Karen O: Bravery

Apple Music
Karen O: Bravery

“I came onto the New York music scene in 2000 and felt like a rare bird as a mixed-race Asian American woman in rock,” Karen Lee Orzolek tells Apple Music. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman, better known as Karen O, was born in South Korea before her family moved to New Jersey when she was a child. Although there were a few late-’90s indie rock artists from the AAPI community—Blonde Redhead, Cornelius, Cibo Matto and their side project Butter 08—Orzolek says the “tide has turned” in this last decade: “What a joy to be swooning to Japanese Breakfast, SASAMI, and The Linda Lindas these days.” Her exclusive playlist for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is a mix of old favorites and new discoveries, and features songs that are tied to formative, sentimental memories. Park In Soo's psychedelic “Spring Rain,” for example, reminds Orzolek of her family's complicated history: “As a kid, most of our holiday gatherings involved karaoke, and I’d be in awe as my emotionally reserved Korean uncle would lay into a song with all his heart. This track reminds me of the way that made me feel, the pain and heartbreak of generations of oppression and occupation all there, raw on the surface. This is some serious roots rock for me.” Later on, she throws in Blonde Redhead's “(I Am Taking Out My Eurotrash) I Still Get Rocks Off,” a clangy cut from 1995 that she vividly recalls seeing performed live in college: “Seeing [Japanese frontwoman] Kazu [Makino] whip around the stage, hair concealing her face in a feral trance, I felt a little jealous. I’m pretty sure that was an 'I wanna do that' moment before I went for it a few years later in New York.”

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