Five Great Cabaret-ish Songs by Artists You Wouldn't Expect

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I say Cabaret, but I really do mean a certain amount of dark, Weimar-esque, theatrical melodrama. When I approached this list, I didn't want songs that sprang straight from the vaudeville font, but songs that had clear inspiration from that genre. Usually piano-based, these songs move with the unpredictability of the wind, but somehow the vocal melodies restrain the darkness from invading through the speakers. These are songs of a dark, dark love, from a dark, dark time.

ABBA - I Let the Music Speak

Many of you would be surprised to hear an ABBA song that's entirely divorced from the disco trappings of the era; there's scarcely a synthesizer in sight, just pianos and strings played as if by ghosts in a Bronte moor. The composition is perfect, Frida's voice melds perfectly into the symphony. The track is more theatrical than the rest in this feature, but I wanted to make sure you heard it; it's all worth it when the creepy choir invades.

Dusty Springfield - Windmills of Your Mind

This one is perhaps less of a departure from Springfield's more archetypal work, but it's different enough. Her voice is not on feature here, it's the atmosphere that's most important. Again the silence is bathed in strings, first gently and then more frantically. The chord changes are unpredictable, which makes this song just as magical despite being quite a bit more mellow.

Tori Amos - Lady In Blue

Yes, there is the appeal of the fact that this is in essence a "sad Lady Gaga" video, but still. I could have chosen 2 other Tori Amos songs that mine this dark jazz territory - "Purple People" or her cover of "Strange Fruit" come to mind, but this is my favorite of the three. It's already dark and mysterious, but then, 2/3 of the way through, everything changes. Maybe it's the beginning of a revolution, or the start of an orgy, but all I know is that something dramatic happens.  And then it continues to build, and build, and build, until it subsides like a tidal wave.

David Bowie - Lady Grinning Soul

This one gets points for the classical proficience of the pianist; it's not impossible to imagine the piece played by Liszt or Rachmaninoff. It's just a terrific song.

Silverchair - Emotion Sickness / Across the Night

I wanted to put "Emotion Sickness" in on the grounds that DAVID HELFGOTT PLAYS THE PIANO IN IT, but they do have a more cabaret-ish song. And the video has Guy Pearce as a character in a silent film. So Guy Pearce's new career in cameo dates at least as far back as 2005. But it's still a great song, and one of my favorite videos.

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5 Responses to “ Five Great Cabaret-ish Songs by Artists You Wouldn't Expect ”

  1. omg, i have that abba album on vinyl. <---- good taste.

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  2. theoncominghope9 December 2011 07:28

    BEST TASTE! I think that song is absolutely fantastic. A lot of their later songs were actually written to be featured in a dramatic musical called The Girl With the Golden Hair (not a silly musical like Mamma Mia, lol. No judgment though, I LOVE IT).

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  3. I have a habit of singing along to 'Across the Night' at the top of my voice whenever it comes on (and it probably sounds terrible when I do but it's so much fun). I hadn't seen the video before and it's awesome so thanks for that.

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  4. theoncominghope9 December 2011 07:32

    haha i bet that's awesome. daniel certainly belts it in the last verse.

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  5. theoncominghope9 December 2011 07:32

    Just realized this list encompasses all the white people continents around the world...

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