Karen O says Jimmy Iovine hoped she’d be the next Gwen Stefani

"In my own way, I carved out something for myself"

Karen O has said that Jimmy Iovine hoped she’d become the next Gwen Stefani after Yeah Yeah Yeahs signed to Interscope Records.

The New York trio released their first four studio albums through the major label – which was co-founded by Iovine in 1990 – beginning with their classic 2003 debut, ‘Fever To Tell’.

Earlier this year, it was confirmed that YYYs had signed a new deal with Secretly Canadian. The band will release the highly-anticipated ‘Cool It Down’ – their first record in nine years – tomorrow (September 30).

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In a recent interview with Vulture, frontwoman Karen O talked about how “the music industry couldn’t be more different now” compared to the early-to-mid-’00s. “It’s a matter of survival for a lot of labels, and rock is not really a priority for them anymore,” she said.

“It actually felt like a fluke for our little crew of colleagues back in 2003 – it was such a flash in the pan as far as labels actually championing that and feeling like, ‘Wow, this could be the next Nirvana or something’.”

The conversation then turned to O’s past concern about “Gwenomics”, a term she’s said to have used in relation to the No Doubt singer’s pivot into a solo pop career with ‘Love. Angel. Music. Baby’ (2004).

Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Yeah Yeah Yeahs CREDIT: Jason Al-Taan

“I don’t remember saying ‘Gwenomics’, but maybe,” O responded. “It sounds like I could’ve come up with that term.

“I assume that it probably had to do with this female-led pop-slash-rock mould that maybe they were trying to slot me into. Interscope had these really big prestige acts that were sort of off the cuff but still made it huge.”

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She continued: “Jimmy Iovine was hoping I would be the next Gwen. But I wasn’t. In my own way, I carved out something for myself. But I didn’t deliver on the goods as far as that major-label expectation was concerned.”

Asked if she felt that Interscope were trying to market her as a pop star, O replied: “Definitely not as a pop star. I would have lunch with Jimmy, and he’d talk about working with Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, and Stevie Nicks before he became who he was.

“I think he was thinking of me more within that niche, but there’s always hope that what happens with a Billie Eilish, who’s a very true-blue artist, that maybe people will go mental on it and it’ll be a huge thing.”

O explained that she didn’t necessarily share those ambitions, and was “quite naïve” in her role. “It just wasn’t really what we set out to do,” she added.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs have already shared two singles from the imminent ‘Cool It Down’ in the form of ‘Spitting Off The Edge Of The World’ (featuring Perfume Genius) and ‘Burning’.

NME hailed the record as “a triumphant, rewarding return” in a four-star review, adding: “With ‘Cool It Down’ the trio disregard expectations with ease, bursting through conjectures with tracks that make the apocalypse sound fun.”

Yeah Yeahs Yeahs are scheduled to play headline concerts in New York and Los Angeles next month. Find ticket details here.

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