Hello Kitty (song)
|Single by Avril Lavigne|
|from the album Avril Lavigne|
|Released||23 May 2014|
|Writer(s)||Avril Lavigne, Chad Kroeger, David Hodges, Martin Johnson|
|Avril Lavigne singles chronology|
"Hello Kitty" is a song by Canadian singer-songwriter Avril Lavigne, taken from her self-titled fifth studio album, Avril Lavigne (2013). It was written by Lavigne, Chad Kroeger, David Hodges and Martin Johnson. Production was handled by Kroeger and Hodges, with additional production by Brandon Paddock and Kyle Moorman. Musically, "Hello Kitty" is a technopop song, featuring an electro-influenced drop. The song was influenced by her obsession with all things related to the Japanese brand Hello Kitty, and has some sexual content.
The song was mostly panned by music critics, who criticized its sound and called it immature, while a few named it unique and playful. Lavigne shot a music video for the track in Japan and was released on 21 April 2014. It was met with negative reviews by critics, with Billboard labeling it "abhorrent" and "lazy". The video's depiction of Japanese culture was accused of being racist and offensive by some. Due to the video's popularity, the song charted at number 75 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, becoming the second highest charting single from the album.
Background and composition
Three months after the release of Goodbye Lullaby (2011), Lavigne announced that work on her fifth studio album had already begun, having eight songs written. Lavigne stated that the album would musically be the opposite of Goodbye Lullaby, with a release date rumoured for sometime in 2012. Lavigne explained, "Goodbye Lullaby was more mellow, [but] the next one will be pop and more fun again. I already have a song that I know is going to be a single, I just need to re-record it!." In an interview, Lavigne said about her collaboration with Kroeger: "I have a song called [Hello Kitty], which I wrote about [Hello Kitty] because I'm obsessed, and it's a really fun thing that I've never done before. It kind of has a kind of glitchy, electronic feel to it and it's... the only one on the record that sounds like that. It's really different and a lot of my friends I've played it for really like it. I'm having a lot of fun with that one."
A 19 second sample of "Hello Kitty", displaying technopop styles with elements of dubstep
|Problems playing this file? See media help.|
"Hello Kitty" was written by Lavigne, Chad Kroeger, David Hodges and Martin Johnson, while the song was produced by Kroeger, Hodges. Brandon Paddock and Kyle Moorman became assistants in its production. The song was engineered by John Hanes, musical mixed by Serban Ghenea and additional programming was held by Paddock and Moorman. Lavigne described the lyrics while talking to Digital Spy, "'Hello Kitty' was such an interesting topic and subject [...] It was really exciting for me. I didn't want it to sound like anything I'd done before. I wanted it to sound over the top so I ended up hiring a new producer to help me with it."
The opening line of the song Min'na saikō arigatō, K-k-k-kawaii, k-k-k-kawaii, is a reference to the Japanese Kawaii culture. Kawaii is Japanese for "cute", and the word is popularly used to describe endearing physical characterizations in Manga and Japanese video games. She was later asked about the double meaning of the song, on account of the interchangeability of the sexual euphemisms 'kitty' and 'pussy', to which she responded, "Obviously it's flirtatious and somewhat sexual, but it's genuinely about my love for Hello Kitty as well." Additionally, she said at MuchMusic Awards, "It's really fun [and] it's about a slumber party and loving the kitty."
After initially receiving polarized reviews prior to its release, the song was greatly panned by music critics. While labeling it "weird", Nick Catucci from Entertainment Weekly called it "a dubstep track that seems to acknowledge its own tokenism by adopting a 'J-Pop American Funtime Now!' sheen." Despite praising her "techno-pop" influence, Jason Lipshutz of Billboard felt that "it's a bold stab at a genre outside of Lavigne's oeuvre, but it never comes together. By the 20th time 'Hello Kitty, you're so pretty' is declared, the listener's attention is already on the next track." Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic wrote that the song "bypasses bubblegum so it can settle into the embarrassing". While reviewing and stating that most of the album was "soggy", Chuck Eddy from Rolling Stone felt that "Hello Kitty" was the most playful song on the album and called it "J-pop-via-Kesha". Robert Corpsey from Digital Spy was favorable, writing that "the juddering electro-pop beats of 'Hello Kitty' serve as an ode to her you-know-what as well as her sizeable Japanese fanbase. As a curveball, it works brilliantly; but as an attempt to make her sound current in today's EDM-pop dominated charts, it falls considerably short."
