introductory guitar riff floating out throughout the Sky Dome announcing the coming of Metallica was truly fantastic. And along with this, the vision of the 3 girls as they exited the stage shown on the giant screen was absolutely ethereal.
I think it can be safely stated that BABYMETAL’s first Korean performance was a success. When the show ended there were groups of people who were hugging each other due to the excitement (at a glance I thought they were Japanese) and there were girls wearing patch ridden jean jackets who were dancing crazily throughout the performance- something I have never seen in any other countries.
I was in such a high state of excitement because of the degree to which BABYMETAL had been so well received – even more than I had imagined – that I was amazed that Metallica could go even beyond this. The level of excitement and enthusiasm of the fans went way beyond even what I had just experienced making the venue feel like it was taking place in South America, leading me to believe that the 4 Metallica members would not feel too bad about this show not being sold out. They put on a performance that didn’t make one think that this was their first day of a World Tour and totally enthralled their audience. The screen which was of a scale the likes of which I have never seen before was truly effective and despite not making use of other special effects, the depiction of the 4 performers on this screen was enough to totally overpower the audience. There are certainly very few venues in Japan that would allow for this to be used.
The overpowering, explosive sound and performance of this band that envelops the audience while showing the band members to be having a good time attests to the broad appeal of the Metal genre. I was under the impression that Korean Rock fans loved ballads, but that does not seem to be the case. I am very envious of the unchanging fervor of the Korean fans.
<This is a Shintou-based analysis of Nakamoto Suzuka’s name according to
stroke number and positioning>
Basically what is written as far as explanation goes is:
Heavenly, or (Ancestor related fate) has 8 strokes and is considered ‘Good luck’, or ‘Kichi’
<Apparently, the Heavenly reading is based on all of the characters of the family name, so in
Su’s case the is 4 strokes for 中 and 4 strokes for 元.>
[Hard worker, makes efforts, succeeds]
The Heavenly (Ancestor related fate) refers to what has been passed down through your family name and thus has no relation to one’s personal powers or abilities. It is a representative symbol of your family lineage. Generally speaking, the influence of this fate grows stronger the older one becomes.
Personal fate (Main core fate) has 7 strokes and is considered ‘Good luck’, or ‘Kichi’
<Not sure why す is counted as 3 strokes as I would think it would be 2, but…>
[Strong Will, Independent mind]
A strong person who knows nothing of defeat throughout their life.
A type of person who is able to achieve his or her aims through the possession of a strong will and talent. This stroke count is somewhat not too fitting for girls.
Signifies a person with a clean, straightforward temper. This type is able to overcome any type of hardship with their powers of determination and ability to take action.
I want to take on the challenges of going on an overseas trip, and get better at cooking
Before I had seen Maiyan’s (Shiraishi Mai) Coming of Age ceremony and so I was filled with emotions when it had come to be my turn to be on the participatory side of things at long last. Since this is such a precious opportunity to dress up in so colorful a manner, I decided to go with a lovely, pink kimono. Because I am very much an indoor oriented girl for my 20th year I want to be a bit more of an outdoor type. I have never traveled outside of Japan for personal pleasure and so I want to take a trip overseas. I also want to study cooking. My younger sister can make up a whole meal just out of what she finds in the refrigerator, but this is something I am not good at (laughing). I hope that the dreams of each member will come true this year.
Putting it simply, this is just not enough and with these 3 girls we can be sure that there is much more ahead.
This was a year filled with a series of miraculous scenes.
What do these 3 girls think of the events of this year as it comes to a close?
We will also provide a detailed report on their 1st and 2nd days of performing with the Red Hot Chili Peppers!
This interview took place in the morning the day after the December 6th 1st day London show with the Red Hot Chili Peppers in the morning of their 2nd performance. The interview was conducted over Skype and lasted for 90 minutes.
BABYMETAL’s 2016. When we look back on this year in terms of BABYMETAL history I am sure we will see ‘That year of 2016’ as being a year where the outstanding BABYMETAL phenomena enveloped the world.
In 2016 BABYMETAL’s ‘Metal Resistance’ was released and become a major hit in Europe and America which was followed up by a World Tour which kicked off as them being the first Japanese artist ever to perform a solo show at Wembley Arena and which finished off of with 2 sold out shows at the Tokyo Dome. To round things off in a big way they were selected to perform in the UK tour of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
It became a daily occurrence for us to learn about the world wide activities and news about BABYMETAL through the respective news outlets around the world. I did some media coverage with the 3 girls in March of 2016 and the time following that until this interview flew by in a flash flow of excitement. I once again was blow away by the factors that made for this outstanding success of theirs which included their earnest steadfastness and the charm it generated as the girls would approach any stage even if it was in a land totally foreign to them with a direct and positive approach, as well as their mental soundness and raw toughness that served them so well. With that, I want to delve into how they themselves consider 2016 and how they actually think about how they have developed and grown over this year. What do they think about the 1-year period as it draws to a close? They spoke deeply and in detail about these topics. They spoke in a language that was full of fun and harmony but that also showed to a surprising degreee just how tough they have become.
Is it morning for you over there?
How do you feel following the 1st show?
It felt like it had been a long time since we had performed away from home. I was a bit worried about how it would go but, as we progressed through the set list I could sense that they audience was getting more into the music and enjoying the show and I began to feel that from that point things would go just fine.
