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Karen O

Karen O


Karen O, the striking singer for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and queen of the new new wave, is an original in an industry crowded with picture-perfect clones. With the white-hot Show Your Bones CD new in stores and a tour under way, the critics' fave chatted about the girls she likes and the boys who like her.

What do your gay fans usually say when they approach you? I would think they'd mention the withering chorus to "Bang" ["You sucked" is the only part of it that can be printed here] because it's such a great way to put an ex in his place. Oh, I knew that's what you were going to say, but no [laughs]--men never talk to me about that line! Ever! Really? No! But I've had these very pretty, just really gorgeous very young guys come up to me and tell me while they had only slept with a girl once--and that they would never do it again--that they want to have sex with me so that I could have their child! [Laughs]

That's quite a compliment! What do you think is the appeal? I don't know, I never thought about it. It's definitely an honor, though, having gay fans. I'm me, I'm my own thing, and I think [gays] get that. Also I think it's because I like tweaking gender roles.

Is gender-bending an inspiration for your look? My designer, Christian Joy, and my hairdresser, Seiji [Uehara], and I always work on that; it's always changing. Right now my look is all about Joan of Arc. I like the idea of that, the girl-boy.

Your song "Mystery Girl" sounds like it's about a girl crush. Who was the object of your affection in that song? That song wasn't about a particular girl. When I first started writing songs, the subject (the person I was singing about or to) would be a girl. But there are two types of girls I get crushes on. One is the sort of girl who's really got it together and who has a sort of boyish look and who's really got it going on. And then the other is the blond cheerleader type who has like a lip ring or something like that but yet is still just clueless.

So there are women or have been women you've had crushes on? Actually, all of my sex dreams are of a same-sex or homoerotic nature. I'm telling you more than you probably wanted to hear!

Are you kidding? This is great! Have you acted upon these dreams? I think those fantasies are because, again, I like playing with gender roles and images.

We've talked about how you have made an impact on some gay men; are there any gays or lesbians in your life who've been an influence? My hairdresser, Seiji, has been with me seven years, and he's very quiet and kind, and he's a source of balance. And we have another person in our entourage who is like the whole band's mother. He takes really good care of us. He was the one that gave us the best advice when the Yeah Yeah Yeahs had record labels coming around with contracts and people were writing so much about us. He said, "You can listen to everything that is being said about you, but it can affect you like poison if you let it." I knew that advice was coming from what he'd been through as a gay man.

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