We are at odds with pop culture. Maybe there is something in the tattoo ink permeating our blood that makes us skeptical, but it seems clear to us that most summer blockbusters, Billboard artists, and mall fashion are created to appeal to the simpleminded masses. In our search for art we tend to reject the mainstream on principle. So when we first heard of Christina Perri, who got her big break by having her ballad “Jar of Hearts” played on So You Think You Can Dance, it was easy to dismiss her as just another Jewel. Then we took the time to take a second look at Perri, her tattoos, and even those Twilight books she’s always talking about. The tween literature offers some compelling words that have been turned into tattoos by many: “If I could dream at all, it would be about you.” “Time passes. … Even when each tick of the second hand aches like the pulse of blood behind a bruise.” “And so the lion fell in love with the lamb. What a stupid lamb. What a sick, masochistic lion.” Turns out Twilight author Stephenie Meyer exceeds expectations—just as Perri’s “Jar of Hearts” lyrics do: “And who do you think you are?/Runnin’ ’round leaving scars/Collecting your jar of hearts/And tearing love apart/You’re gonna catch a cold/From the ice inside your soul.”
So Meyer isn’t Billy Shakespeare, and Perri isn’t yet John Lennon. But the Beatles did start out as a boy band of sorts—one that Perri grew up listening to. Others in her musical education, like James Taylor and “phases” of Lil’ Kim and Guns N’ Roses, are eclipsed by her all-time favorite, crooner Dean Martin. And based on her pipes and the chops she has to stand and deliver the message of a heart-wrenching song without the help of modern effects, Perri seems to have a little Dino in her. Maybe it’s her Italian blood, which she honors with a chest tattoo that reads “Mia Famiglia.”
“[For the most part] my family was opposed to my tattoos when I got them from ages 15 to 23,” recounts 24-year-old Perri. “But now that I’m doing well they tell me that they are cute.” She’s recently been getting her work done by Taka Tamada at Body Electric Tattoo in Los Angeles, but 28 of her 35 tattoos were inked by Reverend Mike in her native state of Pennsylvania. Her break-in song was also conceived at home while she was dealing with a divorce. “I was in a pretty dark, scary place where you are in between lives,” she says. “I was home in Philly for Christmas 2009. I didn’t think I’d go back to L.A. I didn’t have a job, I didn’t have a dude. And my first big, epic relationship from years ago called looking for me. For the first time, I didn’t give in. And then I wrote [‘Jar of Hearts’].”
Not long after came So You Think You Can Dance, and publicity from the internet and performances on shows like The Tonight Show With Jay Leno and Conan. “Without YouTube I wouldn’t have launched as big and as fast as I had,” Perri says. “If I won an award, I’d have to thank YouTube and Twitter … I really wish I knew what Eddie Vedder did all day long.”
In her first bid toward someday giving that acceptance speech, she released the EP The Ocean Way Sessions and is following it up with a full-length album and a tour that includes performances of “Jar of Hearts” and “My Eyes.” Of the latter Perri says, “That’s a song about [Twilight’s vampire protagonist] Edward Cullen. When I was going through the divorce I used the fantasy land as an escape.”
She’s also immortalized Twilight with another type of verse, a tattoo featuring the script from the book’s cover and the word “Cry.” It’s an understatement to say she’s excited for the final Twilight movie to hit multiplexes in the fall. “I’ll be waiting on line!” she says sincerely. A sweet sentiment, but by then we trust she’ll be big enough to get tickets without having to queue up.
H&M shorts; American Apparel socks; vintage T-shirt and sunglasses.