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Music / Vanessa Carlton

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If I could fall into the sky,
Do you think time would pass me by?
'Cause you know I'd walk a thousand miles,
If I could just see you...
"A Thousand Miles"

Vanessa Lee Carlton (born August 16, 1980) is an American singer-songwriter who first came to prominence in 2002 with her runaway hit single, "A Thousand Miles". The song was heard literally everywhere after that, becoming a theme for the early 2000s and the new emerging sound at the time. Along with Michelle Branch and Avril Lavigne, she was one of the teen artists marketed as the "Anti-Britney", a movement which went against the perceived artificiality of pop music at the time by emphasizing singers who could also write their own tunes and in her case, play the pianonote . She gained a major following of loyal Nessaholics for this reason. However, her mainstream popularity was already beginning to wane, as her next single, Ordinary Day, only managed to reach top 30 in the charts.

Ironically, her "real artist" persona led to the commercial disappointment of her next album, Harmonium, which introduced darker themes while maintaining a personal feel. Her label A&M Records lacked confidence in her nonconformist attitude towards the album and thus gave it little promotion, with only one single, "White Houses", barely making any fanfare. Many critics at this point wrote her off as a One-Hit Wonder gimmick, though she still maintained a loyal fanbase. This included Stevie Nicks, with whom she became friends with after she supported her on tour and continued to assist with production long after.

Her clash with A&M Records led her to abandon it for the more bohemian The Inc. Records to produce "Heroes & Thieves", an album she made with a more mature perspective in mind. Despite a positive critical response, it was again a commercial failure despite her music being featured on Gossip Girl. At this point, she was unsure if she wanted to make another record.

She eventually recorded "Rabbits on the Run" in Peter Gabriel's "Real World Studios" in the UK. Drawing inspiration from Stephen Hawking and Watership Down and featuring the Capital Children's Choir, the album features minimal production values and a more atmospheric sound. It was eventually released on indie label Razor & Tie and is regarded as the purest expression of herself by her fanbase due to the lack of label pressures.

Ultimately, she showed that she was indeed an artist true to herself regardless of industry and critical opinion, and though she is nowhere near as ubiquitous as she once was, she maintains a dedicated fan following to this day.


  • Be Not Nobody (2002)
  • Harmonium (2004)
  • Heroes & Thieves (2007)
  • Rabbits on the Run (2011)
  • Blue Pool EP (2015)
  • Liberman (2015)
  • Love Is An Art (2020)

This singer provides examples of:

Her music provides examples of:

  • Advertised Extra: The sole featuring credit on any of Vanessa's albums so far is her close friend Stevie Nicks on "The One" off "Heroes & Thieves". Despite this, all Stevie does is some backing vocals that don't even appear through the whole song.
  • Album Title Drop: "Rabbits On The Run" takes its name from a line in "Carousel".
  • Break-Up Song: A few, including some interesting takes on it, like "Fools Like Me" (the singer giving out to herself for getting into a relationship with the subject), "Carousel" (a song in third person, in the form of advice to people who've just broken up), and "Fairweather Friend" (actually wishes said friend well in his new life, albeit sarcastically pointing out his phoniness in the process).
  • Cover Version: Has done several of these.
  • Genre Shift: Wants to do a Dance record.
  • Hell Is That Noise: The screams from the end of "She Floats" from Harmonium and "Miner's Canary" from Love Is An Art.
  • Littlest Cancer Patient: The song "Annie".
  • Mad Love: "Rinse" tells the story of a girl with this.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Boy: "Ordinary Day".
  • New Sound Album: Her first three albums consisted of adult contemporary/baroque pop music. However, Rabbits on the Run saw her switching to an indie folk style, with occasional influences from baroque pop. Vanessa has also stated that an upcoming album, Euphoria, will be a dance-pop record.
  • Overshadowed by Controversy: What little impact "White Houses" had was obliterated when various radio stations that were in her target demographic blacklisted the song due to it including a frank depiction, for a female pop vocalist, of losing her virginity.
    "My first time, hard to explain, rush of blood and a little bit of pain on a cloudy day."
  • Their First Time: While it's not the entire point of "White Houses", it is a central part of it.
  • Title Track: "Love Is An Art" on the album of the same name.
  • Twist Ending: The ending of her "Pretty Baby" music video reveals that the boy that all the loving flashbacks were shown of throughout the video is being held by her in her room, duct tape-tied.