|This article's listed sources may not meet Wikipedia's guidelines for reliable sources. (May 2012)|
|This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the Russian Wikipedia. (March 2011)|
|Stylistic origins||Various (mainly heavy metal, glam rock and punk rock)|
|Typical instruments||Vocals, electric guitar, bass guitar, drums, keyboards|
|Angura kei • Eroguro kei • Kote kei • Kurafu kei • Oshare kei|
|Japanese popular culture • Japanese street fashion|
Visual kei (ヴィジュアル系 bijuaru kei , lit. "visual style" or "visual system") is a movement among Japanese musicians, that is characterized by the use of make-up, elaborate hair styles and flamboyant costumes, often, but not always, coupled with androgynous aesthetics. Some sources think that visual kei refers to a music genre, with its sound usually related to glam rock, punk rock and heavy metal. However, this is contradictory to the fact that visual kei acts play various genres, including those unrelated to rock such as electronic, pop, etc. Other sources, including members of the movement themselves, state that it is not a music genre and that the fashion and participation in the related subculture is what exemplifies the use of the term.
Visual kei emerged in the early 1980s, pioneered by bands such as X Japan, D'erlanger, Buck-Tick and Color. The term visual kei is believed to come from one of X Japan's slogans, "Psychedelic violence crime of visual shock". There are two record labels, both founded in 1986, that were instrumental for helping the visual kei scene spread, they are Extasy Records in Tokyo and Free-Will in Osaka.
Extasy was created by X Japan's drummer and leader Yoshiki and signed bands, not limited to visual kei acts, that would go on to make marks on the Japanese music scene, including Zi:Kill,Tokyo Yankees and Ladies Room. Glay and Luna Sea, who went on to sell millions of records, with Glay being one of Japan's best-selling musical acts, had their first albums released by Extasy. Free-Will was founded by Color vocalist and leader Dynamite Tommy, while at the time not as popular as Extasy, it had many moderately successful acts, such as By-Sexual and Kamaitachi. Currently Free-Will is still going strong and has been a major contributor in spreading modern visual kei outside Japan, whereas Extasy followed its owner and became based out of the US, signing and producing American acts, and has since faded away.
In 1992, X Japan tried to launch an attempt to enter the American market, even signing with Atlantic Records for a US album, but this ultimately did not happen. It would take another 8 years until popularity and awareness of visual kei bands would extend worldwide. In the mid 1990s, visual kei received increasing popularity throughout Japan, when album sales from visual kei bands started to reach record numbers. The most notable bands to achieve success during this period included X Japan, Glay and Luna Sea; however, a drastic change in their appearance accompanied their success. During the same period other bands, such as Kuroyume, Malice Mizer and Penicillin, gained mainstream awareness, although they were not as commercially successful. By the late 1990s, the mainstream popularity of visual kei was declining; X Japan had disbanded in 1997 and one year later their lead guitarist hide died, and in 2000, Luna Sea decided to disband as well. In 1998, Billboard's Steve McClure commented that "To a certain extent, hide's death means the end of an era, X were the first generation of visual kei bands, but the novelty has worn off. For the next generation of bands, it's like: That's it. The torch has been passed to us."
Notable newer visual kei bands include Dir en Grey, Alice Nine, The Gazette and D'espairsRay, who have all performed overseas. Veterans of the scene have also established new acts, such as Malice Mizer's Mana with his band Moi dix Mois, and several members of Pierrot forming Angelo. In 2007, visual kei was revitalized as Luna Sea performed a one-off performance and X Japan officially reunited with a new single and a world tour. With these developments, visual kei bands enjoyed a boost in public awareness, with bands formed around 2004 having been described by some media as "neo-visual kei" (ネオ・ヴィジュアル系).
However, there has been criticism about newer visual kei bands having lost the spirit of their forefathers, copying each other and becoming all the same. Kirito, vocalist of Pierrot and Angelo, said "Now it’s more like people are dressing up a certain way because they want to be visual kei or look visual kei. They are doing it to look like others instead of doing it to look different. This is obviously very different from when we started out more than ten years ago.", and Sugizo of Luna Sea expressed concern that "They cannot make good sounds and music is more like a hobby for them. I cannot feel their soul in the music". Kenzi of Kamaitachi, The Dead Pop Stars and Anti Feminism commented "Back in the day, there were bands, but people would try to do things differently. Nowadays, there’s one band, and everyone copies off of them.", with Free-Will founder and Color frontman Tommy concluding with "I don’t think our breed of visual kei exists anymore."
Visual kei has enjoyed popularity among independent underground projects, as well as artists achieving mainstream success, with influences from Western phenomena, such as glam, goth and cyberpunk. The music performed encompasses a large variety of genres, i.e. punk, metal, pop and electronica. Magazines published regularly in Japan with visual kei coverage are Arena 37°C, Cure, Fool's Mate and Shoxx. The popularity and awareness of visual kei groups outside of Japan has seen an increase in recent years.
See also↑Jump back a section
- "International Music Feed feature "J Rock"". imf.com. Retrieved 2007-07-31.[dead link]
- Monger, James Christopher. "Allmusic biography of Dir en grey". allmusic.com. Retrieved 2007-07-31.
- "It’s a style of dress, there’s a lot of costuming and make up and it’s uniquely Japanese because it goes back to ancient Japan. Men would often wear women’s clothing..." - JAPANESE ROCK ON NPR, by Kristen Sollee The Big Takeover online music magazine, 25 June 2006
- Strauss, Neil (1998-06-18). "The Pop Life: End of a Life, End of an Era". nytimes.com. Retrieved 2007-07-31.
