Friday, December 18, 2009

You My Butch

I've always liked butch women, so it's no surprise that I like k. d. lang. I nearly wore out a VHS copy of her early videos, Harvest of Seven Years, and I just tracked down a DVD copy of same. In that period, 1984 to 1991, she was an amazing performer, full of exuberance, androgyny, and of course one of the great voices of the century. Fortunately some of my favorites of those videos are available online -- though not, alas, "Bopalena," her first video, of an old rockabilly song that she performed straight, or unselfconsciously gay. Another video from the same producers, "PollyAnn," is on YouTube, though, and it's raucous fun, with young k.d. in drag, complete with a drag queen's punchline at the end.

Not long later she graduated to a Nudie suit in the Grand Ol' Opry tradition:

See also her performance of "Pay Dirt" from the same TV program.

I've always loved her collaboration with Take 6 for the Dick Tracy soundtrack. This muddy clip from YouTube, unlike the version on Harvest of Seven Years, intercuts shots from the film, but the song is still there.

And I wish I could embed this lovely, raunchy, hilarious version of "What's New, Pussycat?" performed in Sydney, but you can still see it.

On the other hand, in this performance of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" (a song that seems to be the Adagio with Strings or Pachelbel's Canon, if not the "My Way," of this decade) she seems to be impersonating Gertrude Stein. I know, there are worse people to impersonate, and we're none of us getting any younger, especially me. It's been twenty-five years since "Bopalena" and "PollyAnn." But what's up with that outfit? She doesn't move as fluidly and confidently as she used to, and her musical judgment is slipping -- she slides into self-indulgent bombast and bathos from the beginning.

(This performance [embedding disabled, or I'd have it here] by four Norwegian singers is the best "Hallelujah" I've heard.)

But she can still be a great singer when she wants to. Here she serenades Tony Bennett in tie and tails: