Song of the Day #431: ‘This Tornado Loves You (Live on Letterman)’ – Neko Case

nekocaseIn recent posts about Shakira and Christina Aguilera I decried the use of overt sexuality to sell the music of women whose talent stretches far beyond their looks.

I stand by those sentiments but I don’t want to give the impression that I’m generally prudish when it comes to things like this. I believe sexuality plays a big role in entertainment and particularly in music. The reason rock-and-roll was considered dangerous by older generations all those decades ago is because that music was about sex, maybe more than it was about anything else.

I’m reminded of the scene in This is Spinal Tap where the band hears that their Smell the Glove album cover (depicting a greased woman on all fours wearing a leash while a man’s arm shoves a glove in her face) is sexist. “What’s wrong with being sexy?” asks Nigel. [See the clip below]

So yeah… there’s definitely nothing wrong with being sexy. And this week I’m going to feature five artists I find sexy as hell. In every case it’s not because of how they dress or how they move (well, maybe a little bit) but rather the confidence and genuineness they exude. It’s about voice and delivery — performance — more than anything else.

In the case of today’s artist, Neko Case, it’s all about the voice. I fell passionately for this woman before I ever saw a picture of her based entirely on that extraordinary voice. I rank Case right up there with Fiona Apple as the finest vocalist — male or female — in my music collection. She has range, power, style and substance wrapped up in an earthy grittiness that chews right into me.

Now the what-if scenario I won’t get to explore here is whether Neko Case would be on this list had she turned out to resemble Amy Ray rather than Amy Adams. I don’t know the answer to that question. Through some genetic lottery jackpot, that voice is accompanied by a pretty face and piercing blue eyes framed in a flowing mane of fire-red hair… she’d be hot if she sang like William Hung.

My love, I am the speed of sound
I left them motherless, fatherless
Their souls they hang inside-out from their mouths
But it’s never enough

I want you

Carved your name across three counties
Ground it in with bloody hides
Their broken necks will line the ditch
’til you stop it, stop it
Stop this madness

I want you

I have waited with a glacier’s patience
Smashed every transformer with every trailer
’til nothing was standing
65 miles wide
Still you are nowhere
Still you are nowhere
Nowhere in sight

Come out to meet me
Run out to meet me
Come in to the light

Climb the boxcars to the engine through the smoke into the sky
Your rails have always outrun mine
So I pick them up and crash them down
In a moment close to now
Cuz I miss, I miss, I miss, I miss, I miss, I miss, I miss
I miss how you’d sigh yourself to sleep
When I raked the springtime across your sheets

My love, I am the speed of sound
I left them motherless, fatherless
Their souls they hang inside-out from their mouths
But it’s never enough

My love
I’m an owl on the sill in the evening
But morning finds you
Still warm and breathing

This tornado loves you
What will make you believe me?
This tornado loves you
What will make you believe me?

10 thoughts on “Song of the Day #431: ‘This Tornado Loves You (Live on Letterman)’ – Neko Case

  1. Dana says:

    Looking at this clip, I don’t immediately think “sexy,” but perhaps that is your point, in that Case is certainly an attractive confident performer and that is sexy in and of itself. I think she has a very cool sound an d style, and this is a well done live performance.

  2. Amy says:

    I think it’s pretty easy to find out the answer to your “what if” scenario – do any of the artists you plan to feature this week look more like Amy Ray (not that there’s anything wrong with looking like Amy Ray, for crying out loud!) than Amy Adams? If the five singers you’ll feature all fall into relatively traditional ideas of what constitutes feminine beauty and sexuality, then I’d say you are responding far more to the package than you are to the voice or the character of these women.

    Julia Roberts married Lyle Lovett. Iman married David Bowie. Paulina Porizkova married Ric Ocasek. How often do women demonstrate their ability to recognize the whole man? Men – not so much. So… let’s see. I look forward to analyzing your LIST when this whole week is done. A quick glance at past blog entries – and your lovely girlfriends – would suggest we know exactly who will, and who won’t, be part of the discussion.

  3. Amy says:

    I could make a case for the above clip showing that Amy Ray is quite sexy. She certainly exudes confidence and genuineness, the criteria Clay suggests he uses to make his selections. She’s got the talent, the voice, the spirit. She’s not wearing a chic “little black dress,” but Clay suggests that shouldn’t matter. So… why does Amy Ray not only NOT make your list but become the punchline to the joke of what a woman might have to look like in order to not receive your admiration? Hmmmmmm………….

  4. Amy says:

    Okay – I just now watched the clip you featured, and I’m just fuming. This may not be the week for me šŸ™‚ She has a band – all men – playing the only instruments (other than her voice, I suppose) on the stage. Then she sticks a group of women – Robert Palmer style – behind her. They do nothing but stand like statues and sing along (at least Palmer let his women hold guitars!). Give me Amy Ray on her guitar any day of the week!!!!

  5. Clay says:

    Looks like somebody ate her feminist Wheaties this morning!

    First, they’re called backup singers and it’s not exactly a new phenomenon. I don’t think you can hold the scarcity of female session musicians against Neko Case, or any other artist for that matter. Lyle Lovett doesn’t have a single female musician in his large band (other than the backup singers). And I’m not sure why doing nothing but “stand[ing] like statues and sing[ing] along” is a problem. It’s an important part of the sound… the backing vocals on this track are very effective. Would you be happier if they were swaying? šŸ™‚

    I’ll admit, I went with Amy Ray because I wanted to play off the Amy Adams reference… if you can think of a less attractive Amy in the music industry, I’ll swap out the name. I don’t find Amy Ray sexy, though I do generally like her singing, and that may be because I know she doesn’t play on my team.

    As for whether the women on this list will adhere to traditional ideas of feminine beauty… yeah, they will. But you’d have a hard time finding many women in the recording industry who don’t (something I’ve commented on in the past).

    Sexiness isn’t only about charisma and talent… attractiveness certainly plays a part, something with which I’m sure you’d agree. When I asked you if you find Lyle Lovett sexy, I recall you laughed out loud and offered up Lost‘s Sawyer as more your cup of tea. And he can’t even carry a tune!

  6. Amy says:

    oh, but he can…

  7. Amy says:

    (btw, does the fact that Portia de Rossi plays on the other team keep you from finding her sexy?)

  8. Clay says:

    Wouldn’t touch her with a 10-foot poll. šŸ˜‰

  9. randy says:

    Neko usually plays about four or five different guitars during her live shows.

  10. Andrea Katz says:

    Did you really say “…wrapped up in an earthy grittiness that chews right into me”? OMG…you rock! What a great phrase. Your critique may be sexier than the artist’s work. Way to go!

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