A Moscow-born singer/songwriter, known for her quirky lyrics
. She has quite a large range, from earworms
to downright depressing ballads. Immigrating with her parents at the age of 9 to New York, something she has sung about
, she has since gained a steady ground in the alternative music and anti folk scene.
- 11:11 (2001)
- Songs (2002)
- Soviet Kitsch (2004)
- Begin to Hope (2006)
- Far (2009)
- What We Saw From the Cheap Seats (2012)
Her Works Provide Examples Of:
- Abusive Parents: "Oedipus" is about a child whose mother has had 32 kids, whose husband plans to have 32 more. Naturally, this trope comes into play.
- Adorkable: Normally well composed in interviews, though she shows a few signs of this.
- An Immigrant's Tale: "Rockland County" and "8th Floor" both revolve around the immigrant experience - the first is Spektor's most autobiographical song, the second a more general allegory for the Russian-American experience.
- Author Appeal: Her love of literature, music, philosophy, and religion are all made evident in her music.
- Previous Album Title Drop: "Düsseldorf", a bonus track on the deluxe version of Begin to Hope, features a reference to "Soviet kitsch".
- Award Bait Song: "The Call" for Prince Caspian
- Awesome McCoolname: Not only is Spektor an awesome name (it sounds like it could be a G.I. Joe villain). During her appearance on The Colbert Report, Colbert questioned whether or not she was a Soviet sleeper agent, bringing up her awesome "sexy spy name" as evidence.
- Bathos: Epic and beautiful songs will occasionally be peppered with terrible dolphin impressions or beat-boxing that sounds like spitting, and it somehow works.
- Berserk Button: Most of Regina's songs are either quirky and adorable or balladic and depressing, but the live-only song "Ink Stains" is her only genuinely angry song, about how she wants to gas Holocaust deniers. It has some uncharacteristically gory imagery ("so who'll be the Jew to make the papers / drenched in blood up to your blue Jew eyeballs") and the song ends with an angry, emotional wail. She's also posted on her Myspace blog about her support for Israel because of how the Jews have been exploited and massacred throughout history.
- Big Applesauce: New York is frequently mentioned in her songs, including locations such as the Williamsburg Bridge.
- Bilingual Bonus: Both "Après Moi" and "8th Floor" contain untranslated Russian, the former featuring a poem by Boris Pasternak. "Après Moi" has some French (the title references and includes the famous Louis XV quote, "Après moi, le deluge"), as well.
- Black Comedy: "That Time" is full of this, from the protagonist having to bury pieces of a bird she was caring for after a cat got it, to her finding her friend overdosing on drugs twice in the same day, only to realize that she's high as a kite herself.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: From "Firewood":
Don't look so shocked, don't judge so harsh. You don't know, you're only spying...
- Brooklyn Rage: Some of her darker songs, like All The Rowboats and Ink Stains, give this impression.
- Call-and-Response Song: "Uh-Merica."
- "Hell No", as a duet with Sondre Lerche.
- Cloudcuckoolander: She may be this, but seems to have her head together in interviews. She's probably just a little weird and sweet.
- Her official forum has boards for What We Saw From the Cheap Seats, far, albums predating those two, relevant information, space for users to talk, and soup. Guess which board is the most active?
"I want to write a classic like Yesterday but weird songs about meatballs in refrigerators come into my head - I can't help it."
- Cool Teacher: Her role in the video for "On the Radio" is a music teacher in an Inner City School.
- Country Music: She made a strange little trip into the genre with "Love You're A Whore." Her explanation to the crowd at the Bonnaroo Festival in Manchester, Tennessee:
Regina: I'm from Moscow, and then the Bronx, so I'm allowed to do whatever the fuck
- The Cover Changes The Gender: Subverted with her cover of "Chelsea Hotel #2"; the lyrics are kept the same, despite clearly being from a male perpective.
- Cover Version: Leonard Cohen's "Chelsea Hotel #2", Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah", Hanna Szenes' "Halikha LeKesariya (Eli, Eli)", Malvina Reynolds' "Little Boxes", Madonna's "Love Profusion", John Lennon's "Real Love", and Radiohead's "No Surprises".
- Cryptic Conversation: her appearance on Jenny Owen Youngs's "Voice on Tape" has her speaking on Youngs' answering machine about some Noodle Incident in an adorably Russian-accented voice. A conversation between Regina and her brother Bear appears on "Soviet Kitch" under the cryptic title "* * *".
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: "The premature ejaculation of his death sentence hit Daniel in the face like a big spitball," from Daniel Cowman. Played equally for laughs and drama.
