Karen O

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Karen O
Karen O 2013.jpg
Karen O performing with Yeah Yeah Yeahs in Detroit in June 2013
Background information
Birth name Karen Lee Orzolek
Born (1978-11-22) November 22, 1978 (age 38)
Busan, South Korea
Genres Indie rock[1]
Occupation(s)
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • musician
  • record producer
Instruments
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • keyboards
Years active 2000–present
Labels
Associated acts
Website www.karenomusic.com

Karen Lee Orzolek (born November 22, 1978),[2] better known by her stage name Karen O, is a South Korean-born American singer, songwriter, musician, and record producer. She is the lead vocalist for American rock band Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Early life[edit]

She was born in Busan, South Korea,[1] the daughter of a Korean mother and a Polish father.[3][4][5] The family eventually moved to Englewood, New Jersey, where she grew up.[6] About her childhood, she stated that "it's almost embarrassing how well-behaved I was, which is probably why I do things like spit water on myself on stage as an adult".[7] She attended Oberlin College, but transferred to New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.

Career[edit]

O is best known as the lead vocalist for the band Yeah Yeah Yeahs. She has also been noted for her sense of fashion, wearing ostentatious outfits made by her friend, fashion designer Christian Joy. In the early days of the band, she became well known for her outrageous antics during live shows.[4] Their first ever gig was opening for The White Stripes.[8]

Playboy made an offer for O to pose on their cover, but she stated: "I was approached but I said no. Who knows though? Maybe I'll do it in the future, but now doesn't seem to be the right time."[9] Since then, however, O said in an interview with Associated Press that she has changed her mind and would never do Playboy because of the audience that the magazine attracts.[10]

During a tour for the 2003 Livid Festival in Australia, at a sideshow at The Metro in Sydney, O accidentally danced off the stage and was reluctantly taken to a hospital. A few days later, at the Sydney leg of the Livid Festival, she appeared in a wheelchair pushed onstage by Angus Andrew.[11]

O won Spin Magazine's Sex Goddess Award in 2004 and 2005. In 2006, she was named one of rock's hottest women by Blender.[12] In 2007, O was placed at number three on Spinner.com's Women Who Rock Right Now.[13] In February 2010, she won a Shockwaves NME Award for the Hottest Woman.[14] She began working on a small side project called Native Korean Rock and the Fishnets with fellow NYC musicians in 2008.[15]

Karen O at All Tomorrow's Parties festival, December 2009

In 2009, she contributed backing vocals, screaming animal sounds, and noises to the songs "Gemini Syringes", "I Can Be A Frog", and "Watching the Planets" on The Flaming Lips album Embryonic. In 2011, she contributed vocals on the song "Pinky's Dream" on the David Lynch debut album Crazy Clown Time. In 2012, she collaborated with experimental rock group Swans on the song "Song for a Warrior" on their album The Seer. She also lends vocals to the song "GO!" on Santigold's 2012 album Master of My Make-Believe.

On the collaboration project with N.A.S.A. on The Spirit of Apollo, she appears on the track "Strange Enough", together with Ol' Dirty Bastard and Fatlip. O's vocal approach has been described as "ethereal",[16] and has been described as "yelping" at times.[17] She described her approach:

We still have to grab people by the collar … We put out a record every three years now; we could easily be forgotten. If you look at a lot of our peers that we came up with, a lot of them have disappeared.

— Karen O in the Los Angeles Times, 2009[17]

O has also collaborated with James Iha on his second solo LP Look to the Sky in 2012. In 2014, Target used a version of the song Marshmallow World sung by O.[18] On May 5, 2015, a song by Karen O in tribute to Nellie Bly was used as part of a Google doodle commemorating Bly's 151st birthday.[19] The same year, Microsoft approached O to pen a theme song for Square Enix's game Rise of the Tomb Raider, which resulted in the song "I Shall Rise".[20]

Soundtrack work[edit]

O was featured in the track "Cut Me Up" by Har Mar Superstar for the soundtrack to the 2005 horror film House of Wax. For the movie Jackass 2, O collaborated with electronic artist Peaches and Johnny Knoxville to record a track entitled "Backass"; for Jackass 3D, she covered the Roger Alan Wade's "If You're Gonna Be Dumb" under the alternative title of "If You're Gonna Be Dumb, You Gotta Be Tough". In 2007, she also contributed vocals to a version of Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited" for the I'm Not There film soundtrack.[21] At the end of episode 409, "Brothers Cinco", of the Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! she performed a short song. She also has a song titled "Strange Love" on the album "Frankenweenie Unleashed!"

