By Jugal Mody
English pop artist Dua Lipa’s latest hit New Rules has been playing in my head like an earworm for a few days now. She got famous at 14 as a YouTube cover artist. She’s so good that there are three big hits that I don’t listen to the originals of any more — The Weeknd’s The Hills, Justin Bieber’s Love Yourself and Alessia Cara’s Here. One of the things I do with earworm infections is that I look for as many covers of the track as possible. In finding covers of New Rules on YouTube, I ran into (what in the YouTube community is called) a “video cover” by Japanese comedienne Naomi Watanabe.
New Rules, the track, is all about moving on from an idiotic boy. In the Geinin Mix, we see Watanabe and her all-boy posse perform the same video which Dua Lipa did with an all-girl posse. The beauty of the video lies in how all the boys perform their feminine side, be good “sisters”, provide emotional and physical support, to Watanabe’s Dua Lipa performance where she’s singing about the new rules that help her move on from the boy. It brought this old piece by Nora Samaran, where she talks about nurturance culture being the antidote to rape culture, to mind.
Naomi Watanabe is popularly known as Japanese Beyonce because of her Beyonce impersonations. They start of as slapstick parodies but once you’re past that red herring, her sheer talent turns them into something more than that. Here’s a video of her repeating Beyonce’s superbowl performance with Bruno Mars:
Her sketches and comedic acting chops are like Indian comedienne Sumukhi Suresh’s character work meets Melissa McCarthy with Japanese TV ka tadka. But it’s her musical side that has me totally floored. She is not just a lipsynching impersonator but can actually sing.
Last Watanabe was in the news when she was cast in the music video for the Ghostbusters (all-female reboot) soundtrack for the Japanese release of the movie. I can assure you that this track and the video are a 100% better than the idiotic Fall Out Boy track and video that came with the US/World release.
When it comes to her dancing chops, Watanabe is comparable to K-pop sensation PSY. I draw PSY as a point of comparison because of their body shapes. Else they’re both at par with any of the pop stars dancing from music videos and concerts around the world.
In August this year, she released the first of what looks like a series of parody music videos called Geinin Mix. Geinin means performer, commonly used as Owarai Geinin, which means comedy performer. Watanabe and her crew take famous music videos by female international pop acts and make video covers.
BONUS! Watanabe demonstrates a play-by-play of her “stage face”, where she makes her eyes glitter and lips pop, with her signature brand of self-deprecating humor for Vogue.