Impressions: Headbanger!!

BABYMETAL, for those of us who are unaware are an idol group that attempt to fuse idol pop and heavy metal into something amazing. Some of the results of this mad science experiment turn out better than others. Will this be a match made in heaven or an abomination? Join us as we take a look at their latest offering; “Headbanger!!”.

 

Anthony:

A more traditional metal offering from BABYMETAL! Fantastic! BABYMETAL’s last single, “Iine” featured an odd rap break down in the middle of the song which was jarring, out of place and although interesting, was not impressive to me. This upcoming single, “Head Banger!” is a more straight forward metal approach by BABYMETAL and a solid one at that! The melody is catchy and the power beat in the middle of the song is refreshing to hear in “idol” music. The only disappointing factor in this release is going to be what seems to be a reduced role for MOAMETAL and YUIMETAL. What made “Doki Doki Morning”(BABYMETALS’ first single) great for me was what seemed to be a more prominent role in the song by the two side girls. It just might be that this truer to metal approach is downplaying the effect of the two side girls. This lack of presence that I’m feeling from the song does not kill the song but does dampen the impact that I received when I listened to “Doki Doki Morning”. The melodies are catchy and the musical production is up to par. As a song, this is a solid release!

Now onto the PV. The PV starts off with a dark horror ambiance and SU-METAL is praying to a Sadako(the character from The Ring) like person and a box with a neck brace inside floats down on her. She puts the neck brace on and the rest is history. The shots of the BABYMETAL members in front of the mountain of Marshall guitar amps is very nice and the color scheme of the shot is wonderful with  black, white and red being prominent. I find it interesting that the cross in the back is the right way up which Garry pointed out in a conversation we had when this PV first came out.

They appeared from a “pentagram-like” writing on the ground in the “Doki Doki Morning” PV so I think the producers are either confused or just trying to parody the image of a metal band. I would assume the latter but who knows.

Overall, I think this PV is well shot and clean. Very entertaining and does the terrific song justice. Definitely a PV and song people should check out!

PV:


Song
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Dae:

I consider every good BABYMETAL release a gift. There were so many opportunities for them to have crashed and burned with their novelty claim as a subgroup, but they’ve been striking gold each time. Their past singles, ‘Doki Doki Morning’ and ‘Ii-ne’, were caffeine-infused kicks to the head, bending genres and resulting in what I call “Electro Idol Metal Synthpop Dance”. It shares many structural similarities with its split-personality disordered compadre Momoiro Clover, cunningly switching between a slew of disparate mediums and brands in a way that seems effortless and packs a hell of a punch.

I was a little surprised that their latest, ‘Headbanger!!’, was much more restrained and played closer to their namesake, with metal being at the forefront and little else. It is a unified and honed experience, and it’s a quality song; but it’s missing that chaotic element I enjoyed so much about BABYMETAL. Luckily, it’s a solid song for a group that’s essentially an absurd, experimental exercise in lunacy. The primary melody is reminiscent of X Japan’s great ballads… you know, if they were sung by a teenage girl. And that’s not meant to be a jab at all— Nakamoto Suzuka (aka SU-METAL) proves herself as a strong vocalist throughout ‘Headbanger!!’, more than earning her chops to lead the song.

While I was watching ‘Headbanger!!’, I was wondering if this was a solo song because of the greatly reduced roles of the other two members, who serve little more than background dancers who chant occasionally. It would have been great if they were better integrated but this particular song benefits from a strong, single voice so it was easy to accept as an artistic decision.

‘Headbanger!!’s PV surprised with a quiet, cinematic intro. It’s played so straight-faced that you can’t help but crack a smile when she opens the lid of a floating, demonic gift box to reveal a neck brace— safety first! Also different from previous music videos, there’s a clear sequence of events in this PV, showing the transformation from a school girl to a decked out metal head (or what passes for a idol metal head in Japan these days). Let’s not forget that the entire premise of the PV is about summoning a legendary headbanging Sadako. Did I mention that this demonic figure is also sporting a bandolier bullet belt and throws out the sign of horns?

The group shots are done on a separate set, sapped of all color save for the bright red, adding a touch of moody noir into the mix. In the background is a tall structure of iconic Marshall amps and a back-lit cross; Cool imagery, but I personally found the actual setup a little too claustrophobic and restricting, even in the wider shots. Aside from the great introduction, the rest felt a little sloppy and limited in scope, which made it feel more like a budget PV than usual, especially when compared to the bombastic and colorful ‘Ii-ne’.  With a limited color palette and location, one must take extra measures to ramp up other technical aspects of the video such as set dressing, lighting, and editing, but they fell short for the most part, aside from a few interesting editing tricks here and there.

The cheekier-than-usual PV and the straighter-than-usual song somehow work together, but I can’t help but think they could have pushed each one a little further. Still, considering how many horrible directions this group could have gone in, ‘Headbanger!!’ is still a death-defying feat of a song; it’s just not as rare of a gem as their previous entries.

PV:

Song:

 

Garry:

In all honesty I came into this release with a lot of trepidation; would this be the BABYMETAL that gave us the fantastic “Doki Doki Morning” or would it be the BABYMETAL that gave us the rather underwhelming “Iine!”? In the end I think we ended up somewhere in the middle, at least as far as the song goes anyway.

