I showed up at her concert here in Denver last Saturday night, at the Fillmore Auditorium. I wrote a full concert review on Examiner.com, so I won’t repeat all that here–just go read the review when you’re done here. The house was packed, and I felt like a sardine standing there among so many excited fans. Regina put on a great show, and I truly enjoyed the performance.
But I actually spent most of my time in that concert hall–and a lot of time afterward–marveling at just how popular she is. Not everyone knows Regina Spektor, but those who are fans are really fans. And I’m left sort of scratching my head at what it is about Regina that packs places like the Fillmore with ecstatic twenty-somethings who can sing her wordy, quirky songs word for word.
It isn’t that I don’t like her, because I do–a lot. I just wonder why everyone else likes her.
I mean, if you think about it–and if you don’t know Regina Spektor, you wouldn’t think about it at all, but if you did–there doesn’t seem to be anything about her success that is according to formula. Russian-born and classically trained, she doesn’t really fit the image of a modern-day pop star. She wears a dress–I mean, one that actually covers her–and she sits at a real piano with a couple of string players and a drummer, and she writes and sings these quirky songs with lots of staccato vowels that remind me of a little girl making up funny-sounding stuff while playing in a sandbox. Sometimes she even purses her lips a little when she sings so it sounds a little bit like Shirley Temple. And people just eeet-eet-eet-eet it up.
Truth be told, I think if Regina Spektor had tried to make a go of this ten or fifteen years ago, she probably wouldn’t have got very far. She would have had to pick a genre instead of blending seven or eight of them together, and she probably would have had to let someone else pick her clothes (or lack thereof) and write her some formulaic pop songs–or maybe she wouldn’t have made it at all.
But these days, it’s the very fact that Regina Spektor defies categorization that seems to make her so popular. She is what she is, and she’s very good at it. And there’s no doubt she has stage presence. I mean, just coming out on the stage with that winning smile, courtseying to the cheering crowd–she had me at “Thank you soooooo much!”
My point is, we’re living in a time when we kind of don’t want things to fit in a neat little box anymore. We like stuff that can’t be labeled, that crosses boundaries and genres. And more and more, that includes music. It’s the perfect cultural climate for someone like Regina to come on the stage and just be who she is. And there’s something about her personality that makes people relate–especially the girls, but really all of us, in a way. It’s a blend of the geekiness we all wish we weren’t ashamed of with the boldness we wish we had, set in a young woman who seems surprisingly normal. Her songs are sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, and sometimes highly introspective–and we sing along because we wish it was us who thought of them. It’s a connection I don’t think would ever happen if she were shoved into the bigger-than-life superstar image. And so, a generation inundated with hype finds themselves falling in love with an understated kind of music remarkably similar to what our parents (and–gasp!–grandparents) used to listen to…because it’s presented in a fresh way that appeals to the postmodern sensibilities of our time.
So maybe we love Regina because we see ourselves in her. Maybe it’s as simple as that.
If you’re a Regina Spektor fan…what is it that you love about her?