Tuesday, May 30, 2017

30 on the 30th: Solitude Standing and "Gypsy"

March was The Joshua Tree; April was Sign o' the Times. For May, something much softer, more introspective and haunting: the 30th anniversary of Suzanne Vega's Solitude Standing.

Was I, as a high school senior, just preternaturally mature and world-weary and reflective, way back then? Not necessarily--I'm sure (and, if necessary, my memory can drag up more than enough evidence in support of the claim) that I was pretty much just as selfish and immature and oblivious as any usual 18-year-old; probably more than usual, actually. But I do think that maybe, just maybe, my seemingly inborn critical tendencies, the fact that I could from a very young age separate myself from a situation and ask existential questions about it may have set me up to receptive to the whole "sensitive singer-songwriter" phenomenon, years before I came to recognize what was going on in those James Taylor and Cat Stevens songs I loved so much. It's easy to dismiss this kind of vibe as a product of teen-age moodiness, a pretentious yearning that's been parodied by far too many Saturday Night Live sketches to possibly count. But defensible or not, Suzanne Vega spoke to me, made me feel sad and wise and thoughtful--and those are good feelings to have, in their place.

For this album, it was--radio-listener that I was and am--"Luka" and "Tom's Diner" that first caught my attention. But years later, listening to it again (along with what I consider to be her best album, 99.9F°), it is "Gypsy" that sums up the appeal of someone like Vega so well. This is a live performance from "Austin City Limits," and really, nothing more needs to be said. Just listen.

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