Kiov croons eerie pop tunes
Posted on Sep 16, 2008 in Features
Estonia is not the first place that pops into your mind when you think of music. But for Kerli Koiv that didn’t stop her from following her dreams of being a famous musician. As a teen, Koiv competed in the Euorolal (like “American Idol”) and Swedish Melodifestivalen, placing second and seventh, respectively.
For a woman whose home country dubbed failure in the music industry the “Kerli Syndrome,” and who, according to Blender Magazine, went to extreme lengths to cross the border and perform — she crawled under a graveyard — she remains very upbeat. Koiv released her debut album, “Love is Dead,” on July 28. Obviously, “Kerli Syndrome” hasn’t hurt Koiv — her album topped off at No. 1 on the Estonian charts, and No. 126 in the United States.
The title track, “Love is Dead,” introduces listeners to the clean, haunting voice of the 21-year-old Estonian pop star. The chilling sound of the song is accompanied by melancholic lyrics like “Love is dead/Love is gone/Love don’t live here anymore” and “I know that you think of me when you’re beside her, inside her.” Koiv’s most popular U.S. song “Walking on Air,” landed a spot on a commercial for FOX’s new show, “Fringe,” and for good reason. “Walking On Air,” although a bit eerie, is arguably the catchiest and most accessible song on the album.
The old timey piano trill and vocals on “The Creationist” held my attention, and the strong, pop-rock sound of “I Want Nothing” made me forget I was listening to a virtual unknown. Kerli changes her sound again with “Up Up Up,” a song on which her voice is strangely reminiscent of Nelly Furtado’s.
A song about hurtful love is a staple on any pop album, and Kerli delivers with “Bulletproof,” which, despite its somewhat cliché title, is pretty enjoyable. In it, Kerli tones down the pop and opts for a more earthy, rock sound, telling her lover to “be careful what you do/’cause I’m not bulletproof.” “Beautiful Day” offers an uplifting message, and is OK, if you like unidentifiable, computer-tweaked instrumentation.
I’m not usually inclined to listen to things titled “Creepshow,” and Kerli didn’t give me a reason to do so in the future. On this track, she calls her homeland a creepshow, saying “I’m from a land called secret Estonia/nobody knows where it’s at.”
“Hurt Me,” a song tinged with melancholy, and not devoid of synthesizers, chronicles abuse she has endured, telling the abuser to hurt her if it makes them soar.
“Butterfly Cry” follows the same theme as “Hurt Me,” but is much slower and instead of only focusing on negative aspects of life, Kerli tells listeners to “let go your pain” and “kiss the sky” because “the world is wonderful.”
The last two tracks of the album failed to catch my interest: “Strange Boy” was just that, and “Fragile” was a bit too slow to end the album with a bang. Although I wouldn’t say that Kerli is a failure in the music industry, I can tell that only a select audience will find “Love Is Dead” worthwhile. While Kiov’s singing style and songs are interesting, it might take a while for her brand of punk pop to make a big impact in the United States. Try out Kerli if you’re into an eerie, European pop sound — you just might like it.