Need To Know: Lolene
By Noah Michelson
In the video for "Sexy People" (below), Lolene makes it clear that her take-no-prisoners approach to pop isn't the only thing she's got going for her. She's also got a neon-lit "disco vagina" which serves -- metaphorically, of course -- as the entrance to The Electrick Hotel, her debut album out in February. Currently on her first U.S. club tour, we caught up with Britain's newest musical export to find out how the party in her hot pants got started, how she separates herself from the other pop princesses ruling the charts, and what happened when she found a gay sex site on her (now ex-)boyfriend's computer.
Out: How did your first performance in the U.S. end up being at the White Party in Las Vegas?
Lolene: The type of music I make appeals to a gay audience. I'm very social and colorful -- a happy person. A lot of my friends are gay and I tend to live that lifestyle more often than not, so it was just natural that I did that. What happened was, we just hired Flylife [a PR company that specializes in gay press] and they're helping to organize my whole club tour and they said, 'What about the White Party?' and I was like, 'Yeah! I'd love to do that.' I always appreciate gay fans because they're so dedicated and non-judgmental and that's how my friends are with me. I felt like I was in a big room full of my friends.
You were "delivered" onto the stage via a giant vagina. What the hell is that about?
Damien Hirst glamorized the skull -- he took something that was generally 'death' and made it fabulous -- and that really inspired me. And so for me it was the vagina. It's the most powerful thing in the world, everyone comes from it, and there are so many things associated with it: birth, new life, things coming from you. And so I thought, I'd like a disco vagina birthing out these hot pop songs! Yeah, that's it, a disco vagina! So, I had this vision -- inspired by Damien -- to glamorize the pussy. It's not a biology lesson [laughs] but if it was crystallized and bright and neon, then everyone could think it was cool. The idea was to have a 3-D one made -- and it is being made -- but for the White Party we used the curtain because the 3-D one isn't ready yet.
Gay men don't exactly have the best relationship with the vagina, so if anything is going to get them excited about it, I guess it's giving it a disco makeover.
[Laughs.] Exactly. Just marry the two together. I mean, gay men come from one, right? And it's a disco vagina so let's just have a cocktail and get over it. And the whole point is I have my "disco babies" -- they're neon babies that are like my songs. So we'll have the disco vagina and then we'll have disco babies. We'll cover dolls in glitter and hang them up and give them crazy hair and they'll be glowing in the dark.
So you have a concept for everything right down to the staging.
I do. I'm going to sell the disco babies, too. They'll be miniature and you can squeeze its belly and it'll say 'I'm too sexy for this club, OK?' I want everyone to have a disco baby. It's fun! We live in such a gloomy time right now, people need a little fun.
Your debut album, The Electrick Hotel, comes out in February. What happens there?
My disco vagina is more for my stage show. For the concept of the album, it's similar to the vagina thing but it's like, I'm a hotel. You're my guest when you put my album on. You've come to stay with me. When you're pressing play, you're checking into my hotel. I'm going to take care of you and hope you enjoy each song. Each song is a different room and a different vibe. 'Sexy People' is the penthouse party. Then there are little piano songs that you might hear at the bar while crying into your martini. It's a very eclectic pop album. 'Sexy People' is all about having a good time but my album has a lot more depth to it. It shows a lot more of my talents as a writer and as a vocalist. There are some wild concepts and some stark, sad songs as well. You'll get your money's worth with The Electrick Hotel.
Why do you think pop music has had such a strong resurgence in the last few years?
Everything comes around again. Everything has cycles in life, from fashion to music to lifestyle changes in general. [A few years ago] in England we were having a real singer-songwriter phase. We were known for Corinne Bailey Rae and all the bands that were coming out there -- very simple music, which I love, but I'm not that. I'm very shiny. So I thought I'll go to America and write some songs, and the timing worked out perfectly. America certainly went through a very hip-hop phase and I think that's why Britney hit so hard. At the time it was super hip-hop and then a pop singer came along it's was like 'Oh, that's refreshing!' I think it's the perfect timing for pop because my idea of pop is shiny and happy and digestible and fun and tongue in cheek. So in gloomy economic times, in gloomy times in the world in general, what better time for a bit of sparkle?
How are you different from the other female pop singers currently on the charts?
Mainly that I'm mixed race. It's fairly unusual to see darker girls, if you like, doing pop -- unless it's urban pop. Mine is super pop. So that's one thing. Also, I've written my songs and written for many artists -- like Lady Gaga has done -- and you have to give pop artists props for that because it's a different skill to write songs and to produce a song and to create your own stage show than just singing in a studio. A lot -- not all, it's getting better now -- of pop artists just sing other people's songs. I'm proud to say that I write my own songs. It's purely my own vision coming out then. From the songs, to the stage show, to the fashion -- it's all me. I love Gwen Stefani -- I saw her yesterday -- and she's another bad-ass chick who is consistently doing her own thing. She's not recording songs that have been shopped around to all the labels and then bought for the highest price and that's important. So my ethnic heritage, plus the fact that I write, plus I just get up on stage and do whatever and say whatever I think -- I'm a very unrestrained pop artist.