Lately, I’ve been paying attention to how people are divided into demographics. With the mostly corporate approach to art, it’s easy to assume that all art must be targeted at a specific audience. Occasionally, though, you’ll get things that look like they’re targeting to absolutely conflicting demographics, that seem to have at least some appeal entirely because of the irony in melding the contradictions. Nowhere is this more readily visible than in there world of heavy metal music. With the dark, rebellious, and incredibly masculine image that metal tends to associate itself with, it seems like the following songs shouldn’t work, yet somehow they’ve found an audience.
Leo Moracchioli – Firework (A Cover of the Song By Katie Perry)
The video heavily involves the participation of Leo Moracchioli’s daughter, indicating that the song was her choice. If there’s anything that the antithesis to metal’s mostly masculine and power driven image, it’s the little girl. The song itself doesn’t do much to make this appear like it should work either, since it’s ultimately about encouraging positive emotions (whereas metal is more often concerned with death, doom, and other violent and grungy and dark subjects). And yet, Leo Moracchioli somehow manages to turn it into something that still fits (although imperfectly) into that metal mode. His eye has a contact in it that deforms him into something appealingly non-human, despite the smiley face it depicts, giving him a simultaneous girly and yet horrifying metal image. This combines with the angry energetic movement in his dancing to keep him appearing metal despite the lyrics of the song. And the way he delivers the song also belies its lyrical message. He delivers the choruses with a gravelly grunt that’s the trademark of death metal. In addition, he lightly emphasizes violent sounding words to call attention to them, despite how their imagery is underplayed in the original (e.g. the “fire” in firework, “buried / six feet under”, “burn”). The result is a Katy Perry song that sounds really raw and heavy.
Babymetal – Gimme Chocolate (A cross between metal and Teen J-Pop)
Babymetal relies even more heavily on the contradictory imagery of their band. Teen J-Pop is based primarily around girly images, with a heavy emphasis on the cuteness of the presented singers (often going so far as to try and further their youthful image by associating them not just with young women, but with infants). The name Babymetal doesn’t contradict that at all, but isn’t as contradictory as it may seem on the surface. For starters, there’s a lot of crossover between D&D nerd subculture and Power Metal especially, which often intersects with the Otaku nerd subculture as well, so while incredibly niche, they do have a clearly defined target audience. But even more than that, the infantile image of the singers combined with the brutal imagery and music gives kind of the same appeal as real babies doing adult things with only a superficial amount of success. What Babymetal has done is essentially recreate and manufacture that kind of appeal. Gimme Chocolate does that with an utterly infantile source of metal-like anger (not having chocolate right now).
Antestor – Unchained (A Christian black metal band)
When penning the title to this article, this section is the one where I most heavily emphasize the “kind of” when working, because Christian metal is mostly just cringey (even in the video linked here). But, in an ironic twist of fate, Christian metal somehow works better than most other Christian rock, which just inserts worshipful lyrics into a casual song. But, like Leo Moracchioli, Antestor relies on a mostly superficial definition of metal, utilizing the brutal imagery and lyrics with depictions of hell in all the same grizzly glory that metal is known for. But in their case, they use it as a call to repentance. For most of the target audience (Christians), it winds up being distasteful and disgusting, but the lyrics depend on that kind of gut reaction, as they’re trying to push you away from that kind of ugly grisliness. It becomes a more effective warning of the same kind of fear preaching that’s so popular among especially protestant sects of Christianity. It may not be specifically enjoyable by either audience, but that doesn’t mean it entirely doesn’t work.
Hevisaurus – Jurmaloid (A Scandinavian metal song written for children)
Over here in the United States, we have Barney the Dinosaur. Consequently, men in dinosaur costumes over here tend to represent Barney the Dinosaur’s themes of love, caring, and friendliness, which don’t work at all in the context of metal. But, despite this, Dinosaurs have a raw and primitive quality to them, that Hevisaurus utilizes to force the otherwise child-friendly dinosaur depiction into a metal setting. It retains its child friendly lyrics, but does so while utilizing the power depiction of dinosaurs (the lyrics are in Finnish, but they encourage good behavior by depicting it under a mythical prehistoric creature called “Juranoid” that performs amazing feats of power like bathing in lava or riding on lighting).