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.
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.
PreviousAlbum Title Drop: "Düsseldorf", a bonus track on the deluxe version of Begin to Hope, features a reference to "Soviet kitsch".
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.
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 "* * *".
Dream Team: Her first major tour? With the Strokes and Kings of Leon. Goddamn.
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.
Keep Circulating the Tapes: More than two thirds of her catalogue is unavailable on her CDs - the rest exists only as live bootlegs and studio demos that she appears to be fine with, with one exception - her 1999 Demo. Also, her first album, 11:11, is only available as a (legit) digital download.
Songs was also only ever legally available from an online indie music store (which, thankfully, is still going), and her concerts.
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.
She goes on to discuss how she was herself tripping balls in the hospital waiting room while the other person was overdosing.
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.
One of Us: Her intelligence and nerdy love of classical literature aside, one particular interlude between songs sticks out. Forgetting her toothbrush on a trip to California, Regina, ever the optimist, reveled in the opportunity to buy a child's toothbrush (as she calls it, "travel sized") featuring Superman. And she dressed as Zorro during a Halloween show.
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.
Perpetual Smiler: She's almost always smiling when she's not singing; she's about as close as you can get to this trope in real life. It's a warm smile, unlike most examples, and it gets even more heartwarming if you hang around Russians and know that they usually don't smile unless they're genuinely happy or excited.
Rummage Sale Reject: In a good way; her outfits appear to be put together by spinning through a Greenwich Village vintage store.
Shout Out: To Tom Waits in "Prisoners" (compare it to his song "9th & Hennipen"), 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.
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?”