Regina Ilyinichna Spektor (Russian: Регина Ильинична Спектор; born February 18, 1980) is a Soviet-born Jewish American singer-songwriter and pianist. Her music is associated with the anti-folk scene centered on New York City's East Village.
Regina Spektor was born in Moscow, USSR in 1980 to a musical family. Her father, Ilya Spektor, is a photographer and amateur violinist. Her mother, Bella Spektor, was a music professor in a Russian college of music and now teaches at a public elementary school in Mount Vernon, New York.
Spektor learned how to play piano by practicing on a Petrof upright that was given to her mother by her grandfather. She was also exposed to the music of rock and roll bands such as The Beatles, Queen, and The Moody Blues by her father, who obtained such recordings in Eastern Europe and traded cassettes with friends in the Soviet Union. The family left the Soviet Union in 1989, when Regina was nine and a half, during the period of Perestroika, when Soviet citizens were permitted to emigrate. Regina had to leave her piano behind. The seriousness of her piano studies led her parents to consider not leaving the USSR, but they finally decided to emigrate, due to the ethnic and political discrimination which Jews faced. Spektor is completely fluent in Russian and reads Hebrew. She has since paid tribute to her Russian heritage, quoting the poem February by the famous Russian poet Boris Pasternak in her song Après Moi, and stating “I’m very connected to the language and the culture.”
Traveling first to Austria and then Italy, the family settled in The Bronx where Spektor graduated from the SAR Academy, a Jewish day middle school in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. She then attended high school for two years at the Frisch School, a yeshiva in Paramus, New Jersey, but transferred to a public school, Fair Lawn High School, in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, where she finished the last two years of her high school education.
Beginnings as a songwriter
In New York, Spektor studied classical piano with Sonia Vargas, a professor at the Manhattan School of Music, until she was 17; Spektor's father had met Vargas through her husband, violinist Samuel Marder. Although the family had been unable to bring their piano from Russia, Spektor found a piano on which to play in the basement of her synagogue, and also practiced on tabletops and other hard surfaces.
Spektor was originally interested only in classical music, but later became interested in hip hop, rock and punk as well. Although she had always made up songs around the house, Spektor first became interested in more formal songwriting during a visit to Israel with the Nesiya Institute in her teenage years when she attracted attention from the other children on the trip for the songs she made up while hiking and realized she had an aptitude for songwriting.
Following the trip, she was exposed to the work of Joni Mitchell, Ani DiFranco, and other singer-songwriters, which encouraged her belief that she could create her own songs. She wrote her first a cappella songs around age sixteen and her first songs for voice and piano when she was nearly eighteen.
Spektor completed the four-year studio composition program of the Conservatory of Music at the State University of New York at Purchase within three years, graduating with honors in 2001. Around this time, she also worked briefly at a butterfly farm in Luck, Wisconsin, and studied in Tottenham, England for one semester.
She gradually achieved recognition through performances in the anti-folk scene in downtown New York City, most importantly at the East Village's Sidewalk Cafe, but also at the Living Room, Tonic, Fez, the Knitting Factory, and CB's Gallery. She also performed at local colleges (such as Sarah Lawrence College) with other musicians, including the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players. She sold self-published CDs at her performances during this period: 11:11 (2001) and Songs (2002). In 2004, she signed a contract with Warner Brothers' record label Sire Records to publish and distribute her third album Soviet Kitsch, originally self-released in 2003.
Spektor has said that she has created a great number of songs, but that she rarely writes any of them down. She has also stated that she never aspired to write songs herself, but songs seem to just flow to her. Spektor's songs are not usually autobiographical, but rather are based on scenarios and characters drawn from her imagination. Her songs show influences from folk, punk, rock, Jewish, Russian, hip hop, jazz, and classical music. Spektor has said that she works hard to ensure that each of her songs has its own musical style, rather than trying to develop a distinctive style for her music as a whole.
