Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Swedish enigma

Of course Sally Shapiro is not the only Swedish enigma preoccupying me (others: why is Swedish pop music so consistently amazing? What's with herring for breakfast?) but it's the one that holding my interest right this minute. The official line is that there's no Sally Shapiro: The woman singing on the album Disco Romance is anonymous and all the tunes and sounds come from songwriter-producer Johan Agebjörn. The singer is so mysterious, in fact, that supposedly she records on her own and nobody's actually seen her behind the mike. Agebjörn said to Svenska Dagbladet: "I still haven't heard her perform one single song from the album live. I was outside mowing the lawn when we recorded the vocals." (Many, many thanks to Pr. Hans Huss for the translation.) There's few things I enjoy as much as a highly elaborate art prank.

Disco Romance is about to get a US release with three extra tracks, including the exquisite "He Keeps Me Alive," which sounds poppy and romantic and joyful until you start paying attention to the lyrics. What's fascinating about the song is the way it sugarcoats abject need—"Sally" is desperately in love with a boy but they're just friends; still, she's happy anyway because his mere existence keeps her alive.

"He Keeps Me Alive" could be the theme song to a remake of Back Street, Fannie Hurst's tearjerker about a woman who sacrifices her personal life because she's in love with a married man. According to imdb, the tag line to the 1932 movie version was: "Waiting—always waiting—in the shadows of the back streets…longing for the man she loves…asking nothing, receiving nothing—yet content to sacrifice all for him. WHY?"

And, of course, there's a Vocoder.

MP3 Sally Shapiro "He Keeps Me Alive" (from Disco Romance, 2007)

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