Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Since My Man's Gone - Chanteuses

Pop music. Girl meets boy. Falls in love. It doesn't work out. He hawks his heart elsewhere, (maybe to the devil if he's Robert Johnson). Girl left broken-hearted. Feels the need to tell someone. In song. If these chanteuses don't make you rip your own heart out in solidarity, then you have no heart!

1) Nina Simone - My Man's Gone Now
I first came across the song in a wonderfully campy OTT version sung by Jeffrey Lee Pierce and The Gun Club. I love that version, but then I heard Nina's. It was no longer a campy song anymore, let's put it that way...

2. B52s - Give Me Back My Man
The B52s, vampy beehive beach party band, when could they ever be associated with pain and heartbreak? And yet Cindy Wilson's voice all sugary sweet Stepford Wife flutters and cracks with an undertow of despair until she belts out the title line in the chorus, with a voice of broken glass.

3. Julie London - Cry Me a River
If she is to take her man back, he has to demonstrate to her that he's cried the same floods of tears over her, as she did for him. Her rich voice subtly wavers between the confident and the cracked. Breathy with both sensuality and faltering belief. This song is slow enough for Julie to take her time carefully modulating her delivery of each word. As much as I love punk and all things after, it's freneticism scarce allows for such vocal detail.

4. Poison Girls - Done It All Before
Talking of punk, this is one of those rare slow ones. Is there a more world weary female vocalist than Vi Subversa? "She's done it all before, but not with you". Ouchy!

5. Dionne Warwick - Walk On By
Another female classic I first encountered as a punk cover version courtesy of The Stranglers. But after a confident intro, Dionne's voice hovers on the edge of tremulous without ever surrendering to it. She's keeping it together, but receding ever so slightly in the mix, like she's choking everything back down, tears and words. When she speeds up the delivery at the end, it's like she's girding herself and challenging him at the same time. Delicious.

6. Janis Joplin - Piece Of My Heart
From the bottom of the bottle. Drained to the last drop and then refilled with real tears.

7. Billie Holiday - All Of Me
Talking of being 'in pieces' Billie laments like no other vocalist. the phrasing and everything are just heart-rending.

8. PJ Harvey - Rid Of Me
Such a mighty voice dripping ardour from such a tiny frame.

I challenge you play all 8 tracks uninterrupted and not remain without a tear in your eye and a little ache in your solar plexus.

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