It’s been an intense year for Harajuku icon and singer Kyary Pamyu Pamyu: After the release of her successful and critically acclaimed album Nandacollection, the most colorful J-pop ambassador went on board on a national hall tour, a World Tour hitting three continents, and three singles released, without counting live DVDs, Music Videos and all the songs featured in the endless series of commercials where she appeared, making our Fashion Monster one of the most popular characters in Japan, where you can pretty much see her everywhere if you’re visiting a city with more than 100 people. After all, it’s undeniable that this girl has a unique charisma and talent in looking bizarre yet extremely cool at the same time, and it’s safe to say the exact same thing when it comes to her musical career, where well known producer Yasutaka Nakata gives life to shiny and funny vibes in extremely catchy songs without leaving behind quality and good compositions, taking all the best this girls can offer and putting it in valuable productions. Will it be the same this time?
Kimi ni 50%
Pika Pika Fantajin starts well with a quiet intro followed by a march made of synths and chip tunes, and the Kyary vibe we’ve learned to love in the last years is already present at its fullest to introduce the first song of the album, Kira Kira Killer, a catchy and shiny song representing the average Kyary A-side that fits its role of opening well even though not standing out for anything in particular despite some nice musical ideas in the chorus part where the singing gets more emphasized and extended, something that became more usual in the recent productions for the Harajuku icon. The combination of these two pieces, while not perfect in terms of flow, works greatly and gives a legit boost to an album where an overload of energy is expected and necessary with such an eccentric and bizarre character. So a track like the lovelyYume no Hajima Rin Rin is at the right place here to calm down the waters and explore a softer and more mature side of the Pamyu sound, and as the sweet melody of a carillon makes its way through our ears a melancholic feeling rise from the piano and the sound of the acoustic guitar, emphasizing what really makes this song so special, which is the delicate yet solid and well developed layering of the instrumental that reaches its high peak in the pre verse chorus, where the melody from the electric guitar and the synth bring out all the melancholy of looking back at the old times and the people who made them special, sang by Kyary with no particular emphasis but still in a sufficient way to convey the right feeling; A great song and definitely one of the best pieces on the album, that didn’t lost its vibe at all in this slightly modified and safe album-mix. It’s clear to all of us though that mellow and melancholic feelings don’t last long in this girls’ world, and indeed Mottai Nightland kicks in with Kyary’s high pitched voice to welcome us back in the crazy fantasy concept of the album with the catchiest and musically richest track of the album: Everything in the verses just works perfectly, thanks to a finally more expressive singing and a musical background delivering the right atmosphere for a song talking about an imaginary land, while the chorus find its catchiness in Kyary’s singing with a good result even though not at the level of any A-side of the Nandacollection era; Still, this song brings up a vivid atmosphere with a wall of sound and a number of details that makes it impossible not to appreciate.
Now you’d better prepare your ears for a pretty brutal impact brought by the drums and electric guitar of Serious Hitomi to remind us how Yasutaka Nakata always has fun in experimenting different sounds with a versatile and unpredictable artist like Kyary, and this highly influenced rock track is the proof of it: While basing its main structure and sound to a solid base like the rock genre, Nakata has its fun on applying everything that makes Kyary a crazy act on it, such as funny and catchy singing, crazy electronic bridges and chiptune bits any time there’s space for it, with a genuinely cool result representing the typical good craziness of Kyary’s albums, breaking the “Fantajin” concept in favor of a more various and less tiring experience. The following track is the usual capsule cover which Nakata loves to propose in every Kyary album, and this time the choice went on a classic track from the Lounge Designer Killersalbum, do do pi do, a catchy, happy and thoughtless track that fits her style perfectly, in a version that offers a more brilliant and slightly detailed instrumental, leaving behind the old school capsule details and some vocal parts originally sang by Toshiko, and the result is very good: The track didn’t lose its original vibe, and Kyary’s voice, while not technically comparable to Toshiko’s, does a great job anyway in conveying the song’s mood, for one of the most well made capsule covers performed by the colorful singer
So far the album kept an overall pretty good level of quality and variousness, guaranteeing a funny experience and tracks that you’ll want to listen to again, but it’s right when the second half begins that problems come to surface: It literally seems everything has turned into a lazy and uninspired work, and the first song to prove is probably the weakest and less convincing A-side ever released for Kyary which is Family Party, where the main synth and melody aren’t enough to save a song that’s just shallow in every single part, from the uninspired verses, to the chorus that totally fails in being catchy (it’s plain boring) and the ridiculous bridge, for a song without identity that you’ll want to forget as soon as possible. Kyary’s personality comes back a bit in Ring a Bell, a track where the simplicity of the chorus and the experiment of making her sing in english are the main attractions, and while it may be attractive and funny at first, it doesn’t have enough deepness to guarantee a constant listen. The following Tokyo Highway is another missed opportunity: The intention of Nakata in creating a track summoning a fresh and liberating atmosphere as you were indeed driving through the famous highway is clear, but it totally falls in the execution: Everything is plain boring and way too repetitive, the structure isn’t coherent, and its five minutes length doesn’t help at all: With more variety and a consistence in the structure this track could have delivered a way more interesting experience, marking one of the biggest missed opportunities of this album. Koi Koi Koibrings up once again the fantasy concept with a cool sound and singing but falls in the boredom trap exactly like the following Sungoi Aura, that despite following the concept of the previous track and a detailed instrumental (that flute is just amazing) still doesn’t make it in the list of this album’s must listens, just like the closing track Explorer, which is so boring and inexpressive that it’s even hard to describe. It’s a real shame, because in these last six songs the intention of creating something interesting is clear, but everything turns into boredom and the result we get is a couple of interesting ideas in a sea of shallowness, mainly caused by an excessive repetitiveness in the structure and plain laziness. Too bad.
Pika Pika Fantajin is an album brutally divided into two parts: The first one is the classic Pamyu sound we’ve learned to love, and despite not being the best showcase of it, it still delivers a funny and entertaining experience that everyone expects from the eccentric Harajuku icon, while the second part is simply boring, inexpressive and repetitive, and some good ideas here and there these aren’t enough to avoid the fall of this album. Repeating the amazing craziness of Nandacollection wasn’t easy at all, but it was legit to expect at least a consistent album with a certain flow. Sadly, despite having many good moments and high quality production, Pika Pika Fantajin is only half of a good album.
01. Pika Pika Fantajin (intro)
02. Kira Kira Killer
03. Yume no Hajima Ring Ring –album mix-
04. Mottai Night Land
05. Serious Hitomi
06. do do pi do (capsule cover)
07. Family Party – album mix-
08. Ring a Bell
09. Tokyo Highway
10. Koi Koi Koi
11. Sungoi Aura –album mix-