TA couple of days ago I received this question in my guestbook
and decided to answer it to the best of my abilities. For some
reason, certain things about visual kei never filter out into
the real world, and so I will attempt to explain what I've gotten
about visual kei.
The Question (Derek): How do you resolve visual kei look with
the very light pop sound?
Surprisingly enough, there is no contradiction between a visual
kei band's look and sound. Furthermore, there is no set "sound"
for a visual kei band. Vis kei, as the name states, is "visual
genre" music, aka. they are classified not by their sound,
but by their visuals. Maybe you should try listening to a wider
range of bands. Once you do, you'll find that many of them play
fairly hard music. I can't give you any good examples though,
myself not listening to many visual kei bands.
But as for the bands with hard images that play soft music....I
would direct you to bands like The Backstreet Boys or Shinwha..
No, I'm serious. Do you remember the PV for "Everybody (Backstreet's
Back)", where they dressed up like monsters and ran around
and danced a silly dance in a spooky old house? That wasn't far
from something a visual kei band would do. The only difference,
really, is that western men aren't to wear make-up (visibly. Nick's
pretty pocky in real life). So you get visuals like that in the
Meanwhile, Shinwha has had some pretty violent videos including
abusive parents, gang fights, and death of the band members. Yet
they're a Korean boy band
Visual kei is the equivalent of western boybands, and their fans
are the equivalent of teenieboppers. When you tell an adult that
you like visual kei in Japan, they'll give you a patronizing look
or laugh, and start treating you a little childishly. In fact,
my aquaintance used to introduce me as "this girl likes vis
kei" when he wanted to make me seem childish. I'm not talking
about the good old days of vis kei, with bands like X-Japan, but
the modern day visual kei bands. Even Malice Mizer and Lareine
fall under this category. For further reference to fangirls as
teenieboppers, please read the modern day anthropological literature
on teenieboppers. You'll find that it describes visual kei fans
perfectly. Japan's aesthetics can explain other differences in
appearance I think.
Now, going further, I suppose you perhaps hear a lot of rumors
about visual kei, but here are some true, and less well known,
points about visual kei.
1) Visual kei fans are usually 14-24.
2) Visual kei fans are usually female.
3) Visual kei band members are usually under 30.
4) There is something call "mitsu" where girls randomly
give money to bands and do favors/have sex with the members for
affection from the bandmen. Most don't do it, and it's pretty
underground among even the fans, but it's not unheard of. This
is how some band members make their money. Male prostitution,
more or less.
5) Fans will insist that members won't get together with fans
sometimes, or call it fangui (using the fans), but that's not
true. A large number of foreign fans who actually speak Japanese
and have been in Japan for long enough have gone out with bandmembers.
They weren't mitsu. They just really liked each other. In the
end, they're only people like anyone else.
So generally, visual kei is neither noble nor creative nor special
or sophisticated. However, there is a sort of community feeling
and comfort in the smaller band's circles, and visual kei can
be a really good thing there. Like, one of my friends is a fan
of a smaller Osaka band, and she's friends with the fans and bandmen,.
They all support each other, hang out somtimes, etc, etc. I'm
not opposed to point #5.
But as you get to bands with a larger fanbase, I think they lose
that feeling. It's a different image and lifestyle.
Interestingly enough, Velvet Eden does not warrent visual kei
status, while Moi Dix Mois and Malice Mizer do (although Mana
is trying rather hard to combat that image). I think it's because
of Kalm's songs and Dada's funky voice, plus the fact that he
sings about being a gay, sadomasochistic man in Nichome and dresses
more like a drag queen than anything else. In visual kei, when
someone has creativity or true artistic talent, they usually end
up breaking the humdrum in some way or another or going goth.
So, you know, everyone's entitled to their own musical preferences
and visions. Me, I want Mylene Farmer, Eurythmics, Strawberry
Switchblade and Soft Ballet....the 80's....back (>_<) Even
though I wasn't there for a lot of it. It's funny. I just got
into Mylene after well over a decade of activity, and now she's
leaving the music business. I think I'm a jynx. So those who like
Sopor Aeternus, I apologize in advance if he gets crushed by an
elephant or something. Siempre los mismo~