- Reesman, Brian (2006-11-30). "Kabuki Rock". grammy.com. Retrieved 2007-08-07.[dead link]
- "Visual Kei started in the 80s and became so popular by the 90s that the nearly all-female fan base started dressing up as their favorite band members (known as 'cosplay') who were often males that wore make-up, crazy hair, and dressed androgynously or as females (usually, the more feminine the rocker, the more fans rush to emulate them). Pretty Babies: Japan's Undying Gothic Lolita Phenomenon, by Chako Suzuki, fashionlines.com e-magazine, January, 2007
- Heinrich, Sally (2006). Key Into Japan. Curriculum Corporation. p. 80. ISBN 1-86366-772-5.
- Yun, Josephine (2005). jrock, ink.: a concise report on 40 of the biggest rock acts in Japan. Stone Bridge Press. ISBN 1-880656-95-7.
- "Visual kei is a branch of Japanese rock... it aims to experiment with various established genres such as rock, punk, metal, goth and glam in an attempt to create a wholly new sound." For those about to J-Rock by Subha Arulvarathan, the Carillon, March 15, 2006, Issue 20 Volume 48, official student newspaper of the University of Regina.
- "Josephine Yun, author of the book Jrock, Ink., explains that visual kei originated in the late 1970s and early 1980s as Japan's rock scene began cultivating its own identity. 'It was rock 'n roll, punk rock, glam and metal with a twist — a twist just as angry and rebellious as what came before it — but a poetic one, artistic, with painstaking attention to detail,' Yun explains." Kabuki Rock, by Bryan Reesman, Grammy.com, The Latin Recording Academy, November 30, 2006[dead link]
- "a fleeting genre known to fans as 'Visual Kei'. Nonetheless, this fusion of metal, punk and gothic aesthetics ignited at least two generations of followers with its shocking visual appeal" X [Japan]: Reliving the Height of Japan’s Superlative Visual Rock Band, By Minnie Chi, Asia Pacific Arts, bi-weekly web magazine, UCLA Asia Institute
- "Born of a combination of hard rock and metal, visual kei leans toward a more theatrical presentation emphasizing imagery as much as music. One only needs to watch an X-Japan video to recognize its decadent glam influences, as drummer Yoshiki is often decked out in lace stockings and torn black leather vests. However, the band's androgynous looks can be attributed as much to kayou kyoku (traditional Japanese pop) as to the eccentric costumes of '70s David Bowie and '80s hair bands. It is precisely this hodgepodge of international styles that makes visual kei such a noteworthy new genre. Couple that with the high-dollar, idol-influenced publicity that goes behind these bands, and you've got a new brand of rock that makes KISS look like shoegazers." Gibson, Dave Get ready America; Japan's J-Pop phenomenon has all eyes facing east. Retrieved September 10, 2007;
- Unsraw: "Visual kei is not really categorized based on the type of music" UnsraW interview, JaME-World.com, 2007-04-27
- Yoshiki: "But visual kei is more like a spirit, it’s not a music style or, you know… I think it is a freedom about describing myself, a freedom to express myself, that’s what I believe visual kei is." Interview with YOSHIKI in Brazil, JaME-World.com, 2011-11-20
- Kirito: "Well I still don’t think visual kei is a name for a genre; I see it as a bigger picture, as a part of rock. The visual aspect is something for a band to set themselves apart from others, at least that’s what it was ten years ago. Now it’s more like people are dressing up a certain way because they want to be visual kei or look visual kei. They are doing it to look like others instead of doing it to look different. This is obviously very different from when we started out more than ten years ago." Interview with ANGELO, JRock Revolution, 2008-11-24
- Ryo: "Well, visual kei isn’t a genre of music; it’s used to categorize the bands that show their unique characteristics with their costumes and makeup, though sometimes the music doesn’t necessarily fit the image. Either way, it’s used to describe such bands that show their individualism through their appearance." the Underneath Debuts: Interview Part 1, JRock Revolution, 2008-02-29
- "For visual kei bands, outrageous, usually androgynous looks -- gobs of makeup, hair dyed and sprayed in ways that made Mohawks look conservative, and a small fortune spent on leather and jewellery -- were as important as music (or, in many cases after X, more important than music)."
"To a certain extent, Hide's death means the end of an era, said Steve McClure, Tokyo bureau chief for Billboard, the music-industry magazine. X were the first generation of visual kei bands, but the novelty has worn off. For the next generation of bands, it's like: 'That's it. The torch has been passed to us.' " THE POP LIFE; End of a Life, End of an Era, By NEIL STRAUSS New York Times, June 18, 1998
- Dejima, Kōji (出嶌 孝次) www.bounce.com Original Link, Archive Link, Bounce Di(s)ctionary Number 13 - Visual Kei Retrieved September 12, 2007 (Japanese)
- Inoue, Takako (2003). Visual kei no jidai. Tokyo: Seikyūsha. ISBN 978-4-7872-3216-8.
- "Visual Kei and EXTASY RECORDS". JRock Revolution. 2007-08-25. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- "The Jrock Legend: X JAPAN". JRock Revolution. 2007-08-26. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- "Shinjidai ni Totsunyu! Neo Visual Kei Band Taidō no Kizashi". Oricon. Retrieved 2007-09-19.
- "SUGIZO on LUNA SEA". JRock Revolution. 2010-02-10. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- "Interview: The Killing Red Addiction". JRock Revolution. 2009-07-12. Retrieved 2013-03-03.
- Mascia, Mike. "Dir en grey feature interview". Blistering. Retrieved 2007-08-07.
- Cure Magazine, July 2006 issue, Vol 34, May 21, 2006