(Kyary being all adorable in Paris; snagged from her Twitter.)
The show is sold out, which makes me nervous. Not because I'm afraid of crowds but because I'm afraid of, yes, the American media and their lazy take on anything Asian. So, on the off chance that any journalists are Googling around looking for something on Kyary, for your consideration, please enjoy my explanation of and clarifications on the pop wonder that is Kyary Pamyu Pamyu in interview format.
Straw Man Journalist: Wow! WACKY OUTFITS! That's so like Japan. Ninjas. Sushi. Dweeby guys with glasses. Schoolgirls.
Filmi Girl: Actually, Kyary's outfits are considered ridiculous in Japan, too. Normal Japanese people do not dress like this. I repeat: Kyary's style is considered just as weird in Japan as it would be here. She not typical of either Japanese people OR Japanese entertainment.
(Kyary with clock hair; also snagged from her Twitter.)
Straw Man Journalist: So, she's like Japan's answer to Lady Gaga. Got it.
Filmi Girl: No. Gaga is an American phenomenon. We are a culture that hates anything "fake," and even though Gaga is an artistic construct, Stephanie Germanotta has essentially become her persona in real life. She shows up in leotards and tights to the recording studio. She is Gaga all the time. Kyary is a normal girl who dresses all weird to go up on stage or for photo shoots because she likes weird shit. Do you see the difference?
Straw Man Journalist: Not really. I'm still going to write that she's the...
Filmi Girl: Stop typing that sentence immediately! I will rip your piece to shreds if you go any further down that road. Lady Gaga also writes her own music and plays piano. And she sings live. Gaga is a musician and songwriter. Kyary is an artist and entertainer. She doesn't really dance and doesn't really sing and all of her music is written and produced by Nakata Yasutaka, who also works with the divine synth pop act Perfume. A band you might remember from their appearance on the Cars 2 soundtrack.
Straw Man Journalist: They're weird, too. Are you sure all Japanese people don't dress like this?
Filmi Girl: Yes, I'm sure. In fact, more typical of your average act in the charts is Ieiri Leo, a Taylor Swiftian singer-songwriter who wears normal clothes.
Straw Man Journalist: But Gwen Stefani...
Filmi Girl: The rest of that sentence had better be "is kind of racist."
Straw Man Journalist: Okay, point taken. Those Harujuku Girls are disturbingly dehumanized. But you have to admit that on Kyary's Wikipedia page it clearly states that she said she was influenced by Katy Perry and Gwen Stefani. Ergo Harajuku Lovers is a real thing and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is the embodiment of the real Harajuku Girl. Now, I've got my angle!
Filmi Girl: That's better than the Gaga angle but you're missing a lot of nuance. True, Kyary did get her start as a Harajuku fashion model and, yes, she has expressed a love of Western pop culture but actual Harajuku fashion is far more bizarre and wonderful and individualistic than anything from the Corporate Conglomerate behind Gwen Stefani's sanitized, department store collection. It's like... a reaction against the straight-laced groupthink of their day to day lives. Imagine wearing a school uniform 80 hours a week but busting out your oddest assortment of clothes to go and hang around the train station and bum cigarettes off of older guys on Sundays while posing for cute pictures with your girlfriends.
(Kyary in some Spring fashion; snagged from her twitter.)
Straw Man Journalist: Okay, that actually makes a lot of sense. But tell me this - why is everything so girlish and cute? I mean, I saw some KPOP videos and those girls are really sexy. Is this like some weird Japanese fetish? Is Japan a nation of pedophiles who find this sexy?
Filmi Girl: Good question. And, no. Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is not supposed to be sexy. One of the nice things about Japanese pop is that pop hits don't come from the clubs (strip or otherwise) so not every female artist has to be appeal to the Saturday Night-Three Diet Coke and Rums Deep-Silver Tube Top and Man Hunting Heels demographic. Just because she doesn't trade on her sexuality doesn't mean she's not sophisticated.
And because these songs aren't coming from the clubs, they don't have to have that R&B ready-to-remix sound that has completely taken over American pop.
The cute thing. Well, it is kind of a Japanese fetish. They love cute stuff. Even the POLICE have ridiculously adorable mascots. Who knows the mysteries behind a culture's aesthetic preferences. Why do see you packs of Americans all wearing jeans and logo t-shirts to go out to dinner? Why is the powder blue button-down and khakis the defacto uniform for men in Washington, DC on Fridays? Who can say? It just is. Just think of kawaii (or cute) as the cowboy hat and denims of Japanese pop. Don't try to explain, just accept.
Straw Man Journalist: While you were talking I got bored and Googled around for other Japanese groups that have come to the US. Can I reference AKB48? They are cute and girls.
Filmi Girl: *sigh* AKB48 are an idol group. Totally different from Kyary, who is an artist. Idols are... different. The closest we have here would be somebody like Kim Kardashian. You get emotionally invested in their lives and get to know their personalities really well. They are selling music and image but they are mostly selling themselves as people. Kyary is selling her loopy vision, not herself.
Idols can be a lot of fun, though. AKB48 put on a great show.
Straw Man Journalist: This piece only has to be 500 words. I think I have enough. Any final advice?
Filmi Girl: For the love of all things cute, please, please, please... even if you absorbed nothing else of what I've said, just treat Kyary Pamyu Pamyu like she's a person.
(Kyary at a barbecue in LA last night; yes, snagged from her twitter.)
Straw Man Journalist: What do you mean?
Filmi Girl: I mean, don't say she has "anime eyes" or that she looks like a porcelain doll or anything else that makes her sound like somebody unpacked her from a crate marked "Deliver to Gwen Stefani's Dream House." Don't just write 500 words that boil down to "LOL JAPAN." Instead of thinking "this is weird so I'm going to laugh at it," try thinking "this is imaginative and I'm going to take a minute to appreciate it." That's all I ask.
For more of my theories on what makes Japanese music so great, feel free to bop on over to my epic post on Japan's one and only air band - Golden Bomber.