Written by Sooz Kempner

Arts

7 Wonders: Sooz Kempner

It’s Standard Issue mixtape/Spotify playlist time again, and this time Sooz Kempner’s taken charge.

Joni Mitchell playing guitarRadiohead – Creep

Oh, hi Sooz’s favourite song of the 90s! This is also my karaoke track of choice. There’s literally nothing I like better than to grab the mic and take Creep way too seriously after three gin-tins.

But enough about me, Creep is an incredible song that is ostensibly a whiny guy whining about not feeling good enough for a girl whose skin makes him cry. Yet somehow it’s moving and powerful and Thom Yorke’s vocal performance is astounding. And, let’s face it, there isn’t one of us who hasn’t thought, “I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo, what the hell am I doing here?” at some point every week.

Move On (from Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George)

Sondheim’s musical about artist Georges Seurat isn’t really about Seurat at all; it’s about art, love and life. In this duet from Act II, George’s (fictional) great-grandson worries that he has nothing new to say with his art and whether any of his choices in life are right. He is visited by a vision of his great-grandmother who tells him to not worry and thanks him for everything he (or rather his great-grandfather) gave to her.

Confused? You won’t be. The lyric “I would be so pleased…” breaks me for a number of reasons, one of which being that Sondheim is better than Shakespeare. Oh yeah, I went there, touch me.

Kate Bush Kate Bush – Sat In Your Lap

This truly bonkers early Kate Bush track about humanity’s pursuit of knowledge is instantly startling. It opens with a crazed drumbeat, angular piano riff and Kate’s vocals at their most insane. It’s become a favourite singalong track for when I’m in my car but only when alone, something that will make anyone who has heard the track breathe a sigh of relief.

Queen – March Of The Black Queen

My most enduring love for a band or artist has been for Queen. I was blasting out Killer Queen when I was four (a song celebrating a high-class call girl – appropriate) and as I’ve become a sort of adult my favourite Queen is early, weird Queen. It doesn’t get much weirder than March Of The Black Queen from their second album, a dizzying rock opera with fantastical lyrics and distinct sections.

Sound familiar? This song predates Bohemian Rhapsody and definitely paved the way for everyone’s favourite head-banger. The relentless insanity of the track is easy to resist at first but give it a couple of listens and you’ll start to see the appeal…

Joni Mitchell – A Case Of You

I first heard this song when I was 16 and instantly fell in love, thinking I ‘got’ it. I didn’t. I played a super-terrible cover of it on the piano in sixth form and impressed nobody. As I got older I returned to the song again and again and I think I get it now. I’m kind of jealous of the 16-year-old dickhead in her Adidas poppers who just liked singing the high bits in the chorus and didn’t know a thing.

Marvin Gaye – Mercy Mercy Me

If there’s a cooler song to lie back in a London park and listen to on a hot day through prat-headphones (the big kind DJs wear, coz I can’t make earbuds stay in my dumb ears) I’m yet to hear it.

Marvin GayeThe pain in the lyrics is juxtaposed with Marvin’s silken vocals, a rasping sax and an oh-so-funky beat. Do not listen to the Michael McDonald cover.

Fun fact: I was once stopped in the street by a survey taker who was just noting down what people with headphones on were listening to and taking a snapshot of them for some magazine. He asked what song I was listening to at that very moment and I said: “Mercy Mercy Me by Marvin Gaye,” but I wasn’t, I was listening to Coldplay and I just wanted survey-man to think I was cool.

The Ladies Who Lunch (from Stephen Sondheim’s Company)

I snuck another Sondheim in on the end, would you look at that. It simply has to be the Elaine Stritch version, the original and the best. Company is Sondheim’s 1970 musical where we meet bachelor Bobby on his 35th birthday, and “those good and crazy people my married friends”. One of these friends is cynical Joanne. In The Ladies Who Lunch she mocks the shallow women of New York filling their days with vapid irrelevant activities (“Off to the gym then to a fitting claiming they’re fat / And looking grim ‘cause they’ve been sitting choosing a hat / Does anyone still wear a hat?”). She drinks throughout the song and by the end has realised that, actually, she’s no different to the women she is criticising.

Listen out for all the different deliveries of “I’ll drink to that”. This song is fried gold.

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Written by Sooz Kempner

Funny Women Variety Award Winner 2012. ASDA Kate Bush.