Spektor has a broad vocal range and uses the full extent of it. She also explores a variety of different and somewhat unorthodox vocal techniques, such as verses composed entirely of buzzing noises made with the lips and beatbox-style flourishes in the middle of ballads, and also makes use of such unusual musical techniques as using a drum stick to tap rhythms on the body of the piano or chair. Part of her style also results from the exaggeration of certain aspects of vocalization, most notably the glottal stop, which is prominent in the single "Fidelity". She also uses a strong New York accent on some words, which she has said is due to her love of New York and its culture.
Her lyrics are equally eclectic, often taking the form of abstract narratives or first-person fictional character studies, similar to short stories or vignettes put to song. Spektor usually sings in English, though she sometimes includes a few words or verses of Latin, Russian, French, and other languages in her songs. She also plays with pronunciations, which she said on a NPR interview to be a remnant of her early years when she listened to pop in English without understanding the lyrics. Some of Spektor's lyrics include literary allusions, such as to F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway in "Poor Little Rich Boy", The Little Prince in "Baobabs", Virginia Woolf and Margaret Atwood in "Paris", Ezra Pound and William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice in "Pound of Flesh", Shakespeare's Hamlet in "The Virgin Queen", Boris Pasternak in "Après Moi", Samson and Delilah in "Samson", and Oedipus the King in "Oedipus" and Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome in "2.99 cent blues". She alludes to The Beatles and Paul McCartney in the song "Edit". She also used a line from Joni Mitchell's "California" in her song "The Devil Came to Bethlehem". Recurring themes and topics in Spektor's lyrics include love, death, religion (particularly Biblical and Jewish references), city life (particularly New York references), and certain key phrases have been known to recur in different songs by Spektor, such as references to gravediggers, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and the name "Mary Ann". Spektor's use of satire is evident in "Wasteside," which refers to the classic satirical novel by the Soviet authors Ilf and Petrov The Twelve Chairs, and describes the town in which people are born, get their hair cut, and then are sent to the cemetery.
In Spektor's early albums, many of her tracks had a very dry vocal production, with very little reverb or delay added. However, Spektor's more recent albums, particularly Begin to Hope, have put more emphasis into song production and have relied more on traditional pop and rock instruments. Spektor says the records that most impact her are those of "bands whose music is really involved", specifically naming The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Billie Holiday, Radiohead, Tom Waits, and Frédéric Chopin as primary influences.
In her songs, "Eet", "Us", and "Après Moi" the titular sounds are used as the focal point throughout. (In "Dance Anthem of the 80's", the sound "eet" is also used often, on words such as "meat", "street", and "eat").
Spektor's first nationwide tour was accompanying The Strokes as the opening act on their 2003–2004 Room on Fire tour, during which she and the band performed and recorded "Modern Girls & Old Fashion Men". Kings of Leon were the second opening act on that tour, and they invited Spektor to open for them on their own European tour right after The Strokes tour. In June 2005, Spektor was the opening act for the English piano rock band Keane on their North American tour, during which she performed at Radio City Music Hall on June 7, 2005. During her 2006 headlining tour in support of the Begin to Hope album, Spektor sold out a performance at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania, and two shows at the Town Hall Theater]] in New York City on September 27 and September 28, 2006.
Spektor has appeared on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien (once), Late Night with Conan O'Brien (three times), The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (twice), Jimmy Kimmel Live (twice), Last Call with Carson Daly (five times), Late Show with David Letterman (twice), CBS News Sunday Morning, Good Morning America (twice), Australia's Rove Live, and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (once). On October 10, 2009 she performed on Saturday Night Live.
Although she generally only performs original material, Spektor occasionally performs covers. Most famous of these covers were her performances of songs by Leonard Cohen and Madonna, for the 2nd Annual Jewish Music & Heritage Festival at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. In 2006 and 2007, Spektor embarked on a headlining tour of the U.S. and Europe, selling out numerous clubs and theaters. She covered John Lennon's "Real Love" at the performance arts center of her alma mater, State University of New York at Purchase, on March 28, 2007, at a benefit concert for the Conservatory of Music. In 2007, Spektor recorded "Real Love" for the Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur CD, which was released in June of that year. She recorded a version of the song for Triple J's Like a Version radio segment which was shown on jTV.
