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Japanese Idol Groups for the Musically Adventurous

(Fuguito - CC BY-SA 3.0)
The Japanese idol world has been known to be all marginal beauty and talent for some time, and the dominance of the AKB48 juggernaut cemented that image for the casual music observer in the past decade. More recently, K-Pop had its time in Japan, and might have shaken the local music industry enough to churn out something that can compete.

Fast forward to the current musical climate, those of us outside Japan -who stuck it out with whatever content the record companies would allow on Youtube- who have a penchant to have their collection vary from Japanese post-rock to citypop- are now witnessing what Japanese female idols can be. You tear away the 'pure' standard image, and have them become frontwomen for very talented musicians and producers/songwriters.


Their first music festival performance was at a stage at the venue's food court almost half a decade ago. Now, they've played Wembley Stadium, as well as various main stages of rock/metal festivals in the West. The group's history, Fox god mythology, and maybe every detail of their idol metal image is prone to scrutiny, criticism, and a common bewilderment. What do they have that made them break the US Billboard Chart's Top 40 with their second album, a feat that was last achieved 5 decades ago? They have a mind-gripping live show, accompanied by a potent blend of rock genre trends, and catchy J-pop. The metal or not-metal finger-pointing doesn't matter at this point anymore.




It would be easy to assume the 'alt-idol movement' may have its historical roots at some random livehouse, started by rock musicians who want a bigger break than what they can achieve, by choosing female idols to sing and dance on stage. Whatever the actual genesis was, it was the group BiS who made major label giant Avex take notice. The group history is as rich as BABYMETAL's, but way more upfront, vulgar, and as punk as you can get. Music videos where they are sporting (fake) bruises, nudity (via nude-suits), stage diving at live band-less gigs, and when they do decide to have one, it had to be noise band Hijokaidan. There was also in-fighting, the group's dissolution, and a revival as BiSH, with none of the original members present, though those members went on to musical projects, some worth noting.



Oh, how is the music? It was a hard-sell for me in the beginning -only Lui and Uika (BiS) can actually hold notes- but once you get into the energy they can generate from a small room of moshing fans, your will is bound to follow.


Oyasumi Hologram

Imagine a lo-fi indie-rock band fronted by two fetching young ladies, though they seem to be tone-deaf. You decide to wing it, and you catch the chorus, and decide to stay for the next song, because hey, this is no bad. No, its actually pretty good, and you push further by watching their live performance videos and see how voraciously enthusiastic their fans can be, and you breathe easy because this ain't your typical light-stick waving crowd. Oyasumi Hologram's self-titled album from last year can easily be filed along with your Sebadoh or Guided by Voices records.


You'll Melt More!

They are probably the closest of this list to fit the standard idol mold these days, though they do have Ano, who, to put it lightly, is that batshit crazy, stage-frequent diver-member. They came out with a masterpiece called ONLY YOU from their latest record, and that song easily became my 2015 song-of-the-year without contest.



They recently resurrected themselves as a three-piece, but for us who remember, they were the idol group that easily had the most potential to be a bigger act. They can sing, they can dance, they are kawaii, and thanks to producer Schtein&Longer, they have butter-smooth jazzy ballads, and nostalgia-filled pop-dance ditties that just win you over. They were much more than their quirky videos, their vintage 90s fashion.

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