And Finally Artist News Beef Of The Week

CMU Beef Of The Week #203: The Internet v Avril Lavigne

By | Published on Friday 25 April 2014

Avril Lavigne

This week, Avril Lavigne released a music video so objectionable that the entire internet turned against her and she was forced to take it down.

So the reports went, anyway. And, it’s true, the video for ‘Hello Kitty’ was met with a great deal of derision. “It’s awful”, said some people. “It’s racist”, said others. “It’s a dubstep track co-written by Chad Kroeger from Nickleback”, wept everyone.

Some parts of all this are easier to explain than others. Why was the track co-written by Chad Kroeger? Well, he’s married to Lavigne now, and features on another single from her latest album, ‘Let Me Go’. Doesn’t explain the dubstep, but it’s only a co-write. Sure, he could have said something about how bad an idea the dubstep thing was (and is). Though I’m not sure where artistic criticism fits within their rules for a happy marriage.

Lots of other people sure told her the record was awful this week, but as the album it’s on came out almost six months ago, it’s a bit bloody late now. Honestly, it’s like you all only watched this video because people said it was shit. Haven’t you been listening to the album for months?

But did this sudden surge in animosity cause Lavigne to take the video down from YouTube shortly after it went online? Well, no. Sorry to disappoint you. Given that the video was still readily available on her website the whole time, that seems unlikely. A rep for the singer told MTV that the video that was taken down from YouTube was a fan upload – it only officially arriving on Vevo and YouTube the next day, following the premiere on Lavigne’s own site.

Also, while you’ll probably have seen a lot of criticism of the video, you may have missed the rush of praise from many other people (Avril Lavigne fans mainly, but it still counts). Because, despite what Twitter might lead you to believe, it’s not actually possible for something to be universally derided. There’ll always be someone around to think that a clearly bad thing is alright. Being racist, for example.

But is the ‘Hello Kitty’ video racist though? Well, Lavigne, of course, says no. Actually, she said on Twitter: “RACIST??? LOLOLOL!!! I love Japanese culture and I spend half of my time in Japan. I flew to Tokyo to shoot this video specifically for my Japanese fans, WITH my Japanese label, Japanese choreographers AND a Japanese director IN Japan”.

At which point it’s probably a good time to actually examine the video itself. If you’ve not yet seen it, here it is in all its glory. Day-glo! Deadpan backing dancers! Giant cupcakes! Skrillex hair! Dubstep!

OK, I’m glad we finally got that bit over with. You’ll probably have noticed her singing the odd word in Japanese here and there. Specifically she mentions “kawaii” a lot, which translates as “cute”. And cute is clearly what she’s aiming for, though, if the critics are anything to go by, she failed spectacularly. But “kawaii”, in this setting, is a bit more specific – an over the top fashion style linked to Tokyo’s Harajuku district.

Let’s have a look at what it is Avril’s co-opting here by looking at a few Japanese pop videos. Here is what you’ll need to make your very own ‘Hello Kitty’ video at home:

Take the overall feel of Tommy February6’s ‘Love Is Forever’…

…add some set design and a little bit of sass from Shishido Kavka’s brilliant ‘Love Corrida’…

…rip the rest off from ‘Pon Pon Pon’ by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu…

…and there you have it. If you put all these together, you can make your very own kawaii music video. Bonus points for the song featuring dubstep, a style that started to creep into J-pop in the last year or so. Though you lose all of those points again for not doing it subtly enough. Also, Avril will need to lose further points for coming up with that kind of misses the point of everything she’s borrowing from.

Is Avril’s video racist? No, I don’t think so. But it does prove that kawaii style is not actually as easy to pull off as artists like Kyary Pamyu Pamyu make it look. For one thing, 29 year old Avril’s made her childlike song and video overtly sexual, which J-pop stars generally wouldn’t, and that makes the whole thing quite uncomfortable.

Look, let’s just forget all about Avril and watch this video of DJ Hello Kitty instead:

Yeah, that’s a thing.