- Dream Sequence: "Chemo Limo" has one about a dying mother of four. In her dream, Benjamin Franklin watches her kids while she hires a limo, reflecting her real-life wishes.
- Dream Team: Her first major tour? With the Strokes and Kings of Leon. Goddamn.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Everything before "Begin to Hope". While her recent work is far from normal, her earlier work has much more Mind Screw, Black Comedy, mentions of violence and drugs, among other things, and it can be quite jarring to listen to her newer work and then her older work, or vice versa. She seems to be reverting back to that style though, primarily with "What We Saw From the Cheap Seats" and various performances. For a comparison, compare "Pavlov's Daughter" or "Oedipus" to "Two Birds" or "Better".
- Epic Rocking: "Pavlov's Daughter" at nearly 8 minutes long. "Chemo Limo" and "Back of a Truck" are both around 6 minutes, which is still long for her.
- Erudite Stoner: Played for Laughs in "That Time".
- Everything Is an Instrument: The famous percussion chair.
- Fiery Redhead: It can be hard to tell due to its darker shade, but Regina has red hair
- A Good Name for a Rock Band: Talked about in "Making Records":
Everything's a possible record cover
Or a possible name for a band that I will never have
- Granola Girl: Played straight and later parodied in Your Honor.
"Gargle peroxide, a steak for your eye. Except I'm a vegetarian, so it's a frozen pizza pie."
- Genre-Busting/Medium Blending: Regina enjoys exploring different types of music. Many of her songs are more like character studies, short stories or poetry. "Open", "Daniel Cowman", and "Oedipus" are all very good examples, each being an equal mix of all three.
- Hans Christian Andersen: Name dropped in "Prisoners," and his fairy tales have clearly influenced her Urban Fantasy stories.
- Headphones Equal Isolation: Mentioned in the song "Eet": You ease in your headphones / to drown out your mind...
- Heartbeat Soundtrack: "Ode To Divorce," before the piano kicks in.
- Hidden Depths: She has an incredibly complex view of religion, which she discusses in "Laughing With", which is about how we only thank God for the good things in our life, never our misfortune.
- Homage: The music video for "Us" is an homage to the silent film ''Le Locataire Diabolique'' by Georges Meliés.
- Indecipherable Lyrics - Done intentionally on "A Cannon", which has a couple lines of a sort of gibberish whisper. Though, it could qualify as Singing Simlish.
- Ironic Nursery Tune: her version of "Mockingbird" degenerates into a story of a poor father desperately trying to connect with his daughter.
- Large Ham: Here and there, though Oh Marcello gives us this gem all with an over the top Italian accent.
"Oh I'm outta jello, I'M OUTTA JELLO!"
- Lighter and Softer: Begin to Hope and Far lost some of the harder edge found in her older songs. It's a far cry from her 1999 demo tapes, in which she actually used the word "cunt."
- And then she wrote "Ink Stains" (Regina Spektor meets Inglourious Basterds) and covered Radiohead's depressing "No Surprises." The darkness is back.
- Literary Allusion Title: "Samson" is based on the Biblical story and contains many references to it.
- Lonely Piano Piece: several of her songs convey loneliness, with only a piano and voice. "Somedays," "Summer in the City," "Just Like the Movies" and "Making Records" come to mind.
- Long Title: Mary Ann Meets the Gravediggers and Other Short Stories by Regina Spektor, a compilation album of pre-Begin To Hope songs.
- There's also her song "The Left-Hand Song (A Lesson In How Fleeting Preservation Is)"
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Belt", "That Time", "Two Birds" and her song with Ben Folds, "You Don't Know Me".
- Magical Realism: Many of the stories told in her lyrics feature Magical Realism traits (especially the album 11:11) and her live-only song "The Bronx" name drops the genre.
- Magic Kiss: Discussed in "Better".
- Matzo Fever
- Measuring the Marigolds: "Loveology" and "The Calculation" are both about how love cannot be calculated.
- Melismatic Vocals: Especially in Dance Anthem of the 80s, in which she takes us on a Middle Eastern folk music inspired melismatic ride up and down the word "sleep."
- Mind Screw: Many, many of her songs have very figurative or metaphorical meanings. "Pavlov's Daughter", however, takes the take as her most nightmarish, nonsensical song ever, with several sections, and constantly jumping between a Motor Mouth exercise in Hell Is That Noise talking about the music industry and religion, to a slow part about a woman who drools when she hears a bell.
- Mood Dissonance: "That Time". "Hey, remember that time when you OD'd?"