It reminded me a lot of how things were when we performed as Lady Gaga’s supporting act. And the early stage Festivals we performed at were also all away from home and so when I remembered that if we just plow ahead with our own BABYMETAL-ish flair that the crowds would follow along with us and so I was able to perform knowing in my own mind that everything would be fine.
Remembering the early days, Moametal also starts to feel like she is going to cry. That happened in last night’s show as well. I feel there is no reason for us to get anxious or rush things and all we need to do is bring to everyone a performance that is ours and so that is how I want to do my best for the remaining 7 shows. Additionally, the members of RHCP are really wonderful people and I don’t mean that just as artists but as human beings as well and so I feel I can learn a lot from them.
The fact that you are performing with the RHCP is a huge news item and is being reported upon here in Japan as well. What were you saying amongst yourselves when you learned that you had been selected for this role?
We were talking like everything would be fine if we believed in ourselves and performed as we usually do to the best of our abilities.
Q: Do you mean to say that there was no need to do anything special to work yourselves up for this and that you should approach it as the usual run of things?
Yes, that’s right.
So, after finishing this first show was there anything about the performance that differed from the away from home shows you have pulled off in the past?
The range of ages was the same with everyone from small children to adults, but the type of music favored by the audience was different. We perform a type of music that builds up the excitement with aggressive and wild shows but many of the songs of the RHCPs are more of a slow build up resulting in the audience singing along. There was a bit of a sense of frustration in that they did not immediately respond to what we would throw out to them.
Talking with you now, you all seem just like this is an ordinary day for you (laughs). You know you have one more stage to perform today there in London, right? Rather than being all nervous prior to taking on the challenge of performing on such a major stage you seem to be very relaxed.
We you able to ‘burn up every ounce of fuel’ <Kanzen Nanshou>?
We have not yet performed with all we have, I feel. We will just give all that we are able to perform and then watch the reaction of the audience.
By going through this process time and time again we learn how that we should approach this reaction or that reaction in this or that way.
You must feel a sense of leeway and confidence born out of having successfully making it through this 1 year period of 2016.
(laughs) Yes, but it is true that 2016 seemed to be the year where we played the biggest number of live shows. This year’s World Tour had the greatest number of live shows in it. We performed a lot in America as well.
I want this interview to be mostly about how you feel looking back on 2016. Can I ask each of you in succession to give us a brief summarization of how you see 2016 looking back on it?
Speaking in very brief terms, I feel it was a year of great change. That includes changes in my own feelings as well. For example, in the Festivals that we have appeared in the past it was always accompanied by a feeling of, ‘What is this thing called BABYMETAL?’ with many people in attendance having never even hearing our name. However, I felt that this year many came to the shows with the mindset of ‘I have heard that BABYMETAL is apparently really something amazing’. Up to recently I always felt a bit of being at a loss and bewilderment when we played at a show away from home, but now it is more like I feel we have to go that extra mile conversely just because we are somewhat well-known. That is because I felt we had to live up to the expectations of people coming to us with the mindset of, ‘these girls are supposedly really amazing’. I felt constantly that we had to provide shows that topped even what we had done up until this year.
Su-metal, you as the central figure must carry the burden of symbolically being the biggest member of BABYMETAL. Did you feel that the pressure or rather the sense of responsibility around this role change this year?
Up to now there were many instances where I had to present a formation that was perfectly crafted, but speaking about the feeling this year it was more like since I felt each live performance was a raw, living thing that from that perspective I needed to lead us along and had to pull out ideas from within myself a bit more. At the beginning I was at a bit of a loss at times but as I learned firsthand that each live show was a one time only affair I was able to realize that each venue was totally unique and different in the response of the fans and began to enjoy that aspect of things.
How were things for Yuimetal and Moametal?
There were many shows where just hearing the name of the venue like Wembley Arena or the Tokyo Dome awed me just knowing of the scale of the venue. There was an increase in the number of occasions for many people both within and outside of Japan to come to know us and I was a bit uneasy and anxious about knowing that at places like Wembley Arena that we would be performing as the first Japanese artists to do so and would be laying down a legend. However, with the conclusion of each live performance I gained in confidence and the level of trust in the staff-san and the members grew as well making me feel stronger as we went along. The events of this year made me want to travel ever farther down this path.
I really felt that the environment around us had changed greatly. It is how Su-metal stated a little earlier, the number of people who had come to know us had really grown in number. Because of this I became anxious considering just how we should go about delivering BABYMETAL to everyone. But, I felt that better than worrying about things that it was better to just plow ahead. And so I think it was a good thing that we had a lot of away from home shows this year. My thinking really changed due to meeting so many people as we moved from Wembley Arena to the RHCP tour. This is because I realized that it is not that we as BABYMETAL have to adjust ourselves to our surrounding environment but rather that we have to learn not to change even as the surrounding environment does so. I feel that we have to aim at ever higher goals while not changing who we are.
Moametal, you said in a previous interview, ‘no matter what kind of situation we face, we can only move ahead’. It seems that this attitude has grown stronger over this 1-year.
Eh, no, I don’t feel like I have grown that strong, you know (laughs). I feel I was only able to make through this year because Su-metal and Yuimetal were by my side. Because these two strong girls are by my side I feel that I too want to be strong. I would be best if all of us are strong together, right? (laughs). And that is why we will continue to get stronger and stronger.