O collaborated with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross on a cover version of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" for the soundtrack to the 2011 film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, for which Reznor and Ross composed the score.[22] In December 2011, it was announced that the song would open the soundtrack album, be released as the opening single, and be available free to all who pre-ordered before the official release date of December 9.[23]

Work with Spike Jonze[edit]

O and Spike Jonze collaborated on a 2005 Adidas commercial, Hello Tomorrow. O composed all songs on the soundtrack of Jonze's film Where the Wild Things Are (with the exception of a cover of the Daniel Johnston song "Worried Shoes") in collaboration with Carter Burwell. She is listed on the soundtrack as "Karen O and the Kids".[24] The song "All Is Love", written by O and Nick Zinner and included in this soundtrack, was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media, a songwriter's award, at the 2010 Grammy Awards.[25]

O also contributed "The Moon Song" to Jonze's 2013 film Her.[26] O and Jonze were nominated in 2014 for an Academy Award for Best Original Song for "The Moon Song".[27]

Karen O.
Karen O at Bumbershoot 2009.

Video work[edit]

In 2004, O, using the moniker Marshmellow, directed the music video for "We Fenced Other Gardens with the Bones of Our Own" by the Liars, fronted by her then-boyfriend Angus Andrew.[28][29] The following year, she directed the "Blessed Evening" video for Foetus with her then-boyfriend Spike Jonze working as cinematographer.[30] In 2006, she directed the Yeah Yeah Yeahs video for "Cheated Hearts".[31][32]

Under the moniker Kids with Canes, O and her now-husband Barnaby Clay directed the music video for the Tiny Masters of Today song "Hologram World", released in 2008. O also contributed vocals to the song and served as choreographer of the video, in which she appears with Yeah Yeah Yeahs bandmates Nick Zinner and Brian Chase, as well as Mike D from the Beastie Boys, Gibby Haynes from the Butthole Surfers, Russell Simins from the Blues Explosion, and Sam James from The Mooney Suzuki.[33]

KO at Home demo leak[edit]

On December 10, 2006, a home-recorded album titled KO at Home was leaked via an invite-only BitTorrent tracking site. The album, originally a personal gift to Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio, was discovered inside a suitcase that Sitek had left behind in a New York City apartment. The disc's 14 tracks and scan of the cover (a photograph of O with a poem written by Oscar Wilde on the back side of the photo) quickly spread. News sites broke the story of the leak when Sitek lashed out at the fan who leaked the demos.[34][35][36] Eventually, Sitek followed up his comments with an apology letter.[37] In response to the leak, O said that "shit happens", and although she was "a little grossed out", she offered advice on which of the songs she liked the most.[38]

Solo career[edit]

O's debut solo album, Crush Songs, was released on September 9, 2014.[39] It was released on Cult Records via Kobalt Label Services.[40] On February 17, 2015, O released a live album titled Live from Crush Palace, recorded during three shows at Hollywood Forever Cemetery's Masonic Lodge in Los Angeles in September 2014. The album features live renditions of songs from Crush Songs, as well as "Hideaway" from Where the Wild Things Are and "The Moon Song" from Her.[41][42]

Personal life[edit]

O has dated Spike Jonze and Liars lead singer Angus Andrew.[43] In December 2011, she married director Barnaby Clay.[44] Their son Django[45] was born in August 2015.[46]

Philanthropy[edit]

O supported Little Kids Rock, a national non-profit that works to restore and revitalize music education in disadvantaged US public schools, by painting a custom Fender Stratocaster and donating it for an auction to raise money for the organization.[47]

Discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

Live albums[edit]

  • Live from Crush Palace (2015)

Soundtrack albums[edit]

Singles[edit]

Title Year Album
"Hello Tomorrow" (Adidas version)[48]
(with Squeak E. Clean)
2005 Non-album single
"All Is Love"
(Karen O and the Kids}
2009 Where the Wild Things Are:
Motion Picture Soundtrack
"Immigrant Song"[49]
(with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross)
2011 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
"Pinky's Dream"[50]
(David Lynch featuring Karen O)
2012 Crazy Clown Time
"Rapt"[51] 2014 Crush Songs
"Let It Grow"[52]
(Maximum Balloon featuring Karen O and Tunde Adebimpe)
2015 Non-album singles
"I Shall Rise" (from Rise of the Tomb Raider)[53]

