Suzanne Vega's New CD “Beauty & Crime”
I know, this is a pop music CD, and this blog is almost exclusively devoted to classical. And my last post was about a banjo CD that had both classical and bluegrass on it. Well, surprise, surprise - I like a lot of contemporary music, and the title of this blog is "Great Music for Everyone". I don't normally blog about pop music because a million other bloggers do, and most of them know more about it than I do.
The album is a very poetic meditation on New York - it's character as a city, and the emotional changes that the city went through after 9/11. The album title is taken from the lyrics for the song "New York Is a Woman". You can see a video clip of Vega performing it live here and she has posted all of the song lyrics on her website.
There are numerous reference to 9/11 on the CD, but there is no sense of mourning or maudlin fixation on the wounds the city endured. A ground zero rescue worker is the central character of "Angel's Doorway". Angel's wife has to deal with the event one step removed as she deals with the smell of smoke and the dust he brings home on his clothing every night. "Anniversary," written a year after the attacks, talks of changes in the lives of survivors who are urged now to "watch for daily braveries" and "notice new found courtesies."
The lyrics for "New York Is a Woman", a song about an out of towner staying over in the city after a business trip really capture a sense of the city's strength and character shortly after the attack:
and she's every girl you've seen in every movie
every dame you've ever known on late night TV
in her steam and steel is the passion you feel
New York is a woman she'll make you cry
and to her you're just another guy
look down and see her ruined
smoke and ash still rising to the sky
she's happy that you're here but when you disappear
she won't know that you're gone to say goodbye
New York is like that. Tough, alluring and quite capable of moving on without you, and breaking your heart in the process.
Musically, the album is a showcase for Vega's extraordinary stylistic versatility. There are two very danceable tunes ("Zephyr & I" and "Unbound"), the bossa nova beat "Pornographer's Dream" and other tunes that reflect her folk music roots. There are even hints of classical music here, with a string section backing up some of the pieces, and some really lovely cello work on "Edith Wharton's Figurines". Her voice is in fine form, lush and emotive, and really pulls you into the lyrics and what she is trying to say musically.
Buy the CD. What more can I say.