Lets dissect this phenomenon known as Visual Kei: why is it so popular? where did it emerge from? and who started it? All these questions are certain to be answered from doing research, so I’ll start from the beginning.
Visual Kei defined:
Visual Kei is a movement among Japanese rock musicians, which emerged in the 1980’s. It is often characterized as eccentric, flamboyant costumes worn by rock bands, who sometimes exhibit feminine attire as well. The wardrobe includes over-the-top make-up and freaky hair styles, which seem to be just as important as the music. Visual Kei is a sub-category of Jrock, and was invented by the internationally known X Japan. I’ll let the band’s leader, Yoshiki, along with other popular Visual Kei bands give you a brief idea on what this movement is:
From the short clip above you can already begin to answer the next question, why is Visual Kei popular? based on what the fans had to say: Visual Kei sets no borders; it’s all about enjoying the music and “rocking out”. That is the contributed fact as to why it’s so popular. Visual Kei has also made its way into fashion culture, with some musicians designing gothic clothing lines inspired by their stage costumes. It has in some way become more of a fashion movement, with many trying to see “how visual” they can go with their wardrobe.
Visual Kei vs the not
Visual Kei is often compared to “Glam Rock” from the 70’s, but the two are completely different in terms of style. Glam Rock, also known as Glitter Rock, is often associated with western metal and punk rock bands, even movie stars who dress edgy. Glam rock is just that, “Glam”, meaning glamorous look. Many also make the assumption that all rock bands are Visual Kei, but are often not. Yoshiki stated, “no matter how pretty or flashy the look, they’re still just rock and not visual“. Some of these bands may have started out Visual Kei, but as they become more mainstream, they trade the visual style for a more “softer” expression. This is very evident with Dir en Grey and the GazettE.
Many have argued that some of these bands ride on the Visual Kei wave to gain exposure, and drop the style as soon as they do, but one should always remember, Visual Kei is about expressing your kind of art in however way you choose; it doesn’t have to be flamboyant costumes, it can still be subtle and be visual kei. With all this talk about who’s Visual Kei and who isn’t, let’s look at the success of this movement overseas.
The Growth of Visual Kei
There’s definitely a large following of Visual Kei outside of its birth place Japan. Europe hosts an annual V-Rock Festival, and bands touring excessively throughout Canada, South America, and North America. X JAPAN is currently working on crossing over into the U.S market, so you can definitely expect more people becoming aware of this movement. The band performed at the 2010 Lollapalooza in Chicago, and later went on their first North American tour.
As the Visual Kei wave continues, many doors are opening for the bands expressing the style; there is just no stopping this movement from becoming the global phenomenon it was set out to be.
Who are your favorite VK musicians?