I have no idea what to expect from Tim Burton’s newest film, Frankenweenie. It’s not that it doesn’t interest me. His films in fact always have a way of pulling me in. It’s just that his work has a way of being so uneven – as both an overall canon and as individual pieces – that it’s virtually impossible to know what you’ll get. Somehow Burton’s films can feel grandiose while also stall or rehashed, with an aesthetic that he’s used over and over before.
What does interest me about this new endeavor is the involvement of Karen O’s song “Strange Love.” She has become an indie go-to-girl, adding both unique spice and cinematic overtones to films with darkness and edge. Her collaboration with Trent Reznor was something of a revelation when it appeared in the first teaser trailer for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo:
What’s most enticing about Karen O is her unpredictable range. Nothing about her work on “Immigrant Song” could prepare us for her work with Burton. Her talent is obvious and, while she’s far from obscure, she’s also subverted the suffocating radar of mainstream pop.
Her shape-shifting voice and far-reaching imagination seems to know no bounds. For this new track she leaves behind the sharp, penetrating slices of metal beats for a calypso, Hawaiian tonality similar to Harry Belafonte’s “Jump in Line” made famous in Burton’s Beetlejuice:
The spooky underbelly of the song feels like a giddy, tongue-in-cheek play on the camp styling that fuels much of Burton’s interests. Karen O’s innocent vocals throw the song back to the kinds of childishness most affected by these kinds of quirky/spooky films. Burton has always kept one foot in the children’s genre after all.
No telling yet how Frankenweenie will play when released on October 5th. Burton has emerged as one of the essential America directors in recent memory, even if his imagination sometimes out thinks itself. It might be wishful thinking to hope Karen O gets an Oscar nomination for the song, but one never does know. Either way, the song already exists as another compelling addition to an artist that’s growing quite major herself.