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Music / Pink Martini

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“Pink Martini is a rollicking around-the-world musical adventure … if the United Nations had a house band in 1962, hopefully we’d be that band.”
Thomas Lauderdale, Pink Martini's co-founder (with China Forbes), co-head songwriter (ditto) and lead pianist

Not quite like anything else on the airwaves today, Pink Martini is a "little orchestra" of a band. It claims heritage from Portland, Oregon, and Harvard University, and draws musical inspiration from all over the world. They cultivate a classic vibe reminiscent of the 1940's or 50's. While they cover charming old songs like "Brazil" and "Amado Mio," China Forbes and Thomas Lauderdale also write plenty of their own material, with frequently hilarious results. As they gather members from all over the world, they regularly perform in English, French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Arabic, Neapolitan, and many other languages. They have toured the world, and boast such impressive gigs as opening the Walt Disney Concert Hall (its first non-classical music act).

Defining their music is a bit more difficult. Pink Martini is a weird postmodern classical retro-kitsch international-lounge/Tropicália jazz outfit which they themselves have described as "music for children and dogs."

Whatever it is, it sounds great.

They currently have seven albums: Sympathique, Hang On Little Tomato, Hey, Eugene!, Splendor In The Grass,, Get Happy,, and Je dis oui!, plus a holiday album, Joy to the World. Pages on this wiki featuring their lyrics include Wholesome Crossdresser, Song Fic, and Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Their song "Donde Estas, Yolanda?" also got a starring role in the series 3 premiere of Sherlock. Visit their website here

In 2011 China Forbes announced that she was taking a sabbatical from Pink Martini because she needed surgery on her vocal cords (she has since returned). The band continued with guest vocalists, including the collaborative album 1969, with Japanese vocalist Saori Yuki. Their most recent album is the cheerfully titled Get Happy, featuring the return of Forbes as well as new vocalist Storm Large.

Examples of Tropes Seen In Pink Martini's Work

  • An Aesop: In "Bitty Boppy Betty," a moral is lightly dropped at the end about celebrating variety and tolerating other people, mixed in with a Gay Aesop (Betty's a crossdressing man). As well, "Cante E Dance" has a message about accepting the unpredictability of life and enjoying it while it lasts.
  • Album Closure: The final song on Sympathetique is a slow instrumental track named "Lullaby."
  • Arcadia: an ideal retreat from the world is described in "Tea for Two" and "Splendor in the Grass" — somewhere with little traffic, plenty of greenery, peace, and quiet.
  • Attractive Bent-Gender: "Bitty Boppy Betty", about a drag queen.
  • Based on a True Story: According to China Forbes, "Hey Eugene" was indeed written about a guy named Eugene who failed to return her call after a party.
  • Bilingual Bonus: This is a very multilingual band. They've sung in English, French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Croatian, Arabic, Portuguese, Turkish, Greek, Romanian, Farsi, Armenian... and with their holiday album alone they add Hebrew, Ukrainian, German, Ladino, and Chinese to the list.
  • Break Up Song: "And Then You're Gone" is, from Maria's perspective, definitely a Break Up Song, as she asserts she's sick of Lorenzo's flakiness, and that their relationship is over. However, Lorenzo is in blissful denial, as expressed in "But Now I'm Back".
  • But Liquor Is Quicker: Part of the story behind "Hey, Eugene!" They were both buzzed (though Eugene's skinhead friend was smashed... and they were both buzzed enough to not notice a completely drunk skinhead staggering out of an elevator).
  • Christmas Songs: on their album "Joy To the World," including the original Ukranian "Carol of the Bells," and "Silent Night" and "Auld Lang Syne" in three different languages apiece.
  • City of Adventure: "City of Night" — in its romantic, nightlife aspect.
  • The Cover Changes the Meaning - "Que Sera, Sera", which is done much more somberly and with an echo that makes the song sound like it's from a horror film soundtrack.
  • Gay Aesop: "Bitty Boppy Betty" politely asks you not to judge the eponymous Betty, who's a crossdresser on nights, and a defense attorney by day.
  • Genre Throwback: Their jazz, lounge, and old-fashioned pop style.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: Includes "No Hay Problema" (Spanish), "Bukra Wba'do" (Arabic), "Où est ma tête" (French), and "Până când nu te iubeam" (Romanian).
  • Hilarity Ensues: at their concerts. Stilt-walkers, puppeteers, and an entire high school marching band have all made appearances.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: Their cover of "Que Sera, Sera", which is much more grim and creepy - fitting, as the film it's from wasn't light at all.
  • Love at First Sight: "Sunday Table." Hard to say, but it might be a Subverted Trope, as the last two words of the song imply that the woman simply turns around, keeps walking, and the two of them go on with their day.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: "Lilly." The Lilly in the song is wild and rambunctious, and completely turns the nameless guy's life around. Disregarding the fact that the original Lilly is a dog — "Lilly, stay!" — the song could work very well.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: "Hey Eugene" tells a humdrum story about a guy who flirted with China Forbes at a party, got her number, and never called back. This is the basis for an epic slapping funk number.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: a Jamaican-style "Little Drummer Boy"?
  • Obsessed with Food: Lorenzo in "But Now I'm Back" is so obsessed with food he has to interrupt his romantic rendezvous with his (increasingly impatient) girlfriend in order to get a snack with the boys. At least, food is his excuse...
  • The One That Got Away: A few songs, such as the melancholy "Kikuchiyo To Mohshimasu" and "Veronique," the upbeat "The Gardens of Sampson & Beasley" and possibly the tragic "Piensa en Mi." And of course, "Hey, Eugene!"
  • "Rashomon"-Style: "And Then You're Gone" / "But Now I'm Back."
    • It's also possible that "Una Notte a Napoli" and "La Soledad" form the woman's and man's points-of-view in a similar way; the intro to "Una Notte a Napoli" is really the melody line from "La Soledad."
  • Rock Me, Amadeus!: And swing me Schubert.
  • Russian Guy Suffers Most: in "Dosvedanya, Mio Bombino" the half-Russian, half-Italian boyfriend of the singer is constantly torn between his two natures and homelands, never ending up satisfied.
  • Smoking Is Glamorous: The woman in "Sympathetique" pulls it off nicely. Fitting, as the song is about a depressed, recently broken-up woman despondently sitting in her room and smoking all day.
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: In this case, surprisingly sinister - "Que Sera Sera" sounds right out of a horror flick... and given it's originally from a thriller film where its upbeat mood and lyrics were at odds with the possibility of getting killed by a conspiracy, it's fitting.
  • Vocal Tag Team: There have always been special guests and Step Up to the Microphone moments, with China Forbes being the first among equals. PM got something like a true Vocal Tag Team when Storm Large came aboard.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: "Bitty Boppy Betty," about a charismatic district attorney who dresses as a woman on the weekends, and who is the toast of her local nightclub:
"You really can't ignore her,
And if you don't adore her,
There might be something wrong with you!"
  • You Are Not Alone: Hang On, Little Tomato is a gentle imploration to keep sticking to your guns.