To elaborate on the above, “Headbanger!!” is a solid song and I’m not trying to dispute that. However I can’t help but feel slightly underwhelmed by the whole thing. Sure the hook is okay but it’s nothing special in fact I’d almost go as far as to say that it’s somewhat forgettable. It just doesn’t feel like it’ll have the kind of lasting impression that “Doki Doki Morning” had on me. The testament to this fact being that I still get “Doki Doki Morning” stuck in my head even now.

Something else that I kind of want to make note of is that without the heavy metal instrumentals and screaming sections, much of this composition could easily be dropped into a regular idol song and it wouldn’t make much difference. Of course the exact same can be argued for “Doki Doki Morning” but I feel in this instance the degree of separation is just a bit too noticeable. At least for me anyway.

On a more positive note, let’s talk about the PV. SU-METAL prays to Sadako (I’m assuming here) and receives a magic box that contains a neck brace that I initially thought was a bedpan. There isn’t really any narrative to speak of so I was left wondering what exactly was going on. Anyway, she gets all BABYMETAL’d up and the scene changes to the three girls performing in front of the stereotypical wall of Marshall amplifiers.

I have a few issues with these particular scenes, the first being that the cross they have in the background really should be inverted. If they’re not going to invert it because of overly sensitive Christian babies then they could have at least done some kind of parody of it (maybe lay it on its side or something). A rather inconsequential nitpick sure but I’m not the one trying to be the heavy metal idol group.

The other main issue that I have is the distinct lack of YUIMETAL and MOAMETAL throughout the PV. Now I get the fact that they’re trying to tell some kind of story with SU-METAL or whatever but it’s pretty bad when I feel like the Sadako character got more screentime than two members of the actual group. The fact that the majority of Yui and Moa’s shots are recycled throughout the performance doesn’t really help matters all that much either.

All of those criticisms aside, the PV does have some really nicely shot scenes. The performance shot does a lot with pretty much only a stage and an empty room to work with and all of the scenes in Suzuka’s room, while not being the most entertaining thing ever, are interesting enough to look at. I’m still not sure why they felt the need to include the Sadako character (if it’s for laughs, fair enough I suppose) but it causes me more confusion than it detracts from the PV.

For those of you who don’t want to read, here’s the summary. Decent enough, although nothing outstanding song paired with a really good video make for an above average idol release.

PV:


Song
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About NSK

New School Kaidan is a community-focused website for the Japanese idol industry international fan base. Between podcasts, broadcasts, events, and analytic articles, New School Kaidan aims to bring an understanding of idol culture to the masses.

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9 comments

  1. As a fan of Sakura Gakuin before BABYMETAL even released Doki Doki Morning, I am disappointed whenever a BABYMETAL review does not even mention one time the name of its parent group. Suzuka is my favorite Sakura Gakuin member, and I am happy she gets so much exposure, but at the end of the day, BABYMETAL is still just a “school club” as part of Sakura Gakuin. But sadly, nobody seems to care about Sakura Gakuin which makes me upset, since I love them and I wish people would give the entire group a chance. Sorry for saying things like this but I’ve read a few too many BABYMETAL reviews like this… One mention of “subgroup” and no mention of what it’s a subgroup of disappoints me greatly.

    • We usually talk about subgroups without mentioning what parent group they came from, since we consider them stand-alone units. I understand your frustration, but this gripe doesn’t really concern the meat of the post, which is about a BABYMETAL release.

      • I would say though that for BABYMETAL, even though they are a part of Sakura Gakuin, really do need to be mentioned on their own as they are such a stand alone group in the Music they do in the idol world….

        As for the song itself, well yet again they come out with a good song, I dunno every time they release something part of me thinks that this concept will still not work and every time I have been proven wrong (so-far)

        The song itself is good and catchy but it’s the PV that wins it again for me, as you may or not know from my comments about Momoclo I admire PV’s that do alot with nothing, or carry a simple idea well and here the mountain of speakers with the while, black and red theme was well used and implemented throughout and really added to the song……

        • My only problem with how people never mention Sakura Gakuin is that in the Sakura Gakuin fan communities I am in, half the people joining do not care about Sakura Gakuin at all — only BABYMETAL. And it makes me very sad because nobody gives Sakura Gakuin a chance. I don’t blame them, since BABYMETAL is often pushed on its own, but it’s just so unfair to the other girls when BABYMETAL-only fans infiltrate the Sakura Gakuin fan groups. I am a fan of each and every one of Sakura Gakuin’s members and units, and it seems unfair that the parent group is never even mentioned once, even in passing. To the fans of Sakura Gakuin, before BABYMETAL or Twinklestars or any other sub units, it’s saddening. I know many people who feel this way and simply want to share this unit’s wonderful origin.

      • I understand that much, however it’s not just this review, but nearly EVERY review I read. And at the end of the day, BABYMETAL would not exist without Sakura Gakuin.

        • I would hope that in the interest of fairness you posted these comments on all of those other reviews too. If you did, fair play. If not then sorry we were the straw that broke the camel’s back I guess.

          For the record I really like Sakura Gakuin although some of their more recent stuff has been a bit hit or miss.

          • Of course. I mention the same kind of thing on every review I can find that has a comment section. I’m a big supporter of Sakura Gakuin as a whole, so that’s why. I just want to try and get people to know that the girls from BABYMETAL can be seen in Sakura Gakuin too. After all, if I’m following an idol group and I like the members then I might want to see what else they are involved in too. I feel as though fans miss out when nearly every review on BABYMETAL never mentions Sakura Gakuin. It’s definitely not just this review, and it’s certainly nothing against anyone who worked on it, or this site. It’s just the specific way in which BABYMETAL has been publicized that kinda irks me.

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