I forgot how much I love the dry, talcum powder balm that is Suzanne Vega’s voice – Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera and the other junior divas could learn a thing or three about the value of underplayed expression from Vega, who conveys more meaning and feeling in an inhalation than do many over-emoters in entire careers. Vega has a new career retrospective out and it does the job very well.
In ’85 New York neo-folkie Suzanne Vega stormed onto the scene with her first album. Vega’s light, clear voice gives artistic distance to her closely observed vignettes of city life, with echoes of performance artist Laurie Anderson and Laura Nyro. Vega’s commercial breakthrough came with her next album, Solitude Standing, with the scintillating anti-child abuse standard “Luka,” and the a cappella “Tom’s Diner,” which was later punched up by D.N.A. with a hip-hop beat – the version featured here.
Also standing out are “Caramel,” a bossa nova from the ’96 Nine Objects of Desire album, produced by her now ex-husband Mitchell Froom; the simmering, febrile techno-pop of “Blood Makes Noise” and “99.9F,” from the album bearing the latter’s name; and her very fine, sadder-but-wiser post-divorce (“I’ll Never Be) Your Maggie May,” from 2001’s Songs In Red and Gray. Great stuff.