I really tried to give Lana Del Rey the benefit of the doubt on this one. I swear. I was hoping that her half-hour long short film Tropico, an epic tale based on the biblical story of sin and redemption, wasn’t going to be another poorly“conceived attempt at grand symbolism and “deep” meaning that would inevitably force me to question why I ever derived any satisfaction from her music in the first place and would once again make me come face to face with the full scope of her guileless superficiality and lack of insight. But you know what Mick Jagger says.
So, just for the sake of convenience, even though the biblical triptych of innocence, sin, and redemption is the central conceit of the video, I’m going to ignore the overwrought and overused religious parallels that Lana cuts and pastes with bowling ball-level subtlety and focus more on her decision to include voiceovers of her reading excerpts from Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg poems, which is exactly as pretentious as it sounds.
Tim Kinsella, the Chicago-based musician who accidentally helped invent what we know as emo while cutting his teeth in bands like Cap’n Jazz and Joan of Arc, just released one of the more interesting collaborations he’s done since the ’90s. Tim Kinsella Sings The Songs Of Marvin Tate By LeRoy Bach Featuring Angel Olsen finds Kinsella and ex-Wilco member LeRoy Bach setting the poems of fellow Chicago native Marvin Tate to music. And fear not, emo kids, they’re all pretty damn sad.
Kinsella and Bach aren’t the first musicians to lend their talents to preexisting poems. In fact, we could have compiled a list featuring hundreds of singers who have quoted writers, but we tried to reel it in. For time’s sake, you can check out four of our favorite music and poetry connections after the jump. And while you’re at it, pick up a copy of TKSTSOMTBLBFAO. Its title may be a mouthful, but its tracks are beautifully short, simple, and sparse, perfectly complimenting Tate’s stark and sometimes abrasive words.
1. Vladimir Nabokov and The Menzingers
Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov may be most famous for penning Lolita, but it’s Pale Fire, his 1962 novel/999-line poem, that featured what is likely Nabokov’s most well-known couplet:
I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
By the false azure in the window pane
Definitely the most beautiful thing that anyone has ever written about birds flying into windows. Anyway, Scranton, PA’s The Menzingers quoted those lines almost verbatim during the bridge of “The Obituaries,” and while the rest of the song’s lyrical content has little to do with Pale Fire, the emotional impact of Nabokov’s words aren’t lessened at all. In fact, they compliment the track so well, it seems that the writer may have missed out on his calling as a punk lyricist.
OurStage Latin artist Victor Maldo is an excellent candidate to answer this question. The singer, songwriter and poet from the Dominican Republic started his career in music many years ago, with the simple goals of expressing his feelings and changing the world.
On his Web site, Maldo states that, beyond transcending and becoming famous, he intends to express his feelings and everything that he has inside. Play Victor’s song Dulce Cruz on OurStage and you will immediately understand what he means by this. With passionate lyrics and phrases like vienes con la sonrisa de las flores (you come here with the smile of the flowers) you can immediately tell that Victor is a true romantic who needs to write in order to survive.
Maldo started his musical carrer as a member of the band Café Latino where he was the main vocalist. He then traveled to the United States to study music and went back to the Dominican Republic to begin his adventure as a solo artist. Since then, he has established himself as a bewildered pedestrian who sings about what he feels and, by doing so, sings about what others are feeling too. On his Web site, Victor writes: I am that pedestrian and will sing my love for you, a love that is yours. My pain is your pain.
If you are into poetry but cannot understand a word of Spanish, do not worry. Maldo’s romantic voice is a beautiful poem by itself. If you do know some español, however, you’ll be delighted to hear that Maldo’s inspiration comes from legends such as Julio Cortázar, Jorge Luis Borges and Mario Benedetti, as well as from contemporary singer-songwriters like Joaquin Sabina and Joan Manuel Serrat. So really, what could be more poetic than that?
Victor’s pieces are resonating well with OurStage fans. Dulce Cruz made it into the Top 10 OurStage Latin charts in both November and December of last year and is getting very positive comments. Will he continue to rise to the top in 2011? We certainly think so. Enjoy this playlist. ¡Provecho!
Latin music never ceases to amaze me. The thing that I love the most about it is its capacity to mix music styles from completely different regions and still get extraordinary results. But it wouldn’t be fair to ignore the place that started it all: Spain.
Well known for its Flamenco dancers and its wooden castañuelas, España is the reason why we sing, write and play songs in Spanish. And let’s face it. Some things can’t be said in any language other than en Español.
To honor the great influence that Spain has had in Latin music, I am dedicating this post to my favorite españoles on OurStage:
First on our list is Kathyjuan band. Please don’t be fooled by the name. Kathyjuan is not a band, but rather an amazing do-it-all artist from Sevilla. He plays the electric guitar, the bass, the acoustic guitar and the keyboards. No wonder he won the Number 1 OurStage Latin Channel prize in both October and November of this year with the song “Jardin 09”
Also from Sevilla is Emiliano Dominguez, a.k.a ZAPATA, a musician that describes his style as being halfway between songwriting and Andalucian rock. ZAPATA’s pieces are notorious for its strong poetic elements. Listen to his song Mayorales to hear a poem by Mariano Frutos.
