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Artist of the month: Queen Bee

When you think of October, what pops into your mind? Is it candy, scary movies, or yellow leaves? For me, October is based around costumes and fun music that inspires my creative side. Last October, during quarantine, I was scrolling through YouTube searching for some music videos to bring me out of the complete boredom of sitting indoors all day. After sifting through indie bands, dance collaborations, 70s hair bands, and 90s hip-hop, I finally landed on “Desco” by Queen Bee. Queen Bee, also known as Ziyoou-vachi, utilizes bright colors, creative themes and costumes, octave changes, and diverse discography completely enraptured me. Recently, I was once again scrolling through YouTube to find the best playlist. Half paying attention to homework, while also trying to find something unique to dress up as on Halloween, I once more came across Queen Bee. 

Who is Queen Bee?

After first hearing some of their music, I decided to look more into who exactly the group is. Each member of Queen Bee works under pseudonyms and releases minimal information about themselves, but that does not take away the understanding of each members’ role in the band. 

Avu, one of the original members of the band, is the lead vocalist, second guitarist, composer and lyricist. She is of African-American and Japanese descent, as well as being one of the few openly transgender artists in the Japanese music industry. Avu played Columbia in the Japanese 2017 production of “The Rocky Horror Show” and  played as Yitzak in the Japanese 2019 production of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”. She is also a member of the band Gokumoto Inkatha, comprised of Avu on lead vocals and trumpet, Nagaoka Ryosuke on guitar, Rize’s KenKen on bass, and Nakamura Tatsuya on drums.

Yashi, one of the original members of the band, is the bass guitarist. Little is known about her other than the fact that she is Avu’s best friend. She participated as an ensemble member in the Japanese 2017 production of  “Rocky Horror Picture Show”.

Ruri, one of the original members of the band, is the drummer. She is Avu’s biological younger sister, making her of African-American and Japanese descent as well. She participated as an ensemble member in the Japanese 2017 production of  “Rocky Horror Picture Show”.

Hibari, the only current member in the band to not be an original member, is the lead guitarist. He joined the band in 2015 after Gigi left the group in 2012. Little is known about Hibari other than that Avu helped him lose 15kg and also made him get a navel piercing. He participated as an ensemble member in the Japanese 2017 production of  “Rocky Horror Picture Show”.

Yuki, one of the original members, was the lead guitarist. She was a member of the band in 2009, and left before Queen Bee found any success. Little is known about her.

Gigi, the only former member of the band to not be an original member, was the lead guitarist. She was a member of Queen Bee from 2009 to 2012, when she had to leave the band due to health issues. Little is known about her.

Origins of Queen Bee

I soon realized Queen Bee is not a new group at all. Debuting in 2009 as a four-piece, the band members, Avu, Yashi, Ruri, and Gigi performed songs from their first unofficial album, Witch Hunt, at the extremely selective "Rookie A Go-Go” stage at the Fuji Rock Festival. By 2011, Queen Bee had signed with Sony Music Associated Records and released their first two official albums, Peacock and Snake Princess, within the next two years. Though the group took a brief hiatus— due to Gigi leaving the band and being replaced with Hibari—they have come back in full force, releasing four more full-length albums: Kirei, Q, Half, and Ten. As well as producing multiple albums, the band has released many singles, such as “Half”, which became the theme song to the anime “Tokyo Ghoul:re”,  “Fire”, which became the theme song for the anime “Dororo”, and “Introduction”, which became the theme song for the live-action movie “Tokyo Ghoul [S]”.

Photo from RedKimono

Queen Bee’s Discography

While listening to all of their songs, you can hear the vocal tone and musical instrumentation that each member brings to Queen Bee. The way Avu flawlessly changes from high-pitch to low-pitch vocalization adds a special spin to the already unique genre and imagery of “fashion punk,”a style of music characterized by the visual elements, as well as the actual music. Her vocal range is one of my favorite things to hear, which is why Queen Bee’s “Desco'' has been on constant repeat. The lines , ``Decide in the remaining gaudy shadow, fearlessly stare at the fascination in the floor, you can't go back a second time” mixed with the burst of colors in the music video and the gritty tone of Avu’s voice, creates a sense of excitement and energy. To some people, Queen Bee’s music may seem loud and over-the-top in the majority of their videos, but the message behind their songs are actually very strong and powerful.  The songs digging deep into the punk genre while still being light-hearted, shows the band wants to portray their main message as—you have to be confident and don’t look back.

One of my favorite songs from Queen Bee is their title track “Half” from the album Half. The song expresses the struggle Avu faces as a half black, half Japanese person in Japan. Her lyrics, “I always feel like I'm being tested about if I'm blessed or not,” is a testament to how universal the feeling of loneliness is and how one must push past the criticism of others. Avu’s pop punk screams, Hibari’s wails on the lead guitar, Ruri’s eclectic drumming, and Yashi’s soothing bass all add to the inner turmoil, and soon revelation through self-realization, that the journey to accepting yourself can cause. If you add the lyrical translation and masterful symbolism of death and rebirth within the music video, it is easy to see why people relate so much to a song about accepting all sides of what makes you, you. “Losing something and struggling a little, it happens — but if a flower blooms in a desert, I'll never miss it”. Going through the pain and hardships of life are unavoidable, but being able to flourish into a new, evolved person is something that one must strive for. We can’t stop when we are struggling or going through a drought. We must fight to become that beautiful light in the darkness.

Photo from Saetori

Queen Bee’s most recent album BL showed a new side to their musical style. While most early songs contained a sense of complete grittiness and femininity, the title track “BL”, like the name of the album, started off in a tune reminiscent of a dark children’s tale tune. The song addresses the dangers of “black love” and a “black life” ruled by the power of money and greed and the guilt that can come from living such a life. Rather than switching to the usual battling dynamics of high vs low octaves, the band creates an almost sensual, deadly sound through solely using gritty instrumentation and a more whiny, whispered vocalization. The sound keeps the listener's ear perked as they wait for the impending beat drops in the chorus. Similarly, the music video portrays the band members, specifically Avu, slaving away as a waitress for some bourgeoisie bunnies while in the background the others start to battle and take down the upper class beasts. However, the most enticing part of the video is, as the “lower class” band mates start to take down the upper class and get more money, they start to become more and more evil. Each person in the video commits heinous act after heinous act, not stopping to think about what this might make others feel connecting to the lyrics “Hey, isn’t it fun? What’s so painful? You always say if you stop, you’ll lose, right?”, which perfectly conveys the idea that stopping to think about the road one has taken could lead to guilt for living “black life”.

Queen Bee’s Future Plans

On October 20, 2021, Queen Bee released the official video for their new single “King B*tch,” which is set to be fully released on October 27. Neither Queen Bee nor their company has released any further news about Queen Bee’s future plan. I want to fully support this band no matter what, so I have streamed this song endlessly since its release, and I hope you will too.

Feature photo from Spotify

Sources: YouTube, ziyoou-vachi, Wiki, ziyoou-vachi, Stummerville, YouTube, LyricsTranslate, YouTube, LyricsTranslate, Spotify, YouTube, YouTube