Over five years ago, David Byrne met with Fatboy Slim to discuss a musical endeavor. His goal, initially inspired by the book The Emperor by Ryszard KapuÅ›ciÅ„ski, was to tell the tale of the theatrics of royal life through music.
After stumbling on a newspaper clipping written about his soon-to-be protagonist and enlisting some of the industry’s greatest vocalists (22 in all!) to help guide her voice, the project would evolve into what became known as Here Lies Love: A concept album, DVD, book, and proposed theater experience based on the life of former first lady of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986, Imelda Marcos.
I pre-ordered the complete package a few months ago having found the concept quite ‘neat.’ Two weeks ago, it arrived in my mailbox–and now, the review.
First of all, the actual Here Lies Love book is gorgeous–a 114-page narration of not only the evolution of Byrne’s original idea for the album, but the story of Imelda Marcos that he shaped with his songwriting. In the front of the book is the double-disc of the album; on the back the DVD. Each song is given its own chapter inside, including full lyrics and key connections between the songs and Marcos’ personal life. It’s quite a treat!
So what about the music? Completely apart from the narrative, the album is rife with hits as well as a fair share of misses: Highlights include Florence Welch‘s soaring, bossa nova-tinged title track, “Here Lies Love,” Sia‘s twangy, swinging “Never So Big,” Natalie Merchant‘s gorgeously sung “Order 1081,” Kate Pierson‘s “The Whole Man,” and RÃ³isÃn Murphy‘s disco-licious “Don’t You Agree?”
Yet while Murphy’s song sounds like it could fit in snugly with her last effort, Overpowered, most of the other songs on the record sound nothing like that of their artist’s back catalog (not too surprising given all the tracks were penned solely by Byrne, and a few with Fatboy Slim). This reality can occasionally provide somewhat disappointing results, as with Santigold‘s pacified contribution, “Please Don’t.”
Even more problematic for me however was the nagging country influence that continued to rear its head between some of the better disco gems here, including Allison Moorer‘s “When She Passed By” and Steve Earle‘s “A Perfect Hand.” Even if they’re necessary for moving the narrative along lyrically, there’s no way I’ll be returning to those tracks.
Reading the book alongside the album helped to elevate the project to another level (which I absolutely admire and adore), but to be honest, I don’t know how much I would have enjoyed it had I opted for the “MP3 only” package. On the other hand, I suppose that’s the point. The music of Here Lies Love lends itself to a larger experience with the accompanying book and DVD.
In the introduction, Byrne acknowledges that Here Lies Love is in some ways a response to the music industry’s floundering state and an attempt to create something more for listeners: “As it is now incredibly easy to download just a single song off a new album release–or to rip just a couple of the most accessible songs–I, like many others, have wondered: How do we incentivize listeners to check out more of what we have recorded? Is it possible to have an experience of some added depth, as one sometimes does when listening to a series of songs?”
While Here Lies Love doesn’t completely have the legs to stand on its own as an album (though there are quite a few strong numbers), the charm and magic is in its complete visual, aural, and intellectual appeal.
For music fans with some cash to spare, I recommend diving into the complete Here Lies Love package–there’s a lot of rich substance for the reaping here.
Here Lies Love was released on April 6.
They had style, they had grace…Sia Furler gives good face.
The incredible Greg Kurstin-produced “Clap Your Hands” will be released on May 31. You can hear it in full right here now.
On the third day of Christina-mas, her PR brought to me: one album cover, and a long winded press release.
From the press release:
Bionic features songs co-written by Aguilera along with her much buzzed about collaborations including Sia, Tricky Stewart, Polow Da Don, Le Tigre, Hill & Switch, and Ladytron among others. Aguilera notes, “Working on this album with so many talented artists and producers that I admire was really an amazing experience. The artists I chose to work with added so many unique sonic layers to Bionic. My intention was to step into their world and what they do combined with my own vision and sound. The results were magic.”
Blah, blah, blah…nothing we didn’t already know, and no new song titles.
There will also be a preview of her new single, “Not Myself Tonight,” posted on Friday, March 26.
FYI: Sia will be streaming SIX songs off of the new album We Are Born starting tomorrow, March 16, on her official website.
Smart idea to keep us occupied with a few new goodies until the full album rolls around…
Get fired up–we’re in for a treat!
The album’s first single, “Clap Your Hands,” will be released on May 25, followed by the album’s release on June 8.
Finally: it’s time to reveal the track listing to Sia‘s We Are Born!
The singers’ fourth studio album will feature 14 bright, colorful new tracks produced by Greg Kurstin, including an immense cover of Madonna‘s “Oh Father.” Trust me–it’s properly amazing.
One of these songs is the most spectacular, unbelievably guitar-go-lucky danceathons I’ve heard in recent time, and one of these songs also happens to be the new “Breathe Me.” Just saying.
1. The Fight
2. Clap Your Hands
3. Stop Trying
4. Youâ€™ve Changed
5. Be Good To Me
6. Bring Night
7. Hurting Me Now
8. Never Gonna Leave Me
10. Iâ€™m In Here
11. The Co-Dependent
12. Big Girl, Little Girl
13. Oh Father
14. Hold Me Down
We Are Born will be released on June 7.