Craig Manning of AbsolutePunk called it "the biggest leap of faith," describing it as "a trippy patchwork of EDM and pop that pays loving tribute to Lavigne’s sizable Japanese following." Bradley Stern of MuuMuse named it "an off-the-walls EDM-infused stomper, where Lavigne conjures Gwen Stefani's bouncy, Japanese-minded Love. Angel. Music. Baby." Laurence Green from musicOMH called it a "trashy EDM moment; laced with snatches of Japanese lingo," pointing out that it "feels like a weird misstep more suited to a Britney Spears album than the predominantly rock-centric sounds present on the rest of the record." A reviewer from Sputnikmusic remarked that "Hello Kitty" is "laughably bad" and "insipid", and criticized Lavigne's attempt at trying to draw in a younger crowd. Gregory Hicks from The Michigan Daily gave the song a negative review, referring to it as an "obligatory 2013-dubstep mess created for the sole purpose of attempting to follow a trend."
"Hello Kitty" debuted at number 84 on the Gaon Singles Chart and at number 70 on Download International Chart with 4,038 copies sold in its first week. It also spent one week on the Billboard Hot 100, at number 75, due to the popularity of the video, where 73 of the 92 percent of its chart points were attributed to Vevo on YouTube views, according to Nielsen BDS. It became her second-highest charted song from her self-titled album; "Here's to Never Growing Up", peaked at number 20 in June. It also became her highest debut on Streaming Songs to date, as the track debuted at number 14 (besting "Here's to Never Growing Up", which opened at number 26 in May following its official video debut). The song also surged to 5,000 downloads sold in the tracking week ending Sunday, 27 April, up from a negligible amount the week before, according to Nielsen SoundScan. On the Japanese Hot Top Airplay chart, "Hello Kitty" debuted at number 82 for the week ending of 12 May 2014.
The music video for "Hello Kitty" was filmed in Tokyo, Japan, and premiered on Lavigne's official website on 21 April 2014. It was removed from her YouTube channel, amid criticism that it was culturally insensitive and lacked energy. Although an official spokesperson stated that the song's video was never officially released and was stated to go live on 23 April, it was reuploaded to her official Vevo and YouTube channels the same day.
The majority of the "Hello Kitty" music video finds Avril Lavigne parading around with four identically dressed Japanese women behind her, performing dance moves, in locales like a bedroom, a candy store and a street. The video also shows Lavigne playing guitar, wearing glasses, eating sushi, waving at admirers and fans and taking a single photograph, wearing gloves that are paired with pastel hair extensions and a pink tutu covered in three-dimensional cupcakes.
Reception and criticism
The video was heavily derided by critics. Jason Lipshutz of Billboard panned it as "even more abhorrent than the song." While acknowledging that the album's previous videos were "excellent", he pointed out that the "Hello Kitty" video "tries to do nothing. Its laziness is demonstrated in the first 21 seconds, during which Lavigne holds a plush stack of cupcakes, shakes her hips, stares at the cupcakes, bounces her shoulders, and then, when she sings the line 'Someone chuck a cupcake at me'... tosses the fake cupcakes at the camera, her lip movement not matching up to the backing track whatsoever." Alexa Camp of Slant Magazine called it "truly eyebrow-raising, taking cultural mis-appropriation to cringe-inducing levels." The Independent suggested that "'Hello Kitty' will make your eyes and ears bleed", while Jezebel wrote: "It looks like what would happen if someone scraped off the diseased underbelly of American pop culture from 2004-2010 and sprinkled it generously over a festering pile of garbage."
Its depiction of Japanese culture was met with widespread criticism, which has included suggestions of racism, with Lavigne stating: "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." Hiro Ugaya, a Tokyo-based journalist and media commentator, assumed that "images of cultures outside of one's own in mass media are always different from the reality. [...] When you're trying to reach the majority of consumers, images tend to be lowest common dominator". Nobuyuki Hayashi, also a well-known Tokyo-based tech and social media expert, commented that most of the reactions on Twitter were favorable, adding that people who blamed Lavigne for racism are non-Japanese, but society from Japan did not take it seriously.
Credits and personnel
- Lead vocals by Avril Lavigne
- Written by Avril Lavigne
- Electric guitar by Martin Johnson
- Engineered by John Hanes
- Mixed by Serban Ghenea
- Produced by Martin Johnson
- Additional production and programming by Brandon Paddock, Kyle Moorman
- Additional vocal production by Chad Kroeger, David Hodges
- Recorded by Brandon Paddock, Kyle Moorman, Martin Johnson
Adapted from the liner notes of Avril Lavigne (2013).
|Japan Hot Top Airplay (Billboard)||82|
|South Korea (Gaon International Downloads Chart)||70|
|US Billboard Hot 100||75|
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