Kerli – Love Is Dead
By Rikki O.
Critics are so quick to choke something new down into some neatly labeled little jar, but can’t we on occasion allow a piece of music to breathe outside of predefined stereotypes? If there were ever a case for my argument, it would be for the debut cd release Love Is Dead by 21-year-old singer songwriter Kerli. Her music, much like the stunningly beautiful Estonia-born lady herself, is a melting pot of fairytale contradictions and is light years away from being easily definable. She’s been compared to Bjork, Pink, Alanis Morrisette, Natasha Bedingfield, Avril Lavigne and plenty of others; the truth, however, is always more complicated than simple comparisons. Kerli seems to me to be completely capable of embracing the pop title being thrust upon her without losing the integrity of her vision; she manages to hold attention without the sad prerequisite striptease that accompanies most up and coming pop stars.
One thing is certain, and that is the effect that Kerli and her music will undoubtedly have upon the vulnerable and searching teenagers of the world. Love Is Dead is sprinkled with lyrics that speak directly to me at age 15, back when I rocked purple hair, black nail polish, and a journal at all times (okay, I still rock the black nails). Ballads like the piano-laced “Fragile” (You like the way I’m strong and stand by you/ but I am fragile, too) and the wall-of-sound chorus from “Bulletproof” (be careful what you do/ I’m not bulletproof) both capture her innocent pleas to not be wounded from love. Every time I find myself cringing due to a vapid and trite lyric – for example in “Butterfly Cry” (let the butterflies cry/let them cry for you), she manages to redeem the song’s worthiness by singing with such hopeful inflections (just dry your eyes/because the world is wonderful) that I can’t stay jaded.
One of my favorite tracks on the cd is “Creepshow” precisely because of how, well, odd it is. Beginning with a series of child-like la-la-la-la-la-la’s and launching into heavy electronic beats, this is the song I could see Kerli using as the opener to her live shows. The singsong chorus (I’m from a land called secret Estonia/nobody knows where it’s at/nobody knows where it’s at) is a perfect bounce-around-and-feel-strange energy releaser. “Walking On Air” is a shadowy little stroll straight into a Grimm’s Fairy Tales story. The title track, “Love Is Dead”, heavy-handedly boasts some of the darkest and most adult ideas on the cd (I know that you think of me when you’re inside her/beside her), exploring the gnawing ache of a collapsed relationship.
Her darkest lyrics are unfailingly followed up by a naïve but well-intentioned light at the end of the tunnel. Tracks like “The Creationist” and “Beautiful Day” perfectly define the common denominator threaded throughout Love Is Dead; the theme of conscious transformation of one’s circumstances by creativity and the unfailing belief in one’s dreams. Bewitching and ethereal one moment, angry and hopeless the next; it all seems to come down to that perfectly indefinable place in which all of existence stems from – a place where Kerli is determined to emerge in the precise manner in which she, alone, chooses.