Friday, August 24, 2012

36 Songs, 36 Days, Day Twenty Six: Open by Regina Spektor

Remember...the Big Bad Wolf came out of
a forest as well....
Some time ago, before I decided to finally join the technologically savvy '00s by getting a primitive version of a smart phone (what I referred to as my 'mentally challenged phone' to my friends), I had a ringtone based on the Ben Folds song 'You Don't Know Me.' And the main reason I chose that ringtone was so I could hear Regina Spektor sorta half-sigh 'you don't know me/at all' to herald every phone call I got.

Spektor is another strange figure in my personal musical firmament. She, much like Fiona Apple, sits in my mind as a ghostly (dare I say 'spectral') figure besides Tori Amos, representing an alternate universe version of that artist I respect so much. Unlike Apple, who seems to be Amos if Amos decided to study jazz instead of classical music, Spektor is the Tori Amos who gave into her darker urges. I frequently find her music more gothic and nasty, as if she is using it to disturb the demons in her soul without dispelling them....

And boy, is this song indicative of that. It's one of the numbers from her most recent album, What We Saw From The Cheap Seats, and it actively frightens me. There's an overpowering sense of claustrophobia to this song. The lyrics are simple but unsettling, as the singer tells us of how she waits in a room she made herself, apparently restrained in some way, suspended but open. Now I know that I could take this literally, but I like to think what our POV character is saying is that she is suspended in time--she has become this thing in amber for others to examine, for others to 'open' and interpret as they wish.

Of course, the lyrics don't account for those gasps--shuddering struggles for breath that make this song seem all the more terrifying. If this is a metaphorical imprisonment, it is a horrifying and stifling one, one that's literally choking the life out of her. When I first heard this song, I jumped when she started making those noises.

In reading some of the interpretations of the song online, there is a tendency to claim it's about Anne Frank, a subject Spektor has mediatated on through her music before. I don't know if it was intended to be this specific, though; in my mind, there's something universal to her pleas. After all, don't we all at one point feel confined, feel as though wires are pulling us back from the life we can lead, suffocating in a malaise of the everyday?

Regardless of whether this is about one specific person or a certain kind of isolation, this is powerful stuff. And it's one of the reasons why I find Regina Spektor both so attractive and intimidating as an artist, even amongst all the beautiful piano playing.
Here is a live performance of the song....

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