Cheeky Parade Looks to Take the World in Stride
By Matthew Hernon
Japanese pop acts selling out concerts across Europe and America is not the kind of phenomenon you would have expected to hear about a few years ago. Musicians from this country have traditionally struggled to make an impact beyond Asia, but there are signs that suggest things might be starting to change, particularly amongst quirky female artists.
Global interest in the J-pop scene appears to be growing, thanks to the rise of acts like Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and Perfume, who between them have completed five world tours in the last three years. Another group who’ve made a big international breakthrough in recent times is the thrash metal/pop band BABYMETAL. As well as supporting Lady Gaga in the summer, they managed to reach number three on the iTunes US rock charts and even featured on the cover of one of the world’s biggest selling music magazines, Kerrang.
Hoping to follow in their footsteps is a group of nine effervescent young girls known as Cheeky Parade. Formed in 2012, the youthful idols have enjoyed a very promising start to their careers with their first three singles all making the top five of the Oricon Charts.
Domestic success isn’t enough though: the ambitious nonet are determined to succeed outside of their homeland, and in October made their international debut in New York. Performing at the prestigious CBGB Music & Film Festival, alongside acts like Devo and Jane’s Addiction, the girls were initially anxious as they took to the stage, but that nervous energy soon turned to excitement as the crowds came flocking.
“Playing in America gave us a lot of confidence,” says group member and dance leader, Asami Watanabe. “When we first went on, aside from the 40 or so Japanese fans that came out with us, there weren’t many people watching. Then as we started playing all these people suddenly turned up, dancing along to all our songs.
“As a group we are very energetic, but I think they were displaying even more energy than us. A lot of the tourists walking by were surprised by what they were seeing. We’ve never experienced anything like that before; it made us even more resolute about trying to make Cheeky Parade a global success so we can play in numerous cities around the globe.”
It’s not going to be easy. In the past a number of a high profile artists from Japan, including Seiko Matsuda and Hikaru Utada, have tried but failed to conquer Western markets. In an extremely competitive environment they found it difficult to stand out as they basically attempted to mimic European and American singers rather than producing a sound or style that you would call original. BABYMETAL and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, on the other hand, offer something unique. They are not trying fit in or be cool and the fact that they are so unconventional simply adds to their allure. Cheeky Parade believe they also fall in to that category.
“We are different from other idols,” says the group’s leader Yuna Sekine. “We have a lot of dynamism and our music is in-your-face, with a high tempo—not really the ballad style that most people would expect. When we play live we think it creates a festival-like atmosphere. On top of that we are rather brash and cheeky, hence the name.”
The group feel they have what it takes to make an impression on the world stage, and although they still have a long way to go it is encouraging to see them stepping out of their comfort zone and giving it a go. Whether they do find success abroad or not, one thing is for certain: they will have a lot of fun trying.
Cheeky Parade are set to play at Zepp Diver City, Odaiba on December 14. Find out more about their show here.