Meet Kerli, the New Goth Starlet

Feb. 6, 2008
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The latest doll-sized singer being groomed for major-label stardom, Kerli presents herself as an irreverent, sassy Avril Lavigne-style mallpunk in her press photos, complete with pouty lips, a Hot Topic fashion sense and an affinity for black eyeliner. Her press-release backstory, however, treads far darker than that of the typical suburban starlet:

Growing up in Elva, Estonia, a then-Russian-occupied town of 5,000 residents, Kerli had dreams and aspirations that pushed way beyond the boundaries of her communist surroundings. A product if "tough love," she spent most of her childhood trying to mentally escape.


Exaggerated or not (and it's always difficult to tell with promotional write-ups), that backstory helps explain some of Kerli's bleaker, goth sensibilities, which are heavily displayed on a three-song teaser EP Island Records sent out in advance of forthcoming debut album. The lead track, "Love Is Dead," piles one sullen assertion on top of another, and its refrain can easily be misheard as "God is dead." The EP even ends with a Bauhaus cover, "She's in Parties." While Lavigne infamously had never heard of the Sex Pistols, Kerli seems like she might actually have a couple of Sisters of Mercy records in her collection.

As grim of an initial impression as they make, however, like a Tim Burton movie, these songs are only goth on the surface. The tense, trip-hop arrangements are inevitably brightened by Top 40 hooks and big-budget arrangements, and the morose lyrics lose their sting once twisted into grand choruses. Still, in spite of the over polish these songs stick. There's probably a market for this.

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