Visual Kei

Visual Kei
Visual Kei is a term usually related to Japanese rock music, referring to bands whose primary point of interest for their fans is their costume and appearance. Inside Japan, their fans are almost exclusively teenage girls and as such they could be considered a uniquely Japanese version of a boy band. In other countries, the small quantity of Japanese Visual Kei followers is equally comprised by male and female adolescents and young adults.
A notable difference between Visual Kei and boy bands is that boy bands are usually prefabricated by an external music producer and start with a strong marketing campaign, while there are a lot of indie, Visual Kei bands that won't get promoted unless they first gain popularity and sign with a major label. Another notable difference is that most boy bands do not compose their own songs, while Visual Kei bands usually do.
Members of Visual Kei bands often wear striking makeup, style their hair in dramatic shapes, reminiscent of "hair bands" from the '80s, and wear elaborate costumes. Although the vast majority of the musicians are male, they often wear makeup and clothing which would be considered "feminine". Gothic Lolita is a style within visual kei that became popular around 2000, and by 2002 had become a major youth fashion in Japan. Recently some bands are returning to the more colourful and "fantastic" image popular 5 or 6 years ago, taking inspiration from computer roleplaying games and anime.
The appeal of the costumes to fans is so great that large numbers of girls will cosplay as members of their favourite bands, particularly at live concerts in Japan, or in America at anime conventions. Visual Kei, being based upon visual style, is therefore a genre of band but not a specific type of music. The bands most often play J-Rock (e.g. LUNA SEA, Dir En Grey) and vocal based pop or light rock (e.g. Glay, L'arc~en~ciel, Gackt). However, bands playing or influenced by Anime theme music, Heavy Metal (e.g. SEX MACHINEGUNS), Industrial, Synth Pop, Punk and so on are also to be found. Taking the genre in a wide sense, most of the bands would be considered to play some kind of "rock" music.
Western observers sometimes confuse Visual Kei bands with Goth bands because of the occasionally similar makeup and clothing, but most Japanese goths do not consider Visual Kei to be gothic, and there is very little cultural crossover between Japanese Visual Kei fans and Japanese goths beyond the outer fringes of the "Gothic Lolita" fashion, which was influenced by elements of gothic style. Largely this movement is credited to have been started "almost single handedly" by X JAPAN, however a rising trend of utilizing visual shock to gain membership in the independent scene was well in effect by the time X went major: they may be seen in this sense not as a catalyst for the movement, but a mechanism to involve dominant Japanese popular culture with it. Bands in the early '90s such as Die in Cries, LUNA SEA, ZI:KILL, Shazna, and By-Sexual along with previous bands BUCK-TICK and X JAPAN encouraged a "boom" of this media culture.


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