This post was inspired and instigated entirely by a comment left by J.D. a while ago (my sincere apologies for taking a long time to respond). When I sat down to compose my reply, I realized it was turning into a post unto itself. Since this is a conversation I feel it is important to have, this seemed like a golden opportunity to get it on the table.
I just want to know that if its very hard for VK bands (acts) to stand out in Japan’s music industry. The only reason why I am asking this is because many of the VK bands (acts) are starting to tone down their style (or at least those I know of).
Girugamesh (toned down toooo much, where’s their old self?)
SID (they look like an idol group now, yet they are still classified as VK?)
the GazettE (SHIVER veered them slightly off-course from their original style)
Angelo (almost same situation as Giru, and the fact that they were a chip of PIERROT makes me more worried)
D’espairsRay (not really much now, considering the fact that Kishi saved them recently)
MUCC (they are going pop, OMG)
Has the “Parental Advisory” label taken its toll on them in any way? Just curious.
It’s certainly true that many of the Visual Kei bands, most noticeably because they are primarily those that have been labeled hardcore or ultimately dark, that we respect and follow have been taking a major turn…not necessarily for the better. It seemed to be starting out as “experimentation” and “new horizons”, and has now plummeted into something of a disaster of identity crisis expressed in sound, and some musical massacre by…by whom, we can’t say. Is it the record label? The composers? The band itself?
I think the short answer to J.D.’s question is yes, it is difficult for Visual Kei bands to stand out. I imagine, especially as the industry has become extremely inundated with bands all struggling to get noticed and gain recognition with few of them actually expressing any particular innovation or individuality, that it’s becoming more and more difficult to get recognized. Veteran bands have to stay afloat, while new bands have to somehow work their way out from under the heavy shadows of Luna Sea, XJapan, D’espairsRay, and the PSC crew that hit at the right moment and, basically, got lucky by being the right people in the right place at the right time.
Many of the bands have, yes, softened and toned down their sound. My own personal theory, based simply on observances and hypothesis, is that the main way that bands are able to reach a wider audience now is through outlets such as anime and video games (a huge advertising scheme in Japan). However, I think that as they begin working into this mainstream field, they’re taking the tack of conforming and doing what everyone expects in the hopes they can reach out to the people who drop loads of money on ARASHI and other such idol-groups and boy-bands. I believe that, with groups such as SID, Kra, and girugamesh, they’re more or less morphing into staple boy-bands, leaving behind the hardcore (giru, at least) and genuine music they started out with. My guess is it is primarily commercially driven, as many of these artists have proven through trial and error (or lack thereof) that they are sincere, passionate musicians who are channeling their creativity and innovative visions through their work.
I’m not sure if you’ve heard this talk about “Visual Kei is dead”, but I, at least, have been hearing it a lot – too much- this year. First of all, it has a bad feeling to me. Of course you could say it has a bad feeling because Visual Kei is the axis upon which the bulk of my life turns. However, the reason it has such a bad feeling is primarily guided (although I won’t deny the other fact either) by a sense of fans and faith, and something missing in the equation.
The past two years haven’t been the best for Visual Kei, this is true. Exceptional releases have been spotty, “changes in sound” have been, at times, cringeworthy; bands have struggled, split up, flourished and failed. It has been, for lack of better words, a bit of a mess. And then some time back, that interview containing “insider’s insights” on the Visual Kei industry hit the web (of which we will not go into detail here. I have yet to feel the need to even humor that article, and its response, with a comment.) and suddenly this phrase surfaced: “Visual Kei is dead”.
Now, I will say this. I am not asserting my opinion as if it is fact. Truly, your guess is as good as mine. These are my own suppositions, opinions, and beliefs. I do not have any magical insider’s insights into the industry. I only have insights into the industry of fandom– and given that as long as there is fandom, no thing can ever die or disappear, that would seem to be the most relevant in this situation anyway.
Visual Kei will only die when it dies for you. Like believing in the Easter Bunny, or being a huge fan of The Rolling Stones or disco, the genre will only “be dead” when your own lack of faith kills it. Many people laugh at Western followers of certain branches of Japanese fashion, such as Lolita, saying “Nobody wears Lolita in Japan anymore, you stupid whities.” You may not see hoards of Lolita at every Shinujuku street corner anymore, sure, but that does not mean “Lolita is dead”. There are many incredible and passionate followers of Lolita in Japan and elsewhere, and many successful designers that, somehow, flourish making nothing but Lolita clothing.
In the same way, I would say in many respects Visual Kei is no longer “the next big thing”. Visual Kei has found its niche and become, on some level, its own facet of the mainstream rock scene. It is no longer particularly shocking or unbelievable. It, like punk music or legwarmers, is no longer what will make the earth shake and fire rain from the heavens. This does not mean Visual Kei is dead.
Visual Kei is still expanding and developing. It has begun busting down borders and taking acts overseas, including and expanding its international audience. Many acts are struggling or producing mediocre music– is this something exclusive to Visual Kei? Many acts are also flourishing and rapidly uplifting their work to higher standards of excellence. Incredible albums and singles have hit shelves, and we are still on the edge of our chairs, waiting for the next releases from artists we continue to respect and recognize for their dedication, talent, and innovation.
girugamesh released some duds, and The GazettE hit us hard with b-average SHIVER. Of course that immediately necessitates the revelation that Visual Kei is dead. Of course it does. I perceive tension in the world of Visual Kei as the bands and artists work hard to figure out how they can fulfill both commercial and creative callings. As Visualists do we throw in our towels, roll up our posters, and sell our CD collections in some fit of indifference? Or do we crank that one exquisite Visual Kei single that came out this past year and head down memory lane, remembering what it felt like to be showered by Zero’s spit, to be embraced by the aura of 雅ーMIYAVI’s sincere words in the painfully hot club? Remembering the choking thrill of hearing about GACKT’s European debut, still clinging to those fragments of inspiration you drew from seeing those lives this summer…holding onto those living, breathing experiences, can you really tell me that Visual Kei is dead?