As you have just stated the unified bond of power of the 3 of you is one of the main strengths of BABYMETAL. In that regard, how do you feel that you have grown stronger this year?
Ever since we have started to go out on these World Tours I have felt in an undetermined way that whenever we make eye contact with each other that we know what the other is thinking. I think this is something that we have trained ourselves to be able to do ever since we began doing these away from home shows way back in the day. And so I think this unified bond between the 3 of us itself is something that we have developed to a high level of completion from quite some time ago. However, I think it is recently that we are able to read the atmosphere of our shows in a more unified manner. It is like we can direct the show in this way or that according to the feel of the crowd. There were times in the past when we could not get that same unified of the audience. But, recently we are often told by those watching the shows that even though we haven’t verbally said anything between ourselves that, ‘Wow, you were able to raise the excitement of the show together’. That ability is something that comes from feeling the atmosphere of many shows taken from our experiences in doing so many performances.
Su-metal, you performing and singing in the central position have carried a big load of responsibility up to this point and from the point of view of this unified group cohesiveness that has grown in this year, has the significance of what you must deal with changed at all?
Yes, well, the final thing we are aiming at is the same for all of us. While that is not something that we can yet see, it is something that we know lies on the path that we have walked so far and so… well, actually this year was the first time I ever got nervous doing a live show. At Wembley Arena for the first time, or rather the first time in many years, I got nervous. Up to now, I feel that usually I would just find myself performing on stage without knowing exactly what it was all about, but at Wembley Arena I finally felt the immensity of what it was all about. (laughs) At that time I was greatly encouraged on by these two.
Eh, so when the show was over did it seem different to the 3 of you?
Wembley Arena was, as you can imagine, a show that would determine how we should approach 2016 and the fans at Wembley determined that for us. I was very happy about that. I felt a sense of relief, like, ‘’Ah, now I can see the road to take’. I felt that I then knew how to proceed. At the beginning the audience seemed in a state of chaos and there was a sense of an unsettled blur, but through our songs the fans came together as one unified whole. When you perform on a stage the scale of Wembley Arena the audience is not made up wholly of hard core fans. It was there that I felt, ‘Ah, our music is something that surpassed the boundaries of countries’. This gave me more confidence in our music.
Wembley Arena took place the day after ‘Metal Resistance’ was released simultaneously around the world and was set timing-wise as the frontal attack for 2016 was getting its full-fledged start. In other words, I feel that you must have felt the pressure that the whole battle that awaited you for 2016 hung in the balance scales of how this live show went.
Ever since we began recording the album I felt that we were heading out into a new challenge. This 2nd album was us as BABYMETAL created something new that only we could do based on the tours we had performed and on the various types of music that we had studied. In fact, in truth, this was the beginning of our challenge and was to be the real start line for us. I feel that there was perhaps a sense that we also had to change.
That is truly how it is. I think that you had to create a world view that was unique to BABYMETAL, show a performance style that only BABYMETAL could perform and connect with the world-wide fan base as you dove into a challenge on a scale that was of a dimension different from what had come before. So, of course you would feel nervous.
This is the same for the album, but we ourselves also had to keep our core essence as it always was in ourselves as BABYMETAL and in the passion we put into each and every live performance but we also had to absorb and include as much as possible the areas of respect we have for all the various people we have come in contact with. The main core doesn’t change but we have to raise our level of skillmanship based on the what we have taken in from outside sources. In that sense, we felt we had to make bigger changes.
In the midst of all that, ‘Metal Resistance’ was received with high praise around the world. As BABYMETAL got bigger and bigger I can imagine that the 3 of you must have felt like this existence known as BABYMETAL was starting to charge ahead with a will of its own. What do you think about that?
The hurdle set by or for BABYMETAL got higher. The only place for us to express ourselves is in our live shows. So, how to go over that hurdle is something that we fretted and concerned ourselves with with every show. As you can imagine all kinds of things can happen at a live show, but those are not things you can make excuses about.
That is true.
But, just exactly because we were successful with those live shows we are now able to be where we are. However, this situation is something that in actuality I have come to think of as a scary situation.
That is because live shows are ‘live’, living things. We have gotten so that we can talk with each other during the shows – recently, that is. That came about following Wembley.
Ah, yes, that is so.
Up until then we would talk about how to approach things after a live show had finished. But, from around the time of Wembley we started talking about our approach about things during the show. We came to talk amongst ourselves about what direction to go based on what we observed about the mood of the fans.
And so, we are now able to calmly deal with things as they come up during a show.
Up to then we were only concerned with ‘attacking’ but now we have learned how to use the technique of ‘defending’ as well. (laughs) That doesn’t mean just huddling up in defense but rather doing things defensively with a purpose. We now talk amongst ourselves before a show and looking that overall picture we decide, ‘this is where we will play it safe’ and ‘this is where we will bring things to a climax’ and so we know clearly how to deal with the shows.
Comparing the shows to a battle it is like we have come to be able to conceive a fighting strategy. Up until recently we have come out with all guns blazing but now we properly attack things starting with the small stuff first and depending upon the reaction of the audience we are able to move accordingly. If the fans are really getting into things we are able to adjust our fighting stance, or something like that. We are now able to consider a wider range of actions.
