Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ponomenon? Wei~ Wei!

We all know that when it comes to pop culture, it's all about trends. In more then one of the "circles" I like to frequent, Kyarypamyupamyu (no really) is the newest trend. Or at least leading it. When her debut was first announced, more than a few people were skeptical. Sure, she was working with Yasutaka Nakata, but it's not like he hasn't produced generic music for generic models before. At some point, skeptical turned into interested, and interested turned into full out fan. 40% of my tumblr dashboard and twitter timeline are now made up of Pons and Weis. I'm not so sold. I won't go too deep into Kyary's background right now (Yoshimi has a great post explaining it here), but basically she's an 18 year old KERA and Zipper model, with the style and a silly stage name that goes along with it. Usually, that's enough for me to at least be interested in a superficial way, and at first I was. After hearing PON PON PON...Well for one it's a terrible song. Horrible horrible song. But besides that, the gimmick was so contrived, and so over the top that there was no way that I could ever see myself taking Kyary seriously as a leader of any sort of revolution, musically or otherwise. Kyary isn't really doing anything no one has seen before. We've been seeing quirky Harajuku/Shibuya/Akihabara girls of all manner for years, in many outlets. From cosplay, to lolita to electro-VK mash up groups. Usually, the whole thing just ends in doing a stint on the US anime convention circuit, getting a few copies of KERA or Fruits in Hot Topic stores and calling it a day. 

That made me wonder, is it the Nakata factor ? Or the "she models in a magazine I like" factor? Is it that people feel the need to support YSTK in anything he does, to the point of disregarding quality all together? (See some of Ami Suzuki's later work) Perhaps so. As a rule, the gal community supports most model---> musician endeavors, and the J-Tek community supports whoever Nakata happens to be producing. Or is pulling silly faces in pink body paint really that innovative?! 

Perhaps if Kyary wasn't such a mystery as a person, the whole thing might seem more genuine to me. Unlike Kitade Nana, who we knew was a pretty out there type of girl, even in her more pop days, before she started making the death and doom inspired rock music in goth lolita, Kyary, while I don't doubt any of her love of fashion, or electro pop for that matter, strikes me as someone going with the flow of what works. She's got a quirky sense of humor for sure, but as also pointed out in Yoshimi's post, a reserved nature.  This is not to say that I dislike her. From the bit of what I've seen, I actually, really like her. I like that she isn't crazy and bouncing all over the place, just because. And it's also very possible that this is how she expresses that side of her. Nakata obviously saw some potential in her, so I'm not ready to write her off just yet. I just don't see where her draw is. She doesn't sing that well, her lyrics (I think they're hers) aren't great, and there are so many pretty gal mag models in clubs DJing that she just doesn't stand out to me as someone to make an artist. Why her and not Alisa Ueno?

I guess I just don't know where I stand on her for now, and I'm hoping her book will help to clear some things up. I do want to like her, and I hope her next release (if there is a next release) is less "look at me doing crazy things! Pay attention" and more "Now that I've got your attention, I'm going to do something truly unique." Or at least something I don't have to turn off after the 30 second mark.


Anonymous said...

Writing a book for you:

Her lyrics aren't hers -- Nakata wrote the entire mini-album, presumably "inspired" by her image after meeting/getting to know her. When she first received the lyrics for PONPONPON, she was actually upset by them and asked him if he was joking because she felt like he was making fun of her (she talked about this in a video message promoting Moshihara, I think on HMV's website?). Once she heard them with the music, she got used to them.

While I agree that there really isn't anything unique about her per se, she has a strange magnetic pull. I feel like she's very confident and that helps endear her to me, as I've always been someone who has little time for people who can't be entertaining when it's part of their job. Considering she's being marketed as an idol, I have to compare her to my past experiences with idols, and I the image and product that she's trying to sell a lot more. That said, the previews for everything else (besides PONPONPON) on Moshihara sound really, really disappointing. It makes me wonder why Nakata chose to produce midtempo music for some girl who sings like a dead robot most of the time and doesn't even write her own lyrics.

As for your post itself, I like it, it was interesting to read you discussing why you aren't crazy about her like 90% of the rest of the Internet is (even people who have no interest/experience with J-pop have seen her video...and had a "LOL JAPAN" moment, sigh). I think you could've gone more into what it is you dislike, though -- like when you wrote off PONPONPON as a horrible song, what about it is horrible? Or when you said the gimmick was contrived, what is the gimmick and in what way is it contrived?

Haru said...

It's terrible because she can't sing, and the music itself is just generic cutesy music. There really isn't anything interesting about it at all, and it starts to grate fast.

The gimmick being "look how quirky this cute girl is!! Isn't it funny~" and it's like..Ok I get it. You want us to see how ~fun~ she is and everything but to what end? It's a totally one dimensional persona. "Why do you like Kyary" "She's so lol didn't you see the video with the pons?" ok but there isn't anything there to back it up. Not even the production. She has that style but..So do a bunch of singers in Japan. If have of these people heard the song without the video, they would turn it off in seconds. Kyary, without the distinction of being a model or being produced by Nakata would just blend in with anyone else singing a moe anime character song.

Anonymous said...

@Haru: You're right, but I think it has less to do with who's producing her or her modeling work and more to do with the PV for PONPONPON. Not that many people were that excited for her debut or cared that much about the song until the PV aired and everyone suddenly lost their shit. The quirky magic of it is what has wormed the song and Kyary into peoples' hearts -- even if the image isn't altogether novel -- and I can say it did the same for me (though I do really like the song by itself).

Really, though, I'm fully expecting this to either be a one-time deal with Nakata or she'll mature as an artist in a subsequent release. I really want her to write lyrics and have an interest in being an actual creative force rather than relying on Nakata and merely existing as the face of a body of work. Her predecessors could do it, why can't she? I don't want another NAGISA COSMETIC. At least Kyary makes me think there's something interesting inside her head.