I can’t think any more appropriate day to write about this.
I usually just do one or two social media post every year on this day to celebrate the life and death of one of my favourite rockstar, but I think this year I want to do more. I’d like to rant about Visual Kei, one of his legacy to the world. We can talk a lot about visual kei, from its status in the musical genre, its business model, its A&R, its place in the sonical terra firma, and so many more but let’s focus on the thing I believe matter the most: its status as an artform.
A lot of people refuse to put Visual Kei as a musical genre on its own since it has no musical identity. The sound of the bands differ greatly, there are little to no correlation between one band and another. Which is partially true if not for the fact that some bands’ sound follow a cliche that literally make them sound indistinguishable to the point of questionable plagiarism.
But I digress.
If you are one of those people who say that VK isn’t a musical genre, I’d totally back your claim. It isn’t. It’s an artform genre that consists of music, visual, stage act, and last but not least: the marketing. I’m not gonna talk about the marketing side of it. My friend Tyas know it better than me so you can ask her instead. I’m gonna talk about the rest instead.
Take a look of Malice Mizer, one of the giant name in VK world. In their (sadly) short career as a band, they have three different vocalists with three different approaches to their musicalities and identities; Tetsu with the raw angst-ridden neoclassical rock, Gackt with the elegant aristocratic approach, and Klaha with the downright dark operatic goth. The look complement their sound and their sound goes hand-in-hand with their look on one big stage act that utilize both powers to the maximum.
Visual Kei isn’t the only one (or even the first, for that matter) to do this. We all know Bowie did it way before, Alice Cooper did it before, (Peter Gabriel) Genesis, plethora of glamrock bands, or the latest one: Lady Gaga did it as well. All have one big similarity:
The visuals are being treated as seriously as the music. The visuals have message, have purpose, and they are being done seriously for the sake of delivering the art.
Sadly, that is exactly what’s missing in some of VK artist nowadays including (but not limited to) my fellow Indonesian. What exist are cliches over cliches without rhyme and reason behind their look as if claiming yourself and your fellow band member as a bishonen is enough to be a good “visual band”. Yes it’s your art and I can’t be scene police saying which band is VK and which band is not, but why should I, as an audience, take your art seriously when you yourself clearly isn’t?
While we’re at it, when someone from a VISUAL KEI scene treat their visual as a means to an end, how can the scene being taken seriously?
Yes, there are artists and band that are doing it good, there are also a good amount of band that has done it better in the past, but my point remains. Hate me if you will, I made a lengthy writing about the importance of visual identity before and I think I have deliver what I mean by “taking visual identity” seriously there. I believe there are musician with same restlessness with me right now that believe this need to be changed, and I believe there are also fellow fans who believe we deserve better.
Especially in our local scene, small that it is.