Kawaii & the Darkness

Cecile Tiger Again, a new to me Japanese primitivist-pop girl group; can’t get this damn song out of my head:

I’ve never been quite sure why the US never developed a similar kawaii popular-music element (though strictly speaking, these Cecile Tiger Again girls are more kawaii-influenced than true kawaii), given the ongoing sexualization-masked-as-innocence tendency in American culture. (My significant other watches what she calls her “favorite train wreck” television show, something called DANCE MOMS, which makes my skin crawl with its perfect sleaziness. Surely it’s the preferred mainstream TV programming for paedophiles all over the world.) Then again, there’s a certain sly, subversive element to some kawaii, with a lot of the girls being their own autonomous agents more than any number of sullen, snarling “riot grrls” ever were.

My latest theory, which I’m still mulling, is that kawaii (at least as a musical performing style) came to exist there rather than here because of the relative unimportance (or perhaps even absence) in post-World War II Asian pop of the dark Celtic strain that still informs so much of American pop music. The sunniness in American music is always just a brief interval before the murderous clouds roll in again, whereas these Cecile Tiger Again girls and their sisters inhabit — or at least have the ability to pretend that they do — some sort of timeless pubertal paradise. This seems to be the case especially when you start talking about the primitivist mode. Musically, the Handsome Family (currently out of Texas, though originally from Chicago, I believe) aren’t any more sophisticated than Cecile Tiger Again, but lyrically everything ends up badly in Handsome Family songs, or starts out that way and you get some redemptive light with the final chord, whereas kawaii girls don’t have that problem; they’re just happy, without the gloomy Celtic super-ego dampening their spirits. More power to them, I say.

Here’s another, live version of the same song. Are the girls actually playing their instrumental parts on their phones? Finally!