Another Spanish gem on OurStage is Ester Andujar, a singer-songwriter from Valencia who has performed in some of the best Jazz clubs and festivals in the world. She has earned several awards for her performances, including one for Best Voice from the Valencian Association of Jazz and Creative Music (Promusics). Ester hasrecorded two solo albums and will be releasing a third one soon. Listen to Paginas Preciosas and be delighted by her marvelous voice.
Andalucian talent Melo Bakale is also on our list of Spanish favorites. Ever since his undeniable talent and good luck earned him a victory in the Cazatalentos contest of the Andalucian Radio-Television (RTVA), Melo’s career has been rapidly heading to the top. His triumph in Cazatalentos led him to record his first album, Melo Bakale, which sold over 8,000 copies. Intrigued? Check out Melo’s Web site for a list of his upcoming presentations.
You see? All this amazing talent is exactly why they still call Spain “La Madre Patria.” Enjoy this playlist !Y Ole!
Iyeoka Ivie Okoawo, also known as Iyeoka, is a full time poet and recording artist here on OurStage.com. This Nigerian-American singer and songwriter possesses some serious soul that simply can’t be ignored. Iyeoka was actually a pharmacist before she became full time artists, and boy are we happy for that career change!
Iyeoka’s music is happy and uplifting so it’s no wonder she’s achieving a respectable level of success thus far. She is the founding member and lead singer of the word poetry, jazz, blues, gospel and electronic soul group The Rock by Funk Tribe. This unique genre combination earned her an opening slot for touring acts such as Femi Kuti, Zap Mama and Slick Rick. But her unique performance hasn’t been her only achievement. Iyeoka is making strides as a writer as well. She has been commissioned by Discovery Channel for one of their brand campaigns. She was also commissioned by a Top 20 ad agency to write a piece for a diversity-training tool.
Take a listen to Iyeoka’s music below. What do you think? Does she remind you of any artists you’ve heard before?
The life of a music journalist often walks a fine line between the excitement of a baited chase for great new musicians and the mental drain that occurs when that wild hunt returns stillborn results. When that seesaw teeters towards the latter, it takes a rare gem of an artist to resuscitate any sense of invigoration back into a writer. J is that kind of artist. From her scant profile and its two obscuring images, little on the surface tells that this petite southern wordsmith is an adept poet. But, one listen will leave you finding faith for a generation of urban artists and begging for more.
J manages to tell the world who she is without ever inserting a concrete autobiographical factoid in what is arguably her best song, the pondering My Story. The dense lyrics in this track, if nothing else, teach us that J is an observer”an astute observer at that”who’s realized she’s cut from a different cloth. Her poetic background steps forth in this piece around the halfway point, where her immaculately consistent rapping rhythm morphs into unbridled spoken word, wisdom overwhelming with each and every line”from shunning materialistic nonsense intime moves fast/ so hold on to the things you really want to last/ because after all your Js fitted and true religions pass/ you’re gonna want something you can hold on to to questioning the meaning of this thing we call life in I’m wonderin’ if some of us have to lose/ life just don’t seem fair sometimes and I know it don’t have to be/ and I ain’t even writin’ this cause I want you to be sad for me. If J’s content paints her as a youth trying to make sense of everything around her, then the beat is sonic cultivation to match. The curtains open with a puffing woodwind ensemble that blends into a cool lavender beat more fit for an R&B song than a hip hop beat, but it works, especially as autotuned vocals find that common ground. As layered voices tenderly suggest taking life in stride over a sweeping piano and whistling synth run, any question as to whether the aforementioned rhetorical questions are tinted with anxiety can be put to rest. She’s just trying to tell her story.
The innocent questioning depicted in My Story is swallowed in the sheer blackness of This Life, a haunting story profiling two teens falling in love with the streets and losing their lives because of it. As a panicked angelic voice conjuring images of urgent prayers swirls above the blizzard of fatal content, it seems as though the memories of My Story were only smoke and mirrors and that J believes this is real life/ no camera no actors. Simply put, the track is irreversibly opaque, from murderous gang violence to a colorful portrayal of lethal crack addiction that would be camouflage in James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces. Dire, hopeless and chronicling depressingly anonymous subjects, This Life is everything you could ever ask for in a dramatic narrative detailing ghetto tragedies. Now more than ever, the clever connections J makes and splices into her gripping storytelling come across as insight belonging to a mystic four times her age, most notable in lines like predestined lessons of a young boy in love with the streets/ wouldn’t let the block rest so they put him under sheets and there’s no turning back now/ just gotta react now/ fendin’ like a slave/ the addiction got a chain on her/ the streets took her put their name on her/ stake their claim on her that leave a lasting impression long after heard.
Taking life in stride becomes difficult when the life lead resembles that in This Life, but no one ever said it would be easy, especially not J. For all her talent, this young rapping dame has been polite enough to lyrically profile her progress to the top humbly” acknowledging that if she fails, at least she can say she tried. But, rest assured, the day she achieves her dream of “rockin’ mics in front of sold out crowds,” she promises to scream from the top so do yourself a favor and keep your ears on. It shouldn’t be too long.