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Karen O

Karen O at Bumbershoot '09
Background information
Birth name Karen Lee Orzolek
Born November 22, 1978 (1978-11-22) (age 31)
South Korea
Origin New Jersey, United States
Genres Indie rock,[1] Art punk
Instruments Vocals
Years active 2000–present
Labels Interscope
Associated acts Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Native Korean Rock

Karen Lee Orzolek (born November 22, 1978), better known by her stage name Karen O, is the vocalist for the New York rock band Yeah Yeah Yeahs.


Early life

Karen O was born to a Korean mother and a Polish father in South Korea.[2][3] She eventually moved to America, where she grew up in Englewood, New Jersey.[4] She attended Oberlin College, but transferred to New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. She is now based in Los Angeles.


Karen O has 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.[3]

Playboy had made an offer to pose on their cover. Karen O said on the subject, "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."[5] Since then, however, Karen stated in an interview with Associated Press magazine that she has changed her mind on the issue because of the audience that Playboy magazine attracts.[6]

During a tour for the 2003 Livid Festival in Australia, at a sideshow at The Metro in Sydney, she 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 by Angus Andrew.[7]

Karen O won Spin Magazine's Sex Goddess Award in both 2004 and 2005. In 2006, she was named one of rock's hottest women by Blender.[8] In 2007, Karen O placed #3 on's Women Who Rock Right Now.[9] In February 2010, she won a Shockwaves NME Award for the Hottest Woman.[10]

She had begun working on a small side project called Native Korean Rock and the Fishnets with fellow NYC musicians in 2008.[11]

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.

On the collaboration-project "N.A.S.A. The Spirit of Apollo", she appears on the track "Strange Enough", together with Ol' Dirty Bastard and Fatlip.

Soundtrack work

For the movie Jackass 2, Karen O collaborated with electronic artist Peaches and Johnny Knoxville to record a track entitled "Backass". In 2007, she also contributed vocals to a version of Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited" for the I'm Not There movie soundtrack.[12] At the end of episode 409, "Brothers Cinco", of the Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! she performed a short song.

Where the Wild Things Are

Karen O composed all of the songs on the soundtrack of Where the Wild Things Are in collaboration with Carter Burwell; the film was directed by her former boyfriend Spike Jonze. She is listed on the soundtrack as "Karen O and the Kids" with a cover song originally by Daniel Johnston.[13] Karen O and Yeah Yeah Yeahs bandmate Nick Zinner co-wrote "All is Love", which 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.[14]

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

Video work

In 2004 Karen 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.[15][16] The following year she directed the "Blessed Evening" video for Foetus with her then boyfriend Spike Jonze working as cinematographer.[17] In 2006 she directed the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' video "Cheated Hearts".[18][19]

Under the moniker Kids With Canes, Karen O and her boyfriend Barney Clay directed the music video for the Tiny Masters of Today song "Hologram World", released on February 8, 2008. Karen also contributed vocals to the song, served as choreographer of the video, in which she appears along 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.[20]

The KO At Home demo leak

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 the NYC band TV on the Radio, was discovered inside a suitcase Sitek left behind in a New York City apartment. The disc's 14 tracks and scan of the cover – a photograph of Karen O with a poem written by Oscar Wilde on the back – quickly spread. The music news site broke the story of the leak[21] the following morning and continued their coverage[22] when Sitek lashed out at the fan who leaked the demos.[23] Eventually Sitek followed up his comments with an apology letter.[24] Karen O's response to the leak was "shit happens" and although she was somewhat "grossed out," she offered advice on which of the mp3s she liked the best,[25] namely the tracks "Pumpkin" and "Snakes and Worms".


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Chi, Minnie (2003-07-18). "Half Korean, 100% Rock Star". Asia Pacific Arts. Retrieved 2008-04-26. 
  3. ^ a b Sheffield, Rob (2006-04-07). "Yeah Yeah Yeahs: Goth, Nerd, Slut". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  4. ^ 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."
  5. ^ Yeah Yeah Yeahs – O Says No To Playboy June 10, 2003
  6. ^ Yeah Yeah Yeahs Deal with Fame and Change
  7. ^ Boys with the hoods clean up –
  8. ^ Errico, Mike (December 2006). "Hottest Women of...Rock". Blender Magazine Online. Retrieved 2007-02-09. 
  9. ^ "Women Who Rock Right Now: No. 3". 2007-07-15. Retrieved 26 February 2010. 
  10. ^ "Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O wins Shockwaves NME Awards Hottest Female honour". NME. 25 February 2010. Retrieved 26 February 2010. 
  11. ^ Native Korean Rock & The Fishnets: Various Tracks (Stream)
  12. ^ stereogum: New Karen O – "Highway 61 Revisited"
  13. ^ Kasia Galazka (2007-11-20). "Karen O is Where the Wild Things Are". Paste Magazine. Retrieved 2007-11-20. 
  14. ^ "Karen O's 'Where The Wild Things Are' song replaces Miley Cyrus in Grammys". NME. December 11, 2009. Retrieved 12 December 2009. 
  15. ^ "Liars – We Fenced Other Gardens With The Bones Of Your Own". Discogs. Retrieved 2008-08-28. 
  16. ^ Katie Zerwas (2004-07-15). "Liars: We Fenced Other Gardens With The Bones Of Your Own". PopMatters. Retrieved 2008-08-28. 
  17. ^ "Foetus: "Blessed Evening"". Retrieved 2008-08-28. 
  18. ^ 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 2008-08-28. 
  19. ^ "New Release: Yeah Yeah Yeahs "Cheated Hearts"". Video Static. 2006-08-04. Retrieved 2008-08-28. 
  20. ^ David Knight (2008-03-06). "Tiny Masters of Today’s Hologram World by Kids With Canes Inc.". PromoNews. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 
  21. ^ stereogum: Karen (Dem)O
  22. ^ stereogum: The Story Behind The Karen O Demo
  23. ^ completely surrounded by no trees: 12/01/2006 - 01/01/2007
  24. ^ Blogger: completely surrounded by no trees – Envoyer un message à un ami
  25. ^ Karen O on Demo Leak: "Shit Happens"

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