• Kyodo

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The popular New Year's Eve "Kohaku Uta Gassen" music show will feature first-time performances by artists including NiziU, a nine-member girl group formed via a joint project between South Korean and Japanese music label companies, NHK said Monday.

Babymetal, a female group that mixes pop and heavy metal whose albums have ranked high on U.S. Billboard charts, will also appear for the first time on the annual program to be aired by the public broadcaster.

The music extravaganza will be held without an audience for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The returning guests will include all-male pop group Arashi, who will suspend their activities at the end of this year, and LiSA, the singer of the opening theme and other songs from the blockbuster anime series "Demon Slayer."

The show, which translates literally to "red and white song battle," will also feature Japanese singer-songwriter Eito, who rose to fame after his 2019 song "Perfume" became a smash hit.

"We burst into tears," said one of the members of NiziU, produced by J.Y. Park, known for a host of K-pop acts. The group, whose members were chosen through an audition and whose journey was documented on the Hulu streaming site, has yet to make an official debut.

One of Babymetal's albums reached 39th place on the U.S. Billboard top 200 albums list in 2016, becoming the first album by Japanese artists to break into the chart's top 40 in 53 years.

The show, organized by NHK, started in 1951 as a New Year's radio program and two years later became a year-end TV show. A red group of female singers and a white group of male singers battle it out, with judges and the audience voting to decide which side performed better.

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