Awards[edit]

Year Award Work Result
2010 Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Song "All Is Love" from Where the Wild Things Are Nominated
2014 Academy Award for Best Original Song "The Moon Song" from Her Nominated
2015 Grammy Award for Best Song Written for Visual Media "The Moon Song" from Her Nominated

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Phares, Heather. "Karen O". AllMusic. Retrieved October 28, 2015. 
  2. ^ Marks, Craig (February 25, 2009). "Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Stayin' Alive". Spin. Retrieved November 22, 2010. On a wintry evening in late November [2008], Karen O celebrated her 30th birthday by... 
  3. ^ Chi, Minnie (July 18, 2003). "Half Korean, 100% Rock Star". Asia Pacific Arts. Archived from the original on December 1, 2008. Retrieved April 26, 2008. 
  4. ^ a b Sheffield, Rob (April 7, 2006). "Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Goth, Nerd, Slut". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on November 21, 2007. Retrieved November 24, 2007. 
  5. ^ Catucci, Nick (March 29, 2009). "The Yeah Yeah Yeahs Return With New Album 'It’s Blitz!'". New York Magazine. New York. Retrieved August 13, 2010. 
  6. ^ La Gorce, Tammy. "Success Stories In New Jersey Rock: The Un-Springsteen", The New York Times, November 16, 2003. Accessed January 2, 2008. "All of which is fine by Ms. O, 24, an Englewood native who still lives in Bergen County but declined to say where. Any rock star who struts around in outfits made specifically for her by the designer Christian Joy can expect some of that, she said."
  7. ^ "The Things They Say 13802". contactmusic.com. October 20, 2009. Retrieved November 22, 2010. 
  8. ^ Ganz, Caryn. "Yeah Yeah Yeahs Get Free". Spin. Retrieved April 21, 2014. 
  9. ^ Yeah Yeah Yeahs – O Says No To Playboy June 10, 2003
  10. ^ "Yeah Yeah Yeahs' deal with fame and change". Msnbc.msn.com. Retrieved October 1, 2017. 
  11. ^ "Boys with the hoods clean up". The Sydney Morning Herald. October 13, 2003. 
  12. ^ Errico, Mike (December 2006). "Hottest Women of...Rock". Blender. Archived from the original on February 10, 2007. Retrieved February 9, 2007. 
  13. ^ "Women Who Rock Right Now: No. 3". Spinner.com. July 15, 2007. Retrieved February 26, 2010. 
  14. ^ "Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O wins Shockwaves NME Awards Hottest Female honour". NME. February 25, 2010. Retrieved February 26, 2010. 
  15. ^ Winistorfer, Andrew. "Various Tracks (Stream) - Prefixmag.com". Prefixmag.com. Retrieved October 1, 2017. 
  16. ^ Mikael Wood (September 29, 2009). "Album review: Karen O and the Kids' 'Where the Wild Things Are'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-07-07. …ethereal vocals over charmingly ramshackle folk-pop arrangements … 
  17. ^ a b Margaret Wappler (April 18, 2009). "Yeah Yeah Yeahs will blitz the main stage Sunday". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-07-07. …singer Karen O yelps her mandate over slabs of marbled synths … 
  18. ^ "Karen O Covers 'A Marshmallow World' for Target's Holiday Ads: Listen". Radio.com. Retrieved October 1, 2017. 
  19. ^ "Nellie Bly's 151st Birthday". www.google.com. Retrieved 2016-02-05. 
  20. ^ "Hear Karen O's Haunting New Song in 'Tomb Raider' Video Game Trailer". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2016-02-05. 
  21. ^ "stereogum: New Karen O – "Highway 61 Revisited"". Stereogum. Retrieved October 1, 2017. 
  22. ^ Tom Breihan (May 27, 2011). "Trent Reznor and Karen O Cover Led Zeppelin". Pitchfork. Retrieved May 29, 2011. 
