Karen Elson releases her debut album, The Ghost Who Walks, this week. In honour of Karen, it's time for a look at some music made by fashion models. This lineup is limited to those who have made interesting or at least listenable music; no room for Naomi Campbell's disastrous 90s pop efforts here.
Catapulted to fame in The Velvet Underground by Andy Warhol, Nico, with her striking contralto voice and statuesque appearance, soon broke free of the Factory's control and aesthetic. Her own work is characterised by her morbid proto-goth lyrics, folk-infused style and heavy use of the harmonium, on which she performed often. Sadly, she died quite young after decades of heroin abuse.
Another Warhol protegee from a different era, Grace Jones began making music in the late 1970s, at the height of the disco phenomenon. She was and is as famous for her fierce pop-art image as her music, and is an obvious influence on the likes of Lady Gaga today. Her music became progressively more left-field as time progressed. She made a successful comeback in 2008 after a long hiatus.
The modern era:
After quitting the catwalk and before shacking up with Nicolas Sarkozy, Carla produced some genuinely quite interesting records, mostly performing in French. She was quite fond of setting poetry, such as WB Yeats, to her own musical arrangements. Her light, breathless voice is surprisingly listenable. Whether she will make any more music is yet to be seen.
The video below isn't Lissie's famous Hot Chip cover, which seems to play every time I go in a branch of Topshop. Lissie's music is spare and elegant post-punk, and her own compositions (like this one) more than stand up to scrutiny. Her guitar-playing is pretty handy, too. Sadly, her recorded output is quite limited, with only one EP and a few digital single releases in three years.
Karen's first album is a couple of years in the making. She has been playing live and recording with her husband, Jack White. Although she releases on White's Third Man label, her style is more dustblown murder ballad than garage rock. She has a surprisingly strong, emotive voice, which she uses to deliver her goth-flavoured lyrics. She is touring Europe soon.