For us, from the outset we considered our shows to be battles but now we are able to think about and use a variety of approaches making it much more fun. I feel the time I have to reflect upon myself during live shows has increased. It is like getting items in a game. I feel like I have gathered up quite a few over the years.
Having watching your live shows over this year I felt that you each had an individual kind of set of boundaries that you challenged yourself with, but with this year it was more like the 3 of you were moving as one unified unit. Don’t you think in that meaning that your sense of unification has grown much more than before? Having been asked so, how do you feel about this point of view?
We were very acutely aware of the fact that if each of us just did our best in our own individual way that we would all be going in separate directions without any meaning. I think that the sense of just going all out in for what it is worth was of value and had some great benefit but I feel that at last the individual battles we had been waging have come together as a unified set of 3 and since we now have the feeling of, ‘the 3 of us fighting together’, that we have all become stronger in spirit.
This is something I think about every year. With each increasing year I realize that BABYMETAL is something that I can not ever let go of, you could say. This feeling of really loving BABYMETAL just keeps getting stronger. It goes without saying that I am referring to the 3 of us but I also include the staff-san and the fans as part of this increasing sense of a unified group feeling. This year I felt even more than in the past that not only the 3 of us but also the degree of teamwork of everyone related with BABYMETAL has grown greatly.
Up to now the way it has been with BABYMETAL was that each of us respectively did our best to the 100% maximum but by doing so these efforts would remain within the realm of BABYMETAL and not reach the outer world at all. I felt there were times where the true essence of BABYMETAL was not properly conveyed to the fans. In that sense, it would be better for each of us to give 50% of our efforts making for a total of 150% being delivered to the fans which I feel would be a much better state of affairs.
Up to now I have thought of BABYMETAL as being separated in terms of roles as one and then two. That means one member sings overwhelming songs while two of you perform perfectly synchronized dance movements while mesmerizing the fans. But over this span of one year I feel strongly that this 1 to 2 ratio of roles has faded away.
Up to now I felt that for the time being I had to focus on moving ahead. I had a sense of responsibility telling me that I had to keep doing my best. There was a strong sense of awareness that I had to lead the three of us onwards. When we were to perform at Wembley, and this was the case at other times as well when I felt nervous, they tapped me on the shoulders and said, ‘Everything is fine. Lets go out and do our best!’. I had always thought of them as being the little girls I knew but recently I feel they are more grown up than myself. It is because they are like this that I feel we have been able to become ‘the 3’ that we are now. It was like all of a sudden I realized that the two of them had grown into being adults. (laughs)
(laughs) Returning again to the timeline, we see you touring completely overseas from spring in through summer. The summation of that being the 2 nights of performances at the Tokyo Dome. While the state of the relationships between the 3 of you has changed dramatically throughout this year the 3 of you have already spoken about how for the Tokyo Dome shows you were in the best state of balance and the highest point to unleash your power. Could you talk about that?
When you get to a stage of the scale of the Tokyo Dome there is very little time for the 3 of us to get together. But, that said, I think it was because of this year’s tour that we were able to pull it off. In that sense I feel that you could say that it truly was a summation of the year.
When I first heard that we would be performing at the Tokyo Dome I felt that perhaps we were not yet up to that level of things. I wanted to be truly full of confidence and be able to perform at a level equal with that of the Dome. From there as we traveled around on the World Tour we learned a great deal, grew in power and the bonds between the 3 of us grew stronger and stronger as we headed towards performing at the Tokyo Dome and this really made me happy. I think the performances where we were able to exhibit the maximum of our current abilities were the shows at the Tokyo Dome.
I was amazed that so many people would come and follow BABYMETAL around on tour and that overseas fans would come from their home countries to see us perform at the Tokyo Dome. We are of the mindset of wanting to give energy and happiness to everyone but it almost seems as if it is us who are given these things. I wonder if it is alright to be so happy and fortunate. But, once the Dome shows were over I felt that we would be able to go on to bigger things and this idea of going on to achieve even bigger goals was something the 3 of us talked about together.
This is the same for me. I simply feel that have not done enough. (laughs) I felt that with the 3 of us, with team BABYMETAL, we can plow farther ahead.
That is how I felt as well. Being able to think like that is not such an ordinary thing, is it? For the me who existed just 1 year ago, or perhaps a bit farther back I am pretty sure just standing on the stage at the Tokyo Dome would have been way too scary for me. There are DVDs of artists performing at the Tokyo Dome where they show scenes from the stage looking out over the fans, right? Being able to see that scene for myself with my own eyes…well, wow, even though 2-months have passed since I actually stood on that stage even now I wonder in amazement if I actually performed there. When we were performing on the Tokyo Dome stage I thought that if we have fans who will support us this much that we perhaps can go on to even bigger things.
It seems to me that over this year the 3 of you come to know extremely well how best to present BABYMETAL. In accordance with that, it seems that rather than focusing on what particular stage performance you want to challenge yourselves with it seems to be that there is more of a significance in how you can best and most properly perform the particular ideal that the 3 of you have developed amongst yourselves.
Yes, that sounds right.. This is also an area dealing with intuition and feeling and so I am not able to express it in words so well, but giving it a go, I would say that exactly because the way we approach our live shows and our relationship with the fans has changed this desire to do ‘more and more’ is not in reference to the size of the venue. Of course we ‘put and burned up every ounce of fuel’ <Kanzen Nenshou> into the Dome shows, but once they were finished to me they were no different than our usual performances. It was a feeling of, ’Oh, we have finished this stage?’. And, ‘Alright then, lets move on to something greater’. I think all this signifies is simply that we have overcome another hurdle.