On March 8, 2007, Spektor appeared on the British ITV network's Loose Women, promoting and performing "Fidelity" live, and on April 20, 2007, she performed on the Late Show with David Letterman. On Saturday, April 28, 2007, she appeared at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. On Friday, May 18, 2007, she appeared on BBC1's Friday Night with Jonathan Ross. On June 16, 2007, she performed at the Bonnaroo Music Festival and later performed at the 2007 Lollapalooza on August 4, 2007 and Virgin Festival on August 5, 2007 in Baltimore, Maryland. On September 16, 2007, she performed at the Austin City Limits Music Festival and recorded a set for the Austin City Limits TV show the following day. She performed acoustic at the Bridge School Benefit at Shoreline Amphitheatre on October 27 and October 28, 2007.
On November 14, 2007, at her concert at Ryman Auditorium, in Nashville, it was announced that Spektor collapsed during the sound check and was taken to a local emergency room. According to the statement given to the audience, Spektor was fine, but doctors said that she could not perform that night. It was later reported that the cause of the collapse was an inner ear infection which caused intense vertigo. The show was initially rescheduled for December 6, 2007, but the date was once again rescheduled, and the concert finally occurred on February 29, 2008. After her initial collapse in Nashville, she was able to perform in concerts at Mountain Stage on November 18, 2007, and at Duke University on November 19, 2007.
In conjunction with the release of her 2009 album Far, Spektor was headlining at Serpentine Sessions, a series of concerts London's Hyde Park on June 29, 2009. Other European performances in 2009 include the Glastonbury Festival, Hultsfred Festival, Oxegen 2009, T in the Park, Paradiso (Amsterdam), Latitude Festival, and Rock Werchter. Spektor has invited Brooklyn-based rock band Jupiter One to open concerts on her 2009 North American tour. As a part of that tour, on October 14, 2009 Spektor headlined a concert at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
Since 2005, Spektor's music has been used in various television programs and commercials. In late 2005 "Us" (from Soviet Kitsch) was used in a commercial as part of the What Do You Want To Watch? series for the United Kingdom's British Sky Broadcasting. The advert features a clip from a documentary on skateboarder Danny Way. In the summer of 2006, a clip from "Us" was used for the teaser website for Microsoft's Zune project at ComingZune.com, as well as for a promotional campaign for MtvU. The same track is used by Dutch telecom company KPN in a commercial. "Somedays" was used in a 2005 episode of CSI: NY and "Samson" was used in a 2006 episode of the same series. "On the Radio" was used in an episode of ABC's Grey's Anatomy. "Field Below" was used in a 2006 episode titled "The Last Word" of CBS's Criminal Minds. "Fidelity" has also been used in an episode of Grey's Anatomy titled "Six Days, Part 2", Veronica Mars titled "Wichita Linebacker", Brothers & Sisters titled "Sexual Politics" and in the Brazilian telenovela A Favorita. "Better" is currently being used in a commercial for XM Satellite Radio. Her song "Music Box" is currently being used in a commercial for JC Penney. Spektor also sang the title song "Little Boxes" of Showtime's television series Weeds in the episode "Mile Deep and a Foot Wide" (2006) and her "Ghost of Corporate Future" was used both at the beginning and end of the episode. On January 21, 2007, she was featured on CBS News Sunday Morning.
Spektor received increased attention in 2006 when her video for "Fidelity" was viewed over 200,000 times in two days on YouTube. On SIRIUS Radio's Left of Center channel, her single "Fidelity" was voted by listeners as the #1 song of 2006. Towards the end of 2006, VH1 showcased her as part of their "You Oughta Know: Artists on the Rise" featurettes: they played clips from the "Fidelity" music video and showed parts of an interview with Spektor during commercial breaks on the channel. Spektor was recently named #3 on VH1's Top Artists Charts.
