Kelsey Ellison Live on the Pop Asia Stage at MCM London Comic Con May 2014

Kelsey Ellison at MCM London (Pop Asia) (2)Appearing as the final act on Saturday on the Pop Asia stage at this month’s MCM London Comic Con, popular YouTube singer and dancer Kelsey Ellison performed before the largest crowd seen for a dance group at this stage.

Dressed in a purple, sparkly sailor fuku, Kelsey’s set opened with robotic-themed choreography—timed expertly and assisted by her companion—and culminated with the performance of her debut single, POM POM. Throughout the set, there was a strong sense of clarity and determination in her act that represented just how far she had come since her humble beginnings.

Presenting a more varied set than expected, with English songs translated into Japanese and a fandom-themed parody of Iggy Azelea’s Fancy (aptly retitled Kawaii), as well as the aforementioned POM POM, it was notable just how much Kelsey’s set had changed since previous performances at MCM Comic Con and other conventions.

This shift in focus is important in regards to the development of what was at one time the burgeoning idol-inspired scene, and something that perhaps brings Kelsey as a performer closer to a more independent stance. Yet, if this bodes well for Kelsey, it also speaks somewhat ill of the development of the previous scene. It would not come as a surprise if, come MCM London in October, Kelsey’s performance were to be relocated to the VidFest stage (assuming she will perform then).

It is impossible to address this year’s shows without taking into account the increase in Japanese acts performing in London since last February. To date, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu has appeared twice, Perfume has appeared once, and BABYMETAL are scheduled to appear both at Kentish Town’s The Forum and at the SONISPHERE festival later this year. J-pop now also has a growing presence on iTunes and other digital outlets, and the number of available opportunities for fans to interact with singers and idols is now greater than ever.

With this in mind, it is important to take note of what Kelsey has achieved. No longer is the work she is doing a secondary experience, but slowly the change in her performances is helping her to develop her own appeal and her own audience. The downside of this is that the transition is not always comfortable—as Kelsey establishes herself as a performer in her own right, there is more and more friction between the dance covers she performs and the original material of her set. The influence of prominent artists like Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is also still very much in evidence in her work, and whilst it may not be a popular opinion, it is worth noting that her single POM POM appeared at roughly the same time as Avril Lavigne’s much scorned Hello Kitty, with the difference between the two being solely that the latter is more in the public eye and thus more open to derision.

Kelsey Ellison at MCM London Comic Con (Pop Asia)What we are seeing on the Pop Asia stage now is not so much the evolution of a parallel, independent idol scene but rather the aspirations of YouTube stars heading into more mainstream fields.

What happens next with the scene, I would not care to make a prediction on, however in the case of Kelsey Ellison, I am certain her performances will continue to evolve and I hope that this will enable her to eschew her influences and genuinely capitalise on the fan support evident at MCM London Comic Con this year.

For those of you who still have yet to experience Kelsey’s single, you can find the video on her YouTube page and listen to the track via iTunes and Spotify.

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