Do the two of you also have that same feeling?
The feeling of nervousness when we appeared on the stage at the Tokyo Dome was greater than I had imagined. I honestly thought that my heart would just give out – it was just about that scary. With our other shows there is always a mixture of nervousness and enjoyment, but with these shows the feeling of nervousness was strikingly bigger. However, because I was able to feel the same way as Su-metal and Moametal about the 3 of us overcoming this major event together I was able to approach the shows with that shared feeling and I was able to get accustomed to the challenge while I was dancing to a degree greater than I had imagined. It is hard for me to put into words, but the feeling expressed by Su-metal’s ‘more and more! is also now a part of Yuimetal’s thinking. I have performed now on so many stages, all of which have helped me to grow at a rapid pace and so I feel I have now become strong enough in spirit to not be overwhelmed by performing at the Tokyo Dome and so I feel that is why I can now be of the mindset of, ‘more and more!’. I feel that is a kind of proof that I have grown and developed.
As I was thinking deliberately on this just now I couldn’t answer for myself why I too am of the mindset of ‘more and more!’. But, listening to Su-metal and Yuimetal’s answers something came to me and that is that it is not that the Dome was such a big stage as our of 7 billion people on the planet 110 thousand people is a such a small number of people that we have been able to make contact with. The world is a much bigger place and so I feel that I would like to meet more and more people and I want to become even more a person who is the reason a person smiles. I want to meet more and more people.
Talking like this as we are now and being able to listen to everyone’s ideas from the ground up I feel like I have understood that there is an actual reason for me to feel that I have changed. We took on many challenges in 2016. Before we departed on the World Tour I said that, ‘I want to return as a person suitable for performing at the Tokyo Dome’. But, in fact I feel that we returned having grown to a level that exceeds that by a bit. When we performed at the Saitama Super Arena one and a half years ago it was like, ‘Wow, we have made to it to this major stage’. But as we are talking now, I feel like the ‘me’ that has experienced performing in various countries overseas has grown to a degree that is a bit bigger than the scale of the Tokyo Dome.
That is amazing. (laughs) It truly was an incredible year, wasn’t it?
It really was a period of many successes. That said, I feel that exactly because we have come this far we must be compelled to aim ever higher and the burden from the pressure that comes with that does show its face sometimes. I want to do my best to be able to exceed this period of successes next year.
I watched the 1st and 2nd day performances with the Red Hot Chili Peppers!
This is a thorough report that follows the 3 girls as they continue to develop as they step onto the explosive stages they have been selected to appear on!
BABYMETAL appeared as the guest artist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers in their UK tour. And while I am not the artists performing, just thinking about it frightens me into stone cold paralysis. There is simply no way that the girls were not full of apprehension and self doubt. Wondering just what kind of shows these girls who took this challenge upon themselves would put on propelled me, with a desire to see them first hand, to drop everything and make to London to see their 1st and 2nd performances.
The 1st day performance. I made my way to the O2 Arena. While I was able to spot BABYMETAL fans who had come from Japan for the show here and there, the vast majority of the people present were local RHCP fans. Thinking to myself that tonight’s stage would most likely prove to be a tough environment for BABYMETAL – I made my way to my seat. The stage set up was an extremely simple one. There would be no use of screen effects nor ?? and all there was on the stage were BABYMETAL flags standing in the background. Contrasting this with the Tokyo Dome shows I saw in September really bright home the realization that this was to be an away from home performance. The show started out with ‘BABYMETAL DEATH’. The floor of the viewing area was not even half filled up yet. But this did not seem to bother the girls in the least as they surveyed the venue with calm, detached eyes followed by their usual performance carried out as outstandingly as always. Seeing them perform the ‘B – A – B – Y – M – E – T – A- L.’ sharply and without holding back in their movements for some reason sent tingles up and down my spine. They followed this up with the popish, cute ‘Awadama Fever’ and when Su-metal’s crystal clear voice resounded throughout the venue the first time viewers began to gradually get a sense of how to enjoy the existence of this thing called BABYMETAL. Watching from the standing area I was able to see that many of the people in attendance were starting to bob their heads. But what shook the atmosphere that was largely of a sense of checking things out and trying to get a grasp on things out of its placidity was ‘Megitsune’. Appearing dressed in Kimono-like costumes with the Fox masks backed by this melody that evokes the ‘Wa’ of Japan immediately drew the crowd into the charm of BABYMETAL. Without giving a hint of a care about this being an away from home performance, Su-metal aggressively fanned the excitement of the audience. Questioning the crowd, ‘Are You Ready? and being met with an inadequate response, Su-metal again drilled the crowd with ‘Are You Ready? O2 Arena!!?’ throwing in clapping and jumping into the mix. Just where does the tenacity and courage to do this come from? There is no doubt that this stirring up and egging on the audience really changed the mood of the venue. It dawned on me that the crowd had grown in size until it reached to the back of the arena. I felt like I had witnessed firsthand the instant that BABYMETAL had overcome a huge obstacle. Then with Moametal and Yuimetal joining in actively on the call and response in ‘Gimme Choko!’ the reaction of the audience rapidly heated up.
