Album Review: Nellie McKay's <i>Get Away From Me</i>

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A friend of mine in L.A. recently introduced me to the debut double-album (quite ambitious for a debut), titled Get Away From Me, by Nellie McKay, the beautiful and brilliantly talented 19-year-old musician born in London and raised in a wide variety of places such as Harlem, Washington state, and Pennsylvania. Fortunately, teenaged McKay – whose maturity seems well beyond her years – doesn't fit along the Britney-Christina axis in any form of the imagination. Musically-gifted and feisty, she is a Norah Jones with a sassy attitude. Most songs on her debut musically straddle the lines of throwback jazz-lounge, cabaret, and swing, with a brief foray into rap and technopop. Lyrically, the sharp-tongued wunderkind sarcastically muses about pop culture, politics, social climate, 'the Bushies', animals, matrimony, self-deprecation, and other mish-mashes of topics.

On the bouncy "Won’t U Please B Nice":

If you would sit
Oh so close to me
That would be nice
Like it's supposed to be
If you don’t, I'll slit your throat
So won’t you please be nice?

On the slow, bluesy "I Wanna Get Married", she seemingly mocks the 1950s-style suburban idea of marriage:

I want a nice Leave it to Beaverish
golden retriever and a little white house
I wanna get married
I need to cook meals
I wanna pack you cute little lunches
for my Brady Bunches
Then read Danielle Steele

While there's little to criticize about her music, talent, and lyrical wit... well, let’s just say she hasn't been a staple on NPR for nothing.

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Ms. McKay is an outspoken member of PETA, Amnesty International, and NOW, and doesn't hide the fact that if she ever gets really famous, we'll have a pro-big government preacher a la Al Franken and Sean Penn on our hands. (Considering her single mom is an actress, her dad's a director, cousin's a poet, and grandfather was a convicted murderer, it's not too difficult to see why socialist-leaning tendencies may run in the family). After all, her bio informs us that lack of money for social services "keeps her awake at night".

Her dream is to one day have enough income - "oh boy," she says, "do I have plans" - to shower such organizations with income "that should be coming from the government."

Ugh. For all of McKay's talk in magazine interviews of her own individualism and being her own person, she is quick to support an ideological platform that exerts control of your fiscal decision-making and attempts to equalize a society by force. Her bio mentions that she doesn’t take directions from people well. But evidently she'd be comfortable grabbing a few bucks out of your pocket, without permission, to fund animal rights activities.

Additionally, she says:

School is all about conformity and acquiescence, and those are two things I'm really bad at. I can't even pretend.

This, despite McKay being a proponent of a massive one-size-fits-all public school system. Should someone inform this young entertainer that a school system wound too tightly around bureaucracy and public funds produces this boxed-in environment she so despises, or should we hope that she just figures it out for herself one day?

On top of this, although it's a wonderfully catchy song that's been on my CD player a lot lately, the song "It's A Pose" revolves around her scolding her lover's gender for 'starting' all the wars and rapes. Meant mostly in jest for the cleverly funny song, I presume, but it again showcases the Left's penchant for categorization by gender, race, and so forth.

But, overall, if you can put aside this occasional leftist banter (which, fortunately, does not dominate the lyric sheets), McKay does offer hope that young singers aren't all relegated to either MTV-style boy/girl bands or grungy skateboard groups, but that there are some exceptionally talented musicians who can write and play music like a veteran. Even on American Idol, one of the remaining finalists is a 16-year-old guy who prefers wearing suits and crooning Dean Martin tunes.

Maybe there's some hope after all, and that Nellie McKay will eventually become a household name. It's too bad it'll come with a dose of 'progressive politic' preaching; but then again, we should all be used to this from Celebrityville by now.

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Go, Brian! Seriously,

Go, Brian!

Seriously, though, folks. If you think this is bad, try some of the stuff I've been listening to lately. Try this, from... THE POP GROUP...

