Music / Suzanne Vega

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Suzanne Vega (born July 11, 1959) is an American singer, songwriter, and record producer, best known by the mainstream for "Luka" and "Tom's Diner", but her entire career is something to appreciate.

"Tom's Diner" was used as the reference track in an early trial of the MP3 compression system, earning her the distinction of being the Mother of the MP3. It was chosen because her a capella vocal with relatively little reverberation was used as the model for Karlheinz Brandenburg's compression algorithm. Brandenburg heard "Tom's Diner" on a radio playing the song. He was excited and at first convinced it would be “nearly impossible to compress this warm a capella voice.”

In 1990, two British music producers remixed "Tom's Diner" and released it limitedly to clubs under the name "DNA" without permission from Vega, PolyGram, A&M Records, or the music publisher. A&M quickly discovered the remix...but didn't sue them. Instead, they bought and released it fully, and it became a larger hit than it originally had been.

Another notable song is "The Queen And The Soldier" (1985), the characters of which have an active fandom to this day.


She has released the following albums:
  • Suzanne Vega (1985)
  • Solitude Standing (1987), The One with... the aformentioned "Tom's Diner" and "Luka".
  • Days of Open Hand (1990)
  • 99.9F° (1992)
  • Nine Objects of Desire (1996)
  • Songs in Red and Gray (2001)
  • Beauty and Crime (2007)
  • Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles (2014)

Tropes Suzanne Vega provides:

  • A Cappella: "Tom's Diner" is an A cappella song written in 1981 about impressions and feelings of a woman in a city during one morning. She did later also an instrumental version of the song.
  • Answer Song: "(I'll Never Be) Your Maggie May", in answer to Rod Stewart's "Maggie May".
  • Cut Himself Shaving: "Luka" is a song very obviously about child abuse, runs with the "walked into the door again" approach in amidst claims of being clumsy and recommendations not to ask.
  • Darker and Edgier: The whole of 99.9F° is this, or rather it's Darker and Edgier-sounding, her earlier material tending to be lyrically dark but musically very pretty.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: "Gypsy", where the man she's addressing is "Distracted by the women/With the dimples and the curls".
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: "Undertow" opens with the line "I believe right now if I could, I would swallow you whole." Word of God confirmed in an 80s interview that yes, she is doing that to him.
  • Driven to Suicide: "Straight Lines" could very well be about this, while "In Liverpool" is pretty unambiguously about this.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Jealousy is a big part of what drives "Frank & Ava" apart. "He says it isn't me you're thinking of."
  • Hurricane of Puns: "No Cheap Thrill". A hurricane of poker puns, most of which also serve as Double Entendres, to be precise.
  • Important Haircut: "Straight Lines" is about this. Unless it isn't.
  • Lyrical Dissonance:
    • "Luka" is a peppy little song... about an abused little boy.
    • There's also "Tombstone", an upbeat song about death.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: "Tom's Diner," about going to the location for coffee, reading the newspaper and observing the other customers.
  • Non-Appearing Title:
    • "Tom's Diner". The name of the diner the singer is in is never mentioned in the lyrics.
    • "Penitent"
    • "Woman on the Tier" (though the subtitle, "I'll See You Through", does appear)
    • "Gypsy".
  • Rape as Drama: "Bad Wisdom" seems from the lyrics to be about a child who's been sexually abused.
  • Refrain from Assuming:
    • Her most famous song is not "My Name Is Luka", it's just "Luka".
    • "Tom's Diner" is not called "Do-Do-Do-Da-Do-Do-Do-Da-Do-Da-Duh-Duh-Da-Duh-Duh-Duh". (Well, duh.)
  • Shout-Out: Many of her songs are based on real events, people, or stories:
    • "Calypso" is about the Greek goddess Calypso, as seen in the Odyssey.
    • "Frank and Ava" describes the relationship between Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner
    • "Rock in My Pocket" is about David and Goliath.
    • "Marlene on the Wall" references a poster of real life actress Marlene Dietrich that was on Vega's wall in her room.
    • "Angel's Doorway" is about a cop on duty at Ground Zero after 9/11 and how he leaves his clothes at the door when he comes home, because they smell of "the dust and the dirt and the destruction."
  • The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask - "The Queen and the Soldier" is about this trope. Unless it isn't.

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