Cease your frenzy, O governors. I am St. George on this day and I’ve invited the dragon to my lair. I clutch my ballpoint weapon, ready for anything. It makes its move. A furnace of death wells up in its nostrils, prepared to unleash blazes, as I make my move and – did the dragon just twirl its hair?

Sadly, there will be no epic poems to celebrate my valor this time. It turns out Cori Yarckin, the great and feared pop monster of Orange Ave. village is but a diminutive beauty in a T-shirt and jeans. The daughter of a pediatrician, she stands less than 5 feet tall. With her skinny legs pretzeled on a reclining leather chair and her eyelids half-shut, she’s lost in one of her songs, which she simply refers to as “the ballad.” (Actual title: “One Day Too Late,” she later reveals.) Verses of regret fill the air and she nods her head to the massive snare that threatens to short my feeble sound system. Can this be the same Cori Yarckin I’ve heard countless downtown dwellers call “shallow,” “artless” and “venal”? The soulless corporate shill whose very existence spells the demise of our precious scene, the fire-breathing pop dragon?

Another track from her soon-to-be-released album – this one a surprisingly metal party-starter titled “Sucks To Be You” – begins, and I get my answer in the form of Yarckin’s own gritted-teeth vocalizing: “I don’t listen to half of the things that you say, and that voice of yours starts to irritate me in quite a particular way that I’d rather jump off of a bridge.” Yep, it’s her.

A performer since elementary school, when she was a dancer on the Disney Channel (“Everyone starts somewhere,” smiles Yarckin), and throughout stints with the Orlando Opera, dance study with Gregory Hines and an acting run on Nickelodeon during high school, Yarckin possesses an innate ability to mold pop-rock pageantry out of uncomplicated, dear-diary confessionals. Opting to remain unsigned with a major label so far, Yarckin has turned into one of the most successful independent pop acts in the country. Her MySpace page has garnered over 3.5 million viewings and her first single, “On My Own,” a kiss-off little sister to Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone,” has become a kind of theme song for the MTV reality show The Hills this season. For years, Yarckin has been one of the biggest live draws in Orlando. Her boundlessly kinetic show – complete with power kicks swiped from Steven Tyler – is a tightly disciplined forum, not just for Yarckin’s crowd-pleasing showmanship but her band’s impressive metal chops.

“Cori is getting a little more respect from people now that they’ve actually come out and seen [her] show and realized that it’s not some Britney thing,” says Yarckin’s guitarist and co-writer Travis Wetherington. “[We’re] actually a good old-fashioned dirty rock band whose singer is kind of cute.”

Old-fashioned rock is a familiar refrain amongst the Yarckin crew, and seems to be a reaction to the snickers she’s had to endure from elites since her more pop-oriented debut, Ringing in My Head.

“I’m proud of that album,” Yarckin says. “But I write whatever I’m going through, and I’m just not in that place anymore. I’m a performer first and besides, we’re not a serious band. I prefer to just have a good time. I’m not the kind of artist to only write about my self-loathing all the time and play it off as ‘art’; it’s not me. I like Pat Benatar, Cyndi Lauper, and I like cheesy ’80s hair metal.”

With the red streaks running down her otherwise black hair, her sybaritic focus and her throat-shredding anthems, Yarckin, both in person and onstage, is like Fitzgerald’s Daisy Buchanan set loose in a world of Gwen Stefani glamour. Her own Lauper comparison is apt, save for one aspect: critical affection. A pop-punk hybrid star in the ’80s, Lauper was backed by a flawless team of super-producers and co-writers, but the “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” singer was hailed by teens and critics alike for her lack of pretension. Rolling Stone has similarly praised Yarckin in the last couple of years but, she acknowledges, winning over Orlando music insiders – this publication itself participated in some gentle Cori-teasing in the past – has been more difficult.

“Of course you want all the other bands to like you,” Yarckin admits, “but ultimately I don’t care if people don’t like it. They don’t have to like it – if it’s not your thing, it’s not your thing. I get more intimidated by other female bands, to be honest, ’cause there are a few who rock pretty damn hard.”

Wetherington, one of her early converts, saw something in Cori that, he claims, she hadn’t explored fully. “I’m a big fan of pop music, but I also have my roots in ’80s metal,” he says. “The night I saw her, she had a few too many for her little body to handle, so I saw this little glimpse of what she could be if everyone just stopped telling her what to be and she did her thing. There was a little attitude in there.”

Christian Wilson, vocalist for the Lighter Exchange, agrees. “She’s gotten a lot of exposure over the past year and, with that, comes people who just want to cast judgment for one reason or another,” he says, without regard to my whole dragon metaphor. “As a songwriter, you write music for yourself, and that’s really all that matters.”



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