Babymetal: Lady Gaga's Kooky J-Pop Find

Japanese trio is equal parts goth and giggles

Babymetal are unlikely ascendants to the black-metal throne, to say the least. They're a girl group, Japanese and each barely 5 feet tall. (The pigtails add an extra inch.) Oh, and they smile. And dance. But they're racking up millions of YouTube views, selling out shows and opening for Lady Gaga. They name-drop the band Anthrax, as in, "We were talking with Anthrax backstage in London, after we performed for 10,000 people, and..."

Their novel brand of music - which they call "kawaii" (meaning cute) metal - combines the fire and fury of Slayer with the vocals, choreographed dance moves and apple-cheeked innocence of tween J-pop. "We have a song called 'Headbanger,' " says lead singer Su-Metal, through a translator over Skype, before checking herself: "Well, it's a baby headbang. Instead of doing it forwards, we do it from side to side, to make it cute."

If you ask Babymetal how it came together, the girls giggle about being placed on Earth by "the Fox God," a being they say they came upon by mistaking metal's devil-horn hand sign for the ears of a fox. (Metal has always loved its mysticism, after all.) In reality, Suzuka "Su-Metal" Nakamoto, 16, started off as a cog in one of Japan's manufactured "idol" pop groups. Neither she nor vocalist/dancers Yui "Yuimetal" Mizono and Moa "Moametal" Kikuchi (both 15) had even heard metal before being recruited by Key "Kobametal" Kobayashi, the producer behind the group.

"I picked the girls because they're symmetrical in height, and, well, because the Fox God - it comes to me in the bathtub," he says. "This scene is older. It can be boring - the same old guys doing metal! It's not bad, but this is something new. That's how I came up with this, just trying to do something no one had heard before."

Indeed, the video for "Gimme Chocolate" has the girls shrieking under strobe lights and adorably pantomiming eating the titular snack, before ending with the cryptic message "See you in the mosh'sh [sic] pit." On one hand, they encourage concertgoers to "be good to one another," but they also stick their tongues out and wink when they say "death" (a word they use an awful lot).

The group has attracted a strange mix of followers. "In Japan, most fans at shows are fans of Japanese pop idols," says Su-Metal. "In Europe, it's a lot more metal fans."

Babymetal will invade America for the first time this month, playing a sold-out show at Los Angeles' Fonda Theatre on July 27 and then sweeping east for five dates with Gaga. But Su-Metal isn't intimidated - she's coming with teeth bared. "In America, I want to try steak," she says. "I want to eat a big, America-sized steak."


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