WE ARE ALL PROSTITUTES

EVERYONE HAS THEIR PRICE
AND YOU TOO WILL LEARN
TO LIVE THE LIE
AGGRESSION
COMPETITION
AMBITION
CONSUMER FASCISM

CAPITALISM IS THE MOST BARBARIC OF ALL RELIGIONS

DEPARTMENT STORES ARE OUR NEW CATHEDRALS
OUR CARS ARE MARTYRS TO THE CAUSE

WE ARE ALL PROSTITUTES

OUR CHILDREN SHALL RISE UP AGAINST US
BECAUSE WE ARE THE ONES TO BLAME
WE ARE THE ONES TO BLAME
THEY WILL GIVE US A NEW NAME
WE SHALL BE
HYPOCRITES HYPOCRITES HYPOCRITES

I think I'll put her ideals

I think I'll put her ideals of theft and redistribution into practice by downloading her songs from Kazaa instead of buying them.

What do these people think

What do these people think capitalism is?

My guess - white men in ties. Capitalism is a fashion they disapprove of.

I'm still waiting for

I'm still waiting for American Idol to find the next Tom Araya. Thrash metal just doesn't get the attention it deserves these days.

oh my goodness Doug. if you

oh my goodness Doug. if you think those lyrics are disturbing try working in the music business and hearing what they really think. it is infested with leftists that are hypocrytes to the extreme. in fact they are so wound up in it they can't even differentiate betwen tv, chomsky, and reality anymore. and talk about a group of people that are aggitated about money and wealth. i've never met a capitalist as aggitated and fixated on renumeration as every goofball socialist musician i ever worked with.(hundreds). they are by far(artists) the most disturbed and ungrounded group as a whole. too bad.

Do you think miss McKay fits

Do you think miss McKay fits in with - to call it something, I just invented this - the New British Soul Ladies: Josh Stone, Amy Winehour and Katie Melua? Isn't it grand that Britney and Christina and their ilk receive such wonderful competition from Britain? It is of course striking that all these new soul girls are below the age of 20 and sound like they're over 40 or 50. I do wonder why you make such a fuss about her lyrics. It's not as if lyrics ever meant much. Just think of Little Richard, The Beatles - 'Can't Buy Me Love'; hello? obvious, anyone? - or The Stones. And if you're concerned about lefty lyrics, what about those from System Of A Down? Oh well, at least Johnny Ramone was a rightwing punk (thanks to Marginal Revolution)..

Just to clarify... When I

Just to clarify...

When I was critiquing her politics, I was drawing more from her personal quotes off her biography than the lyrics. As I mentioned in my original post, her lyrics - while they dabble in politics here and there - aren't dominated by leftist lyrics. They are often more quirky and off-the-wall than anything, which I happen to like.

I didn't mean to imply she was the second coming of Zach de la Rocha or anything.

Qwest, that doesn't surprise me (about avowed socialist musicians being so wound up about the bottom line on their paycheck). I would imagine Hollywood celebs are much the same.

lest you think those lyrics

lest you think those lyrics ended up that way by accident, let me assure you the 'happy go lucky' girl front is purposeful to the extreme. in order to be 'radio friendly' and by extention, make money. why do people believe actors are 'acting' while musicians are not. i've never understood that especially since i've worked in both industries for many years, and observed first hand the phony 'emotional and philosphical honesty' that many of them love to prattle on about. at the very least actors are not lying to themselves about the nature of their job.

You guys ever try and work

You guys ever try and work out why those "lefty commie musicians" are so worried about their bottom lines and paycheques? Wouldn't have anything to do with years of late night arguements with asshole club owners over Bouncingcheque VRS dollars while they're going hungry, corporate record ceos giving them "bottom lines", managements trying to screw them out of everything they create and reviewers sitting in their little glass houses throwing rocks at them? All this while they're trying to pay for new strings, blown amps, battered mics, petrol/fuel, food, crap motels, rent, bills etc . . . .

Naw, easier to focus on WHAT they do and not understand WHY they may be doing it.

Good review btw.