Kimo-Kawaii: The Kyary Pamyu Pamyu Sensation
Last time I talked about a video game, Pokemon X/Y, but this time I’m going to completely change gears and tell you all about the sensation that has been quickly dominating Japan and soon (maybe?) the world: Harajuku’s J-pop star Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. As I mentioned in my previous post, I spent last year abroad in Japan, and I love Japanese culture. Before going to Japan, my main impression of the country came from Kyary’s music videos. Take a look at one yourself to get an idea:
PONPONPON , Kyary Pamyu Pamyu – PONPONPON
As you can probably tell, her style is quite unique, in that it is so crazy and weird but also extremely catchy. I, for one, am a big fan. Japanese people call her style kimo-kawaii, which means creepy-cute. It’s a good term to describe it. Most of Japanese culture tries to be kawaii (cute) with high-school-uniform-toting anime girls and adorable animal mascots (Hello Kitty, anyone?). Kyary puts her own twist on that, standing out from the crowd. Perhaps that, combined with the quality of her songs, is what makes her so popular.
She recently released her third album, Pika Pika Fantajin, and began touring around the world, selling out venues wherever she went. I tried to buy tickets while in Japan, but not even ten minutes later, it was completely sold out. I did, however, go to a free concert where I got to shake her hand. Best moment of my life? It’s definitely up there.
Not only is she popular in Japan, but unlike most J-pop stars, she is also very popular in the West. This is likely due to her viral music videos. It’s genius, really. Not only are the songs very catchy (thanks to her producer, Yasutaka Nakata, who is also part of the music group Capsule) but she puts on a show while singing them. When performing live, she tries to duplicate her videos to a degree on stage, with awesome sets and backup dancers dressed in ridiculous outfits. You can sort of think of her as the Lady Gaga of Japan. Even Katy Perry likes her.
Her fame has allowed her to invade nearly every part of Japanese culture. It is hard to walk through Tokyo without seeing a giant ad with her face on it, or to flip through TV channels without seeing a commercial with her in it. She’s in everything from KFC to Super Smash Bros. commercials.
It’s incredible (and also makes me evaluate my own life) to think that she’s only 21, born just three months before me! What the hell am I doing with my life? She started out as a “Harajuku girl,” making her own line of fake eyelashes and doing modeling gigs. If you don’t know, Harajuku is the fashion district of Tokyo, and you can usually find people dressed in crazy outfits walking around. I once saw a man wearing a fishbowl hat with actual fish swimming around in it. Once her fame was established as a fashionista extraordinaire, she released her first single, “Pon Pon Pon,” the video shown above. It immediately became a viral hit and secured her fame internationally.
Perhaps you, the reader, take one look at this and immediately dismiss it as too weird, too cute and colorful and removed from American culture. But I implore you to give her a chance. Once you actually start listening to her music, you realize she’s actually not half-bad. Her songs are especially good to sing in karaoke, which I did quite a lot of in Japan.
Kyary is a great first step into discovering Japanese culture, as well. Once you get into her music, perhaps you’ll also want to check out other groups like Perfume or AKB48. Or maybe you’ll have an itch to check out what that whole anime thing is all about. You don’t have to be an otaku to have an appreciation for Japanese culture. You just have to give it a chance!