In Australia, Spektor's music has rapidly gained popularity in mainstream culture primarily due to Begin To Hope being played on the nation-wide radio station Triple J, where it eventually became a feature album. Prior to Begin To Hope, Spektor had only a small following in Australia in comparison to the US and Europe.
Spektor reached #33 on Blender magazine's top 100 of 2006 and was also listed as one of the "Hottest Women of...Rock!". "Fidelity" was also used in a 2007 television commercial in New Zealand advertising Yahoo!Xtra, a new partnership between Yahoo! and Telecom's Xtra ISP, and in the third episode of the ITV series, Secret Diary of a Call Girl, in the UK. Also in 2007, the mobile phone company Vodafone used her lyric, "Come into my world..." from the track, "Hotel Song" on Begin to Hope, in an extensive TV advertising campaign in the UK and Ireland.
On October 1, 2007, Spektor's new video for "Better" was released on VH1 and YouTube, where it was viewed more than 100,000 times within the first 24 hours. "Fidelity" was used in the trailer for the film 27 Dresses, released on October 3, 2007.
She performed the song "The Call" in ''The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, as part of the film's finale sequence. Spektor wrote this song especially for the film, as noted by director Andrew Adamson in the film's audio commentary. On November 6, 2008, Spektor was interviewed on WFUV, which is a National Public Radio affiliate station at Fordham University, New York City. This interview is featured on the NPR Network website, Listen Now: Regina Spektor On WFUV. She shares about her early life in the USSR, then in the USA, what happened when she learned English, how she creates her unique sound, and the subject matter of her songs
Most recently, Spektor's song Better was used in the movie My Sister's Keeper, loosely based on the novel of the same name by Jodi Picoult. A section of "That Time" was featured in the film In Bruges. Additionally, "Us" and "Hero" are both featured on the soundtrack for the film (500) Days of Summer. Spin Magazine profiled Spektor in their July 2009 issue, where she discussed her just-released album Far. The story was released in their digital edition that month, as well.  In August 2009, the song "Two Birds" was used in the 2009 Fall Campaign of the Polish TV Station TVN.
On September 16, 2009, it was announced that Spektor would write the music for the "Beauty", a modern adaption of the Grimm's Fairytale "Sleeping Beauty", which is set to open during the 2011–12 Broadway season.
In 2007, she covered John Lennon's "Real Love" for Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur. The following year, she participated in Songs for Tibet, an initiative to support the human rights situation in Tibet and Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso. The album, Songs for Tibet was issued on August 5 via iTunes and on August 19 in music stores around the world. On January 22, 2009, Spektor performed at the third annual Roe On The Rocks gig at the Bowery Ballroom to raise money for Planned Parenthood New York City.
See Regina Spektor discography on Wikipedia.
- 2001: 11:11
- 2002: Songs
- 2004: Soviet Kitsch
- 2006: Begin to Hope
- 2009: Far
- Begin to Hope – Shortlist Music Prize (nominated)
- Regina Spektor – Studio8's Female Voice of August 2009 (won)
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Soundcheck (2004-11-18), "Hot Hot Hot" New York Public Radio
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "Artist Profile: Regina Spektor". EMI Music Publishing. http://www.emimusicpub.com/worldwide/artist_profile/regina-spektor_profile.html.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Aizlewood, John (2006-08-24). "Regina Spektor: A Triumph That Began With Hope". thislondon.co.uk. http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/music/gig-23351811-details/Regina+Spektor/gigReview.do?reviewId=23364423.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 Soundcheck interview (2005-09-13) "From Russia with Love". New York Public Radio.
- ↑ Piano WomanJune 12, 2006, New York Magazine/
- ↑ Morrisset-Solo Forums
- ↑ Roeschlein, Shane. "Regina Spektor: The Red Princess". themusicedge.com. http://www.themusicedge.com/moxie/news/featartist/regina-spektor-the-red-pr.shtml.
