As we head into the final two weeks of 2012, the good people at Europe's Best Website are winding down for the festive season. Meanwhile, over on this site, the workrate appears to be going in the opposite direction, as I try to catch up with articles I should have been writing over the summer. This spot here is where the two overlap, inevitably.
Mostly Film has been showcasing its highlights of the year recently, with articles on theatre, small screen entertainment and the Dredd movie. My contribution was published yesterday, in which I explained why Pamyu Pamyu Revolution by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu was the finest record released in 2012. Don't worry, staring at me like you've never heard of it before is a perfectly acceptable response: it was only ever properly released in Japan. (Although one thing I've learned from the comments in the article is that you can download it from Amazon UK for £7.49, rather than the twenty-odd quid that a Japanese physical copy would set you back. See links at bottom of page for proof.)
The article is a brief introduction to my history with J-Pop (some of the details may be familiar to regular readers), followed by an analysis of what makes Pamyu Pamyu Revolution so terrific. If you're not in the mood for reading, though, you could make do with this backup feature here, which contains over 70 minutes of relevant video clips.
The YouTube playlist above is a combination of videos referenced in the original article, plus a few bonus ones just for you lovely people. Here are the details:
1. Last Smile by Love Psychedelico. I've told the story several times over in these pages, but this was essentially my Road to Damascus moment when it comes to Japanese pop music. Except it was a plane rather than a road, and it was going to Hong Kong.
2. Renai Revolution 21 by Morning Musume. And this was the other record I discovered on the same flight. (That in-flight programme was also responsible for my first exposure to Judy & Mary, and subsequently their lead vocalist Yuki when she went solo. But I'm trying to keep things simple here.)
3. Sabotage by Dempagumi.inc. Is there a finer sound on the planet than that of a bunch of Japanese girls yelling classic Beastie Boys lyrics?
4. Dempa Connection: Episode 1. Well, maybe the sound of those same girls in male cop drag being overdubbed badly by gruff-sounding blokes. This is the first part of Dempagumi.inc's TV show spinoff from the Sabotage single, lovingly ripped off from the original Beastie Boys video.
5. Dempa Connection: Episode 2. And here's the second part. If you want to see more, be warned that the DVD of the whole 37 minute story costs around thirty quid before postage.
7. Gangnam Style by Psy. Well, I hope he appreciates the traffic I'm giving him. But here's a thing: at the time of writing (December 18th 2012), the video of Gangnam Style has had 971,518,818 hits. It's been estimated that if it continues to accumulate eyeballs at the current rate, it'll pass the billion mark on December 21st. Which is, of course, the date of the apocalypse as predicted by the Mayans. Coincidence? We'll see.
8. PonPonPon. Okay, those are all the context-setting videos out of the way: it's all Kyary Pamyu Pamyu from here on in. For the Mostly Film piece, I decided that I only wanted to have one video embedded in the middle, and this particular one counts as the thermonuclear option. If you can get to the end of PonPonPon without any sort of reaction, there's no point in you proceeding any further with... well, anything, really.
9. Tsukematsukeru. This is the video that's been targeted by the tin-foil hat brigade in both Japan and the US. In fact, it's a song about how much fun it is to wear false eyelashes. But wait! Didn't I mention in the article that one of Kyary's side projects (pre-dating her musical career) is her own line of false eyelashes? Could there be some sort of sinister pro-eyelash agenda being set here? Well, that's probably more likely, and in a few videos' time you'll see further evidence of her ruthless approach to cross-promotion.
10. Candy Candy. Spoiler alert: very soon, I'll be telling you about my Pick Of The Year 2012 CD, and this glorious thing will be on it.
11. The Making Of Candy Candy. And here's some entertaining behind-the-scenes footage from the video shoot.
12. Fashion Monster. Her first new material since the release of Pamyu Pamyu Revolution: I'll save my money in the hope that it'll be on her second album.
13. Kyary An-An (live). Well, I warned you that Kyary's live performances aren't particularly sweaty rock 'n' roll affairs. Nor, for that matter, are they especially 'live'. But what about that song, which I keep wanting to call Kofi Annan by mistake? Well, the lyrics are all about working hard and how part-time jobs are good things. And it's got An-An in the title because...
15. an TVCM (2). It's a song that they're still using in commercials after the release of Pamyu Pamyu Revolution, which means that track 5 on the album is an actual advert in its own right. Sneaky.
16. Glico TVCMs. Still, it's standard procedure in Japan for anyone with any degree of fame to be doing adverts. Here's Kyary in a couple of delightfully daft pudding promos.
17. Space Shower TV promo. This is an easily justified bit of corporate work: an ident for Space Shower TV, one of Japan's leading music television networks, where you'd expect to see Kyary's videos regularly. (FYI: the music used here is the instrumental title track to Pamyu Pamyu Revolution, which has been my phone's ringtone for the last six months.)
18. Space Shower TV Christmas promo. And this is a more recent (and topical) bit of promo work she's done for the station.
19. TV JOHN! trailer. Finally, a clip with English subtitles. They may help. Or they may not. This is the trailer for a DVD released later this week, a collection of highlights from her surreal sketch show TV JOHN! (volume one also available). At this distance from Japan, it's hard to tell whether or not Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is the creation of some sort of evil Svengali figure, like so many J-Pop starlets before her. But I refuse to believe that anyone would consider a show that looks like this as a logical step in a manufactured pop career: I think this is all her doing.