Thursday, April 24, 2014

Fantastically Terrible, but Only Mildly Offensive

It's so rare that a terrible song comes out.

Oh sure, there are bland songs. Many, many bland songs that I have voiced hatred towards. But it's just not the same as a bona-fide terrible song, something so atrocious that you can't believe effort was put into it. I so rarely get to review songs like that on the Wonderland, and doing so is equal parts fun and painful. I think finding a song that someone tried to write is kind of like finding a bad movie with a lot of heart put into it. Think Ed Wood films. Or movies like Hobgoblins, Showgirls, Batman & Robin, or Birdemic. Or any of the original movies on the Syfy channel. Okay, okay, back to music! Something I have learned through listening to music of a different language is that bad music is universal. I've heard plenty of bad English songs and plenty of bad Japanese songs. And a few bad Korean songs, but that's not my point. Sometimes though there is a song probably written out of earnestness, but somewhere along the way, something goes wrong. Maybe the vocals are poorly sung, or the lyrics are juvenile, or even the music video is so awkwardly patched together, that the final result is a train wreck so cataclysmic you can't look away.

That is what Hello Kitty turned out to be.

Not the brand.

I know, Hello Kitty isn't a J-pop song and has no place on the Wonderland, but it's like one-sixteenth a J-pop song, so we're gonna talk about it. You guys all remember Avril Lavigne, right? No? Well, Avril Lavigne was/is a pop-punk singer who was more popular in the mid-2000s with middle school girls who weren't hardcore enough for actual punk music. I may or may not have been one of those middle school girls... Anyways, after her song Girlfriend, Avril Lavigne kind of just vanished. I knew that she was mildly popular in Japan, but I still didn't really care. But then it came. Just when I thought Avril Lavigne had disappeared to wherever mid-2000s singers go, Hello Kitty's music video came. Oh boy, did it come. Ever since Lavigne released the music video for Hello Kitty, both the song and music video have been the epitome of polarizing. The song has been ripped to shreds for its terrible Dubstep break, the bad lyrics, the gratuitous Japanese, and just being generally annoying. The biggest controversy though has been over the music video. The music video for Hello Kitty has been called racist and accused of cultural appropriation along the same lines of Gwen Stefani's Harajuku Girls back in the mid-2000s (next thing you know, she'll be making a comeback too).

Me, a white American girl, talking about cultural appropriation is the equivalent of stepping onto a minefield while wearing a blindfold. I just don't have a good perspective to talk about it let alone accuse other pieces of media being guilty of it. I grew up in a country that's a melting pot of cultures, that borrows from everything. So the concept's always been very fuzzy with me. Parts of it I understand like the misuse of sacred or religious objects (i.e. Native American warbonnets). But then there are parts of it that I just... don't get. Maybe it's because of that lack of a distinct cultural identity in my life, I don't know. But I'm not here to rant about Avril Lavigne's Hello Kitty music video being cultural appropriation, because I'm not sure if it really is or not. I mean, the only thing that seems remotely racist/appropriating about the music video are the dead-eyed Japanese backup dancers. But I figured they just looked that way because they realized what a god-awful song Hello Kitty was. In my eyes, Hello Kitty just comes off as very, very juvenile. You know, like a middle school weeaboo. It doesn't mean any harm, but may unintentionally cause some.

I could definitely see how people could be offended by the music video, but the song is so ridiculous. How can anyone even take it that seriously to find it offensive? Take the Japanese lyrics in the song... okay, yes, they're gratuitous and poorly pronounced. But guys... there are so many J-pop songs with English lyrics in them. And some of those lyrics don't even make sense with the rest of the song! I love a lot of Nakata Yasutaka's work, but the guy puts tons of random English into his works. Nobody ever seemed to get irritated over Kyarypamyupamyu's English lyrics in her songs or the boatload of grammatical errors in BiS's two English songs. I mean, can't we just be thankful that Avril Lavigne didn't try to sing the entire song in Japanese? Then again, maybe that would have been better... at least I wouldn't be able to understand the abysmal English lyrics. The Japanese lyrics awkwardly thrown around in Hello Kitty only make me wonder if random English lyrics in J-pop songs sounds just as forced. If this song were being sung by a Japanese girl, would reactions be different? Maybe. I don't know.

