Karen O might be the frontwoman for one of the most popular bands in the past decade, but her songs off of her first solo record Crush Songs take on a vulnerable quality. Her performance of “Rapt” is a perfect example of fragile melodies constructed around tender and emotional lyrics.
In her performance for Sofar Sounds, Karen O enters the room and sits in her chair almost bashfully, her acoustic guitar teetering on her lap. She strums a few chords, opens her mouth and…nothing comes out. Just when you think she forgot the words, she breaks the uncomfortable silence with an angelically light voice. Karen O plays with the song’s simplicity throughout her performance, scattering in subtle surprises where you least expect them.
“Rapt” is most certainly about love, and while the music is wistful and atmospheric, the lyrics are far more ballsy. In that same girlish voice that captures us with innocent tales of a long-lost love, she chirps “love is soft, love’s a fucking bitch.” Her heart is bleeding from her sleeve in this performance, and the lyrics reflect this frankness.
The audience sits on the floor, cross-legged in perfect silence as Karen O sings her tune. One woman stares at her with her mouth slightly agape and a pair of headphones hanging around her neck. In this environment it’s impossible not to fully engage with the lyrics. They’re the center of attention.
Karen O weaves a tale of a woman who loves someone to a level that is more than she can handle. In “Rapt,” she describes this type of love as an addiction of which she can’t break free, or perhaps one that she doesn’t want to give up entirely. The narrator is at once melancholic and delirious. On one hand, the subject of her devotion causes her a bittersweet pain, but on the other, she refuses to leave the source of her pain behind. It is a place of extreme emotional vulnerability, and Karen O uses this feeling to embrace her audience.
The performance is filled with quirks that are by no means technically perfect, but somehow make the song more endearing. As Karen O reaches the last line, she goes for one final high note. The note barely squeaks out before bailing out entirely, but she smirks into the microphone and laughs it off. It was a light moment that was almost necessary at the end of a song riddled with heavy emotion. Her bubbly personality clashed with, but also complemented the themes in “Rapt.”
Karen O is currently on tour in support of her new album.
You can listen to the record’s version of “Rapt” here, or check out the performance video below: