After more than two years of waiting, Babymetal return to the new music scene with the pounding “Karate”. Ghostly visuals and carefully choreographed kata lend a flair to a promotional video that presents itself as a tournament style battle between Babymetal and their foes. This is Babymetal’s return. Their previous single release “Gimme Chocolate!” catapulted the group to worldwide success; will “Karate” build on their empire?
Given all the metal bravado, Babymetal still produce a melodically strong product with “Karate”. One of the secrets of the group’s success is the powerhouse vocal performances of Nakamoto Suzuka, Suu-metal. In another setting, we would be discussing Suzuka’s growth as a vocalist to an obsessive degree. Here with Babymetal, the girls’ cute images juxtaposed with the metal instrumentation provide endless fascination. Add Suu-metal together with Mizuno Yui (Yuimetal) and Kikuchi Moa’s (Moametal) earworm vocals and anthemic “Whoa, whoa!” and Babymetal have a recipe for success limited only by their ability to keep the formula fresh.
“Karate” works with a deceptive looking budget. Digital shockwaves emanating from the girls’ kata, fiery auras, and the explosive destruction of several props appear to balloon the budget. But, the single stage setting and sparse set design indicate the budget for “Karate” was blown on the effects. The product is clean. The detail on Moa, Yui, and Suzuka’s faces during their close-up photography shots impress me greatly.
Babymetal fight their way through three different opponents in “Karate”. You can see these for yourself, so I won’t detail the particulars. Babymetal’s knockdown in the second round provides some drama to the production, although you probably won’t worry yourself over the eventual outcome. The girls overcome their foes when Suu-metal reunites the group by picking up her fallen comrades. In the cutest moment of the PV, the girls huddle together before unleashing their attacks on the trio masked big bosses.
Probably obvious from the first frame of the PV, but the trio of masked spectors are actually avatars of the girls themselves. I love the design of the spectral masks. My inner crusty punk approves of the studded muzzles on the death heads as much as my inner idol trash loves the rhinestone bejeweled eye sockets.
Again, it should be obvious. We see the girls’ reflections in the each now unmasked spector. So, Babymetal is fighting itself. Or more correctly, they are fighting an apparition of themselves. I’m not sure anyone thought this particular metaphor through. As a guy on a computer, I don’t see Babymetal struggling with their image in any particular way. If anything, Suzuka, Yui, and Moa are celebrating the success garnered through their collaboration. It’s not quite John Lennon proclaiming, “I am the walrus!”.
“Karate” is exactly what it expects itself to be. Heavy, yet melodic. Serious, yet playful. Metal, yet idol. I confess the music grew on me with repeated listens, and I know many out there are in love. Lucky for us, we have global opportunities to see the queens of idol crossover as Babymetal make their way worldwide later this year. What did you think of “Karate”? Are you going to see Babymetal? Tell me in the comments below.