The responses to the girls rapid fire and unreserved shots of ‘Louder!’ and ‘One More!’ were almost funny in how large they were in volume. These girls are amazing – they are able to stately and without any sense of timidity pull this kind of performance off in spite of this being their first time in this venue in front of a totally unknown kind of audience. Seeing them perform in this manner truly moved me. Next was ‘Karate’. And although the meaning of the Japanese lyrics of, ‘Seiya, Seiya Tatakau n da. Kanashiku natte, Tachiagarenaku nattemo’ could not be comprehended by the audience in this foreign country, I was convinced that the sense of ‘Tatakau’ <fight/battle> was more than sufficiently conveyed through the performances of the girls themselves. The cheers following this song were one step louder and enthusiastic than before. With the girls performing the 7 songs up to and including the last song of ‘Ijime, Dame, Zettai’ to the full extent of their abilities made one feel that there is potential for them to take it even further. There is no doubt that this night’s performance served to enhance the girls’ confidence greatly. The following night’s show amazed me and showed an even greater level of growth and development.
Having successfully carried out the 1st day’s performance there was nothing for the girls to be afraid of and so in the 2nd night’s show all they had to do was to sincerely pursue whatever is required to grab the hearts and minds of ever more fans as they put on the best show possible. While the show stage with the curtain being raised on the opening song of ‘BABYMETAL DEATH’, with tonight’s show I could not see even a speck of self doubt as the 3 girls scanned every nook and cranny of the venue and from the very outset of the show directed all of their energy onto the audience. On this day as well there most definitely were a large number of people in attendance who were seeing BABYMETAL for the first time but this time the speed at which the audience was drawn into the charm of the performance was dramatically faster. The size of the reaction of the audience serves as an accelerator to raise the energy level of the show itself. This was something I felt from the performance of the Kami band as well. In and above being from the outset a band made up of exceedingly talented musicians it seems that the interest paid to the band by the RHCP fans on the 2nd day helped to bring more emotionality to the band even than usual resulting in the Kami band putting on a truly spectacular performance. In the day’s 3rd song, ‘Catch me if you can’ the self initiated clapping and joining in with the sing along began at an early stage and there were decidedly more people than the previous day head banging along with the band’s performance. By adding more parts to the call and response section of the song the osmotic penetrating power of this song grew drastically in strength. In just one night BABYMETAL was able to clearly and with pinpoint precision zero in on what they needed to do and adjust their performance accordingly. This occurrence at this away from home venue in the UK where they hadn’t played for quite some time is testament to the extreme importance they placed on these shows. The fact that they never slacken up or take it easy for even one song or even one single phrase even when they are appearing as a guest act is the same with how things have been up to now, but their ability to grasp the mood of the audience and immediately implement what needs to be done into their performance has increased to a surprising degree.
When it is the right time to stir up the excitement of the audience they are able to do so with precision, and when it is time to let their emotions take flight they do so without pulling punches. It is precisely because they overcame the hardships of the 1st day filled with nervous tension that they were able to put on such an emotion filled performance the 2nd day. One this day every member of BABYMETAL was able to put those emotions into their singing, their dancing and their performances without a hint of holding anything back at all. They succeeded in creating a sense of unification with everyone in the venue that exceeded the day before in the ‘Jump’ part of ‘Megitsune’ and the call and response of ‘Gimme Choco!’. While simultaneously cooly and rationally considering the harmony and overall balance of their performance the girls are now able to expose, without any sense of covering things up, the raw, passionate emotions that reside within themselves. That is what live shows are all about, and it may in fact be that this was a challenge meant for the girls to re-realize how important it is to shake up the hearts and minds of the audience.
At the first day’s show, RHCP’s Anthony expressed his thanks to BABYMETAL for accompanying them on this tour during his MC talk, on the 2nd day, Flea appeared on stage wearing a Fox mask, while Josh wore a BABYMETAL T-shirt during one of the shows. I am certain that they felt how much BABYMETAL had grown with each passing show. By the time of the Manchester show, the 3 girls actually appeared on the stage with the RHCPs and performed alongside them.
Moreover, at the final show of the tour, Chad appeared on stage dressed up in Kami band cosplay attire and proceeded to perform a Judas Priest cover song together with BABYMETAL. That is absolutely fantastic.
BABYMETAL is a unit that been able to carry out the Metal Resistance by redefining the concept of Metal as being something that is also a form of entertainment. Up to this point in time the 3 girls have completely comprehended this fact and have provided us all with performances that are all a very high level of completeness. However, with this tour they have transformed into a unit that can express an even more bare and raw performance that truly shows the essential qualities of what live shows are all about. On the 1st day at the London performance they felt the possibilities of this. Then, at the 2nd show the were able to shift into being able to spill out somewhat from the here to fore BABYMETAL way of doing things and to be able to enjoy doing so. Su-metal’s vocals have grown in emotional depth while Yuimetal and Moametal’s dance performance have surpassed the realms of harmony and synchronization and have evolved into the realm of expressing emotion and allowing us to feel the qualities of physicality. They have gained an new confidence knowing that they are more than able to traverse the world without having to rely on large scale stage sets or gimmicks. I am quite certain that their upcoming live shows with Metallica and Guns N’ Roses they will show us ever developing performances. It is becoming ever more difficult to take your eyes off of BABYMETAL.
