Single Review: Kyary Pamyu Pamyu - Fashion Monster

Single Review: Kyary Pamyu Pamyu - Fashion Monster | Random J Pop

Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is 4 studio albums deep (at time of writing), which is 4 albums deeper into a career than I think many of us thought that she’d ever get after “PONPONPON”. But her own musical artistry aside, there is no escaping the fact that Kyary has put out music which is far better than it ever deserved to be. But for a while, her music always seemed to be propositioned as a secondary component to her visual endeavours and whatever product of the week she was promoting. Hearing these songs in 20 - 30 second bites did nothing for me, and this caused me to miss out on what is still to this day one of her best singles. “Fashion Monster”.

“Fashion Monster” is a song which is easy to dismiss on a first listen, or if you only hear the chorus of it; which is why I think the TV commercials the song was used for didn’t do this song justice. The chorus on “Fashion Monster” in isolation sounds like an annoyance. This was certainly my experience when I first heard it. It was only when I listened to the album on which “Fashion Monster” features, and heard the song in full that I realised how fucking good the song was, and that the chorus is probably the least interesting part of the whole thing.

Whilst “Fashion Monster” was initially made to be part of a musical tie-in with Uniqlo's sister brand G.U. - as is the case with Nakata, the song has a dual meaning. “Fashion Monster” makes obvious sense as a song used in a clothing commercial which was released during the month of Halloween. But “Fashion Monster” also contextualises Kyary’s visual aesthetic, which she has previously described as fusing really cute things with elements which are grotesque. This is what makes “Fashion Monster” kinda genius, because it’s fulfilling two purposes and pushing two brands simultaneously without one cancelling out the other. The result is not only a song with more layers than you’d expect where the chorus has somebody screeching ♪ FASHUN MAAAAAAANSTAAAAAAAAH ♪, but one which also acts as a great introductory song to Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. Whilst “PONPONPON” is probably regarded by many as a quintessential introductory Kyary song, I’d say “Fashion Monster” is a better choice as a standalone song. “PONPONPON” works best when it’s presented with the video. But the song on its own? It doesn’t hit the same. “Fashion Monster” on the other hand?

Bat wigs. Flying.

Single Review: Kyary Pamyu Pamyu - Fashion Monster | Random J Pop

At this stage in her career Kyary was as popular as ever, due to the sheer chaos of her music and visuals, the way she intersected parody and pastiche, and how self aware she was. But who Kyary was and what she was trying to even achieve was still a mystery. Whether it intended to or not, “Fashion Monster” kinda answered at least some of those questions. And looking at where Kyary is at in her career and what she wants to strive for in the wake of a song like “Gentenkaihi”, “Fashion Monster” feels all the more candid and poignant now then it did back in 2012.

The only thing more potentially exciting than an artist being on the scene who was willing to look an absolute mess in the name of entertainment, was that they were being produced by Nakata Yasutaka, who had become popular via his work with Japanese trio Perfume. During this period of his career, Nakata was still giving us greatness and consistency. And whilst his work for Kyary was in a different wheelhouse to that of Perfume, it did tap into some of his earlier sounds with Capsule, whilst pulling it in different directions. No matter what Nakata was or wasn’t trying to do, his approach to production was the same. Meticulous.

There are so many amazing nuances to the production of “Fashion Monster”, that every time I listen to it, I notice something new or different. But whilst “Fashion Monster” has some of the typical traits of a Nakata production, it also has a whole lot of texture to it, which isn’t common for him. The rock elements via (what sound like, but probably aren’t) live guitars and drums give the song a vibe and a tone that you don’t always get with Nakata’s work. “Fashion Monster” is a song which would sound great if played by a live band, and this isn’t a quality that a lot of Nakata’s songs have, due to them sounding deliberately electronic, very digital and sometimes cold. “Fashion Monster” by comparison feels, for far more analog. There’s a warmth to the sound.

“Fashion Monster” is just an interesting song to listen to because of all of the places in which it goes, and how it manages to swing from rock into cutesy pop and then back again and then just fuse the two whenever it feels like. As was a theme for much of Kyary’s material at this point, lots of things were working perfectly here, which easily could have wound up a mess.

Listening to this song now in light of the barely complete productions Nakata has been phoning in for Perfume since 2014, it’s hard to believe that the same guy who produced Perfume’s Future Pop even made this song. “Fashion Monster” doesn’t have a single lull in its 4 and a half minute runtime. Even sections of the song which feature repeated lyrics don’t utilise the exact same passage of music copied and pasted. Instrumentation is brought in, instrumentation is taken out, the sonics are played with to create a different energy as the song moves through its phases. Nakata’s arrangement of “Fashion Monster” is masterful, which is why I am so dismissive when he drops lazy sounding songs. I know he can do better, because he was responsible for gems like this.

“Fashion Monster” is so good that it really didn’t need a B-Side. But Kyary was really trying to make the music thing work, so we got one. “100% no Jibun ni” is fine, but nothing special. Especially when compared to the beast that is “Fashion Monster”. The wholesome, super cute vibe of the song completely contrasts with “Fashion Monster” and the visual theme of the cover art, but that’s Kyary for you. In retrospect, I get why this was left off of Nanda Collection, and feel that it woulda fit Pikapika Fantajin pretty nicely had Kyary held onto it. It’s not the most memorable song, and when I ever see the title of it, I get it confused with “Kimi ni 100 Percent” (which is a better song). But it's cute.

Single Review: Kyary Pamyu Pamyu - Fashion Monster | Random J Pop

For a pop star who was just doing music for fun and not taking herself seriously, and a producer who seemed to be having fun exercising being able to be kooky and fun, “Fashion Monster” is a pretty great song and a serious deal. Maybe this is why it’s great. There was no real expectation of it, there was no roadmap. It was just 2 people striving to make something fun. But the sentiment of the song is also what makes it work in earnest, because so few artists at the time were going in this campy and kooky direction with their music, aside from the blueprint; Tomoko Kawase. And as she had proven, along with artists like Michael Jackson and a song like “Thriller”, there’s a market for kitsch and conceptual songs, which are a bit daft; as long as they’re good and self aware. “Fashion Monster” understands that and embraces that; marking a song which is not only a highlight in Kyary’s discography, and a song which should be a fixture in every Halloween playlist without fail, but a great pop song first and foremost.

VERDICT: Fashion Munsters