But do you know what I do know about Hello Kitty? IT'S TERRIBLE!

Instead of fighting over whether or not Hello Kitty is racist and/or cultural appropriation, can't we all just agree that the song and music video are terrible? Hello Kitty is a song that's only going to appeal to middle schoolers going through their weeaboo phase. Hell, it even sounds like it was written by a middle schooler. "Mom's not home tonight so we can roll around, have a pillow fight like a major rager OMFG"? Have you heard anyone over the age of 13 say that? I just can't believe Avril Lavigne was nearly 30 when she wrote this. Like this person is an adult, and she wrote this. Even the shitty English versions of Perfume songs I wrote in middle school were better-written than this. I have listened to some shitty music. Hell, I reviewed an Ayaman Japan song, so trust me, I have. But Hello Kitty is something that was gift-wrapped for music reviewers like me to tear into. It's terrible in the way that Beckii Cruel's Danjo was terrible. In fact, I wonder which one would stand as a more terrible song? Cruel's awkward and lifeless cover of Danjo with its equally awkward music video? Or Lavigne's immature and annoying Hello Kitty and its tasteless music video?

In my opinion, there is nothing gained in wasting time brooding over terrible things. Because when you allow yourself to linger on something you hate, you're still thinking about it. When you get bit by a venomous snake, do you sit around with the poison in your body complaining about how much it hurts? I'd hope not. No, you're gonna go to a hospital and get that poison sucked out! You have to do the same when you find something that ticks you off. If you go around saying how much you hate something, you're still giving it attention and allowing it to plant itself into others' minds and stay relevant for just a little bit longer. If I find something that I truly, sincerely hate (and that is a very small list), then I don't talk about it. I allow as little of my brain capacity as possible to think about it. Because why should I allow myself to think about something I hate when I could use that same brainpower analyzing something I'm actually enthusiastic or passionate about? Frankly, it's exhausting trying to maintain hatred of something. That's why I always marvel at people who somehow manage to hate idol groups. I mean think of all the stamina they must have...

In the end, I don't hate Hello Kitty, but I can understand if someone else does. It is a horrid song that has an equally horrid music video. I don't know about all that cultural appropriation and racism, but a bad music video is a bad music video. And even though Hello Kitty is completely insipid, it's kind of refreshing to hear something so insipid. I mean, I've reviewed so much bland music lately. And AKB48's new song is a walk in the dog park of blandness. Hello Kitty is the tackiest, most over-the-top kind of bad you can hear, and I find it to be very, very entertaining. It's like watching a bad movie. Some people enjoy watching bad movies for the fun of it, and others don't. I think the same thing applies to Avril Lavigne's song. I wouldn't say Hello Kitty is the Manos: The Hands of Fate of bad pop music. It's more like... the Battlefield Earth of pop music. Actual effort was put into it and its creators take pride in it, but the final result is something so unintentionally terrible that it winds up being this weird, twisted form of entertainment.

And if you personally find Hello Kitty to be offensive... don't give it the power to stick around. If someone asks you about it, emphasize what a waste of time it is, and how it's not even worth watching. This controversy will die down as controversy always does, and one day I think many people will look back on this song and laugh. And hopefully just forget about the tacky music video. If you want to see a "kawaii" music video, go check out Kyarypamyupamyu's stuff or even Hanae's if you want something a little more toned down. As for me, I will now return to my regularly scheduled broadcasting of J-pop.


  1. No amount of cultural sensitivity could make this music video good.

    1. Yep, bad is bad, and this music video? It's pretty bad.