  23. ^ Gil Kaufman (December 2, 2011). "'Girl With The Dragon Tattoo' Track List Revealed". MTV. Retrieved December 2, 2011. 
  24. ^ Kasia Galazka (November 20, 2007). "Karen O is Where the Wild Things Are". Paste Magazine. Retrieved November 20, 2007. 
  25. ^ "Karen O's 'Where The Wild Things Are' song replaces Miley Cyrus in Grammys". NME. December 11, 2009. Retrieved December 12, 2009. 
  26. ^ Minsker, Evan. "Karen O Also Has a Song in Spike Jonze's Film Her". Pitchfork. Retrieved January 5, 2014. 
  27. ^ "2014 Oscar Nominess". Academy of Motion Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on January 10, 2013. Retrieved January 21, 2014. 
  28. ^ "Liars – We Fenced Other Gardens With The Bones Of Your Own". Discogs. Retrieved August 28, 2008. 
  29. ^ Katie Zerwas (2004-07-15). "Liars: We Fenced Other Gardens With The Bones Of Your Own". PopMatters. Retrieved August 28, 2008. 
  30. ^ "Foetus: "Blessed Evening"". foetus.org. Retrieved August 28, 2008. 
  31. ^ Michele Lu (2006-07-28). "Fans star in Yeah Yeah Yeahs "Cheated Hearts" video with help from Final Cut editor Stephen Berger". Internet Video Magazine. Retrieved August 28, 2008. 
  32. ^ "New Release: Yeah Yeah Yeahs "Cheated Hearts"". Video Static. August 4, 2006. Retrieved August 28, 2008. 
  33. ^ David Knight (March 6, 2008). "Tiny Masters of Today's Hologram World by Kids With Canes Inc". PromoNews. Retrieved August 26, 2008. 
  34. ^ "Karen (Dem)O". Stereogum. December 11, 2006. Retrieved October 1, 2017. 
  35. ^ "The Story Behind The Karen O Demo". Stereogum. December 11, 2006. Retrieved October 1, 2017. 
  36. ^ "completely surrounded by no trees: 12/01/2006 - 01/01/2007". Youngliars.blogspot.com. Retrieved October 1, 2017. 
  37. ^ "Blogger". www2.blogger.com. Retrieved October 1, 2017. 
  38. ^ "Yeah Yeah Yeahs discuss demo leak". NME. December 14, 2006. Retrieved October 7, 2017. 
  39. ^ Gordon, Jeremy (June 25, 2014). "Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O Announces First Solo Record, Crush Songs". Pitchfork. 
  40. ^ Karen O is releasing her first vintage solo album June 27, 2014
  41. ^ Goble, Corban (February 10, 2015). "Karen O Streams Live Album Live From Crush Palace". Pitchfork. Retrieved October 7, 2017. 
  42. ^ "Live from Crush Palace by Karen O". iTunes Store (US). Retrieved October 7, 2017. 
  43. ^ "Karen O: 'I'm Married!'". Rolling Stone. December 9, 2011. 
  44. ^ Hudson, Alex (December 9, 2011). "Karen O Announces Marriage to Director Barnaby Clay". Exclaim!. Retrieved April 21, 2014. 
  45. ^ O, Karen. "Thankful for our little Django and for his colorful warm welcome from all of you and…". Twitter. Retrieved December 9, 2015. 
  46. ^ "Karen O Welcomes Baby Son, Shares Adorable First Photo!". Us Weekly. Sep 28, 2015. 
  47. ^ "Retrieved January 13, 2014". Littlekidsrock.org. Retrieved October 1, 2017. 
  48. ^ "Hello Tomorrow (adidas Version) – Single by Karen O". iTunes Store (US). Retrieved October 7, 2017. 
  49. ^ "Immigrant Song – Single by Karen O". iTunes Store (US). Retrieved October 7, 2017. 
  50. ^ "Pinky's Dream (The Remixes) [feat. Karen O] – Single by David Lynch". iTunes Store (US). Retrieved October 7, 2017. 
  51. ^ "Rapt [Explicit]: Karen O: MP3 Downloads". Amazon.com. Retrieved October 7, 2017. 
  52. ^ "Let It Grow (feat. Karen O & Tunde Adebimpe) – Single by Maximum Balloon". iTunes Store (US). Retrieved October 7, 2017. 
  53. ^ "I Shall Rise (From "Rise of the Tomb Raider") – Single by Karen O". iTunes Store (US). Retrieved October 7, 2017. 

External links[edit]