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SoKo, SoKute at Bardot

October 23, 2008 |  2:22 pm

Soko

Wrapped in a fluffy Republic of California towel, the 22-year-old French singer and actress known as SoKo played her first U.S. gig Wednesday night at Bardot. Still an unknown quantity in the U.S., SoKo's kind of like France's Kimya Dawson. The song "I'll Kill Her," (which refers to the new girlfriend of an ex-boyfriend and is delivered with a straight-faced sense of humor) from her 2007 debut EP "Not SoKute," landed spots on music charts across Europe and in Australia.

With her chin-length black hair, teasing eyes, impish smile and child-like voice, SoKo is almost terrifyingly cute, although her startlingly frank lyrics give her away. She began her set with a song called, "I Think I'm Pregnant." The main verse is simply the title sung over and over again in a kind of mantra, relieved (we suppose!) by a chorus of, "I'm getting bigger and bigger." For any woman in the audience not currently trying to conceive, it's a horrible tune to get stuck in your head, and a worse one to sing out loud to your boyfriend.

Watching SoKo manically move between her Casio keyboard, a bare-bones drum kit, a ukulele and a guitar, I was reminded a bit of Marion Cottilard's portrayal of Edith Piaf in the 2007 film "La Vie En Rose." Despite her earnest, full-throated vocals, aggressive foot-stomping, charming stage banter and wickedly adorable giggle, her performance felt a bit put on -- as if being cute is a cover for a much darker persona, one that would have been nice to see more of on stage. After a while, her wanton adorableness -- which caused men to stare at her with a kind of off-guard tenderness and women to smile despite their jealousy -- began to suffocate like a blanket of honey.

Flashes of darkness were few and came at unexpected moments, like when she refused audience requests for "I'll Kill Her."

"I can't play that," she said tersely, leaving the impression that she had moved on artistically or wasn't pleased with the song to begin with.

She concluded her nearly hourlong set with a plea for love. "I'm looking for a vegan boyfriend who doesn't smoke or drink or do drugs," she said, breaking countless drunken, carnivorous hearts across the room.

--Jessica Gelt

Photo credit: Sarah Kahn

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