- ↑ Orloff, Brian. "Regina Spektor's Got New "Hope"". Rolling Stone. http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/9485254/regina_spektors_got_new_hope.
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 9.2 Orloff, Brian (2007-10-21). "Regina Spektor's Boundless Talent". CBS News. CBS. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/01/18/sunday/main2371910.shtml.
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Alonzo, Rod. "Making Stuff Up: An Interview With Regina Spektor". WOMANROCK.com. http://www.womanrock.com/features/regina_spektor.html.
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 11.2 Murphy, John. "Regina Spektor – Mary Ann Meets The Gravediggers (review)". musicomh.com. http://www.musicomh.com/albums/regina-spektor_0106.htm.
- ↑ Bridge, Colette (July 2006). "Nottingham Music: Paolo Nutini / Peaches / Regina Spektor: Tis the period of the singer / songwriter". BBC – Nottingham. http://www.bbc.co.uk/nottingham/music/2004/07/paolo_nutini_peaches_regina_spektor.shtml.
- ↑ Holub, Annie (2006-11-02). "Spectral Musings: Six lines that will make you fall in love with Regina Spektor". Tucson Weekly. http://www.tucsonweekly.com/gbase/Music/Content?oid=88732.
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 14.2 MySpace: Regina Spektor
- ↑ National Public Radio. "Regina Spektor in Concert". http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6161219.
- ↑ 16.0 16.1 Block, Melissa. "Stories in Song: Regina Spektor's Begin to Hope". National Public Radio – All Things Considered. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5518985.
- ↑ 17.0 17.1 Regina Spektor | The A.V. Club
- ↑ "Spectacular Spektor", by Susan Visakowitz (from Billboard.biz, 13 January 2007)
- ↑ Music Snobbery: Regina Spektor Tells a Guy To F*** Off
- ↑ Music Snobbery: Regina Spektor @ Town Hall: Moscow on the Hudson
- ↑ ABC News: Regina Spektor Rocks 'GMA'
- ↑ http://www.nynews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070329/ENTERTAINMENT/703290453
- ↑ Bill Friskics-Warren (2007-11-14). "Spektor rushed to the hospital before Ryman show". The Tennessean. http://tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071114/ENTERTAINMENT01/71114057.
- ↑ the Historic Ryman Auditorium
- ↑ mountainstage.org
- ↑ Spektor's official web site
- ↑ "Music from the hit series, Weeds". Showtime. http://www.sho.com/site/weeds/music.do.
- ↑ "New Music Artists Info on You Oughta Know, Rising New Artists, See Photos & Watch Videos Online". VH1.com. http://www.vh1.com/artists/you_oughta_know/index.jhtml?extPop=popVspot(1537507).
- ↑ "Hottest Women of... Rock!". Blender. http://www.blender.com/guide/articles.aspx?ID=2295&src=blender_ed.
- ↑ "Secret Diary of A Call Girl – Music". . 2008-02-07. http://forums.itv.com/thread/621861.aspx.
- ↑ "What was the song playing while Billie Piper was in shower on Secret diary of a call girl last night?". . 2008-02-07. http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20071012060311AAbwdab.
- ↑ "27 Dresses Movie Trailer". . 2007-10-03. http://www.slashfilm.com/2007/10/03/27-dresses-movie-trailer.
- ↑ Appearance at the Oscar de la Renta show on February 4, 2008
- ↑ "Regina Spektor Returns To The Bronx". In depth Interview with Regina Spektor.. 2008-11-06. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=96669591.
- ↑ Digital Spin
- ↑ Playbill.com article on "Sleeping Beauty"
- ↑ E-Online (July 22, 2008) Sting, Matthews, Mayer Gamer for Tibet Than Beijing
- ↑ NME.com (Nov. 17, 2008)
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