Vega matures musically
By Cara Sarelli
Daily Cougar Staff
In her first release since 1996's Nine
Objects of Desire, Suzanne Vega, with an autobiographical gutsy-ness, places
her heart and soul on a platter for audiences to view.
Suzanne Vega is reaching out to other media outlets. Besides music, she
has written a book, The Passionate Eye: The Collected Writing of Suzanne
Vega separated from her long-time producer
and husband Mitchell Froom three years ago. The initial devastation felt
and the maturity acquired through her loss are evident throughout Songs
in Red and Gray. The album contains many references to marriage, presenting
wedding bands in bitter limelight, like in "Widow's Walk": "Consider me
a widow, boys/ And I will tell you why/ It's not the man, but it's the
marriage/ That was drowned."
This theme is also noticeable in "(I'll
Never Be) Your Maggie May." In the first verse, Vega sings, "I'll never
be your Maggie May/ The one you loved and left behind/
The face you see in light of day/ And
then you cast away."
"It Makes Me Wonder" picks up the album
a bit, containing more energy than the first few opening songs combined.
The song is all-around more emotionally
expressive: "I have to say it makes me
wonder/ If you are holding me/ To that cold blue flame that you are under/
I feel you scolding me."
This innovative yet subtle masterpiece
is the musical manifestation of the talents of an artist who's been working
in showbiz for nearly two decades.
Vega explains the idea of bringing opposites
together in Songs in Red and Gray: "In the context of this music, red stands
for the passions and the heart, and gray is
more gray matter of the brain ... Red
is also for youthfulness, and gray is for maturity."
The album is obviously mature musically
and stylistically, while it reflects aging and life. But there are a few
youthful elements to it, as Vega claims.
"If I Were a Weapon" is one of the catchiest,
most cleverly written songs on Red and Gray. "If you were a weapon/ A hammer's
what you'd be/ Blunt and heavy at the
end/ And coming down on me...
"But I've concealed a weapon/ In a pocket
knife attack/ All folded up inside until you see/ The shine/ And then you'll
want it back."
Red and Gray blends Vega's classic acoustic
guitar with her trademark soothing voice. Much time was spent composing
and finely tuning the work, as the
musician admits spending a year on the
opening track, "Penitent."
The only drawback to having such a well-defined
style of music and lyrical quality is that one can come to a plateau where
everything produced and composed
sounds so similar that the songs hardly
deviate stylistically from each other. Vega also keeps to the same range
in most of her vocals.
But the album is great for relaxing. The
listener just really has to pay attention to get anything out of the lyrics;
since the music is very passive, the messages in the
writing can easily be missed.
However, the title track is the best song
on the album, beautifully uniting strings, piano and keyboards with Vega's
usual acoustic guitar and drums — very Tori
Any fan of poetic artists Sarah McLachlan
or Sheryl Crow should check out Suzanne Vega. Her talent is explicit and
her writing style is admirable.
Songs in Red and Gray
**** (out of five stars)