The 3 girls appear crucified on crosses positioned on the ends of the stage runways.
WORLD TOUR 2016
LEGEND – Metal Resistance
2016 September 20 (Tues.)
Tokyo Dome 2nd day
Thus begins the 2nd day of the Tokyo Dome performances. I was able to make my way to Suidoubashi for a second time in a relatively calm, relaxed state of mind. However, once I put one foot into the arena I was met with a mood of excitement that was even greater than the previous day. With more than 20 minutes to go before the start of the show there were spontaneous waves of people clapping in unison giving the stadium a feeling of an overseas concert filled with passion. The 55 thousand fans who had had their expectations boosted perhaps by the high praises posted on SNS outlets about the 1st day’s show conveyed to one a sense of heightened excitement about tonight’s show.
My seat tonight was positioned toward the front of the second tier of seats. Since my seat tonight is more than 10 rows further to the front than yesterday it will be interesting to see what changes this brings. Well, anyway, I was not expecting too much of difference. I am saying that because after all this the Tokyo Dome.
Unexpectedly, the editor of ‘Hedoban’, Umezawa sitting next to me suddenly leaned over and asked, ‘What is that thing projecting outward?’. Taking a look I saw a stage set up that was the same as the day before, but upon a closer examination I saw something sticking out on the tip of one of the runways covered in some kind of cloth.
At 7:05 the lights on the side of the audience went out, and an opening movie identical in contents with the first day began to play. Today they would play all the songs on the 1st and 2nd albums that had not been performed on the Red Night. Once the movie ended a machine gun like refrain echoed in our ears. BABYMETAL DEATH! And then, as with the 1st night’s show I thought I could see the 3 BABYMETAL girls dressed in white costumes appearing on the upper most stage.
It was then that an unexpected development took place. At the tips of each of the runways extending out from the main stage the 3 girls were each respectively crucified on crosses. What an clever style of performance this is!
The utter coolness of this caused my whole body to breakout in goosebumps.
The 3 girls are then transported on circular movable disks which they stand on on the ends of the runways to the center stage. And once they reach the center stage, the periphery of this stage begins to revolve and they begin to jump around as a kind of greeting to the entire audience. This entire spectacle is taken in by the crazily flying winged camera floated above the heads of the fans. The camerawork displayed by this winged camera is truly amazing.
Next up is ‘Awadama Fever’. I was here that I realized something. The sound of the band was much louder than the 1st day with each instrument coming over more distinctly than before. I don’t know if this was due to simply being seated in a different area than the Red Night or because of corrections to the sound system. However, regardless of which it was I was totally of the impression of, ‘I can’t believe I am able to hear this quality of sound at the Tokyo Dome’. From the stoic expression of Su-metal’s face as she urged the crowd along during the sing-along screaming out, ‘Sing it!’ I sensed that she was relaxed and still had much in reserve.
Even though this rotating stage continues to revolve to show the girls and the band to the audience and is by its nature an uneasy set up the girls amazingly continue to perform their complicated and complex dance routines without incident. It is not only impossible under these circumstances to visually determine where exactly is the center of the stage it is also difficult to know where you are in relation to the other performers. This what is nothing short of a magical performance continues on without problem into ‘Uki Uki Midnight’, which they performed without any hint of difficulty. And in and above all, I felt that I was able to see Yuimetal smiling even more than usual. This was really evident with the song, ‘META! Meta Tarou’. Much of this could be attributed to the character of the song, but the 3 girls were ever so seeming to have a good time with the song, ‘META! Meta Tarou’ with them showing a rapidly changing flow of facial expressions. Su-metal has stated that this is her personal favorite from the 2nd album because she ‘is so happy to have a song that the 3 of us can sing together’, and even seated far away from the stage I can tell you that her enjoyment of this song was tangibly conveyed. Meanwhile, the sound generated by the Kami band was distinct, clear and solid. The whole song was extremely cool and the entirety of the audience was unified as a single unit raising their voices as one.
It is not an exaggeration to say that there is no doubt that Su-metal is getting closer and closer, step by step to becoming a prominent representative of Japan’s best vocalists.
Personally, the song which I felt had deep significance was ‘Sis. Anger’. It is so amazing to realize that the day had come where the Tokyo Dome was to be rocked by Black Metal! While I most certainly was intoxicated with the exhilaration (or should I say, sense of strangeness) of hearing a blast beat at this show, it was ‘Akatsuki’ that got my fists pumping in an excitement that even surpassed ‘Sis. Anger’. It had been a long time I had seen this song performed at a live show. And exactly because it had been such a long time since seeing it performed I was able to recognize just how different it was compared with before. What I am talking about is Su-metal’s vocals. There is more of a solid core to it than before and she is able to change the expression conveyed by her voice adjusting to the lyrics. This song is fantastic for showing the proficiency of her straight-forward, expansive and smooth vocal abilities but now with her having added an extra dimension of expressive skills to her storehouse of talents, she is invincible.
Further, the highlight of the interlude of this song with the twin lead was performed with a perfect victorious pose. Without doubt this was the highlight of today’s performance.
Su-metal’s vocals in ‘No Rain, No Rainbow’ which had also not been performed live for a long, long time were also absolutely wonderful. It is not an exaggeration to say that there is no doubt that Su-metal is getting closer and closer, step by step to becoming a prominent representative of Japan’s best vocalists.
