From Estonian pop star Kerli's video for “Walking on Air” to the creepy-cute performances of noise artist Kawaiietly Please to the personal style of indie rock bassists Umi (Akai Sky) and Becca Popkin (War Tapes), the influence of Lolita, the girly Japanese fashion style that has swept the world, is making major headways in music.
But Lolita is more than labels like Baby the Stars Shine Bright and Angelic Pretty, more than just pulling curls off your face with a pretty bow. Lolita is a state of mind, an appreciation of cute, whimsical and sometimes old-fashioned sensibilities. With that in mind, we compiled a list of tunes to get you in a Loli mood.
Malice Mizer “Gardenia”
Moi dix Mois “Solitude”
Once upon a time, there was a visual kei band called Malice Mizer who boasted a wonderfully elegant and mysterious guitarist named Mana. The quietly provocative musician developed a rabid fanbase, not just for his talent, but for his style– romantic frocks with big, bell-shaped skirts, chunky shoes and frilly headgear. Mana is largely credited with popularizing, if not inventing, the gothic lolita style, and his fashionable reputation lead to his own line of clothing, Moi-même-Moitié. Following the demise of Malice Mizer, Mana formed the band Moi dix Mois, for which he is the primary creative force, became a producer for a slew of successful Japanese artists and launched the record label Midi:Nette. His style has also changed a bit, evolving from purely Lolita to the more mature, but still fantastical, Elegant Gothic Aristocrat style. Moi dix Mois will be playing at Anime Expo on July 2.
Strawberry Switchblade “Since Yesterday”
This Glaswegian duo predates Malice Mizer by just about a decade and their style might not be considered Lolita by purists, but a lot of the elements are there, including ribbons, bows, flowers and Jill Bryson's knee-length full skirts. The tutu-styled skirts that Rose McDowall favored are more reminiscent of the latest trend from Harajuku, fairy kei (check out this piece from style blogger La Carmina for a good overview). But, it's more than just fashion with Strawberry Switchblade, the band's perky production mixed with forlorn lyrics captures the attitude of Lolita. Just because it's cute doesn't mean that there isn't something deeper lurking under the surface.
While Strawberry Switchblade was written off by many as a one-hit wonder, the band retains a strong cult following decades after its demise. “Since Yesterday” is a goth club classic and McDowall is an icon of the scene with her solo work and multiple collaborations (she covered “Don't Fear the Reaper” on her own and the theme from Rosemary's Baby as part of Spell, très spooky).
Kokusyoku Sumire “Circus No Uma”
Yuka and Sachi are classically-trained musicians inspired by fairy tales who combine original numbers with Japanese translations of opera pieces and chansons. Using primarily violin, piano and accordion, the duo's musical choices are as much in line with the Lolita aesthetic as their stage costumes are.
With four releases to their credit, Kokusyoku Sumire has built up a strong following across the globe (we hear Tim Burton is a fan). Last fall, the girls made their US debut in LA's Little Tokyo as part of the Cosplay Onesan's sweet Lolita event, where Yuka and Sachi kept the Angelic Pretty-wearing crowd spellbound.
Kanon Wakeshima “Suna No Oshiro”
Part of the allure of Lolita is the desire to incorporate seemingly old-fashioned cultural references into modern life, things like tea services, stationary and classical music. Kanon Wakeshima embraces the latter with by merging her cellist skills with a cool electronic backdropped. Produced by Mana, Wakeshima is an up-and-comer in Japan, where two of her singles, including the above, have been featured in the popular shojo anime Vampire Knight. Thanks to this exposure, the young artist is making waves in the US as well. She has recently begun to make appearances at conventions.
Emilie Autumn “Gothic Lolita”
A singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, Emilie Autumn's first big break was recording and touring with Courtney Love. Since then, though, she's been gaining a fanbase thanks to her solo efforts. Autumn's songs bridge orchestral rock with electronic sounds for a dramatic and often dark effect. Her stage presence is equally powerful. Autumn evokes a cabaret sensibility in her shows and augments this with costumes that are part punk, part ero-Lolita (a style that often includes items that resemble Victorian undergarments). The clip above is a fan-made anime music video combining Autumn's tune “Gothic Lolita” with Rozen Maiden, an anime franchise so popular that it even resulted in a series of cute, ruffled dolls.