Japan's 'kawaii' queen Kyary Pamyu Pamyu eyes global domination

Japan's 'kawaii' queen Kyary Pamyu Pamyu eyes global domination
PHOTO: The New Paper

MAKUHARI, Japan - The queen of Japan's sugar-coated pop scene, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu has unveiled bold plans to conquer the world - just as soon as she's done her English homework.

Still only 22, Kyary's rise to superstardom has been meteoric, a coquettish charm and off-kilter pop appeal spawning a string of number ones and viral videos and thrusting her firmly to the forefront of Japanese "kawaii" (cute) culture.

Despite extraordinary fame in her home country and frequent comparisons to American divas Katy Perry and Lady Gaga, the popette wants to capture hearts and minds further afield.

"I'm happy for people to liken me to Katy Perry or Lady Gaga so I'm working hard to emulate them and become a global star," Kyary told AFP in a backstage interview before performing at the Summer Sonic music festival outside Tokyo this weekend.

"I admire Katy Perry and always looked up to her," added the singer and fashion model, perched on a sofa backstage in a fluffy pink skirt with a giant yellow bow crowning her strawberry blonde locks.

"I don't have Katy's sexy style so I'm focusing on introducing Japan's unique cuteness and quirky music to the world."

Kyary's bubblegum fashion carefully mirrors the kawaii craze sparked in the colourful boutiques of Tokyo's trendy Shibuya and Harajuku districts.

Popular all over Asia, the almost cartoon-like trend reflecting the quality of looking and acting cute has also been flirted with by some Western stars - including Gaga and Perry.

"We are similar in having a clearly defined concept or theme for our videos or live shows," Kyary said, referring to Perry. "But I know I've got to improve my English. My new song's about Halloween and has an English chorus, but my pronunciation isn't very good.

"I just hope people think it's cute." Another English song, 'Ring a Bell,' features the helium-voiced singer demanding over and over, and over: "ring, ring, ring a bell, ring a bell, ring-a-ring a bell," while the smash hit 'PonPonPon' contains lyrics just as capable of turning the listener cross-eyed.

"Everyday 'pon,' everytime is 'pon,' I want to ride a merry-go-round!" she reports, and in the video - viewed more than 83 million times on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzC4hFK5P3g - Kyary flutters her eyelashes and pats herself on the backside as she slips into a dizzying array of wacky costumes.

Kyary clones

"Ring A Bell is really Japanese-English,' confided the pop phenomenon, wrinkling up her nose. "I've definitely got to study English this year." Kyary, who released her debut album in 2011, describes her sound as a mish-mash of styles.

"It's hard to pigeon-hole it," she said. "I suppose it would come under the genre of J-pop but also 'Harajuku girl' or Harajuku style. Perhaps it might also be a bit of electro pop but I haven't especially thought of myself as belonging to a genre."

Her techno-pop went down well with a sun-baked Summer Sonic crowd waiting for headliners the Chemical Brothers as her backing dancers - pint-sized Kyary clones - supplied more saccharine sweetness to the kawaii overload.

Kyary has triggered controversy, notably when her music video for the 2013 single "Furisodation" sparked protests from anti-alcohol abuse campaigners for showing her swigging from a bottle to celebrate coming of age.

But she remains fiercely determined to conquer the North American and European markets, with two world tours - including sold-out shows in Los Angeles and New York - under her belt already.

"Japanese people are usually shy so they sort of just clap along," she said. "But fans abroad scream 'Kyary, Kyary!' They really get into it. It's a bit like Summer Sonic.

Most people have come to see foreign bands." Getting up from the sofa, she added: "I'm first on stage in the morning, so the crowd will be half-asleep. I'll have to open their eyes!"

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