Music / Laurie Anderson
O Superman. O judge. O Mom and Dad. Mom and Dad...

"Paradise is exactly like where you are right now, only much much better."
-Laurie Anderson, "Language Is a Virus"

Laura Phillips "Laurie" Anderson (born June 5, 1947 in Glen Ellyn, IL) is an American musician, performance artist and composer who is well known for her work in different fields of the avant-garde for some 40 years. She was originally trained as a sculptor and began doing performances in the 1960s and throughout the 1970s. While, understandably, not a "pop" artist, she is best known for her 1981 single, "O Superman," which hit Number 2 on the UK charts.

She was married to Lou Reed until his passing on October 27, 2013.

As usual, you can find the basics at The Other Wiki.

A couple things to note: her most well-known album, 1983's United States Live, was a truncated version of her prominent performance art show recorded over two nights in Brooklyn; it contains the live (pre-single) version of "O Superman" and runs for nearly four-and-a-half hours. She's also made several shorts, as well as two feature films, first a concert film called Home of the Brave in 1986, followed nearly 30 years later by Heart of a Dog in 2015, a collage-like rumination on life through the experiences of her late dog, Lolabelle. (It's available from The Criterion Collection, spine #846.)

"These are the tropes, the tropes that take":

  • Big Applesauce: "New York Social Life"
  • Break-Up Song: "Sweaters"
  • The Cameo: She appeared on "This is the Picture (Excellent Birds)" on Peter Gabriel's So, which hit Number 2 on the Billboard Top 200 albums chart, making it her highest ever appearance on an American chart.
  • The Cast Show Off: Composes, performs, invents her own instruments, hosts TV shows, directs, acts in movies...
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    "You've probably heard that Microsoft has recently taken over the Catholic Church. The Vatican was pleased, saying, 'Well, we've been using icons for over 2000 years, and Microsoft has only been using them for 3, so we figure we'll be able to help them out a bit.'"
  • Department of Redundancy Department: From "O Superman":
    "They're American planes, made in America."
    • And from its B-Side "Walk The Dog":
    "I saw a lot of trees today, and they were all made of...wood. Well they were wooden trees, and they were made, entirely...Of wood."
  • Doorstopper: Her first live album, United States Live, is five records long.
  • Eagleland: Type 3. She loves the U.S. but is not shy about calling out those politicians (e.g., Ronald Reagan, longtime Sen. Jesse Helms [R-NC]) she dislikes.
  • Electronic Music: It's her primary genre.
  • Gratuitous German: "Example #22" alternates between German and English.
  • Greatest Hits Album: While making allowances in terms of the word hits, Talk Normal: The Laurie Anderson Anthology.
  • Law of Chromatic Superiority: "Beautiful Red Dress," Bright Red
  • Let X Be the Unknown: "Let X=X"
  • Live Album: United States Live and Live in New York
  • The Movie: Her 1986 concert film, Home of the Brave.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: "O Superman"'s lyrics are based around an answering machine message.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Ramon", "The Dream Before"
  • Ouija Board: "The Ouija Board"
  • Our Angels Are Different: "Strange Angels"
  • Performance Artist: The Real Life straight female version, as, along with her music, she has presented various installations. Her concerts incorporate films and dances along with the music.
  • Power Makes Your Voice Deep: She often uses a voice filter to make her speaking voice sound like that of a deep-voiced man. She used to call it the "Voice of Authority" until Lou Reed suggested he be called "Fenway Bergamot".
  • Public Service Announcement: Instead of videos for the songs on Strange Angels, she made a series of "Personal Service Announcements."
  • Quarreling Song: "It Tango"
  • Repurposed Pop Song: "O Superman" was used in a commercial for HTC smartphones.
    • "Sharkey's Day" was used by Lifetime as its theme music for a while.
  • "Sesame Street" Cred: Voiced one of the newborn babies during a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment in The Rugrats Movie.
  • Silly Love Songs: "Baby Doll", which hit Number 7 on the Billboard Modern Rock Charts, the highest she's ever hit on her own on an American chart.
  • Society Marches On: The question "Smoking or non-smoking", mentioned in "O Superman," would never be asked today.
  • The Something Song:
    • "Three Walking Songs"
    • "Three Songs for Paper, Film and Video"
    • "City Song"
    • "Telephone Song"
  • Spoken Word in Music: All the time.
  • Start My Own: Invented her own instruments, including the tape-bow violin and the talking stick.
  • The Storyteller: Once when asked to sum herself up in one word, she chose "Storyteller."
  • Tempting Fate: "Monkey's Paw"
  • Uncommon Time: One of her multimedia creations was "Film Song in 24/24 Time"
  • Understatement: In "From the Air", as she learns that she's going to be making a crash landing, she says, "Uh-oh. This is gonna be some day!"
  • Your Costume Needs Work: Discussed in the song "Talk Normal":
    I turned the corner in SoHo today,
    And someone looked right at me and said, "Oh no,
    Another Laurie Anderson clone!"