With the U.S. release of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s third studio album, Pika Pika Fantajin, on July 29, the reigning princess of J-Pop and all things traumatically cute is more poised for stateside success than ever.
Not yet acquainted with the Japanese pop star, whose viral “PonPonPon” video made the digital rounds back in 2011? Ummmmmm, FIX THAT. Use this helpful guide I’ve assembled to get yourself up to speed on all things Kyary.
Who is she?
Before she was an international pop star, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu was a fashion blogger and teenage regular in Tokyo’s style-conscious Harajuku neighborhood. Her avant-garde ensembles soon caught the attention of The Powers That Be™, and she eventually landed a record deal. Don’t worry, I’m sure your time in Yearbook Club was just as cool.
Kyary’s debut album, Pamyu Pamyu Revolution, was released in 2012, and sophomore followup Nanda Collection dropped in 2013. Her third effort, Pika Pika Fantajin, was released stateside last week, and Pitchfork describes the LP as a “mix of new sonic twists and straight-up pop delicacies.”
Oh, her! She’s pretty big, right?
Uh, yeah. Kyary’s the second-most-followed person on Twitter in her native Japan with 2.21-million followers, but her reach definitely extends beyond the Land Of The Rising Sun.
When her 100%KPP World Tour touched down in New York City in 2013, The FADER described the all-American crowd as: “a sea of wigs, Beethoven hairpieces, dye jobs, bridal veils, multiple full-body mascot suits, cyber boys, top hats, men in drag, things that light up and at least one turban.”
And the 21-year-old singer’s fans — called Pamyu-ers, the Kyarmy, or simply “Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s fans” depending on who you ask — also include some of our exalted pop faves, as well. Everyone from Lady Gaga and Katy Perry to Ariana Grande and Grimes are on board.
Is it because she’s so cute?
No, not really. I mean, you don’t really get to release three albums by just being cute. (Those “Hampster Dance” hamsters being the exception that proves the rule.)
Besides, Kyary’s brand of “kawaii” — a culturally specific Japanese concept related to cuteness #IsThatReductive #Sorry — isn’t even that straightforward. In an interview with MTV Iggy, she described her aesthetic as: “a cuteness that is a little bit traumatic, that has a dark aspect to it… So within cuteness, I like to have some grotesque elements like eyeballs or other items that are a little surprising to see.”
Check out the video for Pika Pika Fantajin’s lead single, “Kira Kira Killer,” above to see what she means. In the clip, Kyary gets shot through the chest with a heart-shaped arrow, causing buckets of cartoon blood to splatter everywhere — and that’s just in the first 15 seconds.
Will I like her if don’t speak Japanese?
In the words of En Vogue, FREE YOUR MIND. But if it’s such a deal-breaker for you, Kyary’s third LP contains her first English-language track, “Ring A Bell,” which premiered on Vogue.com last month. Check it out below.
Where can I catch her IRL?
Got a time machine? Perfect, then you’ll be able to travel back to the beginning of 2014 to hit up Kyary’s Nanda Collection World Tour, which stopped in five major U.S. cities. Don’t have a time machine? Not even one of the hot tub variety? Then I guess you’ll just have to play the waiting game until the J-Pop princess’ next global-touring plans are unveiled.
In the meantime, you could always play “Count The Eyeballs” while watching Kyary’s entire videography from start to finish. I think I’ve gotten up to the thousands, but I’m sure I’m missing a few.