The subtle brilliance of “Hello Kitty”

Okay, pop quiz!

1. How old was Avril Lavigne when she made the iconic “Sk8er Boi” video?

(Answer: seventeen)

2. How many Grammy Awards was the even more iconic “Complicated” nominated for?

(Answer: two)

3. How many Canadian rock stars has she married?

(Answer: two, Sum 41’s Deryck Whibley and Nickleback’s Chad Kroeger)

4. Last question: how many views does “Girlfriend” have on YouTube?

(Answer: approximately 234 million)

So, how did you do? If you struggled, don’t worry; I had to brush up on my Avril Lavigne trivia before undertaking this challenge.

I’m guessing that if you have seen Avril’s new video “Hello Kitty,” your reaction before clicking went something along the lines of Avril Lavigne is still making music?? Bless her, she is, and twelve years after releasing her multi-platinum debut Let it Go (before she was a legal adult), she’s enjoying a pop career that has outlasted every other “Anti-Britney” to come out of the early aughts. So answer honestly, which surprises you more: that Avril Lavigne has sold 40 million records, or that she has sold 40 million records before her 30th birthday?

I won’t pretend that I’m familiar with her discography, but I will share that back in third grade, “Complicated” was my jam, and I had a massive crush on Avril. She had everything that I wanted in a girl: a fuck-you attitude, a sideways trucker cap, blue eyes, actual strumming abilities, middle school angst, and sweat bands on her wrists. She was like the Aphrodite for boys who weren’t entirely sure if they liked girls yet.

In other words, Avril can do no wrong in my book, and yes, that entirely compromises my enjoyment of “Hello Kitty.” I’m guessing you watched it one time and thought it was garbage, but I implore you to give it a second chance, and here’s why:

1. She begins the song with the phrase “Minna saikou, arigato!” According to Rap Genius, that’s the Japanese equivalent of saying “thank you, you’ve been a great audience!” That’s right: she begins the song by thanking her audience. How badass is that??

2. She raps the first verse, and includes the line “Let’s all slumber party/like a fat kid on a pack of smarties/come and chuck a cupcake at me!” Seriously, how badass is that?????

(Answer: super badass)

3. Her dance moves are comically bad but insanely repeatable. This is the “Anti-Britney”-ness that people were talking about a dozen years ago.

4. She builds up anticipation in the pre-chorus only to drop the chorus into a series of sirens, wubadubdubs, and a vaguely racist Japanese impersonation. A lesser artist would have pumped up the jams and shouted something sexist instead of racist. Avril doesn’t roll like that.

5. The fully clothed living dolls following Avril around everywhere are the perfect foil for Gwen Stefani’s halfway-clothed Harajuku girls. It’s one thing for Western artists to re appropriate Japanese femininity and create a modern day geisha girl; it’s another thing to spit in the face of that practice nearly a decade after it would have been relevant satire. Also, did you notice the split second smile around the 2:30 mark? Pure craft.

6. I have been assured that this will be huge in Japan. The same source tells me that one can find copies of old Hillary Duff and Avril Lavigne albums in cornershops across the island, and now an artist is acknowledging her popularity there? Yeah, this should be “Gangnam Style” big.

(It won’t, but I can dream)

So stop lying to yourself that you’ve chosen to forget this song, because you’re going to be secretly enjoying the heck out of it for the rest of the year. I’m not saying you shouldn’t decry it’s insensitive content and mostly unoriginal composition, but it might be helpful to admit that you can like a song that has so much not to like about it.



1 Comment

  1. The Sushi scene made me hungry!!

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