Aimée Osbourne can't get the glitter off her face. It's a cool spring day, and she has just returned to the swank Tribeca hotel where she's staying, ordered a vodka-soda and settled into a seat in the lobby. The singer, who is surprisingly tall, somewhat soft-spoken and always affable, had been at a photo shoot, where a stylist had treated her eyes with glittery makeup and, try as she has to remove it, it seems to be there for good. "You cannot get rid of it," she says with a laugh, her British accent belying her now deep-set Los Angeles roots. Such are the troubles of her new life.
Years after she turned down taking part in The Osbournes – the epochal reality-TV show that catapulted the rest of her family to instant fame – Ozzy and Sharon's eldest daughter, now age 31, has begun taking the first real steps toward a music career of her own. This past March, she released a surrealistic music video for her shimmery, avant-pop song "Raining Gold," which has racked up close to 2 million YouTube views in two months, and now she's planning on putting out an EP this summer under the name ARO. She's also been playing out more frequently.
Public life, Osbourne reports, has been treating her well, following years of people misinterpreting her reclusiveness. "It's ridiculous," she says, opening her eyes wide to emphasize her point. "I'll go and walk the dog with my mom and [people look at me] like, 'The mental patient got permission to leave and is having tea with her mother.'" She laughs.
Now that she's been more actively promoting her music career, the way strangers treat her has begun to change. "A lot of people have come up to me at different times and been like, 'Oh, you're nice. I thought you must've been, like, a hermit or, like, something is wrong with you,'" she says with a laugh. "I'm like, 'No, well, maybe, but it's not that bad.' It's nice to feel like I'm not always being given side eyes like, 'There's the hidden one that doesn't like to talk to anyone.'"
Osbourne was born in September 1983, two months before her father donned wolf-like makeup to support his Bark at the Moon album. "She was such an innocent little thing, when you looked at her you just couldn't help breaking into a huge smile," Ozzy wrote in his 2009 autobiography. She spent her first year on the road with her dad and mom and, other than including a few anecdotes in his book, Ozzy wrote that he respects how Aimee "likes to be anonymous." When the family decided to do The Osbournes, which premiered in 2001, Aimee chose not to participate. "I want to be a singer, and I felt if I'd stayed with The Osbournes and done the whole thing I would have been typecast right away," she told the U.K.'s Independent in 2008, echoing a similar sentiment she expressed to Barbara Walters in 2002.
Although she appeared in MTV's 2003 production of Wuthering Heights, she has mostly stayed out of the public eye. She's continuing to show her quasi need for anonymity now by putting out music under the name ARO – her initials – to avoid what she calls "the obvious associations" with her last name. "I don't think I will ever cross-contaminate my private life and my family life with my public and professional worlds," she says. "For me, nothing's more important than having a very clear boundary between the two. That's just part of who I am."
A cursory listen to her music, though, dispels any connection, familial or otherwise, to her father's music. Spacious and atmospheric, the pulsing, down-tempo "Raining Gold" shares more in common with Lana del Rey than Black Sabbath. "I've always been attracted to music and films and people that are just a little bit unusual and a little bit haunting," she says. "It's just a certain energy...something very cinematic and a little bit creepy."
Osbourne says she wrote "Raining Gold" at a point when she was frustrated with where her career was going. "I felt like I was banging my head against a wall," she says. Her lyrics speak of changing people's perceptions amid a general sense of unfairness, reflecting a feeling at the time that people close to her thought she was dishonest, though she would not detail the specific situation. "It's really overwhelming when you feel [opposition] from a lot of important people in your life," she says. "There's a point where you could rise above it and say, 'I'm gonna get through this and take care of myself,' and that's where I was at."
"I don't consider my music anything other than 'moody.' I don't know if that's a genre."
The video she made for the song, with director Spencer Susser (Hesher, the Offspring's "Want You Bad"), depicts a different kind of horror scene: Osbourne is sitting at the counter of a remote diner with a fresh, gory car wreck outside. She sings, as a bloody man crawls behind her, before she gets into a car and drives away. "When we were making it, I was like, 'What the hell have I gotten myself into?'" she says with a laugh. "It looks like a Norwegian death-metal video. People are gonna be like what's wrong with this girl? But when I got on set, the car scene was just so beautiful I knew it was gonna be cool. But at first I was definitely freaked out."
She cites PJ Harvey and Massive Attack as major influences, both of which resound throughout her recent set at New York's Mercury. People have also told her that her music reminds them of Mazzy Star. "I've had people say, 'Would you consider yourself rock?'" Osbourne says. "I don't really consider my music anything other than 'moody.'" She laughs. "I don't know if that's a genre."
It wasn't until a family friend introduced her to her manager, and he hooked her up with the production team Riot City, that she found the right people to help her realize the sound in her head. "I grew up playing the piano, but you know, as a rebellious child, I convinced myself that I hated it," she says, adding she also took vocal lessons. "So I worked with [Riot City] on building tracks and went away to write a melody and some lyrics."
At a concert a couple of nights later at New York's Mercury Lounge, Osbourne dresses in all black, including her leather jacket, and sings into a gold mic – glitter free. The song "10-4" shows a musical through-line to Portishead," while "Cocaine Style" reverberates a heavy space-rock vibe. "Razorlight" illuminates her Goldfrapp influence with echoey synth-rock, and "Shared Something" sounds more upbeat as brittle, My Bloody Valentine–style keyboards surround her lyrics like, "Looking for you in my thoughts/One look at you, I fall apart." Her final number, before the video tune, is "I Can Change," which sounds poppier and softer, as she sings about dancing in the dark and how "love doesn't matter" and "love is a curse shoved in a hearse." "Raining Gold" closes out the 20-minute performance, after which she says thank you and huddles with her musicians on the side of the stage.
"I haven't even scratched the surface of the whole live experience yet," she says during the interview at the hotel. "I have a friend who's a visual artist and he just made a beautiful visual piece that plays on a big screen in the background. It's not just about the music. It's about the atmosphere and the emotion."
"My family laughs at me. They say, 'We can look at your face and we know what's wrong with you.'"
While discussing some of the barriers that she has had to overcome to get to this point, Osbourne scoffs at Rolling Stone's suggestion that a music career could have been easier for her had she not been so hell-bent on doing it herself. "One would assume," she says. "Had I chosen a very specific career, it would have been easier." She refocuses her words. "I'm a very what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of person, and my family always laughs at me. They're like, 'You have minus-zero poker-face skills. We just have to look at your face and we know what's wrong with you.'
"I can't be passionate about something or really give myself to something if I don't know it's a hundred percent authentic to who I am," she continues. "And this project is a hundred percent authentic. Sometimes it can take a little bit more time than for others who are willing to play the game a little bit more. I have a lot of respect for that, but that's just not something I could have done."
Her family has helped Osbourne follow her passion by giving her a lot of moral support for her music. Her dad likes to point out the riffs he likes ("That's a hit, that's a hit," he tells her), while her mother offers her occasional advice. "They're really happy and excited," she says. "And I think because of the delays and because they know there is a part of me that is so private, they, as parents, might have had doubts that I was doing the right thing. But it's been great to put their minds totally at ease that I'm doing the right thing for myself."
Osbourne says she feels privileged that, having grown up in a show-business environment, she knows the sacrifices she'll have to make. "There's not really many surprises as far as what it's going to take for me and has taken for me to get this point," she says. "But at the same time, this is still intimidating at times and scary, and I feel like I don't know what I'm doing. You get overwhelmed, then I remember I'm doing something that makes me the happiest, that I can feel is the best and truest thing for me to be doing for myself."