TOKYO (majirox news) — A new force has arrived on the Japanese visual kei scene, a genre among J-rock musicians characterized by elaborate make-up, extreme hairstyles, flashy costumes and sometimes an androgynous look. It has its own particular sound related to glam, rock, punk and heavy metal.
A 16-year-old named Yohio with long blond hair wearing frilled dresses and playing fast, sweeping, picking guitar is making waves with a debut album, Reach the Sky, scheduled for release by Universal Music later in April. The six-track album is composed of songs sung in Japanese, instrumentals, rock, pop, techno, classic, a growling death voice and even rap.
The striking singer/guitarist is not Japanese but Swedish, and despite the dresses and make-up he wears on stage, male.
Yohio comes from a musical family and has played instruments since the age of six, forming a band, Seremedy, three years ago to play his songs. Seremedy has now played at Japan’s V-rock festival, with a single released in Japan and Europe. He will be hosting an event for his debut album in Tokyo on April 28 for 200 fans to be chosen by lot.
Why would a Swedish boy want to sing in Japanese while wearing a dress? In an interview, he gave some reasons.
“I feel Japanese suits the rhythm of rock music better than does English,” Yohio said. “I grew up enjoying Japanese music and anime”, and added, “You don’t have to be Japanese to be a visual kei artist.”
And the gender ambiguity? “The androgynous visual presentation of musicians which transcends the common social perception of gender appeals to me.”
“I wasn’t surprised by his look, but the dude is Swedish and I was shocked when I saw him,” said one female fan on the Asian Junkie website.
A male fan said he loves the sound “and he looks like a girl. I thought he was a really cute girl till I heard him sing.”
“It’s like Japanese anime turning into reality,” another fan said. And there, maybe, you have the appeal of the genre.
Visual kei is spreading worldwide via YouTube and similar sites, with Japanese bands performing outside Japan, headlining and playing guest spots at cosplay conventions and similar Japanese pop culture events.
Of course, there are those who shake their heads, claiming that visual kei is more about dressing up than it is about music and that the sexual and gender ambiguity is distasteful. As a result, the genre is somewhat sidelined, but it doesn’t stop a blond Swedish boy from rocking out in full drag and thrilling Japanese fans with his Japanese language and guitar skills (not to mention his visual appeal).
And… given the way that Japan’s entertainment industry works, we will probably soon be seeing Yohio on TV