Kyary Pamyu Pamyu has a track record of helping make holidays trendy in Japan. Back in 2012, the then-fledgling J-Pop performer released the song “Fashion Monster,” a nervy number that added some shadows to an artist who to that point epitomised all things Harajuku. The accompanying video found her playing with Halloween imagery, a holiday that wasn’t widespread in the country at the time. Yet “Fashion Monster” — along with Halloween Junky Orchestra’s “Halloween Party” and some good ol’ corporate magic — helped stamp the spooky holiday on Japanese pop culture, and what was once a niche event has turned into a full-blown commercial heavyweight every October.
Now, Kyary’s tackling another nascent holiday on her newest single, "Easta." With Halloween now firmly established, companies across Japan have turned to making Easter a thing, with limited-edition goods and promotions all month. “Easta,” Kyary’s latest, comes tied to a campaign by retailer Aeon intended to promote the aforementioned holiday, starring Kyary herself. The song has to accomplish two goals; be a successful Kyary song and help educate the public about a new Spring happening.
On the latter front, “Easta” and its accompanying clip work well. The video introduces all the major, secular elements of Easter, done up in a typically Kyary way. There are plenty of pastel rabbits and eggs hopping about, looking a bit unsettling too, fitting for a pop star who has explored the grotesqueness of “kawaii” across her career. And then “Easta” takes plenty of artistic license from there, working in capybara, ketchup and a lot of death (an entire city gets destroyed). The music, meanwhile, sounds more apt for St. Patrick’s Day, long-time producer Yasutaka Nakata embracing horns and marching band pomp.
As commercial, “Easta” works well in laying out the basics of Easter while also pumping in some more unexpected details. It’s a solid theme to a holiday awareness campaign. Yet as a Kyary song, it highlights a trend in her music over the last two years. She hasn’t really had an uptempo song, the sort that skips along before bursting come the chorus, the type of number that made her internationally known, in two years. Nakata, instead, has been going slower since late 2015. It now feels like a long time since Kyary has really delivered something energetic and poppy, settling instead for mid-tempo fare. “Easta” has its charms — if Nakata is going to keep going this way for Kyary’s music, Celtic horn blurts are at least a wonky touch.
Mostly, my brain keeps going back to “Fashion Monster.” That number boosted Halloween, but did it in an energetic way, and in a style that still made it feel completely hers. “Easta” boasts a great video and will probably help spread Easter cheer across Japan, but Kyary feels secondary. Maybe it’s just commercial demands, but here’s hoping she returns to being the focus of her music.
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