Tuesday, May 12, 2009

ENGA1 mode exercise 3

And now try analysing this text, which is also about the singer mentioned in mode exercise 2, Regina Spektor. This extract is taken from a Guardian newspaper review of one of her live performances, written by Maddy Costa. If you feel brave, you could even have a go at comparing the two extracts...

What a canny operator Regina Spektor is. She scuttles on stage every bit the little-girl-lost, her bashful expression and cute outfit (sparkly top, puffball skirt, flat shoes) creating the impression that this venue is too big, too daunting for her. So daunting, in fact, that she must sing as if no one else is in the room, unselfconsciously burbling notes the way one might in the shower, barely saying a word between songs. Which just serves to underscore how capable she is of mesmerising an audience: her voice is so pure, so vital, she could play a venue four times this size and still have everyone rapt.

But everything Spektor does is poised between extremes. She is at once artful and artless, mannered and unmannerly. Her eccentricity can seem contrived: Poor Little Rich Boy, which Spektor plays with one hand on the piano, the other bashing at a chair with a drumstick, has an air of party piece about it. But the eccentricity can also seem wholly natural: in songs like Music Box and Baby Jesus, her voice flutters like a hummingbird, her melodies are staccato and forthright, and her lyrics inject barbed social commentary into fairytale flights of fancy. This oddball theatricality is not adopted; it is part of her Russian-Jewish-New-York-immigrant heritage.

There is canniness, too, in the way Spektor marries outlandishness with the kind of sentimental gush you would associate with Celine Dion. Watching her is a game; it is never clear what is coming next. A trickle of syrup or a dash of salt? An irritating, unnecessary scat vocal line, or a melody of such beauty you catch your breath? That ability to create wonder, in both senses of the word, is Spektor's smartest trick of all.

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