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Rarely, if ever, does a two-year-old song effortlessly claim the top of any Billboard chart. But after “First Kiss” — a black-and-white short that features 20 strangers locking lips for the first time — went viral with over 69 million views in a single week, the film’s backtrack, Soko‘s “We Might Be Dead by Tomorrow,” debuted at the top of the Billboard streaming songs chart.
STORY: ‘First Kiss’ Director Opens Up About ‘Most Insane Moment,’ Favorite L.A. Spots
French singer Soko (aka Stephanie Sokolinski) initially released the track in 2012, and after being recruited by good friend Melissa Coker, founder of L.A. fashion label Wren, to be in the video, she nudged Coker and director Tatia Pilieva to help themselves to her music. Interestingly enough, they gravitated toward the bittersweet track that, with minimal yet ethereal string instrumentation, urgently calls for love in the inevitable face of death.
“I have this extremely high consciousness of death, that it’s just around the corner, so I hold on to every bit of love I can get,” Soko tells The Hollywood Reporter of writing the track, which mentions the loss of her father within the first lines. “It’s all about setting down your walls and being a lover every day, because death is just around the corner. It’s calling people out on being even more loving, and stop all the ‘I’m too busy for a relationship’ talk, and selfish things of that kind, just because they are scared to be vulnerable and to love.”
THR caught up with Soko about the incredibly personal song, recording new music after going viral and learning for the first time what a Billboard chart actually is.
When did you write “We Might Be Dead by Tomorrow”?
I wrote that song about two years ago. I was going through a really rough time — I lost my dad when I was 5, he died overnight in bed with my mum. And I think it affected my and brother’s lives in such a way that we are absolute lovers of life. I get so attached, so quickly because I have this extremely high consciousness of death, that it’s just around the corner. So I hold on to every bit of love I can get. I’ve played this song so many times live, and it still makes me teary each and every time I perform it.
STORY: Viral ‘First Kiss’ Video Sends Soko to No. 1 Debut on Billboard’s Streaming Songs Chart
The song is the opposite of bitter — it’s all about setting down your walls and being a lover every day, because death is just around the corner. It’s calling people out on being even more loving, and stop all the “I’m too busy for a relationship” talk, and selfish things of that kind, just because they are scared to be vulnerable and to love. I find it sad, but ultimately, the song is all about embracing love as the most grandiose thing in life.
You used very few instruments in the song’s recording — just some soft strings and a guitar. What went into the decision to do this?
When I write a song, I already have all the arrangements in my head right away. I wanted [the instrumentation] to reflect my very thoughts: how vital these words are and were for me at that time. I was crying the whole time I was writing it. I felt hopeless from so many people being caught in everyday life’s stuff and forgetting to allow time and open their heart to the most important thing in life (in my eyes) — love.
I felt so vulnerable the night I wrote it that I woke up, called my friend Yeti Beats and asked if I could come by his studio. I recorded the guitar and vocals live at the same time — just a couple of takes, and then asked my friend Indiana to play violin on it. She literally did two paths of it and that was it. I wanted her to play a lot of harmonics because I think they sound like crying whales, and I find it to be the saddest and most beautiful comforting sound ever. The session was wrapped in a few hours — literally, the easiest studio day ever — and at the end, I thought, “This is my favorite song that I’ve ever recorded.”
How did the song end up in the “Kissing Strangers” video?
My friend Melissa Cocker from Wren asked me to be part of her little “art project film where you have to kiss a stranger,” and I said yes right away, and “hey, if you want to use any of my music, you’re welcome to it.” She and Tatia went straight to this song because it felt like such a perfect fit — a tender, lovely feeling of sharing a beautiful, vulnerable moment, such as a first kiss with someone you’ve never met before, and you didn’t even “choose” to kiss that particular person in the first place. And now, seeing the little bit of success we got with it, which was so unexpected, feels absolutely unreal. Am I dreaming? Is this the real world? Thank you, world; you’re cool.
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The song has become the top streaming song on the Billboard chart. Did you expect the track to be given new life through the “First Kiss” video?
I had no idea! I just asked — or begged — Melissa and Tatia to use my music for the “First Kiss” video since I was going to be in it anyways, without any other motive than having my music in a cool little art project that is all about spreading love. To be honest , I was with my girlfriend when someone told me that, and I told her, “Dude, WTF is that? I’m on some weird charts thing called ‘the billboard’?” She laughed so hard because I didn’t know what it was, and she was freaking out even more than me, saying, “You have no idea how big this is. If that was me, I’d be bouncing up and down like a crazy person right now!”
What’s next for you?
I’m working on my new record called My Dreams Dictate My Reality, produced by Ross Robinson. It’s been an incredible adventure working with him — he is all about making things real and emotional, and getting the best, most honest and pure performances out of me. It’s very different from the first one — a lot more ’80s with goth, new wave and punk influences. It still has super dark, vital themes: a lot about dreams, refusing to be an adult, and fear of death and childhood nightmares, but it’s actually a lot more upbeat. It’s going to be fun to play it live. I’m also about to start directing my music videos for the songs (and star in two films as strong female characters). I can’t wait to find a manager and a label to help me put it out, and then tour all over the world.
Watch the “First Kiss” video, featuring Soko’s “We Might Be Dead by Tomorrow,” below:
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