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She deserves to be as big as Florence + the Machine. So why is big-eyed pop goth Natasha Khan – aka Bat for Lashes – still a cult singer? With her most anticipated album yet on the way, she talks about her rivalry with Welch, her bouts of self-doubt and her decision to pose (almost) nude on the cover of the new record.
Ed Power, 17 Oct 2012
There’s no polite way of asking a critically lauded pop star why she decided to get her lady-bits out for public delectation. Though, to be accurate, you can’t actually see any of Natasha Khan’s wobblier parts on the cover of her new album – everything’s terribly tasteful and moody and arty, as she tells you at length when really all you’re after is the answer to a simple query. “What were you thinking, Natasha?” The image in question is classy naked, for sure. But proper, NSFW naked all the same.
How did you respond to it?” says the Bat For Lashes singer, as if discussing a pretentious movie we’ve both just sat through rather than the sleeve shot accompanying The Haunted Man for which – have we mentioned this already? – she stands before the world sad eyed and disrobed, a pasty-arsed randomer slung, game-hunter-style, over her shoulder. Er… says Hot Press, blushing like a schoolboy. We thought you looked very... nude...
“Well, it’s obviously an extremely vulnerable picture,” she says, her voice the quavering coo of someone not 100% sure of themselves. “I’m proud of the power in that. It looks very different from the way women are presented in the media. Women are portrayed in a sexual, glossy and provocative way. I wanted to represents aspects of female nudity different from what you’d see in Nuts.”
The provocative snap was taken by art-house photographer Ryan McGinley. The shoot lasted five hours and mostly involved Khan in her birthday suit hefting an underfed chap chosen for his lightness of limb.
“Initially I felt shy,” she admits. “I wasn’t performing. I was part in a piece of art. I think the results are honest. I’m not assuming any airs or graces or anything like that.”
The Haunted Man is a big moment for Khan. Over the past few years she has built a respectable cult following (Thom Yorke and Scott Walker are fans) without ever quite breaking through, Florence and the Machine-style. Her songs – the poppier ones anyway – are catchy and fascinating, an intriguing mix of Kate Bush, Siouxsie & The Banshees and, on her 2009 sort-of-hit ‘Daniel’ especially, Fleetwood Mac. But she can’t bring herself to play the game, to submit to the compromises of a pop career. She’s too bruised and coy to fit comfortably in the mould of conventional star.