There are many for whom this J-Pop sensation is the farthest thing from obscurity. Most of them, however, live in Japan. Or live in their own American-Otaku cultural bubble that resembles a cartoonish version of Japan. Otherwise, as we all know in North America, it’s not good unless it’s in English, right?
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is a Japanese pop star, but more importantly, she’s exactly what North Americans would expect a Japanese pop star to be like: she looks and sounds like a highly sexualized 14-year-old; her songs are super poppy and high energy; her videos and lyrics are colorful and completely absurd in the way only the Japanese can be; and both her music and videos nod often at anime and video games. But it’s also all incredibly enjoyable. Her best songs seem to just explode with gorgeous pop hooks, and the production is big, beautiful and bright, but not in the soul-less way that American pop is. It also all sounds very tongue in cheek, like these writers and producers try each time to see how saccharine and wacky they can make a song and have it still be a hit.
So far, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu has released three full albums. I haven’t heard her first, 2012’s Pamyu Pamyu Revolution, but her last two, 2013’s Nanda Collection (my favourite) and this year’s Pikapika Fantajin, are both fairly consistent collections of Japanese pop craziness. For the last two weeks they’ve dominated the soundtrack of my workouts.
Beyond Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, I don’t really know any J or K-Pop, but if any has any recommendations, I’d love to hear them. And if you haven’t heard any kind of pop preceded by the first letter of an Asian country, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is probably a great place to start.