- Mood Whiplash: While her albums are in general quite eclectic, "Chemo Limo" is in itself a profound example. The verses tell of a single mother of four kids being told she has terminal cancer and are appropriately eerie and mournful. The chorus, however, is a bouncy rapid-fire Motor Mouth-ed sass parade of defiance.
- Mundane Made Awesome: "Wallet" is a beautiful song about... a woman finding a wallet, and giving it to Blockbuster to give back to the original owner.
- Mushroom Samba: "That Time".
"While in the waiting room waiting for news of you I hallucinated I could read your mind, and I was on a lot of shit too, but what I saw man, I tell you what, freaky."
- Murder Ballad: She and Levon Vincent's surreal version of the old murder ballad "Twa Sisters."
- "Mary Ann" is a particularly weird one.
- The Musical: Her upcoming "Beauty," an adaptation of "Sleeping Beauty."
- Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: She is best known for two things: firstly, being cute. Secondly, being quite creepy. Many of her songs are about death and its relation to society.
- No Ending: "Two Birds" and "Oedipus", in order to encourage Alternative Character Interpretation.
- Oedipus Complex: Her song "Oedipus."
- Older Than They Look: You would be forgiven for thinking that Spektor is younger than 32.
- Our Mermaids Are Different: "Mermaid," as it's a retelling of the Hans Christian Andersen tale in an Urban Fantasy setting. She mentions that the painful stabbing feeling in her feet causes her to bleed. She claims to have sold her voice for, among other things, a bottle of gin and a bump of cocaine before the narrative goes completely off the rails.
- Really Gets Around: Discussed in "Dance Anthem of The 80's", talking about the promiscuity and sexual liberation of the decade. It eventually gets quite disturbing, where a normally chaste woman is constantly having sex she isn't sure she entirely wants.
- Reality-Breaking Paradox: Discussed in Daniel Cowman, which states that it should, but it never does.
"On the day that Daniel Cowman stopped existing the world should have ended right then and there, precisely 4:15, when he stopped existing, the world should have ended, how could it go on, how could it go on, when I don't exist, when I don't exist?"
- Reality Ensues: Not existing means that you don't exist. You can't fly or haunt people; you never died because you don't exist.
- Repurposed Pop Song: Microsoft used her song "Us" to promote one of their projects, despite the fact that it's partially about the fall of the Soviet Union and contains such lines as "We're living in a den of thieves" and "It's contagious." Was the "we are a crumbling Evil Empire" vibe really what Microsoft was going for?
- Shout-Out: To Tom Waits in "Prisoners" (compare it to his song "9th & Hennipen" from Rain Dogs), Patti Smith in "Poor Little Rich Boy" with the repeated "so goddamn young", Boris Pasternak in "Après Moi," and about a hundred literary references, from Andersen to Margaret Atwood to Virginia Woolf to Edith Wharton's Ethan Fromm. A darker, more ambiguous one is to the famous antisemitic poet Ezra Pound in a song named either "Ezra Pound" or "If You're Never Sorry." She is the Umberto Eco of pianists.
- Single Woman Seeks Good Man: The plot of the "Fidelity" video.
- Singing Simlish: She often uses vocal exercises such as lip buzzing as part of her songs.
- Something Blues: "2.99¢ Blues", "One String Blues"
- Song Of Song Titles: "On the Radio" references Guns N' Roses' "November Rain", and "Edit" namechecks The Beatles' "Dr. Robert" and Paul McCartney's "Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey".
- Stealth Pun: Prone to these - even Visual Puns, such as the boa boa.
- The Stoner: Played for Laughs in "That Time", and Played for Drama sometimes.
- Super Drowning Skills: Unless you're destined to hang, used in a metaphor involving heroin.
- The Something Song: "Hotel Song", "Sailor Song", "Left Hand Song", "Chicken Song".
- Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: She wears a lot of dresses, bows, and girly hair clips.
- Title Only Chorus: "Aching to Pupate".
- Unperson: "Daniel Cowman", though he seems quite happy to not exist. Or at least, heroin boy does.
- Quirky Curls
- Villain Song: "Long Brown Hair" is told from the point of view of a rapist justifying a rape by victim blaming.
Don’t tell me what’s proper
Anyone can see
I wasn’t even her first
So don’t blame it on me
She was so pretty,
as pretty as can be.
And I thought, “My god,
Why shouldn’t it be me?
Oh come on this once, God.
Why shouldn’t it be me?”
- Widget Series: Regina's albums are all WAR Ts, (Weird And Awkward Russian Things) containing themes ranging from religion, literature, leftover meatballs that have long since gone bad, a woman living in your apartment block who can hear you masturbating and your every thought, and dolphins.