It is amazing to think that this can be said of her now and yet she is still in her teenage years. She has an incredible future in front of her. I would like to add here that it the song presented just before this Black Babymetal’s ‘Onedari Daisakusen’ served perfectly as a bridge into this song. It was a nice demonstration of good teamwork.
When the intro for ‘Doki Doki Morning’ started up with the girls bathed in a pink colored light, a roar from the audience boomed out with an emotional tone that we had not heard up to the point. The Dome was packed over these 2 days with both new and old fans alike. This roaring of the crowd echoing through the Dome was an interesting mixture of the expression of various differing feelings about this song that symbolized the initial stages of BABYMETAL.
It was here that I felt something was a bit different from the usual with Su-metal. Perhaps you could say that her way of singing seemed to be focused more on singing in a cute manner than usual and with her voice kind of slightly jumping and floating around there were occasions where her voice got a bit drowned out by the music. I felt like I was peering into one aspect of her process of learning through trial and error.
BABYMETAL is accelerating at a pace and with a momentum that exceeds the dreams of these girls. This (The Tokyo Dome) is not their final destination.
The 3 girls seemed to be having a fun time throughout the whole show but it was especially apparent and really stood out that that was the case with ‘Megitsune’. The girls usually perform this song with sharp, cool expressions on their faces – it is kind of the trademark style of performance for ‘Megitsune’. Today was totally different. In stark contrast with the cool feel of the red and white lighting that moved in a coordinated flow with the sound, the 3 girls were performing with radiant smiles on their faces. What’s that?…’All women are actresses’ <Onna ha Joyuu, yo>? No, no way, at least for today these girls are throwing that aside and enjoying this show at the core of their being. This is most definitely not acting that is going on on-stage. Pretending to not be content with the crowd egging them on with ‘Everybody, clap your hands!’ <Su-metal>, ‘Come on, you can do better than that, can’t you?’ <Yuimetal>, ‘I can’t hear you at all!’ <Moametal>, in fact I am quite certain the girls were completely satisfied and happy with everything. While this happy mood was pervasive throughout the Dome, we could also see up on the giant monitor screen views of the fans going absolutely wild taken from cameras behind the Kami band. The perceivable gap between the two was quite an awesome sight to behold.
With the following song, ‘Hedobangya!’ a phenomena occurred that was exactly the opposite of what we saw with ‘Megitsune’. Amidst a scene that resembled nothing other than a religious ceremony with 55 thousand fans shaking their heads wildly in every nook and cranny of the Dome, the camera focused in for an extended amount of time on a single fan who was going all out repeatedly do a ‘Dogeza Hedoban’ <bowing all the way to the floor while sitting on your heels> while raising a ‘Juuonbu’ towel, which served as the launch pad for BABYMETAL, as he did so. I believe it is correct to look upon this as a symbol of maximum respect for the long time fans coming from not only the 3 girls but from the whole BABYMETAL team. While this caused people throughout the Dome to burst out in laughter, it was actually a very heart warming scene.
The final song was ‘Ijime, Dame, Zettai’. Before the performance of the song began there was the traditional Kamishibai, but this one was a longer version than had come before that really emphasized the message contained in the song.
Tonight the neck corsets worn by everyone emitted a red light which became the red backdrop for Yuimetal and Moametal to bathe in as they sprinted around the stage. With the use of these long runways this became more of a full fledged track and field race than a short dash. The Dome seats shook in a monstrous quake during the Dame Jump phase of the song as 55 thousand fans all unified as one heading into the end of this curtain closing song.
With the final BABYMETAL call the girls were brimming over with faces showing refreshed smiles indicating their happiness with having performed to the full extent of their capabilities. It would be fair to say that these smiles encapsulated their thoughts and feelings over these 2 days. By the way Moametal was jumping and dancing around I am sure she was especially happy.
The girls walked slowly as if to soak in the sensation of walking on these 3 runways as they waved at the fans who had become witnesses to this historical event. Doing so, Su-metal suddenly slipped and fell down and was somehow helped up by Yuimetal and Moametal who were having been drawn into almost falling themselves somehow managed to stay on their feet.
Overcoming this, the 3 girls huddled up and walked on as one. I am certain that this is exactly how they have overcome hardships and made it to where they are now. I felt to me as if I was watching the last scene of a movie depicting the joys of teenage life.
Following this and in conclusion, the girls made their way to the top of the circular tower where Su-metal lavishly struck a gigantic metal gong bringing the show to a close. The low reverberation of the gong ringing out signaled the conclusion of the 4th chapter of the Metal Resistance as surely as it signified the ringing in of an announcement of the next new step to be taken by BABYMETAL who has already pioneered a pathless road for us.
BABYMETAL has up to now pulled off so many accomplishments that most people had considered as being beyond the realm of the possible. In fact, just a few days ago it was announced that they would be doing an anime version of BABYMETAL in a joint venture with a Hollywood based company. This was in fact something that Moametal had stated 3 and 1/2 years ago in an interview as one of her dreams for the future. It goes without saying that at the time she said this there was no talk of doing a joint venture with Hollywood. BABYMETAL is accelerating at a pace and with a momentum that exceeds the dreams of these girls. This (The Tokyo Dome) is not their final destination. This is not their final destination. Stories that no one other than the Fox god are privy to will continue to become reality for BABYMETAL into the future.