I’ll bet many readers have never seen or heard anything like this . . .
I first encountered the joys of Japanese pop music when I taught English there for a half year in the late 1980s. Part of the job was to go on-site to teach, so I got to see “salarymen” in their offices and families in their homes. One family had two teens learning English, and they turned me on to the Barbee Boys, a popular band at the time featuring a male-female duo of powerhouse singers.
The Japanese language is really interesting set to pop music — it is less languid than some, more propulsive than others. Often, English words are blended in, reflecting the ways English has seeped into Japanese culture.
You can hear it in today’s selection by the current Japanese music phenomenon, represented by the band Babymetal.
Founded in 2010, this Japanese “kawaii” (“cute”) metal band consists of Suzuka Nakamoto (“Su-metal”), Moa Kikuchi (“Moametal”), and Momoko Okazaki (”Momometal”). Their vocals are backed by heavy metal instrumentation performed by the “Kami band,” costumed in a way reminiscent of Ghost. (It is a group of session musicians.)
The three main performers are now in their early and mid-20s, and have developed as singers and artists in appreciable ways.
Controversial among music critics, who either love the band as “rule-breaking” or disparage it as “silly,” the group is hugely popular in Japan, and internationally:
- In 2016, Babymetal became the highest-charting Japanese band ever in the UK’s Official Charts history
- In the US, Metal Resistance was the first Japanese album to chart in the Billboard Top 40 in over 50 years (the last Japanese artist to break the Top 40 was Kyu Sakamoto in 1963)
- In 2019 Babymetal became the first Asian act to top the Billboard Rock Albums chart with the release of their third studio album, Metal Galaxy
“Gimme Chocolate!” is from the band’s debut album, and helped establish the band internationally via its YouTube popularity. If it takes you aback at first, hang tough for the chorus to grab you by the nape of your neck with